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Night falls in Bourton-on-the-Water with the Christmas tree in the background.
Night falls in Bourton-on-the-Water with the Christmas tree in the background.

Cracking Christmas in the Cotswolds

Just before Christmas my humans took me for my regular Christmas trip to Dublin and I was excited to meet all my friends in Mutt Ugly doggy day care and to take a trip around town to see the lights.

Although I didn’t get to see the moving crib this year, I was smuggled into a lovely pub off Grafton Street and when the barman finally spotted me, he came over with a bowl of water so I took it that I was in the clear. It helps to be cute.

The following morning I got us all up very early as I had a surprise for my humans. On my trawls through the world wide woof, I’d come across a company called Pets Pyjamas, who specialise in doggy holidays and I’d used my bone allowance to book us all Christmas in the Cotswolds. I directed them through the dark streets of Dublin (one woof for left, two woofs for right) and in no time at all, we arrived at the port with the huge boat that I remember seeing a few years ago – we were off to England!

Of course, I had to stay in my kennel once on board but at least it was away from the car decks. Even so, I barked the ferry down all through the voyage. Why don’t they let dogs upstairs? I would have behaved myself impeccably as always.

Before I knew it, I was rescued from my kennel – the little dachshund above me didn’t move out of his bed for the entire trip and there wasn’t a peep out of him. Breeding tells. Me, I was hoarse but very excited.

We stopped only once on our way down through England, at a motorway service station. Because it was so cold, I had to be smuggled in again as the humans grabbed a quick sandwich. I got away without being seen this time. Most places in England are dog-friendly but the motorways haven’t caught up yet.

It was dark by the time we reached our destination, a little village called Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds. It really did look pretty, all done up for Christmas, with fairy lights all down the street and a huge tree in the town square, all beautifully decorated.

We were staying in the lovely, old-fashioned Manor Hotel and already, some fellow dog guests were in residence. We took a stroll around the town and saw a hairy terrier through a shop window. It turned out to be a pop-up gin parlour serving gin made just down the road so in we went to say hello. Everyone was amazed when the resident dog and I got on so famously. She never gets on with other dogs apparently but then, I make friends with everyone.

Daisy posing on the bridge in Bourton-on-the-Water.
Daisy posing on the bridge in Bourton-on-the-Water.

We spent the next few days touring around the villages in the area, each prettier than the last. Bourton-on-the-Water even stood their Christmas tree in the middle of the river that flows through the town. It looked so nice, we had to come back again in the dark to see it in all its glory. I made my humans take my picture on a bridge with the tree in the background. A media star like myself has to keep her portfolio current.

Having a quick breather in the middle of a walk.
Having a quick breather in the middle of a walk.

Broadway was another lovely hamlet with a long, wide street lined with shops and eateries. We called in to a recommended tea rooms for a sandwich and something sweet and although I looked up pleadingly, all I got was my normal treats. It was nice to be back in England again where most places welcome well behaved dogs with open arms.

I must tell you more about the Manor Hotel though, with its loads of little nooks and crannies where a dog could make herself comfortable. I wasn’t allowed into the restaurant and I can understand that, but I was welcome everywhere else, including the bar where we had breakfast every morning, usually in the company of one or more of my doggy friends.

The first morning, the nice waitress came out with a sausage for me but I wasn’t allowed to eat it. I pleaded my case in vain but not a sniff of the sausage did I get on account of my special diet.

At dinner, I was confined to the bedroom but afterwards I heard about all the delicious food and it was enough to make my mouth drool.

With my friends, the Beagles in the Manor Hotel.
With my friends, the Beagles in the Manor Hotel.

Our evenings were spent in the wonderfully named Beagle Bar with lots of dogs and humans to talk to. The hotel’s manager, David, told us that when he took over the hotel a few years back, it wasn’t dog friendly at all. How shocking! When he saw the bar, with pictures of dogs everywhere, he decided that either the décor had to change or their policy had to and they became dog-friendly overnight. What a great decision.

Staying warm by the fire.
Staying warm by the fire.

Vinny, a chihuahua cross was around for the first few days but went home before Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, 11 dogs in total were in residence. Among them were Maureen, an impossibly pretty Australian Cockapoo, Lizzie, a Cairn Terrier, Stella, a miniature Schnauzer, Heidi, Lilly and Jess, three rescue dogs, five month old Philippa and finally Louie, a 14 year old King Charles Spaniel with a heart murmur. While the humans entertained themselves with table quizzes, we dogs had great chats under the tables and we all got on fine.

Maureen, the Australian Cockapoo with her human, Antony.
Maureen, the Australian Cockapoo with her human, Antony.

Christmas Day in the Cotswolds was a wonderful experience. Santa Paws cleverly found me so I had a lovely stocking to open before heading down for breakfast. After lunch for the humans, we all went for a long walk so I was flaked out for the evening, which is exactly how it should be at Christmas.

On the day after Stephen’s Day, we went off for afternoon tea to The Lords of the Manor in a scary sounding place called The Slaughters. It was actually a lovely place with a cosy fire and delicious looking cakes and sandwiches, although none of them came my way.

That evening, back in Moreton, the hotel was buzzing on the eve of a wedding. The bride was from Derry and one of the bridesmaids, also called Daisy, gave me a huge cuddle as Olga, the lovely waitress held my water bowl for me. It’s nice to occasionally get pampered in the manner I should become accustomed to.

Shelly and Daisy enjoying afternoon tea at the Lords of the Manor.
Shelly and Daisy enjoying afternoon tea at the Lords of the Manor.

Olga is a real dog lover with a Bernese Mountain dog at home in Poland. It was a wonderful way to finish our stay at the Manor where all the staff were fantastic and looked after all us dogs so beautifully. A big thank you to them all.

The following day it was time to head back towards Holyhead. We stopped for a while in Cheltenham but then headed North to spend our last night at The Bear’s Paw, outside Chester.

Another old-fashioned property, the bar and dining room were decorated with stuffed bears and pictures of bears on the wall. The story goes that bears were trained here in olden times, although I think that’s just a yarn for tourists. Our room under the eaves was massive and beautifully decorated in a modern style I didn’t expect.

Daisy and John chatting to a friendly bear at The Bear's Paw.
Daisy and John chatting to a friendly bear at The Bear’s Paw.

I was allowed down to the dining room for our last dinner of the holiday and the aromas only drove me cracked. Breakfast the following morning was just as delicious I was told – I was busy trying to strike up a conversation with one of the stuffed bears but he turned out to be the strong, silent type and wasn’t very talkative at all.

I got on much better in the kennels on the way home and settled down to sleep almost straight away. It was a piece of cake the second time around. I think that was partly down to the hectic schedule for the week. Between long walks, 11 dogs, several bears and an Irish bride, I was exhausted. I thought I was coming over for a nice rest but coming back I was sorely in need of another holiday with all the comings and goings.

I’d do it all again though if it meant another trip to the Cotswolds. I must check my bone account to see when I can afford to go back.

About John Galvin

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Motoring editor - The Clare Champion Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association

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