As the name Cotswolds itself suggests, meaning "sheep pens" and "open hills”, imagine a landscape of honey-colored stone-walled houses with sloping roofs, winding lanes and ancient Gothic churches. All surrounded by the lush greenery of a vast, rolling and peaceful area where nature, human beings and animals live in peace together like in a mythic Eden. Sheeps, cows and even red deers appear at dusk for a little companionship.
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The Cotswolds are perfect in early August if you are looking for sunnier weather, but autumn also has its charms as the colors change to reds, oranges and everything is adorned with eye-catching foliage.
Your adventure begins with a flight into Bristol, the most convenient airport, and then with renting a car (a must, given the itinerant nature of the trip.) The first destination promises an idyllic afternoon. Reach the village of Bibury an authentic postcard landscape starting from the closest Arlington Row, where charming ducks and weeping willows adorn the scenery. It feels like stepping into a Monet painting, bathed in the warm embrace of the sun. Nearby, you can relax at The Swan Hotel, where cottages seem to float on a miniature island, surrounded by water. Continue the stroll until you reach St. Mary’s Church.
To have lunch, the best choice is at Ox Barn, restaurant of the Hotel Thyme: it is like stepping into a charming village, where the atmosphere is calm and relaxed. Each room scatters amidst lush greenery and is featured with very British floral-patterned wallpaper. Guests could unwind by the pool or take leisurely strolls. Care is guaranteed, from little gifts to a thoughtful welcome kit in the room, complete with bottles of signature Negroni cocktail, biscuits, and snacks.
If you want another option to eat, check in at Barnsley House, hidden in a true oasis for the senses. Here you can taste light dishes with handpicked ingredients from the garden and relax outside in the inspiring surroundings of the house.
To have dinner, just outside the hotel, there is always The Swan at Southrop or alternatively, drive to Brodway Tower. Emerging from a parkland on Beacon Hill, this iconic landmark is on top of the beautiful Cotswolds escarpment. Lucky ones will find the tower open for exhibits and as the sun dips below the horizon, deer begin to appear at the golden hour. They are remarkably quiet, providing a touch of serendipity to the journey. It’s here where you can savor a classic English fare at the Ebrington Arms, a rustic pub with wooden tables, no tablecloths, a cozy fireplace, and the ionic main of fish & chips.
Other tips for a perfect stay in the Cotswolds are The Rectory Hotel and Painswick. They are not so far from Bibury and both offer a peaceful atmosphere. You can hear the birds chirping and have breakfast by the pool in the lavish garden surrounding the houses.
Just a few steps away from The Rectory Hotel you’ll find the old residence of King Charles. As a young man he spent his youth days at Highgrove exploring the territory and the gardens, thus demonstrating a particular attention to sustainability at a very young age; so this is a must for those who pass by. At least to have a nice stroll around the beautiful gardens.
Another day another wonder. Wake up in nature and wear your best shoes to visit the tiny streets and hills of Chipping Camden and Broad Camden, nice stops for beautiful shots and memories. Between a slope and another, turn your back to admire the landscape, unfolded with a hillside adorned with cottages and trees, offering panoramic views. The village below bustled with quaint shops, restaurants, and unique homes with particular decorative statues.
According to legend, if you visit the village of Moreton in Marsh you can dine at the Bell In, the place where even Tolkien used to restore.
Between Moreton in Marsh and Bourton On The Water there is another popular destination for resting and this is the Soho Farmhouse, one of the properties conceived by the notorious member club. Here you can sleep, find a new balance in a Cowshed spa, try the Lazy Lake outdoor experience and choose among a wide selection of activities such as horse riding on the hills of Oxfordshire.
Then you arrive at the Stow On The Wold, a pretty old market town known for its wool fair and independent antique shops. A very well worth a visit is the St Edward's Church. Enter its wooden magical portals framed by two ancient yew trees. Note the church pillows that are perfectly hand-embroidered. Looks more like a portal to a fairy realm than a church entrance.
To restore your belly, here a traditional launch tip: the Porch House, a classic English pub with a bright veranda.
For traditional afternoon tea, step into Lucy’s Tea room and sip your hot beverage in the garden while sitting comfortably on white wrought-iron decorated chairs. Your taste buds will have a chance to sample the variety of apple pies and sweet and savory snacks perfectly served on three-tiered cake displays.
A super immersive experience can be found also entering Daylesford, not far from Stow On The Wold. This place is an organic farm, a hotel village adorned with fancy traditional cottages where a lot of events and workshops are planned for guests. Moreover, the location is full of restaurants and The Wild Rabbit is more than recommended among them all. Here you can dine in a cottage perfectly arranged with a dressing cloth, and savoring locally sourced ingredients.
Now it’s time to lose yourself among the canals of Lower Slaughter, enveloped by trees and charming cottages, evoking a fairy-tale landscape, and explore Bourton on the Water with its iconic bridges.
Not to be missed is also The Bell in Langford, a white house at the heart of the village, offered wooden tables and soft lighting, serving minimalist yet meticulously crafted English cuisine. Don’t forget to taste the remarkable chocolate cake.
The Cotswolds are known for their stunning churches and hidden cloisters, as the gem of Malmesbury Abbey where to feel history comes to life. The same happens visiting Castle Combe, a typical village of the area that will bring you back in the past, or in a fairytale.
But the milestone for cinephiles is Lacock. Meandered down a road lined with cottages, culminating in a bridge that provides a breathtaking view of the path traveled, Lacock is a haven for cinema and TV enthusiasts, housing the cloister where scenes from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" were filmed. Don’t worry, visitors are provided with a map highlighting all the film locations. You can study the itinerary while sitting at The George Inn pub for a special beer.
Such a busy day cannot be ended on a high note except with a long hot bath at The Double Red Duke. At the hotel you can also dine or hang out with the young crowd in the evening. It's a true pub experience, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, and on sunny days, tables spill outside. Remember to ask for the Sunday Roast, a tradition that cannot be missed while in the countryside.
Not far from The Double Red Duke there is Kelmscott Manor, site of the National Trust and home of William Morris, Father of The Arts & Crafts Movement. Here you can also have tea at 5pm in one of the refined tearooms or in the garden.
Include then a drive to Snowshill, where another house welcomes all the guests in a true masterpiece of art installations. The Snowshill Manor belonged to the eccentric Charles Wade who was a passionate art collectionner. Here you can also admire a typical English cemetery with small graves in the middle of the floral garden close to the Church.
Another tip here is dedicated to the cinema of Day 3: look for the phone booth, guess what color, that appears in the film Bridget Jones'.
End your Cotswolds experience at Cowley Manor Experimental for an afternoon tea in the cozy living room next to a stunning open fire while playing chess or other board games. Wait for late night to taste their excellent cocktails and early morning to experiment the C-side spa of this amazing countryside hotel.
And just for those who will come from June to August a mandatory stop is to immerse in the lilac palette of Cotswolds Lavender fields. Breath the air catching the flower fragrances and bring it with you while back home.
The Cotswolds are absolutely the perfect choice for a weekend break in the UK and live an absolute and unforgettable fairytale.
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