The Cotswolds Travel Guide, England
The Cotswolds is a huge area in England containing the Cotswold Hills which spans several English counties; Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. You'll find picturesque towns with historic buildings, lush countryside scenery with patchwork hills - everything you need for a relaxing, short break away from the city!
Getting to the Cotswolds
We drove to Gloucestershire from South London which took about 2 hours and 45 minutes. I highly recommend driving because a lot of the tourist attractions are widely spread across the counties so you can cover much more ground by car. Driving was also handy in the rainy/windy weather, I was very pleased we managed to avoid traipsing around in the drizzle and mud!
Where to Stay in the Cotswolds
We stayed at Cotswold House Hotel & Spa in Chipping Campden and found it was the ideal base for exploring the Cotswolds, as well as the local town. I loved this hotel because everything was perfectly in sync; the staff were friendly and professional, the contemporary decor was warm and inviting, the gardens were gorgeous, and the food was not only presented immaculately, it also tasted delicious.
The cottage was very spacious and well laid out, we had a cosy sleeping area and a separate seating space which looked out onto a lovely private garden and to my surprise a hot tub! It was tastefully decorated throughout with a luxurious bathroom and fab selection of Orla Kiely toiletries which were a real treat. One of the top things about staying here were the special touches which included, chewy homemade cookies in the room each day, returning in the evening to find that turndown service had been carried out, a proper tea set with long life milk in the fridge and also complimentary bottled water which was provided daily!
Things to Do in the Cotswolds & Places to Visit
We visited a few of the most popular, charming villages in the Cotswolds, they all looked like quintessential English towns that you would see in the movies and all had a reasonable selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs.
We stayed in Chipping Campden and I have to say the location was unrivalled, it's an attractive, tiny town full of sandy coloured, traditional buildings. There's a collection of hotels, restaurants and cute looking country pubs to keep you busy, and most importantly it's not overcrowded in the slightest. There are some very interesting, old structures here like the Market Hall, St James' Church and the Alms Houses, these are all steps away, so you can explore the town in no time.
This village was crammed with tourists but I can see why it's one of most popular places to visit. The main feature is the river that flows through the centre of the town, there are small bridges to cross the canals, quaint buildings and many dining options including tea rooms, cafes and pubs. Popular attractions include Birdland Park and Gardens, the Model Village and Cotswold Motoring Museum.
We drove to Stow-on-the-Wold from Bourton-on-the-Water in about 10 minutes. I liked Stow, unlike the other 2 towns there were some cool looking independent boutiques, a range of bistros, tea rooms, as well as the usual pubs and winding streets to wander. It was great for a stroll and after seeing a few towns you start to see that each one has its own identity and something new to offer.
Blenheim Palace is an enormous country house located in in Oxfordshire and is perfect to visit on your way to/from London. Tickets to the palace and gardens are quite steep at £26 per person but there's lots to see - we easily spent a good few hours looking at the exhibitions and walking around the massive grounds and gardens. It's easy to see why this location has appeared in so many box office films Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and even Bond was here in SPECTRE!
The palace is the birth place of Winston Churchill and there is a small, permanent exhibition dedicated to him. I recommend touring the state rooms and roaming around the gardens if the weather is nice. There is appeal here for all interests, it's well maintained and the exterior is stunning. There are also various rooms to discover featuring elaborate baroque decor, gilded ceilings and lots of art.
Sudeley Castle & Gardens
Sudeley Castle is located near Winchcombe and entry is reasonably priced at £16.50 per adult. The exterior of the castle, the gardens and the Pheasantry were my favourite areas. In the Pheasantry you'll see an amazing collection of exotic pheasants with weird and wonderful coloured feathers, a lot of them reminded me of Kevin (the bird from UP!). We were also lucky to see a Peacock who was even Peacocking for attention! The best time to visit Sudeley Castle is in spring and summer when the gardens are in full bloom.
Broadway Tower is a striking building on a hill surrounded by greenery in every direction you look. You can enter the tower for £5 per adult and you are able to walk up the narrow, spiral stairs to the very top and experience the panoramic landscape. The inside of the tower isn't the most interesting place if I'm being honest, but I liked the architecture and appreciated the countryside views.
Favourite Restaurants/Pubs in the Cotswolds
Eight Bells Inn
We had drinks and a yummy dinner at Eight Bells Inn, it's a welcoming, homely pub located right near the Alms Houses and St James' Church so the location is excellent. The pub is quite small and cosy, with exposed brick walls, beamed ceilings and soft lighting. We had a three course meal here and the food was really delicious, it's a great setting to have a relaxed meal and to my delight it didn't get too overcrowded - not even on a Saturday night.
We just had to eat at Fig, it's a fine dining restaurant located inside Cotswold House Hotel & Spa where we spent 2 nights. We indulged in the tasting menu priced at £65 per person which was truly outstanding. The presentation of the restaurant, along with the service were pristine, every dish that was presented to us looked like a piece of art and tasted wondrous. My favourites were the scallops, duck and chocolate desert. If you're looking for a place to have a special meal I cannot recommend this place enough.
- From A to B - I recommend driving to travel around comfortably in the Cotswolds because it spans a whopping 800 square miles!
- To book or not to book - BOOK restaurants in advance if staying in Bourton-on-the-Water or Stow-on-the-Wold as these places get busy
- Plan ahead - dedicate some time to planning the things you are going to do/see to ensure you are able to fit it all in
We stayed in the Cotswolds for 2 nights in April 2018 and I could have easily stayed another couple of nights and explored further! When I return I'd like to stop off at Cheltenham, Cirencester, Castle Combe, visit the Daylesford Farm and dine at the Wild Rabbit.