Wandering aimlessly in the Cotswolds, wondering at the sleeping beauty of this romantic region
The Indian summer is a lovely time to enjoy the countryside. With it being warm, and hopefully sunny, you can still enjoy the outdoors and yet have cosy evenings by the fire with a glass of red wine. The best of both worlds. And if you are looking to indulge in a bit of luxurious country living, it really can’t get better than in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales and runs through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire). The area is known for its rolling hills (the ‘wolds’) and its picturesque honey-coloured stone villages. It is an idyllic region, perfect for a country break, and only 2 hours away from London. So if you are visiting London, make sure you spend at least a couple of days exploring this beautiful part of England. You will be spoilt for choice by the many villages, gardens and palaces there are to visit but, even if you don’t visit anything in particular, it is worth just going for rural walks through footpaths and bridleways, ancient
woodlands and wildflower meadows, lakes and streams’ banks. You can easily get lost in the beauty of this place and be transported to another time. Finding accommodation is easy, and there are many country house hotels and cottages to rent. The Lodge at Thyme Hotel in the pretty village of Southrop in Gloucestershire is particularly fetching if you are searching for an intimate luxurious stay. Southrop is one of the traditional, honey-coloured villages with a river (the River Leach) that is full of magical looking cottages. It has a wonderful history, a 12th century church and a Manor House whose priest gets a mention in the Domesday Book. The hotel itself is really the heart and soul of the village, and the painstaking nature of its restoration and creation over many years is evident on arrival – they have thought of everything. Its most impressive building is the Lodge which has panoramic views over the farmlands (Thyme also has a working farm). You cannot miss the incredibly old and beautiful cedar of lebanon tree in the grounds. There is also a delightful
pub which it owns, the Swan (which dates only from the 17th century!) The river, and its banks, create a picturesque scene.
You will not be disappointed in the culinary offerings of the region and there are many places to eat, from gastro pubs to fine dining restaurants. With so much emphasis on fresh, organic produce, and with animals being reared in very good conditions, there are some real delicacies to be had. You need to visit Daylesford to stock up on their goodies, but you can also get fresh trout from Bibury or Lechlade and cook them yourself. There is something very special in cooking such fresh produce – and you really can taste the difference! If you rent a cottage, it’s fun to pretend you are a local and go shopping to create your own meals.
To discover the many villages of the Cotswolds you will need to drive around and explore. It is impossible not to stop and marvel at the beauty and the age of some of the properties and villages. Barnsley, Bibury, Bourton on the Hill (as well as on the Water), Broadway, Burford, and also Foscot, Idbury and Kingham, are must visits. You should also visit the village of Woodstock on your travels, and it is hard to avoid the temptation to go to Blenheim Palace, which must be one of England’s finest stately homes. Other attractions, in no particular order, would be Kelmscott Manor in Lechlade (the home of William Morris), Highgrove (the current home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall) or Sudeley Castle (owned by the last wife of Henry VIII).
With the various criss-crossings and ventures into numerous counties, you will feel that you really have enjoyed a tremendous amount of this green and pleasant land in just a few days.