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Ah the Cotswolds; one of the most beautiful regions of the UK. As England’s country garden, you’ll find the Cotswolds overflowing with postcard pretty villages, fields of wildflowers, thatched cottages and teashops galore. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes down to where to stay and what to see, but who could possibly be better to show you the best of the Cotswolds than the bloggers that live there!
As someone living on the edge of the Cotswolds I’ll start you off with my personal favourites, but some of my lovely friends from the Cotswolds Bloggers and Influencers have kindly shared their own local highlights, from country beauty and nature spots and through to gastronomic spa and market towns.
Bourton-on-the-Water and Minchinhampton Common
I’ve still got many of the Cotswolds towns and villages left to visit, but my favourite so far has to be Bourton-on-the-Water. Even though the main thoroughfare always seemed packed with tourists it never loses its country charm, thanks to the cute chocolate box houses and the gorgeous stream that travels through the village. In summer the ducks are joined by paddling kids and dogs trying to cool down and there’s some lovely spots for a sit down in the sun or to grab an ice cream.
I’ve still not visited Bourton’s model village, but almost every time I’ve gone up I’ve stopped off at Birdland, a beautiful animal park where you can see a huge range of birdlife, my favourite being Clyde the Cockatoo and the always hilarious penguins!
This animal lover also has a special spot in her heart for Minchinhampton Common. Why, you ask? Well during the summer months the local cows are given free-roam of the area to graze, so you can pop on over and enjoy a picnic surrounded by these beauties. Or, for those with a sweet tooth, you could always visit Winstone’s Ice Cream Factory, which is open all year round.
I made a new friend during my last visit there, when one of the beasts took a shining to my pair of Converse’s and kept trying to eat my shoelaces!
It must be frustrating for the locals who have to deal with 40mph speed limits across the entire area and cow-related traffic jams, but for me it’s bovine bliss!
I also love all the quirky stories I hear about the cows – from pensioners off-road racing with the cows through to this brilliant April Fool’s story about the cows being fitted for ‘Bovine Bras’. Oh and the cows even have their own Twitter account, so you can follow their adventures!
If I had to choose just one place in the Cotswolds to spend my time, it has to be Cotswold Lavender. The farm is located in Snowshill, near Broadway, and is one of my happy places.
The lavender fields are only open for a short time during the year, which makes it feel even more special. To get to them, you will have driven past fields of yellow and green, and then you are hit with the sight of the deep purple colour of the lavender flowers. But a visit is a delight for all the senses.
As you approach the rows of plants, you then notice the heady smell of lavender on the air and hear the soft hum of bees flying from flower to flower. You can then cross the road to their tearoom and enjoy a slice of lavender shortbread.
A visit here in July has become an annual tradition for my family. It is the perfect spot for taking photos of my girls playing amongst the lavender.
On a warm summer’s day there is no finer place to spend an hour. It is a beautiful, peaceful place to contemplate life, or revel in the pleasure of your senses.
Having moved all around the UK up until the age of 18, Cheltenham is the only place where I have ever really called home ¬– partly because I’ve actually settled there for more than a decade, but mainly because it feels like home and has done since pretty much the first time I visited the charming spa town.
There is something about Cheltenham that grabs people – possibly its European vibe with pretty streets dominated by Regency architecture and laid-back cafe culture, but also the numerous festivals which attract artistic people from not only around the country, but Europe and further afield.
You’d be hard pushed to find many weekends when there isn’t something happening, whether it be jazz, literature, music, food or art festivals, or picnics with live music in the parks – not to mention Cheltenham Racecourse where the famous Gold Cup is held every March.
I love that there are very distinct areas of the town where you will find quiet crescents of stunning Georgian buildings, the Suffolks with its village atmosphere, antiques and independent shops to tempt you, a host of beautifully manicured gardens all five minutes from the main shopping centres and a sprawling park with their lakes and the historic spa water Pump Room – plenty of places where you can escape the urban bustle and relax with views of the Cotswold hills behind.
Despite Cheltenham being a dynamic town, you are always only 10 minutes from open countryside and half an hour from beautiful Cotswold villages – so that, combined with its mass of culture, boutiques and abundance of unique bars and restaurants, makes me feel very lucky to call Cheltenham my home!
Why visit Tetbury? Not only is it a thriving market town built around its 17th Century Market Hall with a fine supply of beautiful historic buildings, but it also offers an array of shops and good eating spots.
Tetbury is well known for its antique shops – and man, are there a lot of them, each with their own individuality and quirky layout! You can spend hours investigating the treasures they contain. Thrown in are the boutique fashion shops that are home to individual fashion – one store had some rather snazzy sneakers that I am definitely going back to buy. Then there is the modern “shabby chic” lifestyle shops to get your sweet knickknacks from.
A surprising store in Tetbury is Artique. Walking through the doors is like stepping into Morocco with its fine rugs, blankets and styling. An added quirk has to be the snoring Boxer dog in the corner!
For eating out, you have pretty much everything from fish and chips, to pub grub to fine dining. A favourite of mine is Cafe53, great coffee and equally tasty food.
Not one for spending money? Then you can simply just browse the stores; enjoy exploring the number of amazing listed buildings, one of the tallest Church spires in the UK at St Mary’s Church and the historic cobbled Chipping Steps. Personally, I’m always pleased to see a wide selection of amazing cars parked along Long Street.
Visiting the first bank holiday in May? Then don’t miss the Wacky Races, Tetbury’s answer to soapbox racing, where cart racers trace a route around the town. Entry is free for all and is a full on day out for all the family!
Outside of Tetbury town itself you won’t be short on places to visit including Westonbirt Arboretum and have a picnic amongst the trees, or, why not arrange a tour of the Elizabethan Manor, Chavenage House – family home to the Lowsley-Williams’, although you may know it as the home of Aidan Turner’s Poldark!
If Stroud were a person, she’d be a vibrant sassy woman who knows her own mind and dresses how she wishes, You know, that one you always admire.
So why visit? Let me focus on food and drink. Can you remember back when there were no farmers’ markets? It’s not so long ago. The multi award-winning Stroud Farmers’ Market has just celebrated its 18th year and one of the pioneers who set it up, Gerb Gerbrands, is still in charge.
Visit on a Saturday and you’ll find around 40 stands featuring the finest food and drink in season. Buy and you’ll become firm fans and return as often as you can. There’s soft and alcoholic drinks, glorious cheeses, the freshest fruit and vegetables, (slightly) sinful doughnuts and cakes and flower stalls with plenty of street food for empty tummies.
Just around the corner is the Shambles, in one of the oldest areas of Stroud, with further stalls both inside and out including work from local artists as well as fresh produce on Fridays and Saturdays.
Throughout the week, shopping in Stroud provides the chance to visit many independent shops and cafes, many in the pedestrianised area. A great favourite is Made in Stroud where you can find gifts for sale created by local artists.
Stroud Brewery doesn’t just make great beer, it has committed to 100 per cent organic production – not an easy thing to do. Barley is from the surrounding Cotswold hills, and you can’t get much more local than that! Head to the brewery’s bar Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays and you’ll also get to enjoy wood-fired pizzas from Velo bakery.
I love the idea behind the Fruit Exchange. Should you have excess fruit and vegetables take them along to a participating restaurant, pub or cafe and you’ll receive a voucher to spend with them.
Other events to look out for include Stroud Open Studios, where you can discover local artists in their own workspace, and Stroud Festival holds many music, art, word, film and dance events throughout the year.
We have a phrase in our house: “Very Stroud”. Doing it the Stroud way is very entertaining!
Painswick is one of the Cotswolds’ quintessentially beautiful towns, but often gets left off the tourist trail. Why? Mainly because of geography. It is located outside the typical North Cotswolds’ triangle of Bourton, Stow and Moreton.
I think this in Painswick’s favour. This small town, built of mellow honey-coloured stone, quietly nestles into the Cotswold Hills. While it isn’t full of gift shops, it isn’t full of visitors either. But what it does have is historic buildings, lovely pubs and eateries, a spectacular churchyard and a unique garden.
St Mary’s churchyard is a photographer’s dream. The pretty church, dating back to the 14th century, was built with the wealth earned from the wool trade. In the churchyard, look out for intricately carved table tombs and 99 finely manicured yew trees. Legend has it that a 100th tree just won’t grow!
A walk around the old, winding streets will unearth this town’s new creative edge. The Art Couture Painswick Gallery contains some of the spectacular costumes that grace the streets during this colourful, annual festival of wearable art. The Painswick Arts Festival also takes place each summer.
Don’t miss a visit to the unique Rococo Garden, built with a certain flamboyance, which embodied the Rococo period back in the 18th century. While I try and make an annual pilgrimage to see its jaw-dropping snowdrop collection during winter, it is beautiful to wander year round.
There’s no need to get hungry or thirsty in Painswick. Foodies will enjoy deli delights at Olivas, fine dining at St Michael’s and The Painswick (sister hotel to Calcot Manor), tea and cake at The Patchwork Mouse and gastro pub grub at The Falcon.
Head up to Painswick Beacon, on the Cotswold Way walking trail for spectacular, panoramic views, or head down into Painswick Valley to meander along the stream. Close by, you’ll find Laurie Lee’s Slad Valley, setting for his famous novel Cider With Rosie (Vintage Classics).
Painswick is just too lovely to keep to ourselves, but shhh…we don’t have to tell everyone!