Festive Postcard from Cirencester

Image by harshahars from Pixabay

For many years, Mrs. 10210 and I would head to London for a long weekend in December. However we had become fed up with the hustle and bustle as well as the feeling of being unsafe that we decided to look elsewhere for our break. We have previously been to Winchester and Windsor. This year we plumped for Cirencester, we had been before staying at the Premier Inn for a couple of nights while we explored the Cotswolds. This time we booked three nights in a hotel five minutes walk from the centre.

The hotel in question was The Corinium (once the Roman name for Cirencester.) The hotel had a bar, restaurant and fifteen individual bedrooms.

The front entrance to the hotel

We set off from Leicestershire on the 15th taking a slow leisurely drive down. We stopped at Stow on the Wold as we were going to be too early at the hotel. Stow is a lovely quiet village. During the summer it is very touristy but the day we went it was quiet. We wandered round the shops buying a few bits we didn’t need. We stopped in a cafe, Huffinks, for a cream tea. It was delicious, the scones were warm, served with clotted cream and a little pot of jam. If you are ever in Stow, pay them a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

We arrived in Cirencester at around 16.30 and because I took a wrong turning we drove through the town centre. The Christmas tree and lights looked wonderful, much better than most local councils. Once back on the right road, we parked up in the hotel carpark. There was no reception, just a desk. With the minimum of fuss we were booked in. The girl who booked us in then took us to our room. The hotel dates from 1595 and I suspect was once a house. The stairs were narrow and steep, steeper than any stairs I have been up. Mrs. 10210 had booked a compact room, it certainly lived up to its description. Just as well we didn’t bring a cat. The room had everything except space. The highlight was the sloping floor. From the head of the bed to the foot, the floor rose about two inches. We weren’t going to be spending too much time in the room so we were ok with the size. We had dinner locally that night which was very nice. On Saturday after a freshly cooked breakfast we were due to meet our son and his girlfriend in Swindon to have lunch and exchange presents. There was no buffet breakfast, everything had to be ordered. The service was as attentive, the food was excellent. Before we headed to Swindon I went for a walk round the town.as I walked along the streets people would nod and say hello. There was a Christmas market outside the Parish Church. Lots of stalls selling local products and crafts. People were standing about chatting.

There seemed to be no hurry. Cirencester has been voted one of the happiest places in the UK. I am not surprised. The whole ambiance reminded me of Britain in the sixties. Most of the people looked middle class, the women were dressed in a smart casual way. The dogs on leads looked as classy as their owners. As someone once said, “I’ve never seen so many white people.”

Lunch was booked for 13.00 at The Goddard Arms in Swindon Old Town. This is the part of Swindon for the up and coming set of people, trendy bars and good restaurants. The pub lunch was as it should be, and afterwards we spent the rest of the afternoon at our son’s house.
That evening back at the hotel, Mrs 10210 wanted to watch Strictly final so we had food in our room.
On Sunday after another great breakfast we headed out to explore the town. The Christmas market was in full swing again and we spent a good hour wandering round the stalls. It was now time to look round the shop. There is an abundance of individual shops. There are the standard selection of national stores however it is the range and quality of the individual shops that makes Cirencester stand out from many of the places we have visited.

The evening was to be spent at church. There was a festive nine lessons and carols service at 18.00. We thought that getting there about 17.30 would get us a good place in the church to see all that was happening. How wrong we were. The place was packed when we got in. The only seating left was at the back of the church. There were all ages at the service from children through teenagers right up to the elderly. The service was one of the best I have been to. The choir were brilliant, there singing sublime. There were all the old favourite carols plus a couple of new ones I hadn’t heard before, everyone joined in with gusto. The message we took away from the service was that in places like this, Christianity is alive and well. After the service the vicar stood by the door shaking hands and wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.
We had booked a table in a restaurant close to the church for 19.30, the timing worked perfectly. We had another tasty meal and by 22.00 we were heading back to the hotel for our last night.
Another fine breakfast, checkout was by 10.30 so there wasn’t much time to hang about in the morning. We checked out, packed the car and went back into the hotel to have a final cup of coffee before we set off. We were not heading directly home. We were going back to Swindon to visit the designer outlet in the old railway works. More retail therapy for Mrs 10210.

Cirencester, for all its middle classness isn’t without closed and empty shops. House of Fraser closed and the shop lies empty. Barclays Bank has closed down since our last visit. There was a large Tesco in the centre, but when they opened up an out of town shop that one closed. No one has taken over the site. There are other shops empty dotted throughout the town. Lots of the independent shops look like they are thriving.

If you are in the Cotswolds take the time to visit Cirencester, I am sure you won’t be disappointed. Will we visit again, yes and probably stay at the quaint and quirky Corinium Hotel, although I think we might book a bigger room.

© text & images 10210ken 2023