It’s easy to while away a week in the Cotswolds. Spend your time totally unplugging at a rural retreat or take a road trip around the region’s many attractions. This Cotswolds itinerary will help those who want to cover as much ground as possible. Plan a three-centre trip to experience the diverse flavour of this largely rural region.
Urbanites might start in Cheltenham to avoid a culture shock from going off the grid entirely. (Or top off your trip here to ease back into city life.) There are elegant places to stay aplenty in Cheltenham. Moreover, the best of which stay true to the town’s Georgian grandeur while introducing a contemporary twist.
In the well-heeled area of Montpellier, Hotel du Vin boasts one of its primary properties – complete with spa, exquisite suites and a consistently good restaurant. Around the corner, its sister hotel Malmaison (formerly Montpellier Chapter) is housed within a palatial regency building now awash with contemporary art. Alternatively, check in alongside Cotswold hipsterati who’ve found their home at No. 131, sister hotel to The Wheatsheaf and The Tavern. Collectively they are the brainchild of Julian Dunkerton, CEO of Cheltenham’s Superdry fashion empire. Whether you stay there or not, No. 131’s bar Crazy Eights is an excellent choice for inspired cocktails to kickstart a night out.
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You could happily spend a week making Cheltenham your home. It has more than its share of renowned restaurants (from Lumière to Purslane) alongside bars, boutiques, pretty parks, and easy access to the Cotswold countryside. But with so much to see and experience, think about splitting your time and staying somewhere even greener too. Rural retreats come in many shapes and sizes in the Cotswolds ranging from country pubs with a few rooms to grand manor houses with glorious gardens, spas and award-winning restaurants. Moreover, staying at a pub doesn’t have to be a down-home experience. In fact it rarely is these days as the Cotswolds goes increasingly upscale.
The Wheatsheaf in the bijou market town of Northleach – 20 minutes east of Cheltenham – is more boutique hotel than old-fashioned inn (as are the eight Cotswolds Inns and Hotels of the eponymous group). For a more family-owned feel, try The Crown and Trumpet in Broadway, a classic Cotswold stone village, or The Fox at Lower Oddington, with its traditional rooms and rural setting, close to the Oxfordshire border and home-grown excellence at Daylesford Organic. To be closer to the Stroud Valleys and Cirencester, The Crown at Frampton Mansell and The Keepers Arms at Quennington offer comfortable rooms above real village pubs known for home-cooked fare. For self-catering, try the cosy cottages at King John’s Barn or any number of AirBnB options in this architecturally rich region.
Several former aristocratic seats (such as Bibury Court, Michelin-starred Lords of the Manor, and Barnsley House & Spa now house high-end hotels where you can get away from it all and indulge in fine dining plus bespoke beauty treatments. Each is located in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside, where you can walk without setting foot in a car. The Cotswolds is compact enough to take a day trip by car to most attractions irrespective of where you’re based. For outdoorsy visits, especially in Autumn, opt to stay in Tetbury – a pretty market town awash with independent stores and handily close to Westonbirt Arboretum. Or stay even closer at the Hare & Hounds, directly opposite the Forestry Commission’s flagship nature reserve.
Countryside around Winchcombe is particularly impressive and intrinsically linked to Gloucestershire’s horse-racing culture. Internationally renowned trainers making their homes in nearby Ford and Guiting Power, which house the famous country pubs, The Plough Inn and The Hollow Bottom, respectively. Plenty of festivals with food and drink, music, literature and farming punctuate the calendar year round. These include the Cheltenham Gold Cup national hunt racing around St Patrick’s Day. Whatever combination works for you, you should find all the ingredients for a relaxing getaway.