3 great stops in the English countryside
It takes around half an hour to travel from Bristol to the neighboring city of Bath, which is best known for its Roman baths and for author Jane Austen, who frequently used the city streets and residents in her books. But don’t stop there. The county of Wiltshire, just a short drive away, is home to both stunning gardens and the village known as the most beautiful in England.
Iford Manor and Peto Garden
Iford Manor, with its Peto Garden, is not exactly the easiest place to find. The medieval manor is well hidden in the Iford Valley, in a beautiful location on the River Frome.
The garden acquired its current appearance when architect Harold Peto took over the property in the late 19th century. Harold Peto was a keen traveler who built several villas in the south of France, but also designed gardens, both in England and abroad. You will soon see that he was a big fan of the Italian style, as you walk among tall cypresses, statues, columns, and lush terraces that line the slopes around the manor.
“It is a terribly English garden with its greens and flowers, but with Italian influences. Harold liked mixing things,” says Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett, the current owner of Iford Manor. She adds that all the statues are original and were brought back by Peto from his many travels. For Peto, the most beautiful gardens contained a stylish combination of both architectural elements and plants.
The Peto Garden is not large in area but the garden’s different spaces mean there is much to discover – and also a lot to maintain. Cartwright-Hignett makes no secret of the fact that it costs a lot of money. That is why it is now also open to the public from April to September, with regular concerts and festivals.
Iford Manor and Peto Garden
It is not hard to see why Lacock has been used as a backdrop for movies and TV shows. Movies such as Harry Potter and The Wolfman and TV versions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have all been filmed on the picturesque streets with their half-timbered stone houses dating from the 13th century. And it feels slightly odd to find yourself surrounded by history, while children play noisily in the kindergarten near the church. For although Lacock feels like something taken from a tourist brochure, it is a thriving village where people live and work.
The village itself consists only of a few streets, some shops selling local produce, and a couple of places where you can eat and sleep. Just off the main street is the grand Lacock Abbey – a former monastery that was later home to William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor and scientist who played an important role in the development of photography. Today Lacock Abbey is a museum.
If you are interested in the history of photography, a visit to the Fox Talbot Museum, on the outskirts of the village, is not to be missed.
Lacock village, Wiltshire
If Lacock feels crowded with tourists, Castle Combe is quite the opposite – at least early in the season. The village has been called “The prettiest village in England” and lies in the southern Cotswolds, one of England’s more scenic areas.
It only takes a couple of minutes to walk along the main street, which is lined with beautiful honey-colored stone buildings with traditional stone roofs, and see the small square with its water pump, and the well-photographed weavers’ cottages along the Bybrook River. If you want to enjoy the tranquility a bit longer, both B&B and more upscale accommodation is available.
Castle Combe is also frequently used as a filming location, including for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
Text: Anna-Lena Ahlberg
Find your way around the English countryside in this interactive map
Published: July 24, 2015