A WEEKEND IN THE COTSWOLDS: A 48-HOUR ITINERARY
With its green rolling hills, the cotswold honey-stone villages, country pubs, mansions and manicured gardens, the Cotswolds’ film set good looks make it the quintessential English countryside destination. I’m lucky enough to have it on my doorstep, but the Cotswolds also makes a great weekend break. With 800 square miles you could spend a few weeks exploring, so this 48-hour itinerary picks out some of the highlights of the Cotswolds, with a bit of everything which makes this area so special. So here’s how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds.
HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN THE COTSWOLDS
The Cotswolds isn’t the easiest place to get around by public transport – especially if you want to visit lots of different locations within a short period of time – so if possible it’s best to explore the region by car. If you don’t have your own car, you can also catch the train to nearby Cheltenham or Oxford where you can pick up a hire car.
Base yourself at The Old Stocks Inn* in Stow-on-the-Wold for your weekend in the Cotswolds. This 17th-century coaching inn has a big dose of old-fashioned charm from its oak beams and crooked stone walls, but it’s been given a contemporary makeover with roll-top baths, velvet sofas and Scandi-style soft furnishings. Or if you’d rather a place to yourself, there are plenty of traditional country cottages* to rent in the Cotswolds.
Once you’re settled in, travel nine miles north to the Broadway Tower – one of the best places in the Cotswolds to watch the sun set. This mini castle is a Gothic folly, built in 1799 and used as a countryside retreat by designer William Morris. It’s the second highest spot in the Cotswolds, and on a clear day you can see as far as Wales. Then carry on into the village of Broadway for dinner in the wood-panelled dining room at The Lygon Arms.*
The following morning, make an early start to avoid the crowds in Bourton-on-the-Water, four miles south of Stow. The ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ is regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, so it’s no surprise it’s one of the area’s most popular spots.
Grab a coffee and croissant from the Bakery on the Water before crossing the bridges over the River Windrush and exploring Bourton in miniature at the Model Village, a one-ninth scale replica. Then head to the nearby twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter.
The villages get their less-than-appealing name from an old English word for muddy or boggy place rather than anything more sinister! Park in Lower Slaughter and follow the shallow River Eye past chocolate-box country cottages draped in flowers to The Old Mill. There’s been a mill here since the Domesday Book, and it’s now museum and craft shop.
Carry on past the mill and pick up the path for the mile-long walk to Upper Slaughter, along the riverside and across open fields. Once you get there, take a look around St Peter’s Church and watch cars braving the ford across the river. Or call in to the grand Lords of the Manor* hotel for a Pimms on the terrace and a walk around their gardens on a sunny day.
Then travel a few miles east to Daylesford for lunch. This ultra-trendy farm shop slash café is a favourite with the Cotswolds celebrity crowd. They specialise in organic, sustainable produce, growing their own fruit, vegetables and herbs as well as having a creamery and butchers on site. You can pick up bread, cheese and deli produce for a picnic, or eat in at the café, with vegetable tarts and salads fresh from the garden on the menu.
After lunch, drive 20 miles south to the village of Bibury, just north of Cirencester. There are a few different ways you can take get there, but the most scenic route is along the B4425 which passes through a string of tiny villages called the Rissingtons and the Barringtons.
Bibury was once a mill town on the banks of the River Coln, surrounded by water meadows. Now it’s one of the most famous Cotswold villages and has starred in films like Stardust and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Head to Arlington Row – a row of 17th-century weaver’s cottages so typically English they even appear on the inside cover of UK passports. They’re now owned by the National Trust so you can’t go inside, but it’s a great spot for photographs.
Then travel east to Burford (10 miles) at the south edge of the Cotswolds for the rest of the afternoon. The town of Burford was another centre of the medieval wool trade, and if you walk up to the top of the High Street you can look out over its historic buildings to the River Windrush. Burford’s got lots of interesting independent shops to explore, and you can satisfy any sugar cravings with a sticky caramelised lardy cake at Huffkins Bakery.
Finish your day with dinner in Kingham, five miles east of Stow. This small village is an unexpected Cotswold foodie hotspot, with two award-winning gastropubs to choose from. There’s the Michelin-starred Wild Rabbit – part of the Daylesford estate – or the more traditional-style Kingham Plough with its antique furniture and cosy log fires.