The Cotswolds lie in western England and are about a two hour drive from London. Londoners come here for week-ends to escape the city life. Throughout the Cotswolds you will see rolling hills, farmland, sheep, and medieval towns which span for miles and miles. We recently visited and would like to share 8 reasons why you should visit.
1)Hiking: J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” hiked the Cotswolds regularly and drew inspiration for the Shire from the area. This is still a favorite activity for vacationers. Our resort, The Dormy House Hotel, had 10 maps available at the front desk giving detailed guides for hikes ranging from 2 to over 16 miles. The Cotswold Trail runs 102 miles from Chipping Camden to Bath. The hike will usually be quite hilly. Much of the trails are not on traditional dirt or gravel paths, but across pastureland dotted with fluffy sheep. The turf is low and soft like the finest golf fairway. Marking posts guide the way. Walking through quaint villages, verdant woods, green turf, and between hedges of shrubs and blackberry vines you can imagine the hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, out for a trek. The baying of hounds on my morning run made me feel like Frodo fleeing Farmer Maggot’s hounds.
2)Driving Tour: You will most likely need a car to get to and around the Cotswolds as the nearest airports, Bristol and Birmingham, are both over 1.5 hours away, and train service is spotty. The countryside offers scenic views around every turn. Pull offs allow you to stop, enjoy the view, and take photos. Our hotel was outside of Broadway, a postcard perfect village. A car allowed us to explore other towns with colorful names like Chipping Camden, Stow on the Wold, Morton on the Marsh, Burton on the Water, and Buckland. Each of these towns are beautiful and have their own distinct style and history. We loved Broadway, but Stow on the Wold won our hearts. We would have missed it without the car. Our favorite English tearoom, Treebus was there; as was St. Edward’s Church. The rear door of St. Edward’s church inspired the Gates of Moria in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”
3)Shopping: Each village has shops lining its main streets. The medieval Cotswolds economy was based on wool. Wool products like sweaters and scarves are still popular and fill shops. With the influx of vacationers and Londoners with weekend homes, you will be surprised by the variety. There are stores devoted to hiking, home goods, furniture, toys, and gifts. Traditional butcher shops, cheese mongers, bakeries, candy, and pastry shops allow you to prepare a picnic or take treats back to your room. Broadway has many antique boutiques which to explore. Every member of the family will find something interesting.
4)Garden Tours: English gardens are acclaimed worldwide, and the Cotswolds have their share. There are several that are open to the public; some offer tours. This is another wonderful way to spend a leisurely day and maybe find ideas to bring home to your garden.
5)Pubs: Each town will have a least one traditional English pub in which to enjoy your evening. There is a good chance that your hotel will have a nice one. Enjoy a dinner of classic British pub fare like fish, chips, and mashed peas. Order an ale or glass of wine and talk with other tourists or friendly locals.
6)Relax in Hotel Common Areas: Take a seat in the common room of your hotel or B & B by a warm fire. Relax while playing a board game and planning your next day’s adventures. After all, the Cotswolds are where you go to slow down and enjoy quiet and beauty.
7)Spa Treatments: The Cotswolds are becoming known as a spa destination with several to choose from. The Dormy House Hotel has a beautiful spa featuring a large array of treatments. This obviously could be done during the day, but with things closing early, I recommend the evening to relax and prepare for the next day of exploring.
8)Stratford Upon Avon: William Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford upon Avon is about a 30 – 45 minute drive away for most. A replica of the historic Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare originally opened, stages nightly productions of the Bard’s works. Performed by the Royal Shakespeare group, the presentations are said to be the best anywhere. Reservations will need to be made in advance. If staying more than a couple of nights, it would be a shame to miss this opportunity.
The Cotswolds will take you back to a simpler, pre-industrialized England. Even though life will move at a slower pace, you there is plenty to do as described above. I hope that this list of activities will inspire you on your next trip to Britain.