Just over a mile from Bourton-on-the-Water are the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. The name comes from old English "Slohtre", which has nothing to do with killing things and means, simply, "Muddy place".
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Today's villages are far from muddy places, in contrast they are the epitome of idyllic, civilised Cotswold charm. Straddling the banks of the River Eye, also known as Slaughter Brook, the two villages have remained virtually unchanged for more than a century. Lower Slaughter in particular is regarded as one of England's most beautiful villages and, in 2011, Copse Hill Road was named as the most romantic street in Britain in an online poll.
Lower Slaughter is home to the pretty church of St Mary. The church and its impressive spire were re-built in 1867 but some arches between the nave and the south aisle date back to the 13th century while the church of St Peter's, in Upper Slaughter, is a historic Norman church with parts dating from the 12th century. Francis Edward Witts, who wrote "Diary of a Cotswold Parson", was rector of the Slaughters from 1808 to 1854.
Lower Slaughter is also home to a restored nineteenth century flour mill, which was last used commercially in 1958. Its tall chimney cuts an imposing figure, partly as it is made of red brick, in sharp contrast to the other buildings in both villages, which are made from the traditional Cotswold stone. The mill features a giant working waterwheel and has a tea room for visitors. It was originally part of Lower Slaughter Manor, which was built in 1658 for the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire. The Manor is now a grand country house hotel.
The less-visited Upper Slaughter lies, as its name suggests, minutes upstream from Lower Slaughter. The cottages around the square were reconstructed by the famous architect Sir Edward Lutyens in 1906. The River Eye flows between neatly-mown grassy banks and is crossed several times by quaint old bridges. There are charming stone steps leading into the river which must have been built to enable villagers to more easily get water and a tiny Methodist chapel dating from 1865 also nestles by the brook. It is now used as a pottery.
Food & Drink
Despite being small villages, Upper and Lower Slaughter are blessed with excellent dining options: a country inn, two fine dining restaurants and a riverside cafe, all of which are a short walk from anywhere in the two villages:
- The Slaughters Country Inn, Lower Slaughter (www.theslaughtersinn.co.uk): Nestled on the banks of the river Eye, this charming Cotswold stone building is located in the heart of the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter. The Slaughters Country Inn offers a relaxed ambience, a style that is sympathetically balanced between the original features of a 17th Century building and contemporary design. Dining is all about comfort, relaxed and unstuffy, this is the place to enjoy a pie and a pint by the fireside, or a great salad on the terrace in the summer. The menu follows the seasons and the food is simple and flavoursome, from breakfast through to supper you will find just the right thing to eat at the right time of day;
- Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter (www.lordsofthemanor.com): Formerly a 17th-century rectory, Lords of the Manor is set in 8 acres of secluded gardens and parkland. The restaurant has a Michelin Star and has won 3 AA Rosettes for its fine food. It offers à la carte and Sunday lunch menus, as well as a wide-ranging wine list;
- Lower Slaughter Manor, Lower Slaughter (www.lowerslaughter.co.uk): The Sixteen58 Restaurant at Lower Slaughter Manor is a stylish venue for fine dining in the Cotswolds, decorated in contemporary hues of brown and blue with intimate banquettes that give the dining room a relaxed ambience. Part of the original chapel retains the large open stone fireplace and forms an anti room to the main dining area, perfect for a small party of up to 14 guests. Sixteen58 is also renowned for its award winning cuisine. The talented Chef's always use the finest local, seasonal produce creating menus that are accomplished in execution and full of flavour;
- The River Café at The Old Mill at Lower Slaughter (www.oldmill-lowerslaughter.com): Lovingly prepared great simple dishes made from the best local produce. Enjoy homemade scones with your cream tea or a ploughman's lunch to die for. Just sit by the riverside and enjoy the experience – "A heavenly location".