Cirencester Under a Colourless Sky

You cannot let the weather beat you. We learnt that lesson in Norway when we went on a hike to Pulpit Rock. If the Norwegians did hold their head in their hands and sit inside because of inclement conditions outside, they would be inside, forever. The night before travelling to Stavanger, we were contemplating cancelling our flight tickets. The forecast was for thunderstorm and showers the whole weekend. Now, when we called the hotel we were booked with in Stavanger, we heard a cheery line from the other end: ‘There is no such things as bad weather, only bad clothes’. Right. Levels of optimism that might have tempted us to ask the person at the other end to ‘go take a hike’, except for the simple fact that we were the ones strictly off for a hike. Right after midnight we decided to lump overthinking and go for it. There is a point to all the rambling. It changed our attitude to travel. Unless of course there is lightning and thunderstorm predicted for hikes like Trolltunga. Then you would do well to think twice – imagine the troll’s tongue turning slippery and you jumping on it (for the simple joy that you have made your way to the tongue) but then finding yourself sliding off it into the rocks below, not even the fjord.

It was a spectacularly drab day when we woke up on Saturday last weekend. The kind that makes you think that a stormy blue sky is a blessing. The original plan of setting out for a walk in the Carding Mill Valley, a lovely heathland in the West Midlands, changed to a sedate saunter through a town in the Cotswolds. Cirencester. We make incessant trips to the Cotswolds (ref: The Wolds on the Windrush) but somehow we had missed out on this traditional market town. When we got into the town, we found the traditional limestone coloured buildings that are a key element in the landscape of the Cotswolds. If it was sunny how they would have glowed a honey gold.

But it was dark and the stones on the buildings seemed to acquire a weathered look. That said I do have a soft spot for the way those stones look aged like the ones on the church below. They give it a certain dignity. It impresses upon the gaping onlooker that it has been standing there for ages, a silent witness to the comings and goings of the people of the town over generations, which is as well because the parish church of St. John the Baptist is over a 1000 years old.

Now Cirencester is not your average pretty Cotswold village, crammed with chocolate box houses and bakeries. No sir, this is more of a busy and chic town made up of expensive Scandinavian-style fashion boutiques, a fair number of vintage and homeware stores to delight the senses, art centres, old halls (Corn Hall) that have been converted into crafts markets and a list of warm pubs, country inns and bistros. Not many tourists come through and I suppose locals are quite content with the fact. But if you are in Cirencester you know you have reached the former Roman city of Corinium that ranked second only to London in size and importance.

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St. John the Baptist is one of the best of the lot of wool churches in the Cotswolds funded by donations from rich wool merchants.
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Fossil-rich limestone typical to the Cotswolds adorns the gate and the cottage. Beyond the gate and hedges lie the property of the Earl and Countess of Bathurst, the Bathurst Estate. 

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We stopped at The Bear Inn, a fine gastro pub, for lunch. With its open fireplace, Tudor-style beams and rustic decor, it is supposed to be the oldest coaching inn in Cirencester.
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Bread and butter and Merlot. Can you possibly go wrong with that?
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Possibly the thickest cut of gammon Adi has had in all his time in the Blighty.
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I stuck with a chicken and mushroom fricassee topped up with arugula
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A pint of Brains, a smooth and hoppy ale from a Welsh brewery

After lunch it was time explore the town for knick-knacks.

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The Stableyard
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On Black Jack Street
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He Says She Waffles. A suffragette would shoot through the roof.
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Delicious full-fat Winstones Ice Cream. Double scoop of toffee crunch and honeycomb.
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A bit of this and that
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Stores inside The Stableyard

How to Get There: Cirencester is known as the Capital of the Cotswolds because of its central location in the area. Hiring a car is your best option to reach the town located at the intersection of four A roads and connected by the M4 and M5. The train station nearest is Kemble, about 6 miles off. Buses to and fro cannot be counted upon. So really, just drive.

Where to Stay:

The Fleece (thefleececirencester.co.uk) is a centrally located former coaching inn that dates back to the 17th century. Standard double rooms start at roughly £110 per night including breakfast.

The Old Brewhouse (theoldbrewhouse.com) is a good old bed & breakfast run in a 17th-century townhouse. Double rooms are pegged at £95 per night.

Where to Eat:

Jesse’s Bistro (jessesbistro.co.uk) offers modern British fare. A two-course menu starts at £20.

The Bear Inn offers British classics. They have a host of pre-set menu offers that are quite cost-effective and the food is good.

Made by Bob (foodmadebybob.com), a deli and café in the Corn Hall is a hit with the modish crowd. Its chef is Bob Parkinson, who trained at the South Kensington restaurant, Bibendum, in London. A two-course menu costs between £25-30.

What to Do:

Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre on the outskirts of town. It’s free.

St. John the Baptist church. Behind it are the abbey grounds where once stood an Augustinian abbey. It was razed down in the 16th century. Through the abbey’s remnant Norman archway, a path leads to Harebushes Wood for a woodland walk.

Cirencester Park, home to the Bathurst Estate, is open to the public for free. Timings: 8am-5pm.

Cirencester Antiques Centre (Antique Hunting in the Wolds) if you are fond of all things old.

Black Jack Street for more vintage browsing.

If you are done with seeing the town, head off to the picture-postcard villages of Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water or towns like Burford.

 

22 thoughts on “Cirencester Under a Colourless Sky

  1. That gammon or hind leg of pork and egg looks delicious. Unfortunately, as one who watches their fat and cholesterol intake, I would settle for the chicken also. If the Brits in Gloucester ate that every day – they would be dead from heart disease before 40 🙂

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    1. It was. Sometimes you should go by looks. Who knows if the Brits aren’t? 😀 My husband loves it a Lot. On weekends he wants onion rings, fish n’ chips and gammon kinda diet. I do not even try and dissuade him 🙂 But to balance him out, I can go for a boring old chicken any day.

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      1. When you are young, and handsome (like your husband), you can get way with eating just about anything. When you reach middle life, the pounds (kg) come on quickly. No point in training for cycling if I do not watch my diet also. The greatest motivator for me to watch my diet are those infernal hills and mountain passes, where every extra ounce of weight works against me 🙂 Pro cyclists who are climbing specialists and grand tour contenders look more like greyhounds for that reason alone. I love our chats!

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      2. Thanks 🙂 I badger him enough and that is because it has to gradually slow down at some point. You are an avid biker? That is excellent. We biked up and down one 30 per cent incline path in Devon a few summers ago and I have not got over it yet. It was ghastly but I do love biking because it is all I did as a child on long summer evenings in Calcutta. And I always look at pro cyclists btw, every time we pass them by, and wonder if I can ever make myself get there. Haha, I love the chats too! 🙂

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  2. It’s beautiful, even under the drab skies. I will pass on to a friend who is visiting there in May. I had to laugh at your intro. I can so relate living here in Vancouver. The sun has made only repair appearances since late September. I’ve learned to embrace the elements and usually feel good getting out for a soggy hike. Great outerwear and a hot shower help. I wouldn’t mind spending some time in that lovely inn! Great post and nice photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Caroline 🙂 The food at that inn was lovely. Your friend might like it but there are much prettier villages and towns. I shall post them by and by. The area is gorgeous and if she/he is visiting in May, there will be yellow rapeseed fields everywhere. Yes, I carp once in a while about the elements but I too love it, no matter what. I do not mind the nip in the air and have been caught in so many downpours when I am out running in the park that I have given up by now!

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  3. I laughed a little bit at the “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes” comment. In a way, I can almost agree with him! It looks like you had a fabulous time though, even with the drab weather. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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