It would seem appropriate to kick off my Cotswolds Travel Journal series with where most stories start: at the beginning.
But I’m going to hold off and start somewhere else. I’ll circle back to the very beginning soon, but I’m going to start with my most favourite place to stay in the Cotswolds. I’d prefer to share about the sense of home that washed over me when I walked up to, then into, and finally out of (it will all make sense in a minute) the Stanton Guildhouse on Day 3 of my Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds.
I felt a kinship with this house, its gardens, and most obviously its views overlooking the English countryside the instant I arrived last year. When I returned this June, a flood of something that felt akin to a homecoming swept me up in its momentum and held me there in a cocoon of rest until we departed two days later.
The Stanton Guildhouse is a newer build that was completed in 1973, but constructed with the local (yet internationally renowned) Arts & Crafts movement in mind. Everything about the place is hewn using local building materials and traditional Cotswold styles, from the limestone facade to the hand-turned light switch pulls, from the enormous inglenook fireplace to the bank of mullioned windows peering out over the story-book setting below. It is truly magnificent, but in a decidedly comforting manner that makes you want to curl up with a good book, cup of tea, and cozy blanket.
This year, knowing what I would be returning to, I was eager to finish the final climb from the village of Stanton and gaze upon the guildhouse with its gardens spilling over in mock orange and roses aplenty. We let ourselves into the great room, instantly dropped our bags on the cool flagstone floor, then flung open the set of arched double doors revealing a stone terrace draped in blossoms and framing a feast for the eyes. Panoramic views of the Evesham Vale swept across the horizon. Sheep dotted the sunlit hillside nearby, and just below the property, a mare and her foal enjoyed a verdant pasture.
“The birdsong began early and the bees buzzed late, as they are prone to do throughout the long, languid days of an English summer. Rest felt effortless, guiltless, and good. The inspiration that surrounded us was simple yet stunning“
In all this, I sensed a feeling of home, though the space looked nothing like my home in California. It did, however, remind me of homes from my past. The views easily mimicked the vantage from my parents’ home where I spent my teenage years in British Columbia. The gardens reminded me of my Grandma’s floral paradise that she so expertly cultivated for many decades. The house itself, with its limestone walls, central hearth, and heavy wooden doors featuring beautifully forged iron hardware, echoed my Grandparents’ rural home set in the Canadian prairies. Collectively, aspects of the Stanton Guildhouse reminded me of some of my most beautiful childhood memories. This felt like an especially precious gift, as those homes from my past are no longer in my family’s possession.
The best part about being in a place that reminded me of the most beautiful parts of my childhood meant that I felt instantly at ease in my surroundings. Talk about an ideal setting for inspiration & restoration! As our 2-night stay at the Guildhouse included a day of rest from our village-to-village walk through the Cotswolds, we all had the opportunity to bask in the beauty of our surroundings. At one point while relaxing in a massive free-standing soaker tub, I heard strains of the score from Pride & Prejuidice wafting up to the second floor. One of my guests, Brianne, was playing the baby grand piano set snugly in the corner of the great room. For just a moment in time, I felt like Elizabeth Bennet after a long walk. But then the Downton Abbey score was carried in through the window on a breeze and I imagined Lady Mary lowering herself into the warm water after a dramatic hunt across the countryside. Ah how a soundtrack plus the English countryside can set one’s imagination adrift!
Throughout our rest day, women on the trip enjoyed coffee on the terrace, journaling with a view, a leisurely rest under a shade tree. Someone arranged fresh cut flowers in a window sill, enhancing the already impossibly lovely view. Three of the ladies hired a taxi and explored the surrounding villages for the afternoon. A few of us enjoyed a long pub lunch overlooking the valley. One of my guests pulled together a fantastic charcuterie spread for us to enjoy throughout the evening. We sat and discussed creativity and the effects of decision fatigue on our ability to thrive. The birdsong began early and the bees buzzed late, as they are prone to do throughout the long, languid days of an English summer. Rest felt effortless, guiltless, and good. The inspiration that surrounded us was simple yet stunning. I could have stayed in Stanton for a month filled with days like this, but as reality insists that is not to be, I will take everything I embraced that day and bring the inspiration home.
During my first few days back home, I am tempted to get all the things done. Be efficient, productive, make up for ‘lost’ time. Then I remind myself what the Guildhouse gave me and find time for books, pruning roses, and quiet moments with nothing but bees and birdsong to enjoy.
If you can see yourself taking in the beauty and being restored with time at the Stanton Guildhouse, click HERE for more details on my next Women’s Walking Retreat through the Cotswolds.