A stunning collection of quaint villages interspersed with vibrant market towns and rolling hills, the Cotswolds offer a picture-perfect snapshot of quintessential England. The region, which is characterised by its charming buildings constructed from traditional Cotswold limestone, holds the title of the biggest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales.
This superbly picturesque region of England is best explored by car. Take your time to drive along the winding country roads and charming laneways, discovering the gems of the Cotswolds along the way. Starting in the north make your way to historic Chipping Campden, a ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’ famed for its 17th century Market Hall. The medieval St James’ Church is worth a look too, as is nearby Hidcote House, which boasts some of the best gardens in England.
Carry on to Cheltenham, just 40 kilometres away. Boasting some of the most exquisite architecture in the region, this bustling city tops the must-see lists of visitors the world over. Make a beeline for Montpellier, a 19th century-style district home to some of the city’s best restaurants. The Montpellier Gardens offer a great gallery and play area in stunning surroundings, perfect for stretching your legs before continuing your drive.
Finally, head to Castle Combe, about 65 kilometres to the south. Dubbed ‘the prettiest village in England’, this Cotswold gem has drawn crowds of visitors for decades. Situated on the southern-most edge of the Cotswolds, Castle Combe offers great proximity to popular tourist destinations including Avebury, Stonehenge and the city of Bath.
Eat and Drink
The entire Cotswolds region is brimming with charming country pubs and fine dining restaurants. Premium local produce has contributed to the rise of the region’s gastropub scene in recent years, so you’ll be able to enjoy fine fare in any of the towns you visit. Be sure to try the local specialties – enjoy a hearty meal of Gloucester sausages and sample the excellent selection of Cotswolds cheeses on offer.
A traditional afternoon tea is a must during your stay in the Cotswolds, and a bustling café and tearoom culture across the whole region ensures there will always be great options on your doorstep. If you’re looking for stylish clubs instead of traditional pubs head to Cheltenham, where trendy wine bars and a busy nightlife scene will surely impress.
Where to Stay
The Cotswolds is as diverse as it is beautiful, with many of its small towns and bigger cities offering accommodation ranging from self-catering apartments to quaint bed and breakfasts. Trendy Cheltenham is known for its gorgeous hotels, both large scale and boutique, which cater for a range of budgets.
The charming village of Broadway, with its modern and artistic vibe, is a perfect base for a longer stay in the Cotswolds owing to its proximity to other popular destinations such as Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
If you’re on the lookout for quirky independent stores, The Woolmarket in Cirencester is a great place to start. For high street shopping, Cheltenham’s appropriately named High Street boasts perhaps the best selection in the Cotswolds. If luxury is on the agenda, Montpellier and The Promenade in Cheltenham are popular spots, especially with so many restaurants and cafés ready to welcome you in for a well-earned break from shopping. For a purchase with a little more character head to Stow-on-the-Wold, which is famed for its wonderful collection of art galleries and antique shops.
Cotswolds Like a Local
The Cotswolds locals pride themselves on their regional produce and spectacular scenery, so take their cue and get out and about in the fresh air and rolling hills of the countryside. Foodie and farmers’ markets are common, with the majority of Cotswolds markets adhering to a 50-kilometre food-sourcing rule so their produce is the freshest on offer. Winchcombe, Tewkesbury and Dursley markets are some of the best around.