Pocket Guide: The Cotswolds
The six counties of the Cotswolds boast some of Britain’s most stunning walking excursions and historical hiking trails…
Come to the Cotswolds seeking sprawling countryside, carefully conserved natural landscapes, and charming towns peppered with remnants of Britain’s past and you won’t be disappointed! As you explore the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, prepare to be swept away by flourishing farmlands, glimmering rivers and elegant buildings that breath unique histories.
Where to go?
The Cotswolds covers a vast area of six counties, (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire), each teeming with charming market towns and villages. Spend your time soaking up the arty buzz of Broadway, home to prolific writers and crafts folk, or simply admire the well-preserved beauty of Lacock, an area memorialised by many a motion picture. Scout stand-out art galleries and antique stalls in Stow-on-the-Wold, stroll a bounty of beautiful bridges in Bourton-on-the-Water, or find yourself charmed by Cirencester’s nook of fashionable boutiques and bustling bistros. Enjoy a stay steeped in style in Cheltenham Spa, uncover riveting Roman ruins in Chedworth, or should you check in to Chipping Campden, explore ancient marketplaces, almshouses and cobbled streets, each lined with the Cotswolds’ signature honey-coloured stone. Bask by babbling brooks in Blockley, meander the sweeping Stroud Valleys and experience the picturesque plains of the Vale of Evesham. Seek out The Slaughters for more stunning outdoor excursions or head west to Winchcombe, the Cotswolds’ hiking hub, for major walking trails.
What to do?
A land peppered with ancient castles, ruins and historic houses, all over the Cotswolds, culture-vultures can uncover relics of the past. Must-see sites include Chedworth’s Roman Villa, the Cirencester Ampitheatre and Sudeley Castle, former home of Katherine Parr (last wife of Henry VIII). England’s oldest pharmacy can be found in Burford, while the Neolithic tomb of Belas Knap lies a short trail from Winchcombe.
Walk a reconstructed Roman pavement through the Prinknash Abbey, Woodchester and uncover more ancient history at the Corinium Museum. Other time-bending treats include the Cotswold Discovery Centre, housed in a medieval prison, and the 18th Century Broadway Tower, built on the site of a nuclear bunker.
For star-spangled settlements, scout William Shakespeare’s childhood haunts in Stratford-upon-Avon and uncover a key figure of the Arts and Crafts movement at Kelmscott Manor, poet William Morris’s former country home. Exploring
Cogges Manor Farm, you’ll bask in splendours that paint the backdrop of popular period drama, Downtown Abbey, and with a visit to Dumbleton Hall, you’ll inhabit a space that hosted popular house parties throughout the 1930s, and has since housed many notable guests.
There’s fun for all the family to be had here too, so if you’re travelling with children, try your hand at the Dragonfly Maze, frolic around the area’s many farm parks, uncover tiny replicas of Cotswold towns at the quaint Model Village, and enjoy close encounters with pelicans and penguins on a daytrip to Birdland.
Should you find yourself in Chipping Campden, you might even catch the annual Cotswold Olimpick Games, a celebration of sports (such as shin-kicking) that date back to the early 17th century!
Where to eat and drink?
For pub grub that packs a punch, pop into the Horse and Groom, winner of The Good Pub Guide’s ‘Pub of the Year’ 2016. Here you can sample succulent chalk stream trout, locally sourced pork sausages and pucker meat pies, or spend a romantic afternoon over a crisp bottle of Chablis Domaine in the pub’s manicured gardens. Get your chompers into some award-winning chips at The Seagrave Arms, sipping on spirits sourced from the local Cotswold Distillery, or soak up the Michelin-starred rustic charms of The Wild Rabbit, retiring to the pub’s roaring open fire after a hefty hike with a pint of artisan beer in hand.
Frequent The Ebrington Arms for thirst-quencing ciders and award-winning ales, and should you find yourself in Cheltenham, be sure to check out The Daffodil, where you can enjoy a sit-down meal in a former art deco cinema! For a fancier foodie affair, book ahead at The Kingham Plough, where you can sample a multi award-winning menu devised by Emily Watkins, Heston Blumenthal’s former sous-chef. Dine on decadent comfit duck legs, sumptuous slow-cooked collars of pork and melt-in-the-mouth steaks slathered in rich bone marrow butter! And for afternoon teas a’plenty, marvel at The Marshmallow’s impressive selection of speciality brews, or check out The Kitchen, voted Best Local Tea Shop of the entire Cotswolds spread.