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Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds
Travel Guides

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

27th September 2022

Famous for its honey-coloured stone and picture postcard villages, the Cotswolds is classic weekend break territory. It conjures up dreamy images of escaping the city on Friday afternoon for a few well-spent days in a chic country house hotel and pootling along winding lanes in a soft top vintage sports car.

At a vast 800 square miles, spanning five counties along England's central south west, the Cotswolds is the Britain's largest area of outstanding natural beauty. That means there’s plenty of room to lose yourself among all the country pubs, smart boutiques and well-stocked farm shops.

Fancy a few days in this glorious corner of England? Here’s our guide to what to do and where to stay in the Cotswolds.

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Where should you go?

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds Way

Following the western edge of the Cotswold Hills, the Cotswolds Way is a 102 mile ramble taking you almost the Cotswolds' entire length, from the dainty market town of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, down to the city of Bath at the area's southern most point.

It would take about a week to walk the entire thing, so alternatively why not just choose the section nearest to you, or indeed the one which has the best pub along the way, and go for a gentle afternoon stroll, ending in a nice cold pint of cider.

Along the route you’ll pass through pretty villages and beech woods, past Neolithic tombs and the sites of Civil War battles. Clamber to the top of the Cotswolds escarpment for horizon scanning western views over the River Severn and the Malvern Hills.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

Castle Combe

You can take your pick of beautiful Cotswolds villages - Snowshill, Upper Slaughter, Asthall. But Castle Combe, with its golden coloured cottages and idyllic Wiltshire views, is regularly named the prettiest village in England. Higgledy-piggledy cottages which look as if pixies probably live in them, a fifteenth century market cross and the River Bybrook meandering through, spanned by a beautiful and much-photographed bridge.

Incredibly, nothing new has been built here since 1600, making it just like stepping back in time - apart from all the tourists, film crews (it's been used as a location for Downton Abbey) and people getting the perfect shot for their Instagram.

Take a stroll through the village to the famous bridge, then back up to the market place, where you’ll find two classic pubs, the Castle Inn and the White Hart and an ancient church with tombs of Medieval knights within. One knight is depicted with his legs crossed, which apparently means he took part in the Crusades.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling

This wonderfully bizarre and dangerous event takes place every year on the spring bank holiday at Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

The rules are simple: a 9 pound Double Gloucester round cheese is launched from the top of the very steep hill and the competitors go tumbling after it. Whoever catches the cheese, or crosses the finish line first is the winner, although with the cheese reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour, the chances of catching the thing are pretty slim. For safety reasons the Double Gloucester was replaced by a foam cheese a few years ago, however hospitalisation is not unheard of, with St John's Ambulance staff waiting at the bottom of the hill.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

England's Oldest Pub

The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire is confirmed in the Guinness Book of Records as England’s oldest pub. Parts of this rambling old inn have been carbon-dated to 947 AD, when the building was believed to have been founded by the Saxon Duke of Cornwall, Athelmar, as a hospice for travellers and pilgrims.

It’s filled with a pleasing quantity of low timber beams, winding staircases and wonky door frames. You can even see witch marks, symbols intended to ward off evil spirits, carved into the 16th century fireplace in the dining room.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

Westonbirt Arboretum

If you love trees - and who doesn't? - then you're in for a treat. Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, is a magical tree garden, one of the best in the world.

The story of Westonbirt began with Robert Holford, a wealth Victorian with a passion for plant collecting. He brought in exotic and beautiful trees from around the world and you can still see many of them at Westonbirt today.

There are 2500 species including some rare and endangered trees like the Bristol Whitebeam, which grows wild in the Avon Gorge and nowhere else, and Giant Sequoias over 40 metres tall.

Westonbirt is particularly famous for its vibrant autumn display as the thousands of trees change colour, making for a spectacular natural event and one of the best places in the UK to see the autumn leaves.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

Cheltenham

Cheltenham in Gloucestershire is a real gem, a handsome 18th century spa town with Regency charm round every corner. Mineral rich spring water was discovered in 1716 and after a visit from the ailing King George III, Cheltenham suddenly found itself transformed into a fashionable spa boom-town.

Nowadays it's a smart, lively place, named by the Sunday Times as 'the best place to live in the South West'. For a small town it punches well above its weight, filled with boutiques, coffee shops, gastro pubs, a Michelin starred restaurant, plus a calendar-full of events, and of course a long and noble association with the sport of kings.

The town is world famous for horse racing, so why not buy a big hat and treat yourself to a day of champagne and a few flutters at Cheltenham Racecourse, home to The Cheltenham Festival, the most prestigious jump racing event of the year and its grand finale, the legendary Gold Cup.

There's also plenty of arts and culture to be had, with literature, jazz and music festivals happening annually. In fact 30 festivals take place here every year - including a film festival and a balloon festival - so whenever you visit you'll be sure to find something interesting going on.


Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

Britain's Most Romantic Street

Copsehill Road was voted Britain's Most Romantic Street in a Google poll and whether or not you set much store in these sort of accolades, it certainly is a picturesque piece of pavement.

Located in the somewhat spookily named village of Lower Slaughter (the name comes from the Old English for 'wet land' apparently), Copsehill Road is a collection of charming sandstone cottages, flower-filled gardens and greenery set along on the banks of the River Eye as it winds through the village.

Have a nosey round the gorgeous village and check out the Old Mill Museum - built in the 18th century the mill is one of the village's newest buildings. Be sure to try the cafe's famously delicious gelato. Then amble the 20 minutes across the fields to Upper Slaughter.

Coolstays Guide to the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds Lavender Farm

If you visit the Cotswolds in June and early July and you'll get to see the famous lavender fields of Hill Barn Farm. Seventy glorious acres of purple flowers swathe the hills as you drive from the village of Snowsfield towards the farm.

Come the end of July this magical carpet of mauve disappears when the crop is harvested, the sweet scented lavender oil distilled in the on-site distillery and turned into food, drink, bath and beauty products

You’re free to explore the 20 acres or so of lavender fields which are open to the public. Bring a picnic, wander the fragrant, bee-filled meadows and buy yourself a lavender flavoured ice-cream.

Where to stay in the Cotswolds

Find the perfect base for exploring this quintessential part of England with our pick of the best places to stay - from luxurious family-size houses to romantic cottages for two.

The Wilds

Chipping Norton - Oxfordshire

Sleeps 16

Spectacular seven bedroom house with hot tub, bar and roof terrace in the heart of the pretty Cotswolds.

Berry Farm Barn

South Cerney - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 10

Stunning, luxury barn conversion with hot tub set on a picturesque farm in the heart of the Cotswolds – perfect for larger groups looking for an exclusive getaway.

The Lodge Cotswolds

Cirencester - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 10

Idyllic country retreat in the Cotswolds with stunning swimming pool, large hot tub, and luxurious interiors including a games and cinema room.

Blenheim Cottage

Chipping Campden - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 8

A truly gorgeous 15th century cottage with huge outdoor space, set among the backdrop of the Cotswolds village of Mickleton.

Kingfisher Lodge

South Cerney - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 6

Contemporary holiday home, perched on the edge of one of Cotswold Water Park’s beautiful lakes with a hot tub on the private deck.

Broughwood Cottage

Broadway - The Cotswolds

Sleeps 6

A recently refurbished 18th-century cottage in the Cotswolds village of Snowshill, boasting gorgeous views and easy access to all the region has to offer.

Heath Farm Cottages

Chipping Norton - Oxfordshire

Sleeps Sleeps 2-4 / cottage - 14 guests in total

Explore the beauty of the Cotswolds. 5 luxury cottages on a farm nr Chipping Norton. Each sleeping 2-4 adults. Perfect for romantic retreats.

Well Furlong Shepherds Retreat

Near Pershore - Worcestershire

Sleeps 4

Unique co-joined shepherds huts with boutique cottage interior and sunken hot tub with views across the Cotswolds.

Boundary Cottage

Broadway - Worcestershire

Sleeps 4

Charming 19th-century semi-detached cottage with uninterrupted views over the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, perfect for a quiet escape with family and friends.

Secret Garden

Near Bristol - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 2 +2

Cute and cosy hideaway in a secret garden surrounded by beautiful Cotswolds countryside.

5 Valleys Barn

Stroud - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 2 adults + 1 child under 12

A stunning open plan barn with super stylish interiors, the ultimate home cinema experience and a Finnish hot tub - perfectly located in The Cotswolds.

Longborough Cottage

Longboroug - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 2

Stylish cottage tucked away in the peaceful backwaters of Longborough in the Cotswolds.

Asphodel Cottage

Tarlton - Glos

Sleeps 2

An idyllic English thatched country cottage for two dating back to the 1600s; perfectly located for a romantic Cotswolds escape

Barn End at Woodcock Farm

Old Sodbury - Gloucestershire

Sleeps 2

Luxury farm apartment for two, with cosy log burning stove and deluxe freestanding bathtub. The ideal escape for couples in the Cotswolds.

Huts at The Wild Carrot

Tetbury - Gloucestershire

Sleeps Huts for 2 guests

Luxurious shepherd’s huts with outdoor hot tubs, nestled away in the idyllic grounds of Chavenage House, the Cotswolds.

Cotswolds Pavilion

Chipping Norton - Oxfordshire

Sleeps 2

Delightful 30 foot long studio with wood burner and south facing veranda for BBQs in the rolling countryside of Idbury, Chipping Norton.

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