Holidays In Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire
Oundle is our local town with basic shops; a good butcher, a greengrocer and a deli. The Co-Op supermarket is reasonable and open seven days a week but, if it is closed, you could try the Tesco Express which opened recently. I feel sad every time I see it because the undoubted convenience of a shop open from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm will attract customers to the unhealthy, pre-prepared foods that we associate with city dwelling. But they do sell all the basics alongside the pre-prepared chicken tikka McE-number. If you want a bit of fun, do the Wigsthorpe Challenge. Buy a pack of bacon at Tesco and cook it at the same time but in a different pan as the bacon from our Tamworth pigs. When you taste both, just tell yourself that the difference in quality is the same for all other products that you buy there as compared to the real thing. Edward Burra, an artist who I hugely admire but will probably now have to accept won't make the family collection as his prices continue to soar, consigned his enemies to his idea of hell: 'They should be imprisoned in Tescos for life and never allowed out'.
There is an excellent wine merchant just off the market square called Amps Fine Wines. Their range is interesting, eclectic and good value. A sample of their wares is left as part of the welcome pack. You could also try the same sort of test. Tell the people in the shop what sort of wine you like and ask them to recommend one. You will find yourself drinking riesling possibly for the first time since you graduated from Blue Nun or a varietal grape you haven't heard of. I am currently enjoying a box of kiwi verdelho. Treat yourself to a bottle of Tescos best and see which you enjoy most. They also have an excellent collection of beers including those made by Nene Valley Brewery.
, by the war memorial, is always filled with people enjoying fairtrade coffee, breakfast, light lunch or afternoon tea. WiFi access is useful if you have been kicked out of your cottage for trying to work but still need to get that last mail sent. I am told by those who visit coffee shops regularly that Smiths at No 4 (4 North Street)is better. They open for a gents breakfast at 10am (9am on Saturdays) and serve meals and coffee as well as beer and a limited selection of wines throughout the day. All their food comes from Smiths of Oundle, the deli in West Street, which is a bit limited in selection but worth popping in. There is also The Coffee Tavern in the Market Square which used to be the only one and which seems a bit tired as a result but at least they collectively keep Starbucks out.
In addition there is an art gallery that shows some good work and other specialist shops all surrounded by the school. The school also helps keep shops that would otherwise have closed in favour of chains in the big towns so there is a really excellent shoeshop, Cottons, and a pretty decent bookshop too. Try the bread at Hambleton Bakery; it isn't cheap but it's top notch. This an alternative link to Oundle.
The headmaster's house is a rare example of Commonwealth architecture; few dared be seen doing anything so profligate as build at this time although Thorpe Hall in Peterborough is another example.
Kimbolton is nearly perfect; a Georgian High Street with a ducal seat at the end (albeit now a school), Oakham and Uppingham lovely, and the two Saints are a bit of a curate's egg. In parts of St Neots and St Ives you could wonder why you ever bothered to visit but when faced with, for example, St Neots parish church, you will know why you did and be sure it was worth the trip.
Stamford is picture postcard stuff and it will be familiar to viewers of TV costume dramas. It is a Georgian coaching town on the Great North Road that becomes a film set as soon as gravel has been spread on the main street. Take a drive from here to Stamford via Oundle, Fotheringhay and Wansford to see beautiful local architecture.