The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sprawls across 800 square miles of pristine English countryside made up of picturesque undulating hills and lush meadows. Nestled amid this gorgeous landscape are charming honey-hued villages, beautiful gardens, castles, country houses and Roman ruins. The Cotswolds is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway and longer vacations for that matter. While we don’t expect you to see everything in 48 hours, we hope that this guide will help you get the most out of your visit.
Morning – Chipping Camden
Just a 10-minute drive up the road from us at The Broadway Hotel is one of the Cotswold’s archetypal market towns. Chipping Camden dazzles with a high street lined with elegant terraced houses, some of which date back to the 1300s. Spend time browsing the independent boutiques, galleries and gift shops and stop to appreciate the 400-year-old, National Trust-owned Market Hall. Feeling energetic? You can reach the town on an 11-mile loop trail that follows the Cotswold Way from Broadway.
Afternoon – Hidcote and Kiftsgate Court Gardens
After lunch, head to the 20th-century Hidcote Manor and gardens. Master British gardener Lawrence Johnston created a series of formal outdoor rooms here inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. It’s a joy to wander narrow pathways passed floral species collected by Johnston from as a faraway as Australia and China. Nearby Kiftsgate Court Gardens is a showcase of the talents of three women gardeners. Among its highlights are the bluebell wood and fragrant rose border. Don’t miss the jaw-dropping views that reach toward the Malvern Hills from the rear of the garden.
Evening – Broadway
Return to Broadway in time to peruse the antique shops and art galleries on the High Street. Art enthusiast should make a point to see what’s on at the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery and Gordon Russell Design Museum. Summertime, when the sun shines until late into the evening, is an ideal season to explore the hilltop Broadway Tower. Pick up some takeaway treats at the town’s bakeries and tearooms and indulge in a sunset picnic on the lawns of the tower’s 50-acre estate and deer park.
Morning – Bourton-on-the-Water
Travel to Bourton-on-the-Water for another morning of quaint and quintessential Cotswolds lifestyle. The Venice of the Cotswolds rests on the banks of the gently flowing River Windrush, which is crossed by attractive stone bridges — little surprise that its often voted as the prettiest village in the region. Bourton has activities in abundance for both the active and easygoing visitor. There’s the excellent Birdland Park and Gardens, the Cotswold Motoring Museum and The Model Village. Otherwise, simply watch the world go by from the riverside gardens and at a waterfront pub or tearoom.
Afternoon – Sudeley Castle
Did you know that the region has royal connections that are traceable to the 11th century? Sudeley Castle stands surrounded by the emerald Cotswold Hills at the edge of Winchcombe. It has played host to esteemed guests such as King Richard III and Katherine Parr. The castle’s 10 gardens, royal exhibition rooms, pheasantry and adventure playground make it a great place for all ages. If time allows then add the neolithic Belas Knap Long Barrow and Hailes Abbey to your Winchcombe itinerary.
Evening – Cheltenham
Round out your whirlwind Cotswolds tour in Cheltenham, the lively spa town located in the shadow of Cleeve Hill. There are shops, pubs and restaurants galore to discover in the town centre and the upmarket Montpellier district. Cheltenham tops the list for live entertainment in the Cotswolds. Catch performing arts shows at the Cheltenham Playhouse, Cheltenham Town Hall and Everyman Theatre. The Cheltenham Festivals brings family-friendly entertainment to the town, too With events dedicated to jazz, science, music and literature, there’s something for most tastes.
When To Go
The Cotswolds is a true year-round destination with each season bringing its own magic. Drop by in spring when the gardens are in full bloom and wild bluebells and daffodils begin to appear. Summer is bathed in a romantic light and encourages long walks and evenings sat in pub gardens. Things slow down in autumn but this is also when the arboretums, forests and woods showcase their beguiling leaf colour. The winter months invite visitors to cosy up around log fires and relish in the delights of cute Christmas markets.