ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY
The tops have been dropped on the classic cars wending through the rolling green hills and the Cotswolds is at its dapper summer best right now.
The area is known as the Hamptons of the UK and with good reason – VisitBritain regional director Sumathi Ramanathan says that like the famous American East Coast holiday spot, it’s a magnet for celebrities.
“Jude Law has a property there, Kate Moss has a property there, and the latest rumours are David Beckham is looking into buying in the Cotswolds as well, so it’s got that gold-dust of celebrity,” she says.
England’s bucolic beauty runs through several counties – Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire Worcestershire – all honey sandstone, historic castles and impeccable gardens but Ramanathan says it’s more than just a pretty weekender.
“I think people often think of the Cotswolds as a romantic destination. It looks really beautiful, and they might think it’s for a slightly older generation but it is equally brilliant for younger people, especially because it’s two hours away from London,” she says.
“It’s a great day trip, too, for people staying in London who want to experience the English countryside … you can go in the morning and come back in the evening, but most people decide to stay in the Cotswolds.”
The Cotswolds offer everything you could want in a self-drive country escape – charming pubs, seasonal local produce, picturesque villages, plenty of history and even mountain biking. Britain’s biggest privately owned mountain bike facility, the Flyup 417 Project, opened last year in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside.
If much of it looks familiar, it’s because the region has been the set of everything from Harry Potter to Downton Abbey and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Movie buffs can stalk famous filming locations along the new Blenheim Palace film trail in Oxfordshire while Harry Potter fans can explore J.K. Rowling’s home county of Gloucestershire.
If you prefer slow food to movie-scene selfies, you’ll find a thriving organic and seasonal produce scene in the cafes, pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants, and artisan makers like The Cotswolds Cheese Company and The Cotswolds Distillery.
“People talk about France and the cheese but if you actually go to the Cotswolds, the cheese company has about 80 different types of artisan and farmhouse cheeses, so that’s very popular,” Ramanathan says.
WHEN TO VISIT
Like its New York equivalent, summer is the most popular season in the Cotswolds but spring and autumn are also beautiful times to visit.
“These three seasons brings out the best in the Cotswolds,” Ramanathan says. “Often we get the autumn colours which really does turn it into a spectacular place … creepers going over the honey stone turn bright red or burgundy and it really brings out the beauty of the villages.”
“Because seasonal food is so important, all the little organic cafes and restaurants and pubs that you go to come up with different seasonal menus so you can actually have very different experiences.”
WHEN TO BOOK
Since the Cotswolds is beloved by the Brits during summer and on any given weekend, as well as international visitors casting the net from London, Ramanathan says it’s always good to book in advance.
“If you’re going during half-term (school holidays) in the UK, we’d highly recommend booking at least three to six months in advance,” she says.
There is a wide range of accommodation, with everything from country-house hotels to B&Bs, country clubs and quintessential Cotswold cottages for hire, but if you’re keen to travel by campervan, organise your bed-onwheels well in advance. VISITBRITAIN.COM