While away a weekend in the golden-stone villages of rural south central England and enjoy rolling countryside, traditional tearooms and even meet childhood favourite Brum!
If you were to ask an overseas friend or relative to describe rural England, I guarantee that they would fairly accurately describe the Cotswolds. Rolling hills as far as you can see blotted with quaint and cosy villages, picturesque single carriageway roads and bridleways, and charming old-world pubs and tea rooms.
At almost 800 square miles, and spanning five different English counties, there’s no issue finding somewhere to stay. Normally I’d say the difficulty is choosing where – but you really can’t go wrong, and picking one area over another just gives you an excuse to return and explore a different area. Classic B&Bs, country cottages, luxurious hotels or beautiful campsites are all aplenty depending on the type of break you desire.
We opted to stay in a cosy cottage just outside the village of Bourton-on-the-Water (even the name itself adding to the character). Ready to go with logs for the fire and stocked with the necessities to get us through our weekend break, this spacious and well-located property cost us less than £30 a night each between four – not bad for experiencing a taste of ‘how the other half live’. While there were plenty of cheaper accommodation options, we thought this worked out as great value to get the full rural escape experience we were looking for.
Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as ‘The Little Venice of the Cotswolds’ is one of the area’s most popular locations so do be aware that even when we visited in April it was still quite busy. (Shoulder seasons are definitely the time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds; I’d imagine the slightly crisp air of Autumn would be perfect, and can definitely vouch for spring!) Here you can relax and totally lose track of time as you amble over the little bridges and along the paths through the village, popping into an antiques shop, stopping off at a tea room or grabbing an ice cream as you go.
Here you can also visit some of the top attractions. The Model Village is a great first port of call as it is an exact replica of the current village – we found it really helped us to get our bearings and plan the rest of the day whilst also being cute and enjoyable. It’s also only £3.50 a ticket too – bargain! The best for me had to be the Cotswold Motoring Museum however. This small (from the outside) and unassuming exterior is home to over 50 different vehicles and offers a fascinating journey through the history of 20th century motoring. With thousand’s of items of memorabilia surrounding the vehicles too, this one will be enjoyed by both car enthusiasts and those less enthusiastic alike, not least because it’s home to, and of course the filming location of, everyone’s favourite childhood classic car – Brum!
A trip to the Cotswolds is also about embracing rural England and getting in touch with nature. Walkers will love the sheer volume of walks available – 3,000 miles of footpaths in fact! One such walk is the Leckhampton Loop which makes up part of the Cotswold Way route. This circular walk is actually one of the most varied routes in the Cotswolds, taking you on a five mile loop through luscious grassland and wondrous woodlands as well as taking you to the remains of an iron-age hill fort from which you can enjoy outstanding views across Cheltenham and beyond. From here you can also detour to the iconic rock formation known as Devil’s Chimney – helping to characterise the area’s quarrying past.
After a busy day, find one of the many country pubs and enjoy the fruits of the vast harvest that the Cotswolds enjoys. Local cheeses, meats and traditional beverages adorn the ever-changing menus to reflect what is in season and the draw of a roaring fire adds the perfect ambience to round off your day.
Planning on visiting the Cotswolds? Find out more information at www.cotswolds.com
Words: Jake Tucker