Just in case you’re in need of further persuasion, we’ve compiled seven reasons you really should visit the Cotswolds.
1. UK’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
There you have it. Nothing says what it does on the tin better than an AONB label. What’s more, the Cotswolds is the largest AONB in England at some 787 square miles. Its protected landscape consumes large parts of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire while sweeping delicately into Somerset, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
2. Creative inspiration
Perhaps most famously, the lush surroundings of the Cotswolds were home to Laurie Lee and the setting for his childhood autobiography, Cider with Rosie. Moreton in Marsh is thought to be the inspiration for Bree in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. J.M. Barrie summered in Stanway spinning away afternoons with an amateur cricket team of literary chums including A.A. Milne, P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome. You’ll find Cotswold literary festivals popping up throughout the year celebrating authors old and new.
Perhaps typically Cotswoldian, the Bledington Music Festival takes place every June in the middle of nowhere attracting world renowned classical musicians and a sell-out crowd. It could be the interval tipple in the graveyard of Bledington church that draws the ticket buyers. Or the off-the-beaten-track route to get there. Or the chance of being photographed for inclusion in the Cotswold Life diary round-up. Whichever gets you going, if it’s on your list – get in quick.
3. Cotswolds walks
Narrow down your exploration of the Cotswolds with a wander along part or all of the Cotswold Way. Meandering 102 miles between Chipping Campden and Bath Abbey it skirts the northern and western edge of the Cotswold AONB. Stops along the way include Painswick Rococo Gardens, the ruined remains of 13th century Cistercian Hailes Abbey and Belas Knap Long Barrow.
When the eponymous name only skims the boundary, bountiful other Cotswolds walking routes scurrying on in to fill the void. Some speak for themselves with helpful signage. Others require map skills – you know those things you learned on your outdoor education week away during primary school… me either.
- The Windrush Way is the best way to avoid the oft congested A40 as a means to get from Bourton on the Water to Winchcombe and it’s only 14 miles through the Cotswold hills.
- The Diamond Way will test your understanding of standard shapes but done in steps will steer you some 65 miles from Bourton on the Water down to Northleach across to Guiting Power and northwards to Chipping Campden mostly via public footpaths.
- The Gloucestershire Way is an epic 94 miler wiggling like a worm between Tewkesbury and Chepstow as indirectly as possible. That does of course mean it takes in many fabulous Cotswold villages and hillocks.
- The Blossom Trail shows off the Vale of Evesham and its fertile lands perfectly during spring. An area known for its fruit and vegetable farming is perfectly pretty with a route lined with blossoming trees at this time of year.
4. Cotswolds days out
There’s no shortage of days out in the Cotswolds. If the market towns and pretty villages brimful with honey coloured stone cottages aren’t enough to stimulate the tribe, choose from days out with a history theme, sporting theme or plentiful family friendly attractions.
History comes in all shapes and sizes in the Cotswolds
An area as diverse as this proffers The Roman Baths in Bath to combine the old and the new intonation of spas at Britain’s only natural hot spring. Bibury is possibly the most photographed Cotswold village with its exemplary Cotswold cottages in Arlington Row visually reflecting the Cotswold stone stereotype beautifully and the remains of Chedworth Roman Villa are nearby. The striking presence of Tewkesbury Abbey has dominated the town’s skyline for centuries and is said to be home to the oldest organ in the UK. In the area you’ll also find multiple long barrows – Neolithic tombs – the one at Belas Knap has been carefully restored and encompasses a pleasant walk. The Rollright Stones between Chipping Norton and Moreton in Marsh are another Neolithic site worth visiting.
Cotswold castles are more numerous than you might think
Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe has award winning gardens and private rooms once inhabited by Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr. Capability Brown’s folly, Broadway Tower, is the tallest castle in the Cotswold and unsurprisingly the views are splendiferous (pick up some groceries from Broadway Deli before you leave though). 12th century Berkeley Castle stands impressive, intact and in the same family some 900 years after it was built, which ensures a fascinating day out for all ages.
Sports events in the Cotswolds galore
From the good going at Cheltenham Racecourse to cheese rolling on Cooper Hill, the debate rolls on about what is a sport and what’s not, in the Cotswolds. Head to Chipping Norton Lido to see where Cotswold resident Jeremy Clarkson sank that Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and have a splash in the community run outdoor pool. Visit in August for the annual river football tournament in Bourton on the Water and watch in wonder. Pick any weekend through the summer and you’ll likely find Morris Dancers performing in one Cotswold village or other.
Spoilt for choice of family days out
In such rural context, there’s an outdoorsy and wildlife theme running consistently through family attractions in the Cotswolds. The Cotswold Wildlife Park is particularly spectacular with its seemingly free roaming rhinos and cleverly constructed giraffe house but can you spot the sloth before being dragged back to the magically magnetic play area. BBC Countryfile’s Adam Henson and his Cotswold Farm Park a bit further west offer plenty of hands-on interaction. And for something completely different, throwback a century or five at Mary Arden’s Farm near Stratford for a Tudor themed take on rural life.
5. Rural pubs
Calling you off the streets of these pretty Cotswold towns and villages are an increasingly high quality of rural pubs. Giles Coren loves the Old Butchers in Stow on the Wold. A pub crawl in Burford ensures you weave off and on the high street supping great ales and fine wines as you choose. The Plough in Kingham is home to Alex James’ annual Feastival with his cheese making entreprise nearby. The Swan in Southrop is famously patronised by Kate Moss. And there are many more village pubs worth their salt (of good beer and great food) without autograph hunters or paps to fight through.
6. City breaks
Let’s not forget the pivotal towns and sprawling cities that dot-to-dot along the Cotswolds boundary. A city break in Bath is a no-brainer. The revitalisation of Cheltenham centres around restoration of its many historic buildings and addition of many a foodie focused haunt. Cirencester as the capital of the Cotswolds is a market town longing to take up 48 hours of your life and that’s after you’ve taken in Cirencester Park. And Gloucester with its grandiose cathedral draws fans of history and Harry Potter. Stratford upon Avon really needs no introduction but if you’re planning a visit, Shakespeare Week is in March and Stratford Literary Festival lands in April.
7. Famous faces
Royal connections start with Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate (take in Tetbury while you’re here) and it’s home for Zara Phillips and Princess Anne too. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have famously retreated to the area around Great Tew for peace and quiet with pals of equally famous fettle. Nick Jones’ Soho Farmhouse has certainly drawn the London private members club set to the country. Lurking in and around Chipping Norton, the ‘Chippy Set’ is a long list ranging from David and Samantha Cameron to Kate Moss, Ben Kingsley and Liz Hurley. Eyes could also be peeled for Michael McIntyre, Pam Ayres, Ruby Wax, Cath Kidston, Damien Hirst and Jilly Cooper. Autograph books at the ready.
Stay in the Cotswolds
There’s simply so much to do when you visit the Cotswolds that you’ll have to stay a while. And once you’ve sampled the tipples flowing from the Cotswold Distillery there’s no looking back – without falling over, anyway.
Start your planning here with our spectacular selection of Cotswold holiday cottages.
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