Gloriously golden villages, cosy pub lunches and sweet cream teas: what is not to love about the Cotswolds? The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in south central England, about a two-hour drive away from London, and covers five counties: Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. It is a popular tourist destination and has been featured in quite a few films, for example Bridget Jones’s Diary, Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice.
And I can understand why: all the quaint villages we visited in the Cotswolds seemed so truly English to me with their honey-coloured stone cottages, evocative churches in the centre of the village and tea rooms and antique shops around every corner. The houses get their golden look from the Cotswold stone, a yellow Jurassic limestone that tints from more orangey (north) to white (south).
Accommodation in the Cotswolds
Every season has its own appeal but if you want to save some money on accommodation visit the Cotswolds in winter. We made a good bargain through the website Holidaypirates where I found an offer by the 4 Star Hotel De Vere Cotswold Water Park in Cirencester. We had a massive apartment with separate bedroom, kitchenette and balcony with view across the lake and only paid £72.50 a night. It’s normally quite rare to find a nice double room for under £90 in the Cotswolds, especially in summer.
Villages to visit in the Cotswolds
Our trip mainly consisted of driving from village to village, marvelling at all these golden cottages and mansions, taking lots of pictures and enjoying some good food. I think that’s what most people do when they visit the Cotswolds.
This is a small market town in the northern part of the Cotswolds. The most impressive part is probably the big market square with independent shops, antique centres, art galleries and cosy cafes. There are so many cars in Stow-on-the-Wold that I found it quite hard to take decent photos though.
Also called the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ because of its little bridges across the river Windrush, Bourton-on-the-Water is a must-see on a tour through the Cotswolds. There is a model village with a 1/9th scale replica of the centre of the village, a Motoring Museum and the Birdland Park and Gardens, so it’s a nice place to visit for the whole family.
I had seen so many photos of Castle Combe on Instagram that I really wanted to go and visit this picturesque village. It is very pretty indeed but there is not much to do really. We walked around the Manor House, a 5 Star country house hotel which used to be the site of an old Norman castle settlement. Castle Combe also has a Market Cross and a church which dates from the 13th century.
Not far away from Castle Combe you can find Lacock Village and Abbey, a country house with monastic roots, once home to William Henry Fox Talbot. Lacock is a quintessential English village with timber-framed cottages that haven’t been touched by modern alterations. That’s why it’s very popular with film and TV producers. The village’s most famous appearances include ‘Downton Abbey’, the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Cranford’, and the films ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’.
We also had a really nice pub lunch at the Sign of the Angel – so cosy with exposed timber beams and an open fire place!
The most famous street in Bibury is probably Arlington Row with its weavers’ cottages from the 17th century, converted from a monastic wool store in the 14th century. The picturesque stone cottages of Arlington Row are an iconic backdrop for photographs – they even appear on the inside cover of UK passports! Being such a charming, typically Cotswold village it is a major visitor attraction in this area.
The last stop on our tour was Burford, also referred to as the southern gateway to the Cotswolds. Having changed little over time, Burford is known for its beauty and history but also for its shopping, especially antiques. Apart from the High Street, that slopes down to the river Windrush, there are also many quaint side streets waiting to be explored.
We had cream tea at Huffkins, a family run Cotswold bakery and tearoom established in 1890. I think I’ve had the best scones ever there! Tea rooms can be found everywhere in the Cotswolds, it’s what makes this area even more typically English.
There are many more villages to explore in the Cotswolds, for example Broadway, Chipping Camden or Upper and Lower Slaughter. I think that three or four days are plenty of time to explore the area as most towns are quite small. I would recommend going there by car as public transport is not that reliable on the English countryside and having a car also gives you much more flexibility.
Have you ever been to the Cotswolds? Where did you visit? Post it in the comments, I’d love to know.
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