Nestled between the bustling cities of Oxford and Bristol and just a short train ride from London, the Cotswolds offers the chance to experience some of Britain’s most charming autumnal countryside, tranquil cottage-filled villages and unique towns, each with a story to tell.
In addition to much-loved destinations such as Burford and Broadway, there are a host of other highlights waiting to be explored, all awash with picturesque walking trails, historic buildings and local tipples to sample…
A haven for walkers and those seeking to experience life in a quintessential British village Winchcombe, in the northern Cotswolds, offers a chance to escape the crowds throughout autumn and winter. From its romantic stone cottages to charming black and white timbered houses, Winchcombe takes you on a journey through time. If you’re looking to pick up a unique keepsake from the Cotswolds, you can explore the many independent shops and boutiques – followed by a hearty meal and pint of local ale at a traditional pub. Keen to trace 1,000 years of Britain’s grand history? Why not book a ticket to explore the majestic (and partially reopened) Sudeley Castle and Gardens.
Another location on the must-see list is the town of Painswick. Located between Stroud and Gloucester, this hill-top haven is known historically for its wool production and is nicknamed the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’, due to being one of the best-preserved gems in the area. With streets lined with dreamy stone cottages, tempting tea rooms and its position as an easy start (or end) point to the Cotswold Way National Trail, there is something for everyone. If you’re a green-fingered visitor, you will relish the chance to wander through the glorious Painswick Rococo Garden, which is currently open from Thursday to Sunday, while those wanting to combine nature and history can plan a trip to Painswick’s St Mary’s Church. Dating back to the 1300s, the church boasts an eye-catching spire and a spectacular churchyard which is peppered with a 99 yew tree topiaries – local legend has it that the Devil would destroy the 100th if it were planted!
Moving down to the southern gateway to the Cotswolds, you’ll be greeted by the delightful town of Tetbury. Here, you can soak up the fascinating architecture of the 16th and 17th century wood merchants’ houses, as well as the Grade I-listed Market House – which has been the hub of the town for hundreds of years. Just three miles from the town centre and nature-loving visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant forest at Westonbirt’s National Arboretum, a serene woodland known for its wide diversity of trees,that glow red, gold and yellow during the autumn months.
If you’re longing for a walk in the British countryside, you can explore the Cotswolds Way, a 165km trail through some of the region’s most mesmerising scenery. Running between the market town of Chipping Campden and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath, the route takes in countless gems, including Broadway Tower, Sudeley Castle and Gardens and the tremendous views from Cleeve Hill, the highest point of the trail.
Weary walkers and curious explorers alike will relish the idea of sitting down to enjoy a pint of locally made beer, and the Cotswolds has no shortage of fantastic breweries. A few of note include Stroud Brewery, which has reopened its taproom, allowing you to sip brews at the very spot they were made. Hooky Norton Brewery Co., close to Chipping Norton, is offering a brewery tour which has re-opened under new regulations, while the delights of Bobby Beer, a locally-based brewery, can be found in pubs around the south of England.
One of the most photogenic regions in England, the Cotswolds is no stranger to the silver screen. Fans of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can plan a trip to Gloucester Cathedral and step into the magical world of Hogwarts. Many of the cathedral’s rooms, corridors and cloisters were used to create J.K. Rowling’s magical world, and you can revel in spotting parts of this medieval gem that you recognise from the silver screen!
From one movie highlight to another, you’re sure to recognise the historic charm of Bampton, which doubled as the fictional village of Downton in the unmissable period drama, Downton Abbey. A highlight of the region, keen-eyed fans will undoubtedly recognise many of the traditional houses and buildings that featured in the much-loved film and television series.
Another classic British film that chose to capture the beauty of the Cotswolds is Bridget Jones’s Diary, which use the village of Snowshill as a filming location, not to mention Bridget Jones’s Baby, which featured nearby Swinbrook as the location for the picturesque church christening.
The Cotswolds is just over two-hour’s drive from the centre of London, and around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Heathrow Airport.
If you want to get around by train, you can jump on direct services from Marylebone, stopping at Banbury to the north-east, while Stroud and Moreton in Marsh, which lie at the heart of the Cotswolds, are both serviced by trains from London Paddington.
If you’re longing to live the Cotswolds dream by staying in a historic cottage, you can plan to make Winchcombe your temporary British home. There are a number of luxurious Bolthole Retreats here, ranging from cosy and stylish stone cottages to grand farmhouses that sleep up to 14 guests.
Keen to make the southern town of Cirencester your Cotswolds hub? Rest your head at the upscale Kings Head Hotel, the Corinium Hotel – which holds the We’re Good to Go industry mark, or Barnsley House, which has recently reopened with a smaller guest capacity and features bookable private spa sessions.