It’s indisputable – the Cotswolds region of England is one of its most beautiful, scenic and unspoilt. The unique mix of idyllic country lanes, gorgeous villages and fine living; restaurants, shopping and yes spas.
Despite being called ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’, it would be hard to find a more typical English village. Cut through by the River Windrush, it is the arched bridges crossing the water that give it the the nickname. Come for the very instagram-able High Street, stay for the shopping, such as the Cotswold Perfumery (Victoria Street) and the miles of public footpath through some of England’s most picturesque scenery.
If you come to Bourton-on-the-Water on the August Bank Holiday, you can witness the (splashy) spectacle of the annual football match in the river, when teams play a series of games designed to get spectators as wet as possible. They’ve been doing it for more than a century and we think it’s a terrific way to cool down in the summer heat.
After an afternoon spent enjoying the delights of the village, we recommend the Old Manse Inn (Victoria St) for delicious, traditional English food in a coaching inn dating from 1748;
Broadway is known as its ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’. Thanks to the medieval wool trade and its location on the road to London, this small settlement grew into a rich and prosperous town in the 16th century. The arrival of artists from the Arts & Crafts movement saved much of Broadway’s bucolic charm.
Today Broadway thrives as a centre of the arts and antiques – check out Pavilion Broadway on High Street for an astounding range of items from the 18th century onwards. There are a number of artist’s studios within the village, most welcoming visitors. You’ll find works of all styles, from rural landscapes to abstract, contemporary art.
Broadway is also known for a number of excellent country pubs, such as the Crown & Trumpet (Church Street), a much-loved watering hole serving the village since the 17th century.
Broadway is a perfect destination for those staying at Dormy House or Foxhill Manor – the Farncombe Estate sits at the doorstep of the village. Cowley Manor and the Old Swan & Minster Mill are also less than an hour away, reached via a very scenic drive.
While slightly larger, Cheltenham is no less pretty. It’s a spa town due to the discovery of mineral springs in the 18th century. Traces of the town’s past as a resort are evident in Georgian architecture and wide open squares – indeed, it is often used as a filming location for period dramas.
Head to the ‘Suffolks’ area of town (centred around Suffolk Square) for your shopping. It is well-known for its antique shops and we love Blighty (11 Great Norwood Street) for all manner of wonderful household additions. For a tipple, head to John Gordon’s (11 Montpellier Arcade) in the Montpellier area of town – there you can taste from a very wide variety of speciality liquors and whiskies.
For a sensational meal in Cheltenham, we suggest Lumiere (Clarence Parade), awarded 3AA rosettes for its contemporary interpretations of English classics.
While Kingham may be on the train line direct to London, it still has the charm, peace and seclusion of a remote country village. Such is its charms that it was recently dubbed ‘England’s Favourite Village’. Much of the village’s heritage has been preserved and protected and the spire of the village’s medieval church is a local landmark for miles around.
Just outside the village, the Daylesford Kingham Shop (Daylesford, Moreton-in-Marsh) is one of our favourite farm shops. On the subject of local produce, Conde Nast Traveller recently dubbed the Kingham Plough (The Green) one of the Cotswold’s ‘worst-kept secrets’, delivering amazing food from Emily Watkins, Heston Blumenthal’s former sous-chef.
Those staying at Yarrow Cottage will find Kingham a mere four-minute drive away, or half hour walk. Dormy House and Foxhill Manor are twenty minutes away by car, and Cowley Manor just under forty minutes.
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Disregard the name, this is a very friendly place! While the name is derived from a Saxon word meaning ‘muddy’, this village on the River Eye is a pretty place all year round. Unlike many villages in the Cotswolds, Lower Slaughter has escaped modernization, with no new building taking place since 1906. This means the village has the feeling that time has stood still and the modern world is a milltion miles away.
When in Lower Slaughter, visit the Old Mill (Mill Lane) a 19th-century construction on the banks of the Eye. Inside can be found an award-winning gift shop, cafe and ice cream parlour – something for each member of the family! Also, great food and lashings of atmosphere can be found at the Slaughters Inn, housed in a centuries-old manor and former school in the heart of the village.
Have we missed anything? Are there any Cotswolds villages you think should have made our list? Let us know and your tips could be featured in future blog posts and newsletters!