4 Different Ways To Visit The Cotswolds
Written by Jaillan Yehia
The Cotswolds is a stunning section of rural English countryside spread across the counties of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, and covering perhaps the prettiest 800 square miles of Southwestern England.
If you draw a circle around the tourist-friendly hubs of Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bristol and Bath – and the Welsh borders – the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that lies within the circle is essentially the Cotswolds.
So what makes this famed area so special to Brits and overseas visitors alike? Well there’s a combination of factors which makes the Cotswolds perfect for a short break – firstly the quintessentially English feel of the charming towns and villages, with stone cottages and quaint pubs, all set against the rolling hills of England’s green and pleasant land.
Add in the feeling of truly getting away from it all combined with the variety of activities on offer and throw in the fact that the Cotswolds is within a reasonable distance of London and you have the perfect weekend getaway.
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Now you just have to decide which of these ways to visit the Cotswolds is right for you.
1. Keep It Classic: Visit A Stately Home or Garden
A visit to the English countryside wouldn’t be complete without a day out at a National Trust (or English Heritage) property, and a lovely way to dip your toe into the Cotswolds is to use a visit to one of the National Trust’s Cotswolds locations as the focus of your foray into this part of Britain.
There’s plenty of inspiration around, including Stowe House as well as the perfectly preserved village of Lacock, and while it’s not an NT site the National Arboretum at Westonbirt is a beautiful place to explore England’s natural beauty, particularly in the Autumn when the colours of the foliage you’ll spot all over the Cotswolds will really make the visit worthwhile.
There are also plenty of independent homes and gardens open to the public from The Prince of Wales’ Highgrove to Blenheim Palace; probably the most famous stately home in the country.
2. Talk About Trendy: Stay At Soho Farmhouse
If you like your countryside served with a side of order of glamour, then holing up at Soho House’s first ever resort property is probably the perfect way to see the Cotswolds without compromising your style.
You can spot all the pretty brickwork and country lanes on your way to the 100-acre site near Chipping Norton, then spoil yourself with everything you could wish for on a mini-break on arrival: there’s the outdoor pool and spa, a deli, farmland, yurts, a bar and restaurant, and even a mobile cocktail car to bring the fun right to your room at sundown – and another one to bring you eggs in the morning when you’re nursing the hangover.
If you’re into luxury accommodation but don’t fancy rubbing shoulders with others, even if they are trendy media types up from London, then another option is renting a log house and enjoying a Cotswolds log cabin holiday.
Make It Easy: Take An Organised Cotswolds Tour
If you don’t drive (or don’t want to – and with all those country pubs who can blame you!) you can find tours to the Cotswolds which will show you all the highlights. One of the best things about seeing the Cotswolds this way is that it leaves your hands free to instagram the stunning scenes you’ll see along the way.
Tours often combine big hitters like Oxford, Bath and the Downton Abbey locations with the most historic and picturesque Cotswolds villages, like Bourton-on-the-Water, Witney and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Day or overnight trips usually throw in a pub lunch, as well as giving you the services of a guide who can answer all your questions about the area so if you don’t fancy doing all the research yourself, this is one of the easiest ways to visit the Cotswolds.
Find A Shortcut: Go To The Cotswolds Without Really Going to the Cotswolds
If you’re travelling from London or south of the city and want to feast your eyes on some Cotswolds style locations but are super short on time, there is a way to cheat. The Surrey village of Shere near Guildford, has been known to stand in for the Cotswolds in films – as cast members are often based in London it can be easier to film there and it’s just as cute.
Probably the most famous Cotswolds film of recent years, The Holiday, was set in the Oxfordshire village of Cornwell, near Chipping Norton, but certain scenes were filmed in Shere – do you recognise this church from both The Holiday and Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason?
If you’re hoping to see the other famous Cotswolds filming locations – and follow in the footsteps of Downton Abbey – you’ll need to go to the real Cotswolds though: well, it’s a difficult job, but someone’s gotta do it!
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