I knew the original plan was to hit Dublin early to get a run on the day, but you know how it is with hoomans and their packing – it was nearly 3.00pm when we finally parked the car.
Our first stop was at the live crib, now in St Stephen’s Green, but they were already closing up when we arrived. Despite our pleadings and my howlings, they wouldn’t let us in – the big meanies.
My disappointment was eased once we walked around the city, admiring the lights and being admired in my smart raincoat. We repaired to the Galway Bay Brewery Bar for a quick drink before heading to my Dublin pied-à-terre, Dylan Hotel, where we had a lovely dinner and drinks before I settled down for a restful sleep.
It felt like only a few short hours later when I was rudely awakened by an alarm and it was still pitch dark outside. As we drove through the sleeping city streets I recognised a few landmarks and got very excited. Were we going on the ferry again? Yes, we were! There it was in the dawn light and it wasn’t long before we were on board. I was left in the car again and enjoyed a lovely sleep while we crossed over to Holyhead.
We only stopped for a quick sandwich before pressing on to our final destination, the Lords of the Manor Hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds. I had been here before for afternoon tea so all the scents were familiar. After chilling out in our lovely room, we all ate in a special dining room reserved for doggie visitors. It even had its own Christmas tree. Sheer Heaven! Whatever about the Lords, I felt like a Lady.
We were up bright and early the next day and arrived at another lovely Cotswold village, Chipping Campden. There’s a fantastic coffee shop there, The Bantam Tea Rooms, where we stopped for coffee cake and a dogguccino. There I met Ciara, a beautiful sheep dog who was found abandoned in a Birmingham flat before finding her new, loving owners.
We called into Stow-on-the-Wold and had a meander around the streets before going on for dinner at another of my favourite places, the Milton Hare. Seeing as we were near Burford, where we stayed last September, we had a short walk around the village to kill some time before our table was ready.
I have to say the aromas hit me as soon as I walked into the Hare and my mouth was watering. The hoomans had parsnip soup, calamari and both had the turkey, chicken and ham pie – getting in a sneaky early Christmas dinner. I had to content myself with my boring dog food but at least I could sniff the air.
On Christmas Eve, we paid a quick visit to Broadway before heading up the road to Moreton-in-Marsh, where we would spend Christmas at The Manor Hotel, where we stayed in 2019. The place is still fabulous with brilliant staff and we had a lovely room with a four poster bed. I could really get used to this lifestyle.
As I’m not allowed in the dining room, we ate in the bar, but it was there I first met Monty, a loveable 10 month old Bernese Poodle cross. He was huge and as fluffy as a teddy bear and we hit it off instantly. His hoomans, Jo and Barry were very nice and we had some lovely chats over the following days.
I was very excited to wake on Christmas Day and after breakfast, we went back to Broadway for a walk around before our Christmas dinner that afternoon. The streets were quiet but it was nice just to soak in the atmosphere. We came across a family singing carols just for themselves – what a lovely tradition. I joined in but I think my howling wasn’t greatly appreciated.
Suddenly, I felt rather than heard the skirl of bagpipes. I led my hoomans down the road to a church, St Michael and All Angels, where two pipers were welcoming people inside. We spotted a few dogs going in, so in we all trotted and had a lovely Christmas Day service. I even went up when himself got communion and got my very own blessing from the vicar. Now why can’t we have churches like this in Ireland, where dogs are welcome and part of the congregation? It was a lovely experience. There was just one bark throughout and I was mortified when, back in the village, someone asked was it me? As if!
We were back in Moreton in good time to dress for dinner and I wore my lovely AG Dog Fashion Christmas dress so I looked like the bee’s knees. We had time for a pre-dinner cocktail made by Shea, the nice Irish barman. A Breakfast Martini contains gin, cointreau and lemon juice and comes with a little slice of toast. I’m sure Paddington would be impressed. It looked scrummy as did the Christmas turkey, but as usual, I had to content myself with my own food. At least I had Monty at the next table to talk to.
On St Stephen’s Day, we went to Cirencester, the biggest town in the area, but there was very little open, so we went on to Stow-on-the-Wold, where we found the loveliest combination of pub/coffee shop and off-licence, Off the Square. It was a real place for people to gather for a quick beer, coffee or mulled wine and it really seemed to be hopping. I’ll be back.
A tip from Monty’s hoomans sent us to Bibury, a tiny village on a river famous for its trout fisheries. We had a tasty hot chocolate before a stroll around to look at the old cottages dotted around.
Back to Bourton-on-the-Water then for a major photo shoot. There’s a big Christmas tree in the middle of the river flowing through the town and it made a suitably festive backdrop to enhance my lovely Christmas dresses. I’m sure the photos will look lovely on next year’s Christmas cards.
We had a final dinner at The Manor and afterwards had drinks with Monty and his hoomans in the library, which was a lovely way to wind up our stay. I got a bit jealous when Monty was all over my hooman. Paws off Monty, he’s mine!
David, the manager, and his team made it a very special Christmas and along with Monty, I met some lovely doggie friends including Bella, a very pretty Roan Cocker and Max the Yorkie. I can’t wait to return.
I was sad when we checked out the following day but I perked up when we arrived at the nearby Broadway Tower, where we had a nice, but windy walk and a tasty dogguccino after I had my picture taken in Santa’s sleigh. I’d make a good Rudolph if ever Santa needed me.
The traffic was very slow on the way back up towards Wales so we were all glad to arrive at the Bear’s Paw, where we would spend our final night. The Bear wasn’t there on my last visit in September – he must have been hibernating – but he was back in the bar and I was able to have a nice chat with him.
I was tired after my Cotswold holiday so falling asleep on the ferry the following day wasn’t a problem and I snoozed the whole way home, even though there was a bit of a storm brewing on the sea.
We got out of Dublin Port very quickly and before I knew it I was home in my own bed. Dreaming of Christmas in the Cotswolds and looking forward to going back again. Our bookings were made through the team at Pets Pyjamas, who specialise in dog friendly holidays.
Happy New Year
Motoring editor - The Clare Champion
Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association