Our East of England Canine Critic - Dilbert the corgi - visited the Cotswolds on his first assignment where he sniffed out the best dog-friendly attractions, places to eat and, of course, stayed in a delightfully dog-friendly cottage. His human, Sian, tells us what they got up to:
Dilbert is quite used to travelling and staying in different places; he’s stayed in a fair few dog-friendly hotels in his time, not to mention I’ve moved around a fair amount since having him. He’s quite the little explorer! So, when Canine Cottages asked us to take a trip to the outskirts of the Cotswolds to review a cottage, we absolutely jumped at the chance!
The drive from our home in Norwich to the village of Ludgershall, near Aylesbury, took us around three hours. Luckily, Dilbert quite enjoys a car ride! The weather was absolutely beautiful when we left home, so, typically, it was pouring with rain when we arrived… then again, what else do you expect from a UK holiday in November?!
When we got to Clearbrook Barn, we were greeted by the lovely Amanda who owns the cottage, which is situated in the grounds of her beautiful thatched home. She showed us around the garden, which was huge and even featured a hot tub and a BBQ hut. She then gave us a tour of the cottage itself. There was a bottle of prosecco waiting for us (and some paw-secco for Dilbert!), as well as a bowl of carrots for us to feed to Wallace, the resident alpaca!
We’d expected it to be quite small but, once inside, there was plenty of room. The downstairs was open plan which suited Dilbert perfectly; no having to follow anyone to the kitchen, he could simply observe from a comfy spot on the sofa!
Speaking of suiting Dilbert perfectly, there was a leather doggy bed and a whole selection of biscuits and treats bought especially for him to snack on. The kitchen area was modern and had absolutely everything we could have needed, making it easy for us to cook dinner for ourselves on the days when we didn’t eat out.
Upstairs was the bedroom, complete with a four-poster bed and an en-suite bathroom. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a big shout-out to the bed, which was insanely comfortable and hindered our ability to leave the cottage before lunchtime on most days!
The local area
On the subject of leaving the cottage, the property is well situated for visiting lots of great places, though in some cases you need to be willing to drive a fair distance. This didn’t bother us, and we managed to do some lovely day trips! If you want to stay close to home, there is a lovely dog-friendly pub just a short walk away called the Bull & Butcher, where we had a super Sunday roast!
About an hour’s drive away was the stunning Broadway Tower. Located on a hill near the village of Broadway, it is the highest castle in the Cotswolds (though *technically* it’s a folly) and the views are incredible. There’s a lovely cafe at the bottom of the hill where we stopped for a coffee and some cake before wandering up to see the tower itself. It was a great spot for photos and you could see for miles. It definitely seemed to be a popular place for dog owners to visit too; there were dogs everywhere!
Clearbrook Barn is just a 20-minute drive from one of the Park and Rides to Oxford city centre. Dilbert is used to city life, so we thought we’d go and check out a new one. We stopped for photo opportunities by the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs, like most tourists do - though, unlike most tourists, we weren’t taking selfies but photos of our dog! We did notice a definite lack of dogs in Oxford, however, and this might have been something to do with the weather, plus a lack of dog-friendly indoor places. Having said this, we did manage to find the Turl Street Kitchen where Dilbert was allowed inside, and we had a spot of lunch.
Dubbed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, we couldn’t NOT pay Bourton-on-the-Water a visit. The first thing to note is just how incredibly pretty it was and tourists were queuing to get photos of each other on one of the iconic bridges stretching over the river. As well as being picturesque, it is also home to the Cotswold Motoring Museum, which was not only both interesting AND home to star of children’s TV, Brum (!!), but it was also dog friendly! Definitely worth a visit!
When our lovely host Amanda suggested we take a trip to Bicester Village, a designer outlet village, we weren’t quite sure. She then informed us that dogs could go in most of the shops, so long as they were in one of the puppy strollers that you could borrow once there. Well, as you can imagine, the thought of seeing Dilbert in a pram amused us so much that we just had to go, and we certainly weren’t disappointed! Though we didn’t exactly do much shopping (most of it was just a bit *too* high end for us!), Dilbert certainly got a lot of attention being chauffeured around in his own personal chariot. Bigger dogs, and dogs that don’t enjoy being driven around, can still walk around outside on their leads, but can’t be taken into the shops themselves. Definitely worth a visit if you like shopping, people watching, or laughing at your dog in a buggy!
Coming home to Clearbrook Barn at the end of a busy day was nothing short of perfect. The weather was chilly but the cottage was warm and cosy, perfect for snuggling up on the sofa with a cup of tea. We even had one day where we didn’t go anywhere at all; we did nothing all day and it was just what the doctor ordered! Dilbert certainly enjoyed exploring the fantastic garden, though there was one resident of the garden that, much to my own despair, he did not really take to, and this was Wallace the alpaca. Wallace wanders the garden as he pleases and makes some really very funny noises! After a week of being barked at by a slightly scared, slightly ferocious corgi, poor Wallace probably needs his own holiday!
We were ever so sad to be leaving at the end of the week. We had such a lovely time and Amanda had welcomed us to the property like old friends, and even very generously did a beautiful painting of Dilbert for us to take home. I can’t recommend Clearbrook Barn enough – Dilbert was happy and settled there in an instant, and we’d sure return in a heartbeat!