The Chic Guide to The Cotswolds

A stay in the Cotswolds offers not just a taste of bucolic life, but a serving spoonful. Ramble across rolling hills, while away afternoons exploring pretty market towns, punt along gentle waterways and sample the region’s seasonal fare in gourmet pubs and top-quality restaurants. Covering nearly 800 square miles of undulating scenery or ‘wolds’, the Cotswolds is England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, comprising portions of six counties. The landscape is interlaced with rivers and hiking trails, as well as over 4,000 miles of hand-built drystone walling.

The image of Arlington Row’s honey-coloured stone cottages in the village of Bilbury is consistently used in promotional features about the area and is typically associated with the dreamy vision of quintessential English life.

When to go

The Cotswolds are glorious to visit in all weather. Huddle by crackling fires in winter with a hot chocolate (or something stronger), coo over springtime’s gambolling lambs or catch the landscape’s colourful regalia in autumn. Summer is of course the most popular – covered nearly 80 percent by fields and farmland, the Cotswolds are thoroughly lush and verdant at this time. With winding roads and scenic viewpoints around every corner, a summer’s drive is made all the more glorious with the top down.

Vast fields and parkland mean that festivals, fairs and events are in abundance during the summer months. Cheltenham Music Festival draws a cultured crowd keen to glimpse a line-up of top performers and conductors through the first weeks of July. The Big Feastival is the UK’s foodiest fest over the August Bank Holiday. Curated by Blur’s Alex James and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the festival includes cooking demonstrations, classes, countless independent food stalls and a drink market, all to the soundtrack of bouncing musical performances from tents and stages. Wilderness Festival in the first week of August is an explosion of sound, colour and joy. Comprising 4 days of sense-tingling experiences, visitors can expect performances from chart-topping artists, yoga and wellness mini-retreats and dipping and diving in the lovely Cornbury Park lake.

What to do

Image credit: Cotswolds.com

With so much to see and do in the Cotswolds, you’re unlikely to run out of ideas. The Cotswold Way comprises of over 100 miles of scenic walking routes that course through beautiful sleepy villages and ancient landmarks that dot the hills and valleys, linking Bath Spa in the south to Chipping Campden in the north. Cycling is another great way to explore the scenery, and there are countless routes with varying inclines that give breathtaking views over the land and often pass by a pub garden providing the perfect excuse for a break. Or why not enquire with a local equestrian school and check out the labyrinth of bridleways on horseback? There are numerous schools led by local experts and rides are enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Arguably one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, Broadway has sweeping views of golden farmland, country houses and its eponymous tower designed by Capability Brown, that stands proud on the hillside and lords over the scenery. The riverside Slaughters (Upper and Lower) are quaint villages brimming with romance, despite their somewhat ominous name. Stay in a boutique hotel near the larger towns of Cheltenham or Gloucester for easy access to both rural pursuits and urban delights. The university town of Oxford lies just outside the region but its well worth a look-in while visiting the area and the historic spa town of Bath is also just on the outer edge of the Cotswolds but is a popular spot, transporting visitors back in time to the Roman era.

The striking monolith that is Blenheim Palace, with its rolling lawns, grand maze and the sparkling river that runs through the grounds is an impressive day out. Housing a huge collection of art and artefacts, in a vast building steeped in history (Winston Churchill was born here), you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy – in fact, four-legged friends are also welcome to enjoy the parkland.

What to eat

Image credit: Cotswolds.com

Local kitchens make the most of the Cotswolds’ seasonal fruit, vegetables and meat. Eating out is as much about cosying up in wood-panelled gastropubs as it is about fine dining in sleek Michelin-starred restaurants. Kate Moss’ occasional haunt The Swan at Southrop has roaring fires, a skittles alley and a produce-driven menu of comforting classics. If you’re a budding chef, book a foraging or world-food course at Thyme’s nearby cookery school.

Image credit: Cotswolds.com
For a taste of English haute cuisine, The Cotswolds is peppered with delightful eateries that specialise in the fine dining experience. The Wild Rabbit in Kingham takes tradition and throws it out the window, focusing more on hipster touches but executed with expertise. Think roast duck with kale and lingonberries and passionfruit soufflé to finish. The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold – who proudly displays the moniker of Britain’s oldest inn – serves up a luxurious twist on pub grub, with a particularly popular and sophisticated Sunday lunch menu. And, housed in a glorious honey-coloured stone manor, Lords of the Manor outside Upper Slaughter, which sits among manicured lawns and gardens, has a refined menu that has been awarded a Michelin star and includes venison with spiced redcurrants or scallops with asparagus and squid ink mousseline. Dinners are expertly paired with fine wines, or alternatively visit in the afternoon for an indulgently sweet and top-quality British institution: the afternoon tea.

Where to sleep

Ellenborough Park – Southam

A 61 room luxury hotel in the Cotswolds that consists of a group of honeystone buildings set around an historic Cotswold manor house which dates back to the early 1500s. Just 2 miles from the Regency city of Cheltenham, Ellenborough Park has its own private track through the grounds to the Cheltenham racecourse entrance.

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The Wheatsheaf Inn – Northleach

The Wheatsheaf Inn is our founder Lulu’s favourite small boutique hotel in the Cotswolds. This award-winning Chic Retreat in Gloucestershire is a modern take on the traditional coaching inn in the heart of the Cotswolds where, in the olden days, travellers came to rest and enjoy caskets of beer and great food.

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Foxhill Manor – Broadway

‘Whatever you fancy, wherever you fancy it’ is the rather cheeky motto at Foxhill Manor, the newest country house hotel in the Cotswolds. With just 8 rooms, this lavish boutique hotel can also be taken over in its entirety for your very own house party where children of all ages are also accepted.

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See our full collection of boutique hotels in The Cotswolds here >

Getting there

The Cotswolds can be easily reached by car from London in 1.5 – 2 hours, and the major towns of Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester and Bath have train links to cities. Birmingham or London Heathrow are the nearest international airports.