Castle Combe is arguably the most Instagrammable location in all of England. It was actually seeing travel bloggers posting about it on Instagram that made me add it to our itinerary for our summer holiday of 2019.
The internet told us that there is limited parking in the village, so we parked in the free visitor car park, half a mile from the centre of the village itself. It was a silent morning, and Dan and I were rather peckish. We’d spent the night near Swindon in preparation for our drive to Saundersfoot, Wales, but we hadn’t booked any breakfast. We were running on empty, but soon forgot our stomach grumbles as we reached the village.
It is quintessentially English! Honey brick, slate roofs, no pavement. Dan was in his element with his camera and Ted couldn’t quite work out how not to walk in the road. It didn’t really matter though, since there were rarely any cars driving through; cars would have certainly spoilt the serenity.
We wandered the length of the tiny village, to the bridge, the Instagram spot. It was then I realised how small the village really was, and how easy it was to fall in to the river. Most of the waterways where we live either have a low bank or a wall, but in Castle Combe, you could sit on the edge of the bank and dangle your feet over into the void. I held on tight to Ted. I didn’t fancy his chances at falling a metre and half into a river, and I didn’t fancy my chances at jumping down without injuring myself!
By the time our little photo shoot had ended, we were famished. I’m sure the visitors at the other end of the village could hear my stomach rumbling. So, we took a detour at the sign of a coffee shop, and ended up in a tiny courtyard. Just as we approached The Old Stables, twenty brightly coloured road bikes whizzed past and joined us in the courtyard.
We are usually pretty good at timing things. Dan and I joke quite often that we are the trend setters – we somehow get to places just before the flurry of other visitors, perhaps they see us there and think ‘Wow, that really cool couple are there. I want to be there too‘. This time though, as one cyclist fussed over Ted, the others bundled in to the coffee shop. Dan and I were left at the back of the queue.
On the plus side, The Old Stables is dog-friendly, so we found ourselves a seat and waited for the rush to subside. There were all sorts of sweet treats on offer, and a section of the cafe selling local products and souvenirs – but as we were quickly wasting away, and wanting to really get into the English spirit, we ordered a cream tea for £5 each.
Since we were there early in the day, we had the pick of the scones, and realised when it arrived that the scones were lovingly shaped into hearts! A delightful addition to a delicious piece of baking, and clearly a projection of the brilliant members of staff, who served us with a smile the entire time. It was wonderful to spend a bit of time with the locals, and I was sure to leave a tip.
By the time we ruefully left The Old Stables, it was like an explosion had hit. Everywhere we looked, there were coachloads of visitors standing in the middle of the road, taking photos. Cars were lining the edges of the streets. One person literally stood on someone’s house to take a snapshot of the village church. I suddenly felt sorry for the people who live in Castle Combe. When it was just me, Dan and a dog wandering through the village, it was incredibly tranquil, but when we (who were also tourists) were joined by 100 other tourists, it completely ruined the atmosphere.
It must be so frustrating to have people wandering around outside your home all day.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t go to Castle Combe or other picturesque English villages for the ‘gram. What I am suggesting is that when we go, we seriously consider the daily lives of those that live there. Visit their local coffee shops, spend a little cash, and stay out of people’s doorways!