An area about the size of greater Tokyo, the Cotswolds are a picturesque part of the English countryside named after the pretty hillsides ('wolds') that lie mainly within Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Home to countless glorious villages, beautiful old mansions and atmospheric churches, the Cotswolds are loved by those wanting to experience somewhere “typically British”. If the idea of having tea and scones at a limestone cottage overlooking rolling plains appeals to you, then there is no better place in Great Britain to visit than the Cotswolds.
Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by the British Government, the Cotswolds is home to the largest number of conservation areas of any of the English regions. Within the rolling countryside you'll find 3,000 miles of public footpaths steeped in history, with about 80 long barrow monuments to look out for. Some of the man-made attractions include historic towns such as Cheltenham, Cirencester and Bourton-on-the-Water, also known as “Little Venice”. In the south is the World Heritage City of Bath, while the north is where some of the best gardens. Within a five-mile radius is the Batsford Arboretum, Hidcote and Bourton House.
Best known for its countryside, it should come as little surprise that the Cotswolds region is a mecca of splendid country fare. You'll find some great scones at many hundreds of establishments across the region, but if the sound of Devonshire Duck, Cotswold Longhorn Beef and Loch Duart Salmon are making your mouth water, you should pay a visit to the Lords of the Manor Hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant. Right across the region you'll find a selection of tasty Cotswold delights, and one that is found at 5 North Street in Winchcombe is rice pudding with Guinness ice-cream.
Where to Stay
The Cotswolds aren't home to any resorts or high-rise hotels, but what you will find is a large selection of independently-run establishments, cosy cottages and homely guesthouses. The Manor House Hotel, Whatley Manor and Calcot Manor top the list of the best hotels in the region, but spending a few nights anywhere with 'Manor' in its name can be as expensive as the flight over. Some luxurious options that won't break the bank include Hotel Du Vin, The Old School and The Fuzzy Duck, while the Cotswolds' long list of Bed and Breakfasts is worth a thorough look.
While not the main reason people visit the Cotswolds, Cirencester, Chipping Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold and Tetbury are some of the more popular places to find a unique reminder of your trip. For serious shoppers, your best bet is to make Bath part of your itinerary. Home to many leading national and international brands, the grand Georgian streets of Bath make as good a place as any outside London to spend your holiday allowance. Milsom Street, in particular, is a unique place to shop for designer fashion - don't miss the Artisan Quarter for a vibrant selection of independent stores too.
Cotswolds Like a Local
If it's good enough for Prince Charles, who lives in Highgrove House near the town, then a visit to Tetbury should make its way onto your itinerary. The southernmost town in the region, Tetbury is well known not only for its Royal locals but also for its antique stores. After sampling the Cotswolds fare at the popular The Priory Inn pub, Two Toads tea room and Chef's Table restaurant, you will undoubtedly want to take some cooking tricks home to share with your friends and family. If so, you're in luck! The Chef's Table offers cooking classes, but be sure to book in advance.