The places to visit in the Cotswolds are some of my favorite destinations in the UK. It is one of the most picturesque parts of England. When you think of quaint villages with honey colored stone and thatched roofs, a babbling brook or a duck pond next to a village green anchored by a pub, you’re picturing the Cotswolds. Covering a number of counties in South West England, it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a favorite among many visitors to the UK. Here are some of my favorite places to visit in the Cotswolds.
When we were kids, my parents took us on lots of weekend day trips and among our top picks was the lovely village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Giving rise to the moniker of “Venice of the Cotswolds,” the very shallow River Windrush runs through what has now become a large village and one of the most well-known places to visit in the Cotswolds. Not only is the village very photogenic with the stone bridges crossing the river at regular intervals among the limestone cottages, it is also home to a model village (a miniature replica of itself) and Birdland.
Yes, this is an example of some of the strange sounding place names in the UK. The Slaughters refers to the sister villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. If I could pick where I wanted to live in the Cotswolds it would be Lower Slaughter, which is considered one of the prettiest villages in the country. If ever there was a quintessential tranquil village undisturbed except for the babble of water and birdsong, it is this place. Extremely photogenic, not only does it attract visitors from all over the world but it has been used in many television shows and movies. An interesting fact for you about Upper Slaughter – it is one of England’s “Sainted” villages – meaning it lost nobody in the First World War.
Lovers of antiques, curios and knickknacks are spoilt for places to visit in the Cotswolds. Stow-on-the-Wold and the charming village of Broadway are high on the list, but I would pick Burford over those every time. Burford enjoys a glorious aspect; there’s a steep high street which leads to a medieval bridge over the River Windrush. There are fine examples of 17th and 18th Century stone house on the main street and hidden down little alleys built through the prosperous era when Burford was an important center for the wool trade.
As a village, there’s nothing remarkable about Mickleton but it has been high on my list of places to visit in the Cotswolds for one specific reason. It is home to the Three Ways House Hotel. The reason for its place in my heart is that it is home to The Pudding Club. It was the first real institution of its kind and was set up to preserve the tradition of the Great British Pudding. Every Friday night is given over to the celebration of all things pudding, where guests can feast on such dishes as treacle tart, jam roly poly, spotted dick, trifle, steamed syrup pudding and all manner of goodies. But not to worry, you can stay in a pudding themed room and then take to the countryside the next day to walk it off.
There’s an arty kind of atmosphere to Stroud, which has earned it the nickname of “the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds.” In recent times it has attracted artists, musicians, writers and artisans. It enjoys the stunning setting of the Five Valleys (made famous by Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie) and today, many of the buildings are occupied by tea rooms and bistros, galleries and boutique stores selling an eclectic range. Hippies, Boho-chicks and new-age types find a spiritual home here and Stroud is also host to one of the best farmers markets in the country.
It seems almost de rigueur that the towns and villages of the Cotswolds enjoy a title as well as a name. In the case of Painswick, the title is “Queen of the Cotswolds." That’s quite a title to live up to given the quality of her subjects, but Painswick deserves her place on the throne. It is considered to be one of the best-preserved Cotswold villages and is home to the oldest building to contain a post office, the country’s oldest bowling green and one of the most memorable churchyards. It is surrounded by glorious walking country too, and its Summer Arts Festival attracts visitors from far and wide.
The Cotswold settlements are not all hamlets, villages and small towns; there are some pretty sizable settlements too, such as Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham. My pick of the bigger places to visit in the Cotswolds is Cirencester, and I choose it because of its history. Cirencester was a Roman town and the Corinium Museum is one of its most popular attractions. Here you can sample life as a Roman as well as enjoy a range of exhibits, including some fabulous mosaics. If the weather’s good, it’s hard to resists a dip in the open air swimming pool – the oldest in Britain.
I do hope if you ever come to the UK you will take the opportunity to visit the Cotswolds. It is a stunning area with loads to see and do and it presents the quintessential view of country life in England. Does this area appeal to you or would you prefer large cities or beaches?