By Eileen Ogintz
COTSWOLDS, Great Britian (Day 2) — I feel like I’ve walked onto the Downton Abbey set. Actually, we’re at Ellenborough Park in the Cotswolds in Great Britain that dates back to the early 16th Century.
We’ve just arrived by train from London’s Paddington Station, a two hour trip, and it feels as if we’ve traveled a lot farther back in time as we settle on the couches in the Great Hall for tea—yes a traditional tea with dainty salmon and egg salad sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and delectable cakes. (The chocolate macaroons are particularly hard to resist.)
From here, you can get right onto the Cotswolds Way Walk National Trail, the famous 102-mile footpaths through the picturesque villages and fields where you might pass sheep grazing.
Walking — Americans would call it hiking — has become increasingly popular here and the Cotswolds is a good place to ramble, whether for a few hours or several days. There are literally thousands of footpaths, our guide Anne Barnett tells us.
Of course there is an interesting history to Ellenborough house, complete with a scandal. This home was built in the 16th Century by a prosperous farmer, and inherited by local gentry—you can still see the coat of arms. Edward Law, the Earl of Ellenborough and a former Governor General of India bought the place in the 1830s. By that point, his second wife had left him, telling the world that his son—who died at age two—wasn’t his.
By the turn of the 20th Century—a mother and daughter were living here—attended by 24 servants (very Downton Abbey!) —and after WWII, it was a school for girls.
Now Ellenborough Park has been restored to its former grandeur, with historic paintings on the wall, wood carvings, stone walls and huge fireplaces. No wonder this place is so popular at Christmas. Kids would have a great time with a scavenger hunt. But as historic as the public rooms, the guest rooms couldn’t be more modern or comfortable. What would Lord Ellenborough thought of the flat screen TV, the AC or the multi-nozzle shower? There is a pool and spa (awesome massage!). And, should you go walking, you can borrow rubber boots if the weather is wet.
We eat dinner in the Beaufort Dining Room with a 16th Century fireplace where more than half the food is locally sourced – there’s a 500-bpttle wine cellar, a chef’s vegetable garden and acres of land to wander. But I especially loved the elaborate breakfasts—porridge with whiskey! Yoghurt from Ireland! Kippers!
At tea (kids like the Alice in Wonderland themed teas), we’re offered a leaf sniff before we choose — Pear Caramel (a blend of black teas with pears and caramel) Vrebana Mint, Green Tea Passion. In the evening, guests gather in the same Great Hall for cocktails.
But where are Lord and Lady Grantham?