The gorgeous villages, graceful churches and rolling hills of the Cotswolds are a vision of old-world England — and there’s plenty to enjoy without a lord-of-the-manor price tag.
Food and Drink
Since 1890, Huffkins has been baking delicious scones, cakes and pies. There are branches across the Cotswolds, but Burford’s is the original. More substantial dishes include quiches, soups, omelettes, all-day breakfasts and full-blown afternoon teas. Burford itself is a delight, with its cottages of pale golden stone.
JAFFE & NEALE BOOKSHOP CAFÉ
The town of Chipping Norton (`Chippy’, to locals) has handsome Georgian buildings and old coaching inns clustered around a market square, but none of the Cotswold crowds. This brilliant, busy independent bookshop serves delectable cakes and coffees to tables squeezed between the bookshelves or in the cosy upstairs reading lounge with sofas.
STROUD FARMERS’ MARKET
Hilly Stroud once hummed with the sound of more than 150 cloth mills. Its still one of the Cotswolds’ most important market towns – best evidenced on Saturdays when dozens of stallholders converge on the town for the weekly farmers’ market. Hosting a multitude of local producers selling seasonal delights and homemade crafts, the market is undoubtedly the best of its kind in the Cotswolds.
GUILD CRAFT WORKSHOPS
This former silk mill (c 1790) in Chipping Campden was the home of Charles Robert Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft from 1902 until it went bust in 1908. Many artisans stayed on. Downstairs, there’s a café, along with a gallery showcasing the work of a cooperative of local craftspeople.
MUSEUM IN THE PARK
Set in an 18th-century mansion, half-a-mile northwest of Stroud’s centre, this museum tells the cloth-making town’s history, and has interactive displays ranging from dinosaur bones to Iron Age relics from nearby Uley Bury (a prehistoric hill fort). A separate gallery hosts contemporary art exhibitions.
Unusually fora stately home, the Earl of Bathurst’s mansion sits right on the edge of town, hidden and off-limits behind a giant yew hedge (allegedly Britain’s tallest). The extensive landscaped grounds, however, are open to the public and make a lovely spot for a stroll. Under the Romans, elegant Cirencester (then Corinium) was second only to London in size and importance.
BELAS KNAP LONG BARROW
Dating from 3000 BC, Belas Knap is one of England’s best-preserved Neolithic burial chambers. Views across the countryside to Sudeley Castle are beautiful. The barrow is accessed by a 21/2-mile hike from Winchcombe along the Cotswold Way; otherwise park on Corndean Lane.
ST MARY’S CHURCH
Chipping Norton’s secluded church is a classic example of a Cotswold wool church, with a magnificent perpendicular nave and clerestory (upper row of windows), alabaster tombs and fluted pillars. While it was mostly built in 1448, two of the chancel arches date to 1200. In the hexagonal porch, carved 15th-century ceiling bosses include the Green Man.
MINSTER LOVELL HALL
This 15th-century manor house by the River Windrush was originally home to Viscount Francis Lovell; Richard III stayed here in 1483. Abandoned in 1747, the manor is now in ruins. You can pass through the vaulted porch to peek past blackened walls into the roofless great hall, the interior courtyard and the crumbling tower, while the wind whistles through gaping windows.
Oxford, Moreton-in- Marsh, Stroud, Gloucester and Cheltenham have direct trains to London (London Paddington—Stroud from £25 return; gwrcom). Other direct trains go to Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle (from Oxford), and Cardiff and Edinburgh (from Cheltenham). National Express coaches head from London and other UK cities to Oxford, Cirencester, Stroud and Cheltenham. For exploring the Cotswolds without your own wheels, the Cotswolds Discoverer provides unlimited travel on participating buses and trains.
WHERE TO STAY
Attached to a busy Chipping Campden pub, the Volunteer Inn’s simple rooms are favoured by Cotswold Way walkers and cyclists.
Stow-on-the-Wold’s Number 9 is all sloping floors and exposed beams inside an 18th-century townhouse that was once a coaching inn. There’s a lounge with a crackling fire.
In Fulbrook, a mile northeast of Burford, the wonderful old Star Cottage has two brilliantly comfortable, character- filled en suite rooms, a four-person barn apartment, and fantastic homecooked breakfasts.
Bibury: Once described by William Morris as England’s most beautiful village, Bibury is the Cotswolds at its most picturesque, with a cluster of riverside cottages and a tangle of narrow streets flanked by attractive stone buildings.
Stanway: Just a few thatched-roofed cottages, a church and Stanway House, a magnificent Jacobean mansion; its Baroque water gardens feature Britain’s tallest fountain.
The Slaughters: The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter maintain their unhurried medieval charm. The Old Mill houses a museum and cafe.
Stanton: A little stunner with golden Cotswold-stone houses and not a quaint tearoom in sight. Look for Jacobean Stanton Court and St Michael & All Angels’ Church, with its fine Perpendicular tower and medieval interior.