The C&TH Guide To The Cotswolds

Culture /


From animal encounters and antique-hunting to wild walks and perfect pubs, the Cotswolds are cruising

This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more

       

Wondering what to do, where to eat and the best things to see in the Cotswolds? Look no further! Although its winding lanes and chocolate-box villages will always retain their charm, it’s the bountiful local produce, fascinating historical houses and great independent shops that really make the Cotswolds an unmissable destination. From an award-winning seafood restaurant to the Westonbirt National Arboretum, here’s our guide to the Cotswolds…

Find the best hotels in the Cotswolds in this year’s Great British & Irish Hotel Guide

Where To Walk In The Cotswolds

Hardcore – Bath to Chipping Campden

More an epic journey than a casual amble; the glorious 100-mile Cotswold Way goes from Bath to Chipping Campden.

Ancient – Salford, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

The Cotswolds’ answer to Stonehenge, the Rollright Stones’ origin remains a mystery. Begin in Salford and wend your way back past Manor Farm. (5 miles)

rollright stones

Rollright Stones

Equine – The White Horse, Oxfordshire

Chase the ancient chalk horse across Dragon Hill, find Uffington Castle and the neolithic burial ground. This circular stroll is best in winter. (7.7 miles)

Steep – Broadway, Worcestershire

Hardgoing at points, you will be rewarded with a glimpse of the rich history of the region’s famous, honey-coloured stone. Start at the quarry before heading to Broadway tower. (3.5 miles)

Awe-Inspiring – Cleeve Hill , Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

For flawless views across the Malverns, start at Postlip Hall and walk all the way round the edge of the common, simple. (4 miles)

What To See In The Cotswolds

Historic Sights

There are thousands of years of history waiting to be discovered in the Cotswolds. One of the oldest surviving monuments is the Belas Knap Long Barrow in Winchcombe, an impressive example of a Neolithic burial chamber. Or if you fancy something a bit more modern, there’s the Chedworth Roman Villa to explore, with its well-preserved mosaic floors, bath house and fascinating hypocaust systems.

Sezincote House

The Cotswolds isn’t all chocolate-box cottages and thatched roofs. Sezincote House is a 200-plus year-old Mogul Indian palace, set in lush gardens that include temples, grottoes, waterfalls and canals reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. It’s said to be the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. If you’re feeling more active, then get involved with the Dursley Walking Festival, held every October in the south Cotswold village of Dursley and offering guided walks through the beautiful surrounding countryside.

Sezincote-south-front-with-Orangery-copy

Sezincote House

Stately Rides

Stately Rides organises short horse rides through beautiful, romantic countryside, with stays in elegant private homes each evening. Saddle up!

Wildlife Park

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Cotswold Wildlife Park has them all in its 160 acres of parkland, roaming against the surreal but stately backdrop of a neo-Gothic manor house. An utterly enchanting day out for the whole family.

What To Eat

Bibury Trout

Bibury trout is a local delicacy; catch your own at Bibury Trout Farm, before stocking up on supplies from its smokehouse and shop.

William’s

An award-winning seafood restaurant, fishmonger and delicatessen, William’s in Nailsworth is the local foodie destination of choice. A Cotswold institution for 45 years, it sources its seafood daily from Scotland and the south-west coast.

Le Champignon Sauvage

It’s well worth veering away from the chocolate box villages towards the racing town of Cheltenham for its striking Regency architecture and the wonder that is Le Champignon Sauvage. The family-owned, two-Michelin-starred restaurant does field-to-fork dining at its best, where French technique elevates hyper-local, seasonal produce to dizzying standards with undoubtedly British results.

Le Champignon Sauvage

Le Champignon Sauvage

Sunday Lunch

Go traditional at the legendary Wheatsheaf Inn: a coaching inn that dates back to the 17th century, complete with crackling fires in winter, a beautiful garden in summer and a menu showcasing the very best of the Cotswolds countryside. Sunday lunch is the stuff of dreams.

The Wild Rabbit

Bag a table at Carole Bamford’s fashionable Wild Rabbit, the epitome of new wave Cotswolds chic and winner of Michelin’s 2015 Pub of the Year.

Where To Visit

Cider with Rosie

Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie is an evocative memoir of a time now lost forever. However, you can still wander Lee’s beloved Slad Valley, the bucolic setting of the book, and even visit the author’s childhood home, Rosebank Cottages.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury is another leafy landscape to explore, with 600 acres of woodland in total, home to 15,000 specimens of trees from all over the world.

Westonbirt Arboretum Johnny Hathaway

Westonbirt Arboretum/Johnny Hathaway

Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

A babbling stream flows through traditional Cotswold sandstone cottages. Hold hands on Copse Hill Road – named the most romantic street in Britain.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

With Roman roots, Castle Combe is now crammed with hauntingly beautiful reminders of its medieval past. Ranked number two in The Times’s 30 best villages.

Castle Combe

Castle Combe

Painswick, Gloucestershire

Dubbed ‘Queen of the Costwolds’ for its charming houses and rich history. At Painswick there’s an original Norman church and the oldest bowling green in England.

Bibury, Gloucestershire

Home to one of the oldest trout farms, Bibury has beautifully tessellated remains of a Roman villa and a higgledy-piggledy row of weavers’ cottages.

Bibury

Bibury

Ascott under Wychwood, Oxfordshire

Pay your respects to the 16 women who died campaigning for better agricultural wages in 1873, commemorated by a bench around a chestnut tree in the centre of the village.

Where To Shop

Burford

Burford is home to the family-run Upton Smokery, supplier to top restaurants and renowned for its homemade smoked partridge, trout, goose and guinea fowl. Arrive hungry for the regular Firehouse BBQ buffet, and pick up a packet of biltong for the road. Don’t leave without visiting nearby Burford Sweet Shop, where every sweet treat imaginable is beautifully displayed in old-fashioned glass jars.

Daylesford

Daylesford’s farm shop in Kingham is an absolute must. Fruit, veg and herbs are picked each morning from the garden and travel just a few metres into the shop – while the meat and dairy comes from animals freely roaming the surrounding organic pastures.

Daylesford-Organic-Farmshop-at-Kingham

Daylesford Organic Farmshop

Antique

The Cotswolds has one of the highest concentrations of antique shops outside London. Stow-on-the-Wold, Tetbury (Long Street Antiques in particular), Cirencester and Chipping Norton are full of treasures to take home.

20 Things to Do in the Cotswolds

There’s so much to do in the Cotswolds that we’ve rounded up an entire slideshow of activities not to be missed on your next visit.

Photo 1 of
  • Walk a Bit of the Way

    The Cotswold Way is around 100 miles of glorious walking, taking in those far-reaching iconic views and starting from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. If you don’t want to tackle the whole thing, join one of the monthly ten-mile guided walks instead.

    Image: Getty Images

  • The-Porch-House

    Pub Crawl

    A pub crawl as the ultimate means of exploration? There are dozens of options along the 100-plus miles of the Cotswold Way for when you need a pit stop pint. All that walking really does run up an appetite. A good end-point is The Porch House, Britain’s oldest pub – established in 947 AD, but the good times are still rolling.

  • Thyme Cookery School

    Cookery School

    Hike up your sleeves and get that apron on. The Cookery School at Daylesford can teach you everything from the art of bread baking and nose- to-tail butchery to game preparation and cheesemaking. Thyme at Southrop Manor Estate also has its own cookery school, offering classes for all levels based on what’s in the kitchen garden that month. thyme.co.uk

  • Hunt for Antiques

    The Cotswolds is renowned for its antique shops, so head to Tetbury (home of Duchy Home Farm) for Lorfords Antiques which boasts the largest collection of decorative antiques in Europe, and Amy Perry Antiques for great finds. Café 53 is just down the road for a pit stop.

    Image: Getty Images

  • Cotswold-Zoo - Penguin

    Go Wild

    Giraffes, camels, zebra, reindeer, rhino and now even baby wolverines call the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford home. Feed penguins, play with lemurs and get kisses from giraffes during an animal encounter. Feel good with the knowledge that the park raises funds for TUSK and Sifaka Conservation among others.

  • Sound Out An Alternative Scene

    Tap Social, about a mile out of Oxford to the west, hidden on an industrial estate, is a bar and microbrewery run as a social enterprise. It provides training and employment to ex-offenders and serving prisoners, teaching them to brew beer. It’s also just a great place to hang out, with live music and a cool atmosphere.

    Image: Ian Wallman

  • The Bicester Village Collection

    Grab a Bargain

    Discounted pieces from Anya Hindmarch, Sandro, Maje and Stella McCartney can all be found at Bicester Village. Make a day of it and stop for lunch at Farmshop for a hearty salad or, for something more snazzy, a Café Wolseley outpost has now set up shop there too.

  • Japanese-food---unsplash

    Japanese Invasion

    Andrew Kojima has graced Cheltenham with Koj, a Japanese restaurant striving to push diners out of their sushi comfort zone. With Tokyo-style chicken ramen and sashimi fish donburis on the lunch menu, and tempura soft shell crab buns and pork shoga yaki for dinner, patrons will soon ditch their regular tuna nigiri.

  • cutterbrooks

    Shop Like a New Yorker

    Manhattan socialite Amanda Brooks has opened a lifestyle boutique in Stow-on-the-Wold. Here you’ll find Fair Isle knits, cottage-chic dinnerware and everything you could need to kit out your Cotswolds pad and look the part.

  • academy of flowers, Getty images

    Wake Up And Smell The Roses

    The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers has a branch in Chipping Campden and offers classes on hand-tied bouquets, Christmas wreaths and even flower crowns. For those looking for something more intensive, the three-day taster course is a great insight into the world of flower design.

    Image: Getty Images 

  • Sezincote-south-front-with-Orangery-copy

    Marvel at Mogul

    Sezincote House is a slice of India in the Cotswolds. A copper onion-dome sits atop a Rajasthani-style mogul house, which is said to have inspired the Prince Regent to change his plans for the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The house and impressive gardens, near Moreton-in-Marsh, are open to the public for those feeling nosy.

    Image: Julian Civiero

     

  • Slab Shop

    Feel Hunger Pangs

    What started out as small butcher’s shop in Nailsworth has grown into William’s food hall and oyster bar where you can find cheeses, a charcuterie, terrines, fruit and veg and many other delicacies. If browsing has made you peckish, slurp down freshly shucked oysters and langoustines with a chilled glass of white.

  • le-souk

    Shop in a Souk

    With all the excitement and enticement of a Moroccan souk, albeit closer to home, Le Souk at Burford Garden Company offers handcrafted furniture, silver trinkets, art and plants. Many of the items are one of a kind so don’t dawdle.

    Image: Mathieu Challières Birdcage Floor Lamp from Le Souk

  • Jolly-Nice

    Have a Jolly Nice Time

    First class coffee, mouthwatering burgers (made from cows reared and butchered on site), a brilliant farm shop and a garden to enjoy it all in – The Jolly Nice Farm Shop is just that.

  • Arctic Quest

    Feel the Wind In Your Hair

    You don’t need to head to cooler climes to experience the thrill of a husky ride. Arctic Quest in Tewkesbury offers training on how to control the pack of dogs as well as plenty of time for playing with the pups. arcticquest.co.uk

  • Bread, Getty images

    Buy Fresh Bread

    There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, especially when it comes from Hobbs House bakery’s wood-fired oven in Nailsworth. Buy to devour at home, or eat in and chow down on sourdough waffles with smoked bacon and maple syrup.

    Image: Getty Images 

  • Bourton-on-the-water

    Make Like a Model

    A quintessential Cotswolds village, Bourton-on-the-Water is a children’s paradise with a model village and model railway.

  • Westonbirt Arboretum, Getty

    Go Forest Bathing

    Westonbirt Arboretum is a treat at any time of year, but it’s at its most majestic in autumn when some of the 15,000 trees burst into burnished gold, flame red and burnt orange. See all that beauty from 13m up on the 300m treetop walkway for an added thrill.

    Image: Getty Images

  • Sudeley Castle

    Visit Katherine Parr’s Tomb

    Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, is buried at Sudeley Castle, which is now the home of the Lady Ashcombe and her children Henry and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst. Sudeley puts on a series of exciting exhibitions over the season, as well as boasting charming gardens, kept blooming by the green fingers of Sir Roddy Llewellyn.

    Image: Clive Burling

  • Rousham House

    Lovely Landscape Design

    Rousham House in Oxfordshire has no shop and no tearoom. It’s just a classic of English landscape design by William Kent.

Featured Image: Getty Images 

DISCOVER MORE:

Luke Edward Hall’s Guide to the Cotswolds / UK’s Best Dog-Friendly Hotels