With so many lovely villages to visit, and no interest in renting a car and driving the narrow roads, Charlotte and I made the brilliant decision to join a tour.  The most popular in the Cotswolds is the Secret Cottage Tour, which is a six-hour guided tour of the northern Cotswold villages.

Charlotte was thrilled to be among the 14 on the tour, social creature that she is.  Her fellow passengers came from Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, America, Scotland and all over England.  And the two drivers were locals and very comfortable driving the (often) single-lane roads hemmed in by hedgerows and walls.

What makes this tour different, is that within that six hours, your group reconvenes at the tour operator’s private home—a picture-perfect, thatched roof cottage—three times: for tea and nibbles, then tea and lunch, then tea and cakes.  And bathroom breaks.  (It's a lot of tea.)

The Secret Cottage, Becky's charming and warm home

The Secret Cottage, Becky's charming and warm home

Mini scones w/clotted cream & strawberry jam, Victoria cakes, chocolate covered honey comb, coconut macaroons and lots of chocolate and shortbread.  Everyone was so delighted, they didn't care that Charlotte was up on the table, perusing.

Mini scones w/clotted cream & strawberry jam, Victoria cakes, chocolate covered honey comb, coconut macaroons and lots of chocolate and shortbread.  Everyone was so delighted, they didn't care that Charlotte was up on the table, perusing.

And lunch! Mini quiches, egg sandwiches, falafel, meat pies, smoked salmon, and lots of toothpick-speared foods that were yummy.  We drank elderflower cordials, which tasted a bit like lychee, and were fittingly served in very, very twee vintage water goblets.

And lunch! Mini quiches, egg sandwiches, falafel, meat pies, smoked salmon, and lots of toothpick-speared foods that were yummy.  We drank elderflower cordials, which tasted a bit like lychee, and were fittingly served in very, very twee vintage water goblets.

The sweets, yet unmolested. 

The sweets, yet unmolested. 

Well, enough of the food.  A bit of the cottage, itself. 

The house is absolutely charming, all very twee and precious and cozy.  Lintels are low, walls are thick, the fireplaces enormous.  And there are three fireplaces as originally, the cottage was actually three domiciles for workers of the big estate at the time.  (Did you notice the three chimney's in the top picture?)

The stairwell is very narrow and turns at an extreme angle.  At one time, there would have just been a ladder to the second and third (yes, third!) floors.

In the kitchen, we were surprised to see the door in the floor to the "spiral cellar" beneath the kitchen table.  Becky, the owner of the cottage, was kind enough to flip back the rug and let us go downstairs.  A very clever (and modern) storage solution.

(L-R) Looking down into the spiral cellar, headed down the steep steps, the storage shelves

(L-R) Looking down into the spiral cellar, headed down the steep steps, the storage shelves

Another absolutely WONDERFUL thing about this cottage is the cast-iron AGA stove.  I hate cooking but I want this stove.  It never turns off, it's warm and it's an enamel Martha Stewart-cream color.  I don't understand the technicalities--something about how the gas is always burning low, all the time, and the cast iron retains the heat.  There's no temperature settings, no digital timer.  There's a thermometer, which I would guess is in celsius (!?).  One compartment is for baking, one's for roasts, one's a warming zone and the last one is there just to be awesome, I think.  And the top burners, you flip open the covers and they're ready to go to boil water and fry eggs.  It's so warm and pretty.  I'd have to microwave all my meals, but it would be worth it. 

Charlotte was fascinated, too, but more from the aspect of having to cook for oneself.

Our first tea break at the Secret Cottage

Our first tea break at the Secret Cottage

Each tour is different, but our group visited Chastleton House, Addlestrop House and Cornwell Manor, and stopped or drove through these villages: Chastleton, Lower Oddington, Icomb, Rissington, The Slaughters (Lower and Upper), Great Tew, Stow on the Wold and Cornwell.  Between villages, the drivers gave us lots of history and insight into the area.  It was a wonderful, full day with lovely company. 

If you ever find yourself in the Cotswold or in London and wanting a day trip to the countryside, I highly recommend this tour.  They're on tripadvisor.com, and the website is secretcottage.co.uk

Adlestrop House.  Jane Austen stayed here in her relative's home, and visited the village often.  It is said that her time in Adlestrop inspired her writing in MANSFIELD PARK.

Adlestrop House.  Jane Austen stayed here in her relative's home, and visited the village often.  It is said that her time in Adlestrop inspired her writing in MANSFIELD PARK.

Chastleton House, built between 1607-1612.  Recently, WOLF HALL was filmed here.

Chastleton House, built between 1607-1612.  Recently, WOLF HALL was filmed here.

Staddle stones, used as ornamentation.  Originally, these were used as supports to hold granaries off the ground to protect from vermin and "the damp."

Staddle stones, used as ornamentation.  Originally, these were used as supports to hold granaries off the ground to protect from vermin and "the damp."

Lower Slaughter, the old mill

Lower Slaughter, the old mill

The Church of St. Peter in Upper Slaughter.  The church register dates back to 1538.

The Church of St. Peter in Upper Slaughter.  The church register dates back to 1538.

On my Pinterest page, I'll be updating my Cotswold Board with more images from all my trips to this region of England if you wish to see more views.  (Please link from the social media icons at the bottom of most pages of my website.)

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