England: A Walking Holiday
Posted in December 2015, but back dated to July 16, 2015 when we left England
As soon as we decided to cross the English Channel to visit friends in London, I wanted to stay in England long enough to see the countryside. I made a list of places to see: The Lake District, the Peak District, the Cliffs of Dover, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Oxford & Cambridge Universities, the Eden Project. With this list, we started working out the logistics. We hoped to take trains everywhere we wanted to go, and we had to get to Manchester to catch our flight to Reykjavik. I quickly found that taking trains/buses would be unrealistic with our short time frame, so we decided to rent a car instead. That gave us a bit of flexibility, so I searched for places to stay.
I happened upon the Landmark Trust website early in my search and discovered that they had one renovated historic property still for rent during our time frame. That property happened to be about 1/3 of the way from London to Manchester, so I booked a stay at The Warren House in Kimbolton for three nights.
Our route from London to Kimbolton included a direct train from the city to Cambridge where we picked up our rental car. We decided to take a train from the city because we did not want to deal with London traffic while driving a car with a manual transmission on the wrong side of the road. We figured it would be best if we tested our British driving skills on open roads rather than heavy traffic. Also, I was interested in seeing Cambridge University anyways, so it was a natural stop.
Unfortunately, Cambridge University was annoying. The town is quaint and perfect with a beautiful university right in the middle of it, but it is also a tourist attraction. The place was teaming with people of all nationalities like it was Times Square. In order to see the University grounds or building, you have to pay an entrance fee. I understand why…the university is for the students, not the tourists. People are trying to get an education, and that is their priority so making it a little inconvenient for an American couple to wander through the halls makes sense. Needless to say, Nik was not interested in paying the fees. I was reluctant, but figured it would probably be worth it and tried to book a tour for myself, but they were full. Nik tried to get coffee, but he dropped it. We took those failures as signs that it was time for us to leave, so we left.
Once on the road, all was good. Once we got to the Warren House, all was amazing! The house was perfect for us in every way, and was everything we had hoped for. The property consists of several acres overlooking the market town of Kimbolton. To get to the house, we took a private road about a mile into the farmland before crossing through a fence row into the driveway of this beauty.
The Warren House
On the lower level was the bedroom with a wood burning stove and a full bathroom. On the upper level was the living room with another wood burning stove and a full kitchen. The house was originally built on the “Warren”, or land set aside for rabbit husbandry, associated with Kimbolton Castle. It was renovated in 2011, and is now available as a vacation rental. It is also furnished perfectly. The two arm chairs are down so that you sink into them and never want to get out. The curtains are made with wood-block printed fabric with custom rabbit designs. The floors wood and brick. The spiral stairs were perfectly scaled with the most lush wood handrail you’ve ever felt. The kitchen was tiny and perfectly appointed. Obviously, we loved it and dream of having a Warren House of our own one day.
While there, we sat on the bench outside overlooking the farm land. We sat in the living room reading and working on our websites. We cooked meals in the kitchen and ate at the dining table with the windows open. We walked into town for dinner at the local pub. We watched a local air show from the balcony. We walked along the foot paths through thick mud to lakes and more farmland.
Our second stop in the English Countryside was just outside of the Peak District in the town of Wirksworth. The guest house we found is a teeny tiny place in the back yard of a larger 1500s brick house. While there, we had access to the house garden and it was centrally located so that we could walk into town easily for dinner or groceries.
On our first day, we drove into the park to walk the Monsal Trail. The trail followed an old railroad path through the country side into tunnels, past castles, and along the river. If I was to do it again, we would have rented bikes for this trail because it was plenty wide and was a little boring. Moving at a quicker pace would have been nice. After the walk, we stopped at the pub near the trail head for beers and a snack, which was fantastic.
The next day, our plan was to go on a short walk from our guest house and then relax most of the day. But once we started walking, I wanted to continue and was able to talk Nik into joining me. I’m so glad he did because that day was so much fun. We walked through sheep and cow pastures, along stone fences that have been there for centuries, and into small towns with window boxes overflowing with flowers. We had not really packed well for the walk and were very hungry by the end, but it was worth it. For dinner, we went to the local French restaurant and supped on beef bourguignon and red wine.
By the way, at this point in our trip, I had become increasingly lazy about taking photos. Thankfully, Nik had not, so please take a look at his blog posts!!!