On the second day of our Cotswolds trip, we visited Bibury, which is known as the prettiest village in England. It is a village in Gloucestershire on the banks of River Coln, a tributary of Thames.
Bibury is popular among tourists for its outstanding beauty and settings. It is a hidden gem in the sense that if you don’t know about the place, you are likely to drive past mistaking it for yet another charming English village. Nothing gives away the real charms of this village to a casual traveller. It would seem like a small village on the way to much bigger villages and towns. But, if you took time to stop and look around, you’ll realise Bibury is not just another village.
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is the line of cars lined up by the side of the road. As there only is a small free car park opposite Bibury Trout Farm most of the visitors to Bibury have to park on the street. If you arrive late, you’ll most likely not get a parking spot on the street as well. (The free car park has two dedicated coach spaces – so if you are travelling as a group, try to reach the earliest).
Things to See
As mentioned earlier, Bibury is a small village. But it has much to offer. After parking the vehicle on the street or at the car park it is time to get going. The first thing to do in Bibury is to visit Arlington Row. There is a well-marked path leading from near the car park to Arlington Row. Opposite the path, we can see a huge building. It used to be the Arlington Mill (more on that later).
The Rack Isle
As we take the path, we will come across the Rack Isle, a small piece of land managed by the National Trust. Although it looks like nothing but a vast patch or yard, this little piece of wilderness sustain some important wildlife. The boggy water meadow is home to voles, grass snakes, kingfishers, dragonflies, and many other wildlife. It also sustains abundant plant life.
By the way, it is said that the Rack Isle got its name because it was here they hung out wool to dry on racks after being washed in Arlington Row.
Walk along the Path
After taking in the beauty of this little piece of wilderness, we proceed through the path towards Arlington Row. On our left-hand side, we can see the Rack Isle, River Coln, the row of vehicles parked on the road, and some cottages beyond that. It is an enchanting sight. As we move further, we will come across a small wooden bridge. Cross over and continue through the now narrower path. Up ahead, we’ll get a glimpse of the sight we’ve been waiting for.
As you leave the path and reach the opening, one of the prettiest sights you’ve seen in your life’ll bowl you over. A row of beautiful houses set in the most pristine and beautiful settings. That is Arlington Row for you.
Originally built in the 14th century as a monastic wool store, they later repurposed it into a row of weaver’s cottages. This conversion of the store into cottages happened in the 17th century and today, Arlington Row proudly stands tall as a nationally notable architectural conservation area.
It is so important that they depicted it on the inside cover of British Passports. It is also one of the six places in the UK featured in Mini-Europe, Brussels.
Arlington Row is a set of private cottages at present. However, house number 9 is available for holiday let. So, if you wish, you can stay there and get a first-hand experience of living in the prettiest village in England.
It is said that the famous American industrialist Henry Ford loved this place so much that he wanted to buy Arlington Row and ship it to America. That never happened and so, it is still sitting here in the Cotswolds charming its way into the hearts of the visitors.
Picture Postcard View
Words aren’t enough to explain the surreal beauty of Arlington Row. It is a picture postcard-worthy scene. Thousands of people come here just to look at these houses, admire them and click pictures. Especially in this era of Instagram and other social media, this is the perfect place to click some awesome pics! (We also spend some time enjoying the beauty of the place) and clicking some pics.
Despite tourists thronging the place, the tenants of the house were going about doing their daily chores – gardening, catching up with neighbours, and all the usual stuff.
Tourists were trying to capture the beauty from every angle they could. The small brook flowing by the side of the cottages gave it an extra charm. It is difficult to believe such places exist until we see them for ourselves.
We walked towards the main road through the path by Arlington Row. It is a motorable path. Incidentally, someone parked a car at the farther end of the street ( near the spot where the path we took meets the road). It was an eyesore and we had to struggle a lot to get pics without that car spoiling the beauty of the pic.
Interestingly, we read somewhere that once the tourists got so frustrated with the parked car spoiling the shots that they vandalised the car. Although we don’t endorse the behaviour, we could very well understand the frustration behind it. That car certainly spoils what would otherwise be an excellent picture. And if someone is parking at the spot deliberately to play spoilsport, what can we say!
We walked by the side of the main road, past the parked cars, and reached the Arlington Mill. Well, erstwhile mill. Now it is a private residence. But in the earlier days, it was a wool mill and we could see some remnants. There was a small brook by the side, where there might’ve been a watermill. The multistoried building was functioning as a museum until recently. I had exhibits from the times it used to be a mill and other related artefacts, However, now it is private property and so we couldn’t see inside.
Right next to the Arlington Mill is the Bibury Trout Farm. Founded in 1902, it is one of the oldest and most attractive trout farms. It is a working farm that breeds and rears high-quality Rainbow and Brown Trout for restocking angling waters. Visitors can see the fish feeding and learn about the life of a Trout. If you visit, you can even catch a trout or two on your own.
There is a cafe associated with the farm where you can enjoy some meals.
Bibury doesn’t have a great number of cafes or hotels. The Swan Hotel is a wonderful choice for eating in the bar or restaurant. It offers a relaxed, welcoming ambience and good food. We ate our lunch there. We ordered a delicious plate of pea ravioli, and gnocchi to help us get through the rest of the day. It was also a great place to escape the cold, wet conditions because it had rained by then. However, we thought the price was a bit on the higher side.
St Mary’s Church
Bibury is home to an 11th century Anglo-Saxon Church. Although established in the 11th century, much of the building today is from an 18th-century renovation. The stained glass windows inside the church are exquisitely beautiful. Karl Parsons designed it and in 1992 Royal Mail featured them in the Christmas stamp set.
Other Points of Note
We noticed that an unusually high number of visitors to Bibury are Japanese. Turned out that the then-Japanese Emperor stayed in Bibury during the 1920s during his European tour. He was so enamoured by the beauty of this village that he stayed here for some time. Since then, this place became popular among the Japanese.
Beauty that Steals your Heart
It was not only the Japanese emperor’s heart that Bibury stole. Noted poet and artist William Morris described Bibury as “the most beautiful village in England”. Several websites and travel blogs too state that Bibury is one of the world’s most picturesque villages. Anyone visiting this little village cannot agree more with them.
Watch our vlog on Bibury here.