All the ingredients for a long, luxury weekend away
The Cotswolds has it all: thatched cottages, ancient manor houses, fabulous restaurants, ultra-luxury hotels and chocolate-box villages. But where do you begin? And how can you savour every last bite of this special destination, while avoiding the camera-wielding coach parties? To help you get the maximum enjoyment from your winter mini-break in the Cotswolds, we’ve assembled a tasting menu of things to see and do.
If the first bite is with the eyes, the Cotswolds is hard to resist. An ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, it’s dotted with gorgeous buildings that will have you scrolling through property listings at every turn. As a little amuse-bouche, start your visit with a gentle walk around Broadway (or climb up to the 18th-century folly, Broadway Tower) finishing with a pint of the local ale in the Horse & Hound. In fact, there are lots of lovely short walks across the area or, if you fancy a serious challenge, take to the Cotswold Way. This epic trail covers over 100 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath.
For the main course
Appetite whetted, now it’s time to get stuck into something a bit more substantial. And no trip to the area would be complete without visiting one of the many famous villages – take your pick from Bibury, Broadway, Kingham, Castle Combe, Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water and more.
First-time visitors to Bibury and Castle Combe may be struck by a sense of déjà vu. Both villages are popular filming locations and have featured in Hollywood movies such as War Horse and Stardust. In fact, if you’re a film buff, the whole area is teeming with beautiful locations for everything from Harry Potter to Bridget Jones’ Diary.
When in Bibury, don't miss the 14th-century cottages of Arlington Row. Or, for something a little different, pop into the Bibury Trout Farm where you can ‘catch your own’ – or just stock up on local delicacies and fine wines.
Time your visit right and you may catch one of the more outlandish village events. There’s the Bibury Duck Race, the Tetbury Wacky Races, Shin-kicking at the Cotswold Olimpicks and (probably most famous of all) the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling. Of course, if you prefer rocking out to Morris dancing, head to Alex James’ place at the end of August. In 2016 the former Blur bassist’s festival – the Big Feastival – played host to The Kaiser Chiefs, Tinie Tempah and Mark Ronson, plus some of the country’s finest chefs.
To accompany your trip, we’d recommend something a bit different. And the Cotswolds has its fair share of quirky museums and hidden delights. Rail enthusiasts – and kids – will love the Bourton Model Railway. If you’re interested in music (and who isn’t?) then head to the Mechanical Music Museum in Northleach – it’s a treasure-trove of music boxes and self-playing instruments.
As winter gives way to spring, the Cotswolds is also home to some of the country’s best gardens. Look out for snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses, as well as 16,000 varieties of tree, at Westonbirt Arboretum – now boasting a treetop walkway to give you a fresh perspective on the woodlands. Or explore the classic country house: Snowshill Manor. The house and gardens are an Arts and Crafts delight – just remember that they’re closed until the end of March.
And to finish
To us, the best way to finish is with something indulgent, reviving and a little bit decadent. And a spa treatment at Dormy House Hotel ticks all the boxes. This luxury spa offers a whole host of delicious treatments, as well as an infinity pool and nail parlour. Anyone for seconds?