The Complete Guide to The Cotswolds

J B Priestley described the region that covers Oxfordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire as "the most English of all our countrysides". Rhiannon Batten explores the many charms of the Cotswolds' rolling hills and honey-coloured stone



You mean apart from the rolling green hills, honey-hued limestone walls, rose-covered cottages and babbling streams? The Cotswolds, a region stretching roughly from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south, and covering the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However, things have moved on since 1933 when J B Priestley described the Cotswolds as "the most English and the least spoiled of all our countrysides". The scenery may still be more quintessentially English than a box of Quality Street, but if you know where to look, there are plenty of other attractions to tempt you, from hi-tech museums to some of the hippest hotels in the country. There are practical reasons, too, why the Cotswolds is such a popular area. Unlike other English holiday-destination favourites, such as Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District, it's fairly centrally located. What's more, the region is also surrounded by a circle of ancient towns - including Oxford, Gloucester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Bristol and Cheltenham - any of which make sensible sightseeing points along the way.

Events worth timing your travel for include the Longborough Festival Opera, 18 June to 31 July; the Cotswold Show and Country Fair, 10 and 11 July; and the autumn colours at Westonbirt arboretum.


With some history. As you'd expect for a region that incorporates the ancient Fosse Way, there are some excellent Roman attractions in the Cotswolds. Chedworth Roman Villa at Yanworth is particularly good for children, with several fourth-century mosaics and an excavated hypocaust on display. It is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; entrance is £4.10 for adults, £2 for children (01242 890256; There is also excitement about the revamped Corinium Museum in Cirencester, which is set to reopen in September (01285 655611; More recent history can be seen in the churches at Fairford, Cirencester, Northleach and Chipping Campden, all of which elegantly highlight the one-time wealth of the wool trade in the area.


Try the ghoulish shape of Woodchester mansion, near Stroud. The building was abandoned, semi-finished, in 1870 and is now a romantically Gothic home for rare bats. It is currently open to visitors on the first weekend of the month, but opens every weekend in July and August. Entrance is £5 for adults, free for children (01453 861541; William Morris fans should also make a detour to Kelmscott Manor, his one-time country home, now run by the Society of Antiquaries. The interior boasts a fantastic display of Morris designs, but it's only open on Wednesdays and some Saturdays (entrance £8.50; 01367 252486;

Other interesting historic buildings include the Arts and Crafts showpiece Rodmarton Manor, open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and bank holidays until the end of August, entrance £7 (01285 841253; Or there's Tudor-style Owlpen Manor, near Uley, open daily except Mondays, 2-5pm, entrance £4.80 (01453 860261; Owlpen also has some stylish self-catering cottages available.


Pack some wellies. Not because of the weather - the Cotswolds gets more than its fair share of England's sunshine - but because many of the local attractions involve water. The Cotswold Water Park in Shorncote, near Cirencester, is Britain's largest, with 133 lakes to paddle across, picnic next to or walk or cycle around, and two neighbouring country parks to explore. There are various sections of park, but most are roughly open from 9am to 5pm daily. Entrance is free but you usually pay for car parking and for activities (01285 862962;

Then there are the Cotswold Canals - the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames and Severn canal. These are currently being restored with the aim of eventually linking up the two rivers. The project won't be finished for years, but, in the meantime, the Cotswold Canals Trust runs occasional boat trips on sections of the canal that are in water, when possible. For more information, visit


Head to Cotswold Wildlife Park, just outside Burford. Here you will see everything from meerkats to spider monkeys clambering through the graceful grounds of an old manor house. Open daily, 10am-4.30pm, entrance is £8 for adults, £5.50 for children (01993 823006; If you're more of a twitcher, there are over 500 species of birds on display at Birdland park and gardens in Bourton-on-the-Water. Open daily, 10am-6pm, entrance is £4.85 for adults, £2.85 for children (01451 820480). Or, there's Prinknash bird and deer park, run by Benedictine monks from nearby Prinknash Abbey, which has been designed as an 18th-century park. Open 10am-5pm daily, entrance is £4 for adults, £2.50 for children (01452 812727;


There are some magnificent gardens open to the public in the Cotswolds. Hidcote Manor Garden, at Chipping Campden, is a stunning Arts and Crafts garden, open daily except Thursdays and Fridays, 10.30am-6pm, entrance is £6.20 for adults, £3.10 for children (01386 438333; The fabulous Westonbirt national arboretum further south is open daily, 10am-8pm, entrance £6 adults, £1 children five-15 (01666 880220; However, there are plenty of others worth visiting, including Sudeley Castle's organic garden, open 10.30am-5.30pm daily, £5.50 for adults, £3.25 for children aged five-15 (01242 602308;; Painswick Rococo Garden, open daily 11am-5pm, £4 for adults, and £2 for children (01452 813204;; and organically run Snowshill Manor Gardens, open Wednesdays to Sundays 11am-5.30pm, entrance £3.80 (01386 852410; A good source of information on local gardens is


There's no shortage of good restaurants, but one of the most eccentric gastronomic experiences you can have here involves The Pudding Club. This was started at Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton, near Chipping Campden, 20-odd years ago with the idea of protecting good old marmalade pudding and spotted dick from an onslaught of synthetic, frozen stand-ins such as Black Forest gateau and strawberry cheesecake. You can come here just for lunch or dinner, but if you think you may need to sleep off your excesses, the hotel has pudding-themed rooms from £115, including breakfast (01386 438429;


One thing the Cotswolds has always done well is luxury boltholes. One of the most famous in the south of the region is Lucknam Park, just outside Bath. A listed Palladian mansion, it boasts the kind of sweeping driveway usually only seen in TV period dramas, a chef with so much Michelin-starred experience that the kitchen is virtually glowing, and its own spa and stables. However, it still manages to feel homely - albeit the kind of home that costs from £225 a night (01225 742777; Another classic Cotswolds hotel of long-standing is the Lygon Arms in Broadway, which has doubles from £179 with breakfast (01386 852255;

However, more recently there has been a quiet revolution in the region's hotels, with newcomers shunning silk upholstery and opulent marble bathrooms in favour of the kind of pared-down, glammed- up style better suited to well-heeled thirtysomethings in search of urban amenities in a country setting. The trend started with Cowley Manor, established by a couple of Oxford academics as a way of realising their dream hotel, which offers a laid-back atmosphere but hi-tech service, from £220 per night, including breakfast, in the village of Cowley (01242 870900; It also has one of the best spas in the area, C-Side, with a sleek, slate-walled indoor pool, and another outside.

Other more modern hotels include Barnsley Manor, in Barnsley, which has rooms from £260 per night, including breakfast, where Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin stayed on a recent visit to the Cotswolds (01285 740000; It features on Condé Nast Traveller's 2004 Hot List, and was once home to the doyenne of 20th-century English gardeners, Rosemary Verey. The garden is regularly open to the public. However, the ultra-modern hotel interior is likely to come as a surprise to lovers of the more traditional garden.


Across the road from Barnsley Manor, and owned by the same people, is a great little Cotswolds hideaway, The Village Pub. A gastropub with six rooms upstairs (doubles from £95, including breakfast), this is Liz Hurley's local and, connections apart, tends to get booked up (01285 740421; Anther good gastropub with rooms is the Howard Arms in Ilmington, on the northern edge of the Cotswolds, which has doubles from £90, including breakfast (01608 682226; Or, for a list of hotels and B&Bs in picturesque stone cottages, contact the tourist board for a free Welcome to the Cotswolds brochure (01285 623545;


Take your pick. Moreton-in-Marsh is where the upmarket UK rental agency Rural Retreats is based, and it offers several local properties. Prices start at around £170 for two nights for a two-person cottage (01386 701177; Other letting companies with relevant properties include Discover the Cotswolds (01386 841441; and Cottage In The Country (01993 831743;


It helps to have a car, especially if you want to get to some of the more remote villages or just venture off the beaten track. For days out, the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Railway runs occasional trips on historic trains along its 10 or so miles of track for around £9 return (01242 621405; For public transport information, call 0870 608 2608 or visit There is also a "Lion" hop-on, hop-off bus, which takes a circular route around attractions in the north Cotswolds, from and to Gloucester, on summer Saturdays and Sundays, and costs £3 (01451 862000; There are also several cycle routes through the region, including a 12-mile circuit around the Cotswold Water Park. If you intend to do quite a bit of cycling, it is also worth getting hold of Gloucestershire Rural Transport Partnership's foldaway cycle maps, available from tourist information centres, or from


This is ideal walking country, and there are plenty of well-signed footpaths if you fancy a stroll. There are also several long-distance footpaths that cross the Cotswolds, including the Cotswold Way, which runs from Chipping Campden to Bath; the Oxfordshire Way, from Bourton-on-the-Water to Henley; and the Macmillan Way, from Dorset to Lincolnshire via the Cotswolds. Local long-distance routes include the Wysis Way and the Wardens' and Windrush Way. Details from the relevant tourist information centres. Companies offering organised walking holidays, some with luggage-carrying options, include the Pudding Club (01386 438429;; Contours Walking Holidays (01768 867539,; and Cotswold Walking Holidays (01242 254353;


There are various websites on the Cotswolds, including the excellent, and the official tourist information site (01452 425673; Local tourist information centres include Bourton-on-the-Water (01451 820211); Chipping Campden (01386 841206); Cirencester (01285 654180); Moreton-in-Marsh (01608 650881); Stow-on-the-Wold (01451 831082); and Tetbury (01666 503552). Most are currently open daily from 10am-5.30pm.




The ultimate Cotswold village, and one of the grandest, Broadway's busy and beautiful main street is almost always chocka with people popping out of tea shops, stopping to buy an expensive hat or just admiring the old stone.


Set on a slope and, like Broadway, boasting expensive boutiques, antique shops and posh pubs, this village is one of the busiest Cotswold destinations. Its impressive church was one of the most obvious to benefit from the wool trade - and, in 1649 was used as an impromptu prison for around 300 Levellers.


Described by William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England" and set, admittedly prettily, along the river Coln, Bibury's residents must be ruing the day this remark was made - it's now sometimes hard to navigate a path through the crowds.


One of the most popular villages in the area, you can get a good overview of Bourton-on-the-Water from its Model Village, which was built of Cotswold stone in the 1930s, but to a 1:9 scale (open 9am-5.45pm daily, entrance £2.75; 01451 820467).



One of the most unusual villages in the Cotswolds, with neat little rows of cottages, the Sherborne Estate was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1983 and, as well as the house, the Trust now owns much of the neighbouring village - including its quaint post office and shop.


Set on two sides of a grassy dip with the river Windrush running down the middle, the scenery in Little Barrington and Great Barrington is more windswept than your average Cotswold village, but no less impressive - and filled with battalions of mums in outdoor gear.


The main attraction in this quiet south Cotswolds village is the simple 18th-century church of St Lawrence. Its dignified whitewashed walls and pale-green painted pews have recently been brought back into service.


Another village and another church, this time Norman. Elkstone is perfectly pretty in its own right but the church is well worth stopping for - the altar is set between graceful Norman arches and is lit by pale-gold light seeping through a small stained-glass window.


Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Brendan Rodgers is confident that Sterling will put pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...