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The twin villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter lie on the shallow River Eye, to the north of Bourton-on-the-Water. With flower-draped cottages, stone footbridges and a picturesque water mill, tiny Lower Slaughter hasn’t changed for more than a century, with no building work taking place at all since 1906. So head back in time to this beautiful Cotswold village as our our local expert shares their tips on what to see and do when visiting Lower Slaughter.
Lower Slaughter’s history
The Slaughters get their less-than-appealing name from the Old English word ‘slothre’ meaning muddy or miry place, rather than anything more sinister.
And although the River Eye – which is more a stream than a river – runs right through the centre of Lower Slaughter, you won’t usually find too much mud around today. The river is at the heart of the village, and there’s been a mill in Lower Slaughter since the Domesday Book was published in 1086, when Lower Slaughter was listed as ‘Scolstre’.
The village gained a church in the 13th century followed by a manor house in the 17th century, which is when many of the houses you see today were built using traditional Cotswold stone. Although the village doesn’t have many attractions as such, its unspoilt nature makes it a favourite with visitors – and as a filming location, including for the 2020 film Emma.
Things to do in Lower Slaughter
The Old Mill is the most distinctive building in Lower Slaughter, with its red brick standing out from the Cotswold stone of the rest of the village and the water wheel reflected in the river below. Although the original mill was mentioned in the Domesday Book, the current mill was built in the 18th century – which makes it one of Lower Slaughter’s newest buildings.
The mill was still used to grind flour up until 1958, when Joseph Wilkins became the last of four generations of millers in Lower Slaughter. After the mill closed it was used as the local post office before opening as a museum in 1995. Now you can learn about how the mill worked, traditional breadmaking and the building’s history, and there’s also a gift and craft shop.
Take a walk along Copse Hill Road and admire the view – it was once voted the most romantic street in Britain with its pretty cottages, stone bridges and irises growing on the water’s edge. It’s also home to Lower Slaughter’s Victorian village hall. This was originally built as a reading room, but now hosts events, and you’ll often find exhibitions by local artists.
St Mary’s Church originally dates back to the 13th century, but was heavily restored in 1867 by Victorian architect Benjamin Ferrey. You can see some of the original stonework though as well as the later Costwold stone roof, chancel, nave and organ chamber, and inside there are some historic memorials as well as colourful stained glass windows.
Lower Slaughter has been the site of a manor house since 1004 AD. It was later a convent for nuns from the order of Syon, before being granted to Sir George Whitmore, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, in 1611, whose family lived in it until the 1960s. It was then converted into a luxurious hotel – you can call in for drinks or a meal if you want to take a look around.
Lower Slaughter is linked to neighbouring Upper Slaughter by a one-mile path, which takes around 25 minutes to walk. The path is well marked, starting just past the Old Mill and following the River Eye before crossing fields and a stone footbridge into Upper Slaughter.
Or if you fancy a longer walk, Lower Slaughter lies on the Warden’s Way, a 13.5-mile walking route which connects Bourton-on-the-Water with Winchcombe. The stretch from Bourton to Lower Slaughter is only around 1.5 miles and takes around 35 minutes to walk.
Places to eat & drink in Lower Slaughter
During the day, you can get sandwiches, ploughman’s lunches and cakes from the Old Mill, who have a caf´´e with a riverside terrace for sunny days. And don’t miss their homemade organic ice cream, with flavours like lemon meringue, wild strawberry and butter crunch.
The Slaughters Country Inn* is a traditional country pub which serves pub classic dishes, including a good Sunday lunch, and has a selection of local ales. They also serve afternoon tea and tasty sharing platters of meats, cheeses, breads and homemade pickles.
Or if you’re looking for something special, The Slaughters Manor House* has an award-winning restaurant specialising in sourced locally or foraged Cotswold produce. As well as their dinner menu – with dishes like Herdwick lamb and salt-aged beef – they have an all-day menu with sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea and luxury picnic hampers made to order.
Where to stay in Lower Slaughter
With a mix of traditional country house style and contemporary interiors, The Slaughters Manor House* is the most luxurious accommodation in Lower Slaughter. There are 19 rooms, from classic doubles to the romantic ‘Valentine’ garden suite with twin rolltop baths and a private garden. The hotel is set in five acres of landscaped gardens, with its own croquet lawn.
The Slaughters Country Inn* is run by the same owners as the manor, but has a more relaxed, country inn feel. There’s a garden terrace for the summer and log fires, sofas and piles of books and board games in the bar in winter. The inn has 25 guest rooms as well as six cottages which sleep two adults and two children, with highchairs, cots and baby monitors available.
There are also a few self-catering cottages in Lower Slaughter. As you’d guess from the name, Church View overlooks St Mary’s Church. It dates from the 17th century with original features like an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone floors. The cottage sleeps eight in four spacious bedrooms, with a walled garden and a lawn garden with seating outside.
Or Thimble Mill is a traditional stone cottage close to the Old Mill which sleeps two. It has a patio outside and a woodburner inside, with plenty of character from original beams, thick stone walls, deep windowsills and a rolltop bath. Dogs are welcome for an extra £20 per week.
How to get to Lower Slaughter
By car: Lower Slaughter lies off the A429 (The Fosse Way), two miles north of Bourton-on-the-Water and 3.5 miles southwest of Stow-on-the-Wold. The roads around Lower Slaughter are narrow, so be careful if you have a large vehicle. There’s no car park but there is roadside parking opposite The Slaughters Manor House, but it’s limited and fills up quickly on weekends.
By public transport: There are no buses to Lower Slaughter, but you can reach nearby Bourton-on-the-Water by bus from the train stations at Moreton-in-Marsh, Kingham and Cheltenham. The 801 bus takes 20 minutes to reach Bourton from Moreton-in-Marsh and 45 minutes from Cheltenham, or the 802 from Kingham to Bourton takes just under an hour. From Bourton-on-the-Water you can catch a taxi to Lower Slaughter, or it’s a lovely 1.5-mile walk.
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