Castle Combe: Time travel back to 1600 AD

Castle Combe

My love for British historical books started with, what else, but Pride and Prejudice. When I should’ve been focusing on my studies, I was vicariously living in a different era through these books. My fascination with the English countryside and small villages started with reading, imagining and looking at the pictures long before my first trip there.

Time Travel back to the sixteenth century

One of the prettiest villages nestled in a valley in The Cotswolds is Castle Combe. I have been looking at pictures and dreaming about visiting this village for a while. From the pictures I had seen I thought this village could have been right out of one of my books.

Somehow we had missed visiting this beautiful village when we had visited other villages of The Cotswolds a few years ago.

Cottage on the River Bybrook

On a typical English rainy day we set out for Castle Combe in Wiltshire. We took the motorway out of London, hoping for a break in the clouds for at least a few hours. But to our disappointment, the forecast said rain for the next few hours. Castle Combe is about 100 miles, a little less than a 2 hour drive by car, from London.

Rain soaked cottage

We reached Castle Combe around 10:30 in the morning. We left motorway M4 behind and took single lane country roads for the last eight miles to Castle Combe. We passed the famous Castle Combe racing circuit situated just outside the village center and a popular destination on its own. The biggest issue with visiting this village is parking. There are a few roadside parking spaces parallel to the street called The Street as you approach the village center. The village has a parking lot, a short five minutes walk away on the Dunns Lane. But the walk to the village has a steep incline. As we neared the village we saw a few people walking by the side of the road from the car park. It was still early and maybe because of the rainy forecast there were not many people around.

Market Cross built in the 14th century as seen from The Street

We had to make a couple of rounds of The Street street to find a parking closer to the town. With rain in the forecast, we wanted to park as close to the village as possible. Luckily we found a parking space not too far away. Even more luckily, the rain stopped as we approached the village.

As seen from Bybrook River

Imagine my excitement at seeing the village that I had seen only in pictures, spread out in front of me. I knew exactly where to go even though this was my very first trip. It was as I had imagined and much more. We slowly made our way down to Bybrook River. The stone bridge over the narrow river and the view of the village from the bridge is probably one of the most photographed views. The village is frozen in time. According to Wikipedia no new building has been built in this village since 1600. Once upon a time on this land stood a fifth century castle, hence the name. The Word Combe means a narrow valley. Since the village is in a valley, the name makes a perfect sense. The buildings in this village are made from the stones from the castle’s ruins. These stones are queried in The Cotswolds, and have a very dull yellow color common to this area. The village is so beautiful and full of charm that it is no wonder that it has been voted as the prettiest town in England.

Castle Inn

We reached the bridge admiring the row of homes on both sides of the Main Street. We were completely charmed by the tables of sweets, pastries and cakes outside a home. All you had to do was to leave the money and sample whatever you wanted from the table. The homeowner was no where in sight! Another cottage had a sign outside to ring the bell if you wanted tea or coffee. There was a pretty little village shop selling local handmade things and picnic baskets. The village was quiet and peaceful. It was still early enough so only a few people were wandering and admiring its charms. There is Market Cross and St. Andrew’s Church at the center. Like in the books, there is a quintessential church, an inn, a manor house, and several cottages, some even with the thatched roofs. I closed my eyes and could imagine, people in their regency clothes walking up and down on a market day once upon a time. Maybe people living in the manor house walking to the village and stopping to receive a curtsy or a bow from the locals. A ping from my phone brought me back to the present era. As if I traveled back in time not only to the long gone past but went back even to my teens and all those books I read so voraciously.

Tables of food for sale outside a home.
The Little Picnic shop selling handcrafted items

We crossed the bridge. Like all others before us, we stood there transfixed by the village and the flowing waters of Bybrook River. Spring had just arrived in this part. The fresh green of early leaves and the grass gave freshness to these old stones. The early spring flowers bloomed everywhere. The yellow of daffodils gave a brilliant contrast to the greens and stones of the buildings. Here I was standing on a bridge of a fairy tale village and I could hardly believe it.

Spring is in the air.

The village has been used as a shooting location for many films and TV shows. One of my favorites, Downton Abbey’s 2019 film was one of the many that was shot here.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Canopy

We made our way to the Manor House passing several pretty cottages on its grounds. It’s a big house made from the same stone, now converted into a five star hotel and is located where the original 5th century castle once stood. The river Bybrook flows serenely through the grounds. You can cross the river on a charming stone bridge below the pink canopy of Japanese Cherry blossom trees. These trees were blooming, making the whole scene full of romance. Imagine the awe we felt at that sight. But before we could reach the bridge, the sky opened up. We sought shelter at the Manor House. We decided to have a lunch to wait out the rain and then go out to explore the Manor House grounds. Hot soup and sandwiches with a beautiful view, what more can you ask for!

The Manor House
Hot lunch with a view on a rainy afternoon.

Note:- We drove to the village. There are other ways to reach it if you don’t want to drive. There is a train from Paddington Station to Chippenham. You will either have to take a taxi for an 11 minutes ride to Castle Combe or a bus. There is also a bus to and from Victoria Station in London to Two Pig, Nelson. From there a 12 minutes ride to Castle Combe. You only need a few hours in this village. You can pre order a picnic basket from The Picnic Shop and have lovely picnic on the banks of the river. But if you want you can stay overnight either at Manor House or at Castle Combe Inn and you can visit some other towns nearby. The Manor House also has a golf course for the golf lovers.

Formal Gardens at the manor house

Published by Neha Shah

Hi! I love to travel, I love art and architecture, I enjoy cooking, and, more recently, I've been bitten by the photography bug. My family has always respected my need to explore and observe the world outside the window. They always leave the window seat for me, be it in a car, train, or plane. They are always walking along side me when I am out exploring. I am shy by nature so I guess I am happiest when I see, observe, and imagine. When we moved to London, it was a dream come true. This city was one I read about in books and dreamed about as a child. I had visited it many times as an adult before we actually moved here, but being part of the life here has brought me out of my inertia and made me pick up the pen again. My ever present phone helps me capture the images of what I see. One fine day my pen and phone made me sit down to write my first blog post!

6 thoughts on “Castle Combe: Time travel back to 1600 AD

  1. Thank you, Neha, for this detailed and so well documented visit of Castle Combe! You have so beautifully expressed the essence of the Cotswolds and as usual, the readers feel they are walking your paths, seeing what you evoke, enjoying the food and the English weather! Your photographs are marvelous! This trip of yours reminded me of a two weeks’ stay I had spent with my family at Broadway, a village in the Costwolds too. We had hired a cottage where it was said Ann Hathaway had been living for some time! It’s always a pleasure to read your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Neha,
    So happy that you did visit this place.
    While reading, I thought I too was in there…
    Really pretty.
    Do continue to write your blogs.
    Lots of love.

    Liked by 1 person

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