Visiting the Cotswolds during the high summer season, there can be large crowds at certain locations and also very busy roads, so rather than facing delays and hold ups why not go in the spring or autumn.
Where the Cotswolds starts and where it finishes depends on who you are and where you live, but it is usually considered to include mainly Gloucestershire. The area said to abound with celebrities who enjoy the country lifestyle. Richard Hammond and Kate Winslet are said to have homes in the area along with Jamie Dornan, Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron and Jilly Cooper. Prince Charles also has a property at Highgrove House just outside Tetbury. It is possible to go round the gardens but you will need to obtain a pre-booked ticket well in advance of your visit. Further details of events can be obtained by going to www.highgrovegardens.com. All profits from the tours and other events go to charity. If you cannot manage this, then try to make a stop in the pretty town of Tetbury where you find a Highgrove Shop, antique shops and some excellent tea rooms including the trendy Cafe 53. Nearby is Cirencester, said by some, to be the main town in the Cotswolds.
Other attractive places in the area include Burford, Witney, Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold. I particularly like Stow which has some excellent cafes and pubs including The Plough Inn said to be the oldest in the UK. They have a wide range of local beers which are worth trying. Just across the road is the Sheep in Sheep Street, a great place to stay and extremely comfortable. Try to see if Room 6 is available with its Jacuzzi and low beams. They have a very well stocked bar downstairs and a large restaurant. This gets very busy in the evening so you will need to book. The food is mainly pasta based but they have been very original with the menu. Breakfast includes a number of alternative dishes such as smashed avocado and fresh rolls. There is parking at the rear and it is just a few steps from the central square.
The Cotswolds is very well known for golden stone walls and rolling hills and as it is easy to get to from London, it draws in a young crowd who keep it fresh and lively. Just on the fringe of the area is the town of Cheltenham. On the outskirts is the Greenway Hotel and Spa. Located in its own extensive grounds, there are some delightful views from the rooms. On a recent visit I stayed in ‘Elm’ above the spa. A large room with a massive bathroom, it was well appointed. The house has a rich and intriguing past and the public areas contain some very interesting paintings and antiques. Favoured by the racing fraternity, meals are taken in a room overlooking the gardens. The staff are really friendly and the menus very original. Breakfast was excellent with a range of dishes including kippers and of course a ‘full English’. Cheltenham is an interesting spa town well worth exploring.
Not far away in the town of Malvern is the Morgan Motor Works producing around 800 cars a year. They concentrate on ash, leather and aluminium. On the same site since the early 20th century, it is possible to go around this fascinating group of workshops which produce a small selection of iconic handmade cars. The company runs some very successful tours which give you an insight into how they go about building the Morgan car.
For these interested in cathedrals you might like to try Worcester or Gloucester which both have impressive examples. Gloucester Cathedral was used as one of the locations for the Harry Potter films. Also look out for the National Waterways Museum.
Other sights near to the Cotswolds, include Blenheim Palace and the famous city of Oxford with its colleges and connections with Inspector Morse, Alice through the looking Glass and Harry Potter.
A great place for a weekend or short break, the Cotswolds is within easy reach of several airports including Heathrow and well served by trains and motorways.
For further information on the area go to www.cotswolds.com.
Photos courtesy of Godfrey Hall.