Castle Combe · Cotswolds
We arrived one misty morning, after navigating our way through a set of winding roads and moody skies, just minutes before the light drizzle turned to heavy rain. Knowing the village would still be asleep, we parked the car at a distance and wandered down the idyllic lane leading up to Castle Combe.
As we reached the little stone bridge, crossing river By Brook, we were forced to a halt by the striking view of the ancient village. Castle Combe is not only quintessential Cotswolds but by far, one of the prettiest villages in the world.
Once home to Britons, Saxons and Normans, the fairytale village felt like a time capsule. And architecturally, little has changed since the mid 14th century. There are no street lights for one, no TV aerials and no signs of modern day society.
If Castle Combe seem vaguely familiar, it might be because it has been used as backdrop in a number of films. Doctor Dolittle, War Horse, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Downton Abbey, to name a few.
The main road, once known as Water Street, is lined with chocolate box houses built of honey-stones that seem romantically entwined with roses. There are little vintage signages that calls for closeups, beautiful crafts and homemade delicacies on offer outside the front doors, encouraging generous contributions to the honesty boxes. But mostly, it’s a place to photograph, to savour history and a place to uncover narratives yet untold.
The main road ends abruptly by the 14th-century market cross, erected when the privilege to hold a weekly market in Castle Combe was granted. A gentle reminder that the village is small, with only 340 inhabitants, and the main road very short.
We pass the first bus loads on our way back to the car. The rain is intensifying and the atmosphere is changing. I feel grateful to have had some time alone with the old village before tourists, influencers and guides populate the area. Grateful for climbing roses and old stone facades over selfie sticks. The winding roads take us across the rolling hills and deeper into the Cotswolds, where we plan to spend the rest of the day.
It’s difficult to not fall in love with Castle Combe. It's a bit of a photographer's dream. And for romantics, history enthusiasts and storytellers, it doesn't get much better than this. It is a magical place and in the early morning mist, preposterously pretty.