A weekend away with Ned? Yes please! So who’s Ned? He’s a 4 year old cockapoo we met over a year ago thanks to BorrowMyDoggy. His mum is SO cool that she let him come on a holiday with us to the Midlands in England. And we had QUITE the adventure starting with Oxford and driving onto Leamington Spa, Stratford Upon Avon, Lower Slaughter and Broadway Tower.
- Visit The Slaughters and Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds
- Enjoy a cream tea on the River Cafe Terrace at The Old Mill in Lower Slaughter
- Dog friendly pubs that feature include Bear Inn and Chequers in Oxford, The Royal Pug in Leamington Spa and The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter
- Keep spare change handy for parking
- Give BorrowMyDoggy a try! You never know it might lead to weekends away with your new best friend!
Saturday – Oxford & Leamington Spa
On Saturday morning we travelled by bus to King’s Cross to pick up our hire car from Enterprise. Total cost £105 for 2 days which is more than we usually pay but we left the booking a bit late and it still beats the cost of having our own car! Next stop – Ned. There were too many cars outside his place so we pulled up around the corner and I ran to pick him up. He must have been thinking YAY we’re off for a walk! But instead I ushered him into the car for our trip.
Soon after I got a message from Ned’s mum saying he hadn’t pooped yet today and he might get car sick so we planned our first stop. Beaconsfield Services are good for a break about an hour outside of London. There’s even a small park to walk your dog. We eventually made it to Oxford but it took us a while to get parked. We opted for one of the paid parking lots and it was literally 1 in, 1 out so a good 20 minute wait until finally it was our turn. Expect to pay around £10 for 2 hour parking. A good local tip we learned after our weekend adventure is to get the Park and Ride. It’s cheaper and you basically park in a big car park and catch the bus into the centre. Buses are regular.
Along the drive to Oxford I checked out dog friendly pubs online and found the Bear Inn. But it was full! So we went back to Chequers, a place we walked past on the search for the Bear Inn. It was dog friendly too and quite nice to sit in the cobblestone alleyway where the tables were set up between the two buildings. My partner chose a Ploughman’s sandwich from the lunch menu and I tried a fish finger sandwich. Oh so English!
It was beautiful weather for a walk so we headed towards the water. There were quite a few boats in the water and people practising their boat racing skills. Have you ever heard of the famous boat race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities that happens once a year? It’s a BIG deal! Nearby we noticed some cows lazing and grazing on the grass and hoped that Ned wouldn’t notice them too. It was hard enough trying to distract him from the ducks and geese down by the water’s edge! Another fun fact is that the water here is part of the famous Thames River.
We continued on towards the University buildings. The architecture is what you would imagine old country England to look like and you can almost feel the history. We couldn’t leave without taking a photo of Ned outside the University and messaging his Mum to say he was off to Oxford! There are quite a few buildings owned by Oxford University spread out across the city and as we kept wandering, we saw a group of students graduating and an old science library called Radcliffe Camera. One lady stopped us to ask about Ned and what his breed was like. She was up for a chat but our 2 hour parking was almost up!
Late afternoon we checked into Episode Hotel in Leamington Spa. It’s about 2 hours outside of London. Would I recommend visiting Leamington Spa? Well the Jephson Gardens are pretty and the Royal Pump Rooms are interesting and an important part of their history, but I can’t say there is loads to see and do. Even when I was telling my work colleagues about going to Leamington Spa for the weekend they looked at me blankly as if to say ‘why’? It WAS a good base for our other destinations though and probably cheaper than staying at more well known tourist destinations.
As for the Episode hotel I’m not sure I would recommend it. It’s a basic, budget hotel and probably not what you would picture as country England accommodation. But, it is well located, has a decent English breakfast and most importantly is dog friendly! It’s almost hard to believe we stayed in a hotel with a dog as it is generally not allowed in Australia. Actually there are quite a few differences between a dog’s life in the UK compared to Australia.
Before dinner we took a walk through Jephson Gardens and past the Royal Pump Rooms for which the town became known for their mineral springs. In the past, Leamington Spa was as famous as Bath Spa for this exact reason. Hence the official name Royal Leamington Spa. Main sites done! The beauty about a place with not much to do is you’re forced to slow down and take your time. Different pace to London that’s for sure!
After some google searching we found the Royal Pug, a dog-friendly pub. We set ourselves up in the beer garden and made a new local friend who told us what it was like to live in Leamington Spa. Lots of people around with money apparently! The food was good at the Royal Pug. We tried a few different snack plates and didn’t spend any more than a tenner (£10) each. Back at the hotel I got sucked in to watching Eurovision and tried SO hard to stay awake to see who the winner was but failed. Although my partner and Ned were snoring well before I was!
Sunday – Stratford Upon Avon, Lower Slaughter and Broadway Tower
Ned is an early riser. And we were on the top floor of the hotel. Which meant one of us had to walk Ned down for a pee first thing. Let’s just say my partner is going to be a good father one day. We had an English breakfast at the hotel before starting our road trip to Stratford Upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare and part of the Cotswolds. If you have time, check out the RSC theatre for Shakespeare plays all year round.
It was my first time there, my partner’s second. We walked by the Garrick Inn, the oldest pub in town where he ate lunch with his family last time he visited. Ned decided this was the perfect poop stop so we bagged it and continued on our way. We walked over bridges, through markets, threw the ball for Ned and ate some delicious ice-cream from a place called Wild Nuts. The best part was Ned posing as William Shakespeare in one of those cardboard cut-out stands. Poorly explained, but the picture below says it all.
Our next destination, found by Google searching nearby English villages, clicking on each one and checking out their Google images, was the Slaughters. Sounds frightful doesn’t it but it’s a beautiful country English village well worth a visit. We particularly enjoyed Lower Slaughter and lunch at The Slaughters Country Inn. We shared a roast dinner seeing as we’d both eaten two scoops of ice-cream a short while earlier. It was also a bit posh with prices to match. We spent the rest of the time throwing the ball for Ned in the grass, blowing the Dandelion flowers into the air and attempting to dry off Ned with more ball throwing after he decided to go for a swim in the pond.
Walking through Lower Slaughter we saw two young girls on horses stopping for an ice-cream break at the organic home-made ice-cream store (should have saved our ice-cream experience for that!). It’s near the old mill and a few other interesting things nearby were the sign on a public walkway gate that said ‘Prince Charles, Lady Diana 29th July 1981’ and the sign on a gate outside a house clearly stating a £2 penalty for not shutting it. Local tip – have a cream tea (tea or coffee and scones with jam and cream) on the River Cafe Terrace at the Old Mill, it’s somewhat hidden away from tourists.
Running out of time and with a looming hire car return deadline, we set off for Broadway Tower. We needed change for parking so while my partner sorted that inside the store, I chatted away with a local couple and introduced Ned to their baby. Broadway Tower is unique in appearance and built on top of a green hill with picturesque views. If we had time I would have loved to see inside. It’s less than £5 each and there’s even a nuclear war bunker a short distance from the tower.
Instead of getting back to London to drop off the car at 5pm, we were only leaving Broadway Tower at 4:45pm. Oops! Well we figured the car rental place closed at 5pm and we would only be returning the keys through the dropbox anyway so what would it matter if we are late? It wasn’t until around 8pm that we got Ned safely back to his Mum and dropped the car back. I wouldn’t recommend ‘trying this at home’ just in case the car park is closed or you get charged extra. We took the chance having hired cars there before, and after checking my bank statement can confirm there was no additional charge!
What a lovely short break!