[March 2021. Please note: Always obey regulations regarding travel and covid-19 protocols. This post is intended as inspiration for a visit later, when travel is safe again.]
Castle Combe may just be England’s most charming village. Its picturesque streets, lined with houses in warm Cotswold stone, are a favourite of visitors and locals alike, and they offer endless opportunities for photography. You can’t help but be reminded of Miss Marple whilst strolling this quintessentially English place, and it’s easy to see why it is so beloved.
It seems time stands still in this village; there are a whopping 107 listed buildings in Castle Combe, including the elegant Manor House Hotel, numerous cottages, and even several tombs and burial sites.
The easiest and least cumbersome way to reach Castle Combe is by car; take the M4 and then exit 17 or 18 towards Chippenham or Bath, respectively. (Castle Combe is easily incorporated into a tour of several area Cotswold villages along this route.) The town has limited parking and traffic wardens are strict; instead, opt to leave the car in the free car park at the top of the hill in the village and walk down.
Trains and buses are possible but not ideal, as there is no direct route to the village. If you choose this route, budget lots of time as you will need to take a train from Paddington Station in London to Chippenham, and then either travel by taxi or Bus 35 to Castle Combe.
What to See
Castle Combe is eminently easy to take in by foot. Start at the town’s market cross, dating from the 1500s (be careful not to trip on the stairs used to mount and dismount horses!) and, after glancing wistfully up the private drive for the Castle Inn, walk down The Street, passing by The Old Post Office and some of the village’s most desirable real estate. Head for the bridge that crosses the By Brook to take in the length of The Street.
At the bridge, bear right to catch a glimpse of the luxe Manor House Hotel, or glance left to take in the row of pretty houses on Water Lane, across the bridge. Even in the rain, the village looks straight out of a storybook.
The best thing to do in Castle Combe is to wander, taking in the loveliness that seems to greet you at every turn. If you get hungry, The Salutation Inn serves local, seasonal pub fare; for a really special treat, book in at the Bybrook Restaurant inside the Manor House Hotel or the restaurant inside the Castle Inn. And for coffee, tea, and baked goodies, The Old Stables reigns supreme.
Time seems to stand still here in a living period piece- it’s hard to conjure an image more classically Cotswoldian than this village!
If you’re looking for other storybook villages, check out Part I of the series, featuring the well-preserved Lacock.
Have you ever been to Castle Combe? What do you think is England’s most charming village? Let me know in the comments or send a message!