The Cotswolds is a magical place. And only two hours from London, it’s hard to remember the hustle and bustle of the city, when you’ve entered the peaceful villages of The Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is one of my calm places. Beautifully rural, with rolling hills, stone villages, winter walks and a beer by the roaring fire in a local pub, but with easy accessibility from London. It is also becoming a foodie capital of the country with amazing pubs, restaurants and cafes popping up all over the region. Whether you fancy a good walk, pub lunch, or a pamper at a spa, there is no better place than The Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds straddles five counties, and although the vast proportion of it is within Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, it even goes as far north as south Warwickshire, and touches the edges of Worcestershire and Wiltshire too. I visited The Cotswolds this September for a weekend break away with my mum and step-daughter, and we stayed at De Vere Cotswold Water Park during our staycation.
READ MORE: Packing Guide for The Cotswolds
WHERE TO GO
- Daylesford Farm
- Chipping Campden
- Lower Slaughter
- Blenheim Palace
- Snowshill Manor
WHEN TO GO
Every season has intrinsic appeal. Crowd-free winters are ideal for bracing walks, fireside pub sessions – and lower hotel prices. Come in spring to see lambs and wild daffodils. Visit in summer (inevitably with many others) for magical light, particularly in the long evenings. Or make an autumn excursion for a quieter atmosphere and wonderful leaf colour, especially at the two great arboreta, Westonbirt and Batsford.
WHERE TO STAY
After a manic September I headed down to The Cotswolds for a weekend break with my mum and Arabella. We opted to stay at the De Vere Cotswold Water Park for our stay in this iconic region, as it was well situated from the main honey-coloured villages and towns The Cotswolds has to offer, including Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Barnsley House Hotel and Spa, just outside Cirencester is the ultimate country retreat, home to landscaped gardens, tennis courts, a helipad, holistic spa with hydrotherapy pool, private 30-seat cinema, DVD library, traditional restaurant and 18 stunning bedrooms, ranging in size, bathroom features and style. And the grounds are suitably beautiful, just like the house, with an array of plants, fauna and trees, making you feel a million miles away from the chaos of everyday life.
I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels over the years, but something about the Old Swan & Minster Mill has stuck with me. It made me feel all warm inside, like I had arrived back at home, and for that, I will keep this review brief.. as I believe that says it all. Romantically set in 65 acres of woodland and orchards, The Old Swan & Minster Mill is over 600 years old and located only 14 miles from Oxford.
WHERE TO EAT
Barnsley House also have a The Potager restaurant downstairs, near the bar, and serve food at both lunch time and for dinner in the evening. The menu is small but dishes don’t disappoint, with a range of foods from steak to pasta, and puddings including a cheese board and Chocolate Fondant.
And if you want some pub grub you can even nip across the road to the pub, also owned by the hotel, ironically called ‘The Village Pub’. Think open fires, papers, pints and delicious food!
There is also The Old Boathouse at South Cerney. At The Old Boathouse Restaurant & Bar, you can enjoy dining and drinking with views of the Water Park from the lakeside tables and outside decking. The menus are changed seasonally, and we really enjoyed dining here. The GM was really helpful, and the food was exactly what we needed – wholesome but tasty!
Or if you are heading out into the region, and need somewhere to stop at, the Eight Bells (eightbellsinn.co.uk) in Chipping Campden is great for lunch. Or if you are on the go why not stop by at Eat Wild (eatwild.co.uk) and grab one of their famous burgers.
FOR RELATED CONTENT: A Guide to The Cotswolds
WHAT TO DO
There is lots to do in The Cotswolds including exploring some of the 100-mile Cotswold Way, which starts at Chipping Campden or go off piste and take a stroll around one of the many trails around the region.
If you fancy visiting a historic house, Blenheim Palace. You should stop here as it is one of the great house-and-garden complexes in the whole of England.
For family fun, head to Cotswold Farm Park and get dirty with rare breeds at this muddy and surprisingly authentic glimpse of life on the farm.
Get out the credit card and go wild at Swindon Outlet Village, where you can get a bargain or two in one of the many discount stores, it even has a John Lewis Outlet store.
Visit the pretty little town of Cirencester, an affluent and picturesque market town often known as the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. It lies at the crossroads of three Roman roads, which gives a clue to its importance during Roman times. There are lots of gorgeous shops, cafes and places to explore here.
Or really go all ‘Cotswolds’ and take a visit to the small town of Stow-on-the-Wold. The Market Square and the Green complete with 19th century village stocks, give this beautiful Cotswold town it’s wide open appearance. Despite this, you will find many alleyways and passages leading onto the Square and all worthy of further investigation!