Unknowingly we had planned our trip route from London to Devizes perfectly, getting to witness Avebury (the largest prehistoric stone circle in Europe) from the bus window on our way. Taking a National Express bus from the London Victoria Coach station to Swindon, we then hopped on the local 49 to reach Devizes. Immediately we were enchanted with the English countyside. Beautiful green rolling fields and quaint towns filled with charm that only age can bring. Devizes was no different and we walked off the bus filled with eagerness and excitement to explore this world so close, yet so drastically different than from the bustling city of London.
Our Incredible Couchsurfing Hosts
Arriving in the rain, we were grateful that Pash (our to-be second Couchsurfing host) had offered to pick us up. Based on his well-rounded profile and countless gushing reviews, we had somewhat high, excited expectations for our stay. After a brief hello (thanks to the rain), we loaded up in his car and were off to the grocery store. Pash was a whirlwind of contagious energy, telling us about Devizes and our plans for the evening. As we walked around the grocery store collecting our respective items (Pash had pre-made lists) we couldn’t help but marvel about the incredible things that him and Sheila were currently doing in Devizes – starting a Syrian refugee program and personally taking sponsorship of one family, Sheila coming out of retirement in order to help spread awareness and education of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and Pash working with the local government while teaching fitness classes in his free time. It seemed like everything they did was so meaningful and impactful, little did we know that we had just seen the tip of the iceberg.
When we arrived to the house with our groceries and luggage once again I was taken speechless by where we were going to stay. Their home was a stunning vintage converted farm building with views you would never tire of. I felt like a giddy schoolgirl, immediately wanting to stay forever.
Thai Cooking Class in Devizes Wiltshire
To our delight (and probably thanks to my begging after seeing the reviews from previous hosts on Couchsurfing) Sheila enlisted our help in cooking a Thai dinner. Having lived in Thailand for 10 years (like I said – tip of the iceberg) she had fully immersed herself in Thai cooking, from theory to practice. We had a fabulous, unforgettable evening filled with Sheila’s Top Tips, mouthwatering curry, Upwords (let’s all just forget about my dismal performance) and truly inspiring stories of Thailand, Indonesia and hammerhead sharks. As we lay in bed that evening (in our own cozy room!) we once again were left completely astonished by the events of the day.
Wadworth Brewery Tour
We woke up the next morning eager to see what Devizes had to offer. With a delicious breakfast of apple juice soaked muesli, fruit and granola we were ready to go! Our first (and most important) event on the agenda was a tour of Wadworth’s Brewery, one of the oldest breweries in the UK that still has functioning equipment from the Victorian age.
Having been on quite a few brewery tours I can confidently say that the Wadworth Brewery Tour is not one to be missed! Incredibly interesting and interactive the time flew by seeing the ancient, bizarre equipment, learning about the importance of the painted signs and meeting the infamous enormous horses.
Before we knew it we were sitting down for the tasting. For £11 we not only got a great brewery tour, but also received six generous tastings of the Wadworth beers! Needless to say we were quite tipsy walking out into the bright noon sunlight.
Lunch and Joan Pressley Hat Shop
After meeting Pash for a tasty, cheap lunch at Edwin Giddings, he pointed us down a hidden alleyway to the Joan Pressley hat shop. Not quite sure what to expect we entered the oldest building I had seen thus far in our trip into a tiny room where every table, nook and cranny was filled with hats.
The owner was the sweetest, daintiest older woman who immediately told me to try one whatever I wanted (despite all the signs asking you not to touch the hats) as she turned back to her conversation with other older woman in the shop.
“Well, Margaret, I’m just not sure. Your choice definitely depends on your shoes. What exactly is this event again?”
“I haven’t told you? I’m attending the Queen’s luncheon.”
“Oh my! How did you ever manage to get invited to that?!”
Dalton and I stifled giggles as we continued browsing the hats.
“All I know Margaret is that you just don’t want to look like you’re trying to hard and we all know that sometimes that happens with a hat too big.”
“Oh yes, of course your right. I guess I will have to go with this one then.”
Politely we said thank you and burst out of the shop laughing, unable to fully appreciate the wonderfully stereotypical British conversation we had just heard. Later Pash told us that 75% of the hats at the Royal Wedding were purchased from Joan Pressley, it’s hard to think of finding a more traditionally authentic experience!
Caen Hill Locks
In the warm afternoon sunshine we started our trek to the last tourist site of the day, the Caen Hill Locks. It’s a section of the Kennet and Avon Canal containing 16 locks cascading down a hill with riverboats always making their way up or down.
It was a wonderful, lazy end to the day. Admiring the ancient civil engineering that is still being used to bring these boats up a hill and watching the swan’s circle around in the water.
That evening we attended Pash’s Fit Box and Spin class. We had a blast and were completely wiped out afterwards. It was all we could do to eat the delicious dinner nut bake, enjoy a slice of cake and listen to more incredible stories before crawling up to our bed to fall into a deep, sound sleep.
Onward to Lacock Abbey
We woke up the next morning excited for the adventures that lay ahead, but a bit bummed that we would be leaving Pash and Shelia’s lovely home. In order to attempt to show them a small part of our gratitude we made pancakes and enjoyed a lovely final breakfast together. Because they hadn’t already done enough (sarcasm) Pash offered to drive us to famous abbey in Lacock where we could then get to Bradford on Avon to meet our third host via public transportation.
We said bittersweet goodbye’s making sure to get Sheila’s Thai recipes and giving promises to reunite in Scotland in the future. As Pash’s car drove away we turned around and gathered our excitement to enter the next stage of this adventurous trip.
Read about our adventures at Lacock Abbey and in Bradford on Avon here!