When our inboxes are overflowing and we grow tired of steamy city sidewalks, the Court & Rowe team finds themselves longing for the ultimate down-time destination. This fall we’re craving honey-colored stone cottages, thatched-roof mansions, ancient Abbeys, and a Dark and Stormy or two. Here the edges soften, the clothes smarten, and the pace melts into that of your laziest Sunday.
In short: the Cotswolds.
While the expansive British countryside is only a two hour drive from London, the Cotswolds are a place perfectly preserved in a storybook-esque time. We’re not sure you need much more convincing. We’ll show you some of our favorite towns, accommodations, sights, and to-dos no matter where you find yourself in this iconic UK oasis.
Where to Stay
The Cotswolds is brimming with fantastically charming B&Bs and Instagram-worthy hotels in historic conversions. Below are a few of the surrounding area’s accommodations that mix the two, and are beyond stylish to boot.
Like many places on our list, the Thyme has something for everyone. It’s a world-class spa, cooking school, pub, and restaurant along with quaint rooms for the tired-yet-chic traveler. Described as a village within a village, the Thyme is nothing short of a good time all in itself. Stay in a breathtaking bedroom in the country house hotel or snag a private cottage with friends and have yourself a quintessentially Cotswolds experience without ever leaving the grounds.
This members-only offering is the newest place to be seen. While technically on the edge of the Cotswolds propper, the Farmhouse offers a variety of luxurious rooms, an abundance of country-perfect activities, a restaurant to write home about, and a farm store for grab-and-go nosh to fuel your day of exploration. We can already imagine ourselves in a classic velvet chair, with a signature cocktail in hand, people watching in the Hay Barn.
This hotel/restaurant/ bakery wonder is located in an 18th century house and former congregational chapel. Brimming with traditional details and interiors you’ll definitely want to recreate at home, At The Chapel is perfectly situated as the ideal home-base for Cotswolds day trips. The rooms are nothing less than charming, the restaurant delicious (try any one of the sourdough pizzas from their wood-fired oven), and the clubhouse is a swanky-yet-laid back place for a nightcap with fellow guests. Sidenote: there’s nothing better than waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread from the on-site bakery.
Another posh, members-only option from SoHo House, the Babington Hotel has a variety of rooms and cabins that range from country cute to down right regal (we’re looking at you, Playroom). When you emerge from your private oasis, opt for a relaxing treatment at the Cowshed Spa followed by a Cotswold-themed cocktail. When hunger strikes, venture to the on-site restaurant serving up UK classics with a Mediterranean twist made from fresh ingredients grown on-site.
First We Brunch
From traditional full English breakfasts and fresh-baked hand pies to avocado toast and smoothies, in the Cotswolds, the first meal of the day is where you decidedly slip away from your “coffee-for-breakfast” routine. After all, you’ll be doing plenty of strolling each day and you need your fuel. Every little village has its go-to spots and, TBH, we haven’t tried one yet we didn’t like, but these are our stand-outs.
Bakery on The Water, Bourton-on-the-Water
Breakfast here is served with hand-crafted locally-made bread and pastries in the quaintest of Cotswolds locales. Arrive before the tour-bus crowds to snag a table in their riverside rose garden. Then grab a little something extra to-go for your stroll to and around the Slaughters.
Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire
We know it’s members-only, but if you happen to be in the club, the Farmhouse has dining options aplenty. From the Haybarn’s bar snacks to Pen Yen’s Japanese approach and Farmshack’s more casual bites, if you can dream of eating it, you’ll probably find it here. Plus, stop by the deli to grab picnic bites for your garden tours around the Cotswolds. The real show-stopper is the Main Barn Kitchen’s breakfast menu and their legendary Saturday Brunch. Don’t miss their house pressed juices and botanicals after a night of too many pints.
The Angel at Burford, Burford
This award-winning gastropub reimagines pub grub to create artistic, yet simple dishes at every meal. Just a stones throw from the stunning Buford Church, The Angel has another dreamy back garden patio and terrific bartenders if you need something stronger than tea to get you going in the a.m. Or there’s always a cup of Cotswolds Coffee.
Where to Shop
You can’t Cotswolds (yes, we made it a verb) without spending an afternoon picking up a rustic keepsake or 12. Whether you gravitate towards locally-made delicacies, artisan home decor, or traditional antiquities, there are plenty of places to treat yourself.
This bustling town is overflowing with independently-owned shops, high-end boutiques, and local crafts that suit every aesthetic. In fact, each high street features a different retail vibe, varying from the country-quirky to upscale designer. We love aimless strolling here, but when in the village we make sure to hit Sheep&Chic for eclectic sheepskin and leather garments and accessories, Cirencester Antiques Centre for vintage jewelry, and Corn Hall Indoor Market for one-of-a-kind finds from local artisans.
Daylesford Farmshop, Gloucestershire
Right outside the village of Kingham, this organic deli and retail experience is seriously good on all fronts. Stop here for lunch then browse the well-curated selection of local honeys, luxurious cashmeres, well-designed garden decors, or home textiles. At the very least, grab a bottle of organic wine for sipping fireside back at the hotel come sunset.
Where to Wander
While church, castle, and garden fatigue are real on other trips, here, the exquisite details wow time and time again. Each of our picks is worthy of an entire day, but we understand if you just show up to bask in the glorious glow of all that butter yellow limestone or blooming flowers.
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe
A treasure trove of wonders from ancient Roman times through today, this castle once one of King Henry VIII’s royal homes. The Tudor style is one of the best in all of England and it’s gardens are world renown.
Snowshill Manor and Garden
Bought in 1919 by Charles Wade, this manor was used as storage for fantastic (and unusual) treasures. The garden is the real crown jewel with peaceful enclaves at every turn and a second-hand bookshop on sight where you can pick up your next garden read.
St. John Baptist, Cirencester
Cirencester is considered the capital of the Cotswolds, but we love it for this dreamy house of worship. Construction began in 1115 and continued to be rebuilt and expanded up until the1500s. Don’t forget to look up as the scalloped ceilings are worthy of a long study.
Hidcote Manor Gardens, Gloucestershire
200 feet above sea level, these gardens and the Manor they surround call to light a picture of 20th century countryside life. Parties on the tennis courts, bathing gardens, and flowers from far-off destinations, Hidcote is the perfect place to reenact a UK version of Great Gatsby.
The Bishop’s Palace, Wells
If you’re in the mood for a bit of a cruise (or to see a bunch of churches all at once), head south to the market city of Wells and marvel at this behemoth beauty. The cathedral here is England’s first completely gothic church.
Painswick Rococo Garden, Painswick
Sweeping countryside views, a sculpture garden, and a cafe on-site—you’ll find no shortage of Instagram-worthy backdrops here. If you’d like to add a bit more structure to your visit, check out their list of workshops ranging from oil painting to Bat Walks.
Cotswold Way National Trail
If you’re willing to trade in your nice flats for more functional footwear, some of the Cotswolds most breathtaking vistas can be found on the Cotswold Way. This 102 mile trail runs through the whole region, from Bath on the south-most tip to Chipping Camden in the north. Of course, you can join up on the trail from a more central point as it runs through Wotton-under-Edge, Winchcombe, and Broadway just to name a few. The views are spectacular and the walk totally peaceful.