This is the England of chocolate box covers and Christmas cards, of cosy period dramas and of the imagination of any traveller to Britain. Come to choose which cottage you would most definitely live in should those dreams come true…
Burford in the county of Gloucestershire is a great place to start your explorations of the traditional Cotswold villages, with its hilly high street lined with inviting pubs and shops. Continue to Bourton-on-the-Water – a kind of mini Cotswoldian Venice with its trickling waterways you can criss-cross over on cute bridges. Nearby are the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter – they may not have the most attractive of names but these villages are pretty much picture-perfect!
Vast and magnificent, Blenheim Palace boasts sumptuous interiors plus sprawling grounds and gardens to explore. It was where Winston Churchill was born and is easily reachable from London or nearby Oxford. See if you recognise it from various film sets like the most recent James Bond film Spectre, too.
The Cotswold Way National Trail covers 102 miles (164km) across the delightful, gentle landscapes of the region. Stopping off at pretty villages and inviting pubs, get on those hiking boots and tackle parts of it or stride out the whole length of it. You can camp or stay in lovely Bed & Breakfast accommodation along the way.
After you’ve snapped a photo of every house and cottage that lines Broadway village’s main street, head up the hill beyond to reach Broadway Tower – one of England's most outstanding viewpoints at 1,024ft (312m). The unrivalled views allow you to survey as many as 16 of England’s fair counties.
Cheltenham is the Cotswolds’ cultural hub, an attractive city with a spa heritage and a famous racecourse. Spend a day happily shopping and dining among the city’s Georgian architecture.
The centrepiece of Sudeley Castle is the Queens Garden, so named because no fewer than 4 of England’s queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey (queen for 9 days!) and Elizabeth I – once walked upon the original Tudor Parterre. It is also the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds – Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s 6 wives.
Hidcote Manor garden is the quintessential English garden surrounding a golden Cotswolds-stone house. Divided into a series of ‘rooms’ each with its own character, the garden is initially formal near the house, but this gradually eases away the further you explore.
The Cotswolds also reach down into the county of Wiltshire and a particularly idyllic spot is Castle Combe – not, as you may assume, a castle, but a quaint little village. Two pubs, a tea shop, and cake sold outside front doors with honesty boxes will sustain you as you spot where Agatha Christie’s Poirot was filmed, among other TV and film favourites.
In the small, elegant city of Gloucester you can find not only its impressive cathedral, but a Beatrix Potter connection. One of her best-loved tales, The Tailor of Gloucester, was set here. You can visit the house where he supposedly lived, now a Beatrix Potter gift shop and cute museum.
The unusual preserved village of Lacock is like a small time warp of a traditional Cotswolds village, and is frequently used for filming period dramas. It was also where scenes for Harry Potter were filmed, with Lacock Abbey’s glorious fan-vaulted cloisters seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.