It’s indisputable – the Cotswolds region of England is one of its most beautiful, scenic and unspoilt. The unique mix of idyllic country lanes and gorgeous villages makes it one of our favourite places for a rural retreat. Here’s a few of our favourite spots, whether you enjoy unspoilt villages, bustling market towns or the great outdoors, there’s something here for everyone.
Despite being called ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’, it would be hard to find a more typical English village. Cut through by the River Windrush, it is the arched bridges crossing the water that give it the the nickname. Come for the very instagram-able High Street, stay for the shopping, such as the Cotswold Perfumery (Victoria Street) and the miles of public footpath through some of England’s most picturesque scenery.
If you come to Bourton-on-the-Water on the August Bank Holiday, you can witness the (splashy) spectacle of the annual football match in the river, when teams play a series of games designed to get spectators as wet as possible. They’ve been doing it for more than a century and we think it’s a terrific way to cool down in the summer heat.
Broadway is known as its ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’. Thanks to the medieval wool trade and its location on the road to London, this small settlement grew into a rich and prosperous town in the 16th century. The arrival of artists from the Arts & Crafts movement saved much of Broadway’s bucolic charm.
Today Broadway thrives as a centre of the arts and antiques – check out Pavilion Broadway on High Street for an astounding range of items from the 18th century onwards. There are a number of artist’s studios within the village, most welcoming visitors. You’ll find works of all styles, from rural landscapes to abstract, contemporary art.
Broadway is also known for a number of excellent country pubs, such as the Crown & Trumpet (Church Street), a much-loved watering hole serving the village since the 17th century.
While slightly larger, Cheltenham is no less pretty. It’s a spa town due to the discovery of mineral springs in the 18th century. Traces of the town’s past as a resort are evident in Georgian architecture and wide open squares – indeed, it is often used as a filming location for period dramas.
Head to the ‘Suffolks’ area of town (centred around Suffolk Square) for your shopping. It is well-known for its antique shops and we love Blighty (11 Great Norwood Street) for all manner of wonderful household additions. For a tipple, head to John Gordon’s (11 Montpellier Arcade) in the Montpellier area of town – there you can taste from a very wide variety of speciality liquors and whiskies.
For a sensational meal in Cheltenham, we suggest Lumiere (Clarence Parade), awarded 3AA rosettes for its contemporary interpretations of English classics.
While Kingham may be on the train line direct to London, it still has the charm, peace and seclusion of a remote country village. Such is its charms that it was recently dubbed ‘England’s Favourite Village’. Much of the village’s heritage has been preserved and protected and the spire of the village’s medieval church is a local landmark for miles around.
Just outside the village, the Daylesford Kingham Shop (Daylesford, Moreton-in-Marsh) is one of our favourite farm shops. On the subject of local produce, Conde Nast Traveller recently dubbed the Kingham Plough (The Green) one of the Cotswold’s ‘worst-kept secrets’, delivering amazing food from Emily Watkins, Heston Blumenthal’s former sous-chef.
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Disregard the name, this is a very friendly place! While the name is derived from a Saxon word meaning ‘muddy’, this village on the River Eye is a pretty place all year round. Unlike many villages in the Cotswolds, Lower Slaughter has escaped modernization, with no new building taking place since 1906. This means the village has the feeling that time has stood still and the modern world is a milltion miles away.
When in Lower Slaughter, visit the Old Mill (Mill Lane) a 19th-century construction on the banks of the Eye. Inside can be found an award-winning gift shop, cafe and ice cream parlour – something for each member of the family! Also, great food and lashings of atmosphere can be found at the Slaughters Inn, housed in a centuries-old manor and former school in the heart of the village.
Where to stay
Nestled within 400 acres of verdant estate, The Fish is perfect for nature lovers looking to immerse themselves in the Cotswold’s majestic landscape. If you’re after something a little bit quirky, you can even stay within your own private Hilly Hut on the grounds.
Set within beautiful landscaped gardens, this grand country estate has a world-class spa perfect for those looking to pamper themselves. The bold contemporary design is inspired by the whimsical works of Lewis Carroll.
A beautifully Cotswolds farmhouse, Dormy House Hotel has a stylish interior designed by Todhunter Earle, and a wonderful spa which makes use of locally-sourced Cotswolds lavender in its relaxing treatments.
This stylish townhouse in the centre of Cheltenham is the perfect bolthole for those looking to do a Cotswold’s city break. We love the characterful touches such as the use of bold primary colours in the otherwise minimalist décor, and the antique drinks cabinet that dominates one wall of the lounge is particularly appealing.