Just in time for the Easter break, here’s our guide to make the most of this beautiful area, filled with thatched cottages, honey-coloured stone, winding lanes and rolling green hills.
The Cotswolds really is the picture of idyllic rural England; picture-perfect villages appear unchanged in centuries; bustling towns are full of inviting independent shops; and the gentle countryside begs to be explored on foot or by bike. So relax, slow down and, with the help of our suggestions, simply soak in the charm of this beautiful area!
With plenty of classic ‘chocolate box’ villages to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice, and just by cruising around the country lanes you are almost guaranteed to stumble upon your own Cotswolds gem.
One of our favourites is gorgeous Chipping Campden, in the north of the Cotswolds, whose high street recently got our vote as one of the ten best views in England. Other options include stunning Painswick to the west, known as ‘the Queen of the Cotswolds’, which has a wonderfully unspoilt and uncommercial feel, as well as a beautiful church surrounded by yew trees; the lovely twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, with their charming cottages, babbling stream and pretty water mill; or the village of Bampton, which was used to film the scenes of ‘Downton village’ and the church in the incredibly popular Downton Abbey.
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to great country pubs in the Cotswolds and most towns and villages will have a great place to stop for a local ale!
The Lamb Inn in Burford is one of our favourite spots for a drink and bite to eat. The Lamb could have equally made it into our ‘stay the night’ section – it’s a traditional inn, originally built as weaver’s cottages in the 15th century, which is now a lovely hotel with cosy bar, roaring fire and good restaurant. Whatever time of day you visit, you’re sure of a good welcome and a relaxing place to read a paper over morning coffee, enjoy lunch in the atmospheric bar, or a more formal dinner in the acclaimed restaurant.
The Falkland Arms on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, in Oxfordshire, is the picture of a traditional village inn. The thatched roof and Cotswold stone make it inviting from the outside, while the sloping floors and wonky roof mean that going inside can feel like stepping back in time!
The incredibly well-preserved towns and villages make much of the Cotswolds feel like a living museum, but there are also some stand out historic sites.
On the edge of the small town of Winchcombe, impressive Sudeley Castle’s history dates back over 1000 years. The one time home of Catherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII, remains a family home but parts of the house, and the award winning gardens, are open to the public. As Catherine Parr is buried in a small chapel in the grounds (which you can visit), Sudeley Castle has the claim as being the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds!
On the far eastern edge of the Cotswolds, it is worth making the journey to visit Blenheim Palace, a stunning early eighteenth century stately home set in magnificent parklands and still privately owned by the current Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. Blenheim sits on the edge of the small town of Woodstock, where you can spend time admiring the lovely array of architecture and popping into the variety of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
Explore the countryside
If you’re looking to get out into the Cotswolds on foot, there is a wide variety of walks to suit all tastes. One of our favourites is the stunning walk between Stanton to Snowshill in the north of the Cotswolds. This 6 mile route takes in two more picture-perfect villages and some excellent Cotswolds views. There are a couple of reasonable hills but the effort is well rewarded. There’s a link to a route description at the bottom of this page.
The Cotswolds has really embraced the local food revolution and there are farm shops, independent producers and gastro-pubs galore.
The popular Daylesford Organic farm shop sells great looking (and tasting!) produce which has come straight from Daylesford’s own organic farm. Over the Easter weekend, children can learn about lambing and have fun hunting for real eggs hidden in the farm shop courtyard (and exchange them for chocolate treats!). The café will be offering a new spring menu or pick up lunch in the farm shop and head out on one of the walking trails around the farm.
The Kingham Plough gastropub is just down the road, where chef Emily Watkins (one of the winning chefs on last year’s ‘Great British Menu’) makes the best out of the wonderful local ingredients. We particularly like the ‘bar snacks’. A far cry from the standard offerings of a bag of crisps or some pork scratchings, this is a bar snack menu featuring delicacies such as snails and mushrooms with garlic butter on toast, scotched quails eggs and homemade venison salami – delicious!
Spend the night: Barnsley House
This is definitely one for a real treat – a luxury option with a price tag to match! - but the many special touches make it worth the splurge. The hotel is a beautiful Cotswolds manor house set in exquisite landscaped gardens (designed by the renowned Rosemary Verey). The attention to detail is very impressive – each of the rooms are individually designed, the light and airy dining rooms leads onto the garden, the lounges have inviting wingback chairs and open fires, and there’s even a dedicated gin bar to satisfy the most discerning tastes. Oh, and there’s a spa and private cinema on site as well!
If you can tear yourself away from the hotel grounds, Barnsley House is in the pretty village of Barnsley, where the ‘Village Pub’ is also a good place for a pint or some excellent pub food, and Bibury is just down the road, where you can find one of the most photographed row of houses in Britain - the cottages on picturesque Arlington Row.
If you would like any help in planning your stay in the Cotswolds or would like a bespoke itinerary for a self-drive trip in Britain, please get in touch.