• Our Favourite Cotswolds Spots

    22nd September, 2017

    The Cotswolds typifies charming English villages – the golden stone of the chocolate box cottages mean that towns such as Chipping Campden and Cirencester are some of the most photographed in the UK. It isn’t just the towns that make it, of course, but the rolling wolds and trickling rivers that paint the perfect picture of rural England. The Cotswolds are eternally popular and have been one of our most successful destinations over the past few years. The wonderful thing about the little English villages is that theres always more to uncover, so we’ve picked out some of our favourite hidden gems – the places that aren’t in your average guidebook.

    Bantam Tea Rooms

    As one of our favourite partners, we often book our guests into the Bantam Tea Rooms for a night or two. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to stay here, the Bantam is worth visiting for their delicious homemade cakes, speciality teas and warm welcome. Bantam is one of the cutest stops on the route – encapsulating all the quaint English charm one looks for in the Cotswolds. We at the Carter Company must admit that we often indulge if we find ourselves in Chipping Campden – we highly recommend the scones… For those who prefer coffee to tea – never fear! The Cotswolds has something for you too. The Campden Coffee Company is a favourite among the locals, serving some of the best coffee in the area.

    Batsford Arboretum

    While visitors to the Cotswolds may be familiar with Westonbirt, the larger Arboretum in Tetbury, we recommend a visit to Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-in-Marsh. Batsford is smaller and quite romantic – the perfect place for a couples afternoon out. Batsford actually has a bigger collection of trees and shrubs than Westonbirt and also has a fantastic garden centre on site.

    The Fosse Way

    There is no lack of history in the Cotswolds, but few realise that some of the roads through Cirencester and Moreton-in-Marsh actually date back to Roman times. The Fosse Way was once the main thoroughfare from Lincoln to Exeter and most of this ancient track still survives. For a part, the Fosse Way runs as Moreton's high street, before becoming the main road out of Cirencester. In between, its grassy track or simply field. The Fosse Way was built to be incredibly straight, supposedly so that the Romans could not be ambushed at corners, and is thus easy to trace on OS maps and fun to follow as a walker. Bear in mind though that you are likely walking a route first laid over two thousand years ago!

    Cotswolds Lavender Farm

    Snowshill is best known for the Manor and Gardens, but they are not the little villages only claim to fame. Just outside of the sleepy village of Snowshill sits the Cotswold Lavender Farm – a sea of purple fragrant flowers. The fields of lavender are simply an incredible sight, the scent is gorgeous and the bees that waft in the breeze add to the scene. We recommend visiting before the harvest, but even if you miss this, the shop is something to behold – they sell everything possible Lavender themed! Do check the opening times as this is a working farm and isn't always open.

  • Weird and Wonderful Wildlife

    19th August, 2017

    For such a tiny island, we have some exceptional native species – we have several species unique to the Island, and many others that are rare. Our eco-system is also expected to expand, as there have been calls to reintroduce the wolves and lynx that used to live in Britain in ancient times! British wildlife is rich and varied, and fortunately not very dangerous (at the moment!). We’ve picked out some of our favourites that we suggest visitors to the UK watch out for – however, this is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are many more beautiful animals to be spotted up and down the country…

    Red Squirrels

    Some of the UK’s cutest, these little squirrel’s existence has long been threatened by the Grey Squirrel, an American invader that competes for food and habitat. Red Squirrels are smaller, and sweeter, and easily recognisable due to their russet coats and tufty ears. Red Squirrels are tree dwellers, and spend much less time on the ground than their grey cousins. Due to the influx of Grey Squirrels, Red Squirrels are now endangered, and are most likely to be spotted in Northern England and Scotland, among the fir trees and in deep forest areas. The Red Squirrels also enjoy sanctuary on the Isle of Wight, where there are no Greys. If you are on our Hadrian’s Wall Tour, or our Highlands Coast to Coast tour, keep your eyes open for these rare little rodents.

    Wild Boar

    A relatively recent re-introduction to Britain, the Wild Boar now thrives in the Forest of Dean and other wooded areas in the South of England. Wild Boar were a common site in the UK several centuries ago, although over-hunting drove them to extinction. The re-introduction was actually accidental, and it is thought that the groups of Wild Boar spotted in the South escaped from farms in the area. Wild Boar enjoy the British climate, having rough, wiry coats that can withstand our weather. Boar primarily eat roots, wild vegetables, and are good at snuffling out acorns. There are concerns that the Wild Boar may be threatening the mouse population, as the Boar are known to seek out the mice, not to eat them, but to steal their acorn hoards! Look out for the Boar if you are on our Dorset Beaches and the New Forest tour as there is a herd that calls the forest home here – be careful, and do keep your distance, as Wild Boar are actually considered to be a ‘dangerous species’.

    Red Kite

    Another re-introduction, the Red Kite has been one of the most successful in history. These majestic birds are now a common site over the Chiltern Hills, where they glide overhead watching for carrion and small rodents. Their distinctive forked tails and white markings on their wings sets them apart from the other birds of prey native to England. If you are on our Chiltern Challenge, you will undoubtedly see some of these beautiful birds, and those on our Thames tours might be lucky enough to spot them too.

    Pine Martens

    These little carnivores were once the second most common in the UK, although today they are amongst the country’s most endangered species. Deforestation devastated the Pine Marten population, driving them to the more remote edges of Britain. These days, the best places to catch a site of these elusive animals is in the Highlands or the Lake District. For those who may have no clue what a Pine Marten looks like, they are a cute compact carnivore related to the badger and otter – their colouring is a soft brown with a yellow ‘bib’ on their throats. They are very cute.

    Minke Whales

    These small baleen whales can sometimes be spotted up and down the Western coasts of the UK, and are most frequently seen off of coast of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Notable for their delicate size, and elegant movements, these little whales (typically 8 metres long give or take a few) have become a more common sighting in the North Sea, potentially due to increased food stocks brought on by climate change. If you are interested in catching a sight of these lovely visitors, consider a boat trip out to sea – they are definitely worth the effort as they are remarkably beautiful and quite friendly!

  • 5 of the Most Classic English TV Spots

    12th July, 2017

    Our little island produces some great T.V., and many of our recent series have shot to global fame – we firmly believe that great stories and great landscape are a winning combination. Here are some of our favourites…

    Midsomer Murders

    Perhaps the most quintessentially English of them all, Midsomer Murders is a crime drama set in the very green and pleasant fictional county of Midsomer. It has been running since 1997, and is a staple of British television, perfectly encapsulating the British sense of humour and way of life. Midsomer isn’t just a fantasy however, and is directly based on the picture postcard villages and little country lanes of the Chilterns. Most filming is done around Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and anyone with a little local knowledge can pick out the locations that make up the villages of Midsomer. We at the Carter Company are fortunate to be based right in the middle of Midsomer Murders country, and live amongst the little villages, the fields and farms, and the beautiful countryside. If you want to sample this yourself, consider our Whistle-stop Thames or Chilterns tour, or our Riverside Ride from Oxford.


    A much darker crime drama than the light-hearted Midsomer Murders, Broadchurch rose to global acclaim for its portrayal of life in a troubled seaside town. The struggles of the locals, initially following the death of a young boy, are set against the dramatic landscape of the Dorset coast. Showrunner Chris Chibnall created the name Broadchurch by combining the names of Dorset hamlets Broadoak and Whitchurch. The show, starring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, has won several BAFTAs, and has drawn an enormous fan base. Its popularity has caused it to be adapted into both an American and a French version; the success of these remains to be seen, as it is the phenomenal Dorset coastline that gives Broadchurch its power - we can’t imagine an opening sequence without the tall white cliffs and crashing waves of the fierce and beautiful English coast. Our tours around Dorset offer the opportunity to see this dramatic landscape up close, particularly our Dorset Beaches and the New Forest tour.

    Downtown Abbey

    Downtown Abbey is another British production that has enjoyed unprecedented popularity around the world. It is period drama at its best, offering viewers a window into the lives of those in the household of the Crawley family, the fictional Earls of Grantham. Downtown Abbey has been filmed in various locations in Southern England; Highclere Castle in North Hampshire is used for the main house, and the charming Oxfordshire village of Bampton forms the village of Downton. Despite primarily being filmed in the South of England, in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the fictional Downton is supposedly based in North Yorkshire. For those searching for the Downton Abbey experience, we suggest our Oxford and Thames Royal Palaces tour, which features the stunning houses and castles that inspired Downton Abbey. We love showing people the best of English heritage, and in true Downtown style, we can take you through the great houses of our aristocratic history.

    Inspector Morse and Lewis

    Both Inspector Morse, and its successor Lewis, are filmed around Oxford, showing off the ‘city of dreaming spires’ and one of the world’s oldest university. The original series, Inspector Morse, followed Morse and his sergeant Robert Lewis around Oxford in a series that ran from 1987 to 2000. When John Thaw, who played Morse, passed away, the show recreated itself with Lewis as the main character. The show finally retired in 2015, with Kevin Whately (Lewis) having played the role for almost 30 years. The British public were very disappointed to lose such a T.V. classic, and so, in 2014, another spinoff was declared: Endeavor, following the career of the young Morse. These shows are a must watch for anyone planning on visiting Oxford – they act as a travelogue of the city, taking the viewer around the ancient colleges and the stunning streets, through all the historic nooks and crannies of one of England’s finest cities. We have a variety of tours around Oxford, all of which will give you the opportunity to explore with a Carter Company twist.


    Another brilliant period drama, BBC’s Poldark is based on a series of books by Winston Graham. The show follows Captain Poldark’s (Aiden Turner) struggles to repair his reputation and estate after returning from the American War of Independence. The series is based in Cornwall, and captures the county’s rugged grandeur. Our tour, Coastal Adventures in Devon and Cornwall, will show you the dramatic countryside that makes Poldark so powerful. From towering cliffs, to charming hamlets and blissful beaches, the Cornish coast offers both history and nature. It is a chance to enjoy some of the wild parts of England, and to indulge in some of the best views in the world. Cycle and picnic along the clifftops, or stand in the wind contemplating life like the series’ tragic hero.

    (Photo credit BBC, 2017)

  • 8 Very English Experiences

    12th June, 2017

    You’re not a true anglophile until you’ve tried these…

    Fish and chips

    Fish and Chips is fundamentally English, and these days, every town worth its salt has a chippy. Traditionally, Fish and Chips was to be enjoyed sitting on a pier or harbour wall, watching the cool sea wash in – for this we recommend Aldeburgh Fish and Chips on the Suffolk Coast. For those wanting the English experience but don’t have the time to travel far, fear not, London offers some of the best Fish and Chips – and you can always eat it watching the boats on the Thames! We recommend The Sea Shell in Lisson Grove, London.

    Spin a Morris Minor through the Cotswolds

    At the Carter Company, we feel that there is no better way to see England than on a bike – but that said, a convertible Morris Minor is a lot of fun too and is a local Oxford icon. We have some of the most beautiful landscape in the world. There is no need to just take our word for it, touring our island will leave you in no doubt. We suggest spinning along the little lanes of the Cotswolds, seeing the sandy coloured stone and quaint, postcard villages.

    Watching cricket

    Although the English can claim the invention of many sports such as football, rugby, tennis and boxing, perhaps the most ‘English’ of all is cricket. Prince Phillip famously said ‘there is a quite erroneously held belief that cricket is just another game’; indeed, for many, cricket is a way of life. It is slow paced and relaxing, skillful but not taxing, and enjoyed by people of all ages. On Sundays, while walking or driving through rural England, it is a common site to see men in their whites playing cricket on village greens; It is a symbol of the great English idyll. Watch at Keswick Cricket Club in the Lake District where Skiddaw provides the dramatic backdrop, with it's summit at 3,000ft!

    Visiting the local

    For centuries and centuries, English communities, both rural and urban, revolved around the pub or ‘local’ as it is known; it was a place where all news was shared, great issues debated, and most importantly, where good ale was drunk. Even in busy modern life, the pub remains an important part of our culture. You haven’t really been to England unless you’ve been in a pub. We have many favourites on our tours of which The Half Moon in Sheepwash, Devon is one, but almost all of our tours will lead you past one great pub to the next.

    Royal spotting

    England is known and loved for its Royal Family and Brits as well as visitors are keen to spot family members. Really, it’s not so hard to catch a sight of them; if you visit Royal Ascot or Wimbledon, you have a good chance! Other options are a film premiere or the Chelsea Flower Show and Chelsea pub The Pig’s Ear where William sometimes downs a pint. And of course the Queen has been spotted in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle – see our Thames Royal Palaces Trip.

    Cathedral evensong

    As with many other English traditions, choral evensong in the great Cathedrals has survived the ages. These beautiful, ancient buildings still serve as refuges, places of celebration and of spirituality in the modern day. England may have had a tumultuous relationship with religion over the past centuries, but faith still remains a central part of English culture. There is a great power in these places, and even those without religion will be moved by the age and beauty of the churches and cathedrals in England. If you want to connect with England’s historic past, we suggest attending choral evensong; Cambridge and Salisbury offer some of the best experiences.

    Afternoon tea

    What could be more English than Afternoon tea? Its tradition at its finest – wherever you are in the country, you can rely on afternoon tea to give you that blissful Sunday feeling. It combines tea with delicate sandwiches, cakes, scones and strawberry jam – practically the cornerstone of English cuisine. Betty’s in Yorkshire is one of our favourites (and a feature on our Footsteps tour), but for the quintessential experience, try Claridges in London.

    A walk in the park

    British cities are famous for their parks, islands of green in the midst of bustling cities, often with wonderful gardens. It is a very English thing to take a stroll or a cycle ride through the park in your lunchbreak or as the sun sets. Parks we love are Westgate beside the River Stour in Canterbury, Greenwich in London where you can stand astride the Prime Meridian Line and Tring in the Chiltern Hills where the Rothschilds created avenues of lime trees leading to stone follies.

  • On the trail of England's literary treasures

    27th April, 2017

    In our travels around England, we have had the chance to explore some of the nation's greatest heritage - here's a little insider info on some of our favourite finds...

    J.R.R. Tolkien

    Tolkien has ranked 6th on The Times list of most popular British writers, and his epic Lord of the Rings ranked 26 in the BBC’s list of the greatest British novels. It is fair to say that Tolkien is a national treasure; as the father of fantasy and as a continuing influence and inspiration to writers worldwide. Despite being born in South Africa, having had his books published in over 38 languages, and having had them filmed in New Zealand with a multi-national cast – Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings has always been best at home in England. The Bell in Moreton in Marsh is supposedly the inspiration for the Prancing Pony in Bree – and is a must see for any Tolkien fan. They are well aware of their heritage and have a traditional blue plaque proving their link to Middle Earth. If you find yourself on one of our Thames tours or rambling in the Cotswolds, look out for the ‘rolling hills and little rivers’ of Oxfordshire and the Chilterns - this is Shire country.

    William Shakespeare

    April 23rd marked William Shakespeare’s 453rd birthday – and although he is getting on a bit, he remains as popular and as culturally important as ever. The Carter Company has many tours that will lead you along Shakespeare’s Way, take you to a play in Stratford-upon-Avon or the Globe, and will show you literary history at its finest with Shakespeare’s Five Houses. Nestled in the heart of England, Shakespeare’s five family homes, beautiful traditional cottages, still welcome visitors. Whether its history, literature, or just a good day out that you are craving, the Five Houses will deliver.

    William Wordsworth

    The First Generation of Romantic Poets called the Lake District their home – and judging by the incredible scenery, it isn’t surprising that this corner of England nurtured some of the nation’s greatest poets. Between the tarns and the rocky hills, scattered sheep and mossy mountains, you can see some of the most dramatic landscape in England. While you are in the Lake District, a trip to Dove Cottage or Rydal Mount are essential – but you can glean literary history from the landscape itself. Although scholars are uncertain which lake is the setting of Wordsworth’s famous ‘boat stealing’ episode, it has long been suggested that it all took place on the shores of Lake Grasmere.

    Agatha Christie

    Agatha Christie was an incredibly prolific writer – publishing over 80 novels, and selling over 200 billion copies – she is one of England’s favourites and retains a reputation as the mother of murder mystery. Throughout her life, Christie called the English Riviera home - this section of the Devonshire coast has long been praised for its picturesque views, beautiful bays and historical towns. Torquay, Christie’s birthplace, is the setting for many of her novels, and the inspiration for many others. While in Devon, consider walking the Agatha Christie Mile, and stopping by the Greenway Estate (Christie’s beloved family home – now part of the National Trust) and taking part in the annual Agatha Christie Birthday Celebrations.

    This is just a snapshot of what England has to offer – also worth a mention is Whitby - home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Kent - Dickens Country, Bath - home to Jane Austen and of course, a Carter Company Favourite, Enid Blyton’s Dorset. To find out more, check out our tour: In the footsteps of famous writers

    (Photo Credit, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2012)