The Cotswolds are easy to get to from a large part of England and South Wales. The M5 hugs their western flank; from Birmingham you can reach this part of the Cotswolds in around an hour. It’s a little over two hours from Manchester or Liverpool via the M6 and M5.
The M4 straddles the southern band of the Cotswolds and brings travellers from Cardiff in just over an hour. There’s also the M40, which takes you from central London to the eastern Cotswolds in about 90 minutes, and from Birmingham to the northern edge in about 60.
Alternatively, you can travel by train to the fringes of the Cotswolds – stations include Moreton-in-Marsh, Chippenham, Stroud, Cheltenham and Gloucester.
Bear of Rodborough Hotel
Stroud GL5 5DE
An old coaching inn in a commanding position at the edge of Rodborough Common, close to the escarpment, with everything you expect from a traditional pub.
Double rooms from £140 a night.
Aylworth, Naunton GL54 3AH
A grand house in a peaceful setting. The Diamond Way passes nearby; you can follow it through idyllic countryside to the Windrush Way and Bourton-on-the-Water, four miles away.
Double rooms cost £100 a night.
Made by Bob
The Cornhall, 26 Market Place, Cirencester GL7 2NY
Food with a distinctly French tinge – and according to one food writer, the best fish soup north of Marseilles.
Main courses cost between £9.50 and £19.
The Old Bakery Tea Rooms
4 Fountain Court, Digbeth Street, Stow-on-the-Wold GL54 1BN
It is not just the cakes, the buns and the bread that are all home made, but so too are the jams and preserves to go with them.
Scone with jam and clotted cream £2.50.
The Black Horse
Cranham GL4 8HP
Surrounded by wooded hills, this is a traditional stone-built pub, serving beers from local breweries and home cooked food in a bar with a blazing log fire – what more could you ask for on a winter’s day?
Old Ley Court, Chapel Lane, Birdwood,
Churcham GL2 8AR
Double Gloucester cheese almost vanished from our tables, but its manufacture was revived at Smart’s Farm near Gloucester. They use cream from unpasteurised milk from their own herd and all the cheese is made by hand. It is sold in farmers’ markets, or direct from the farm.
At Uley, take the footpath that heads uphill behind the church and follow it through the woodland to reach the ramparts of Uley Bury. This is an immense Iron Age hill fort crowning the hill and provides spectacular views. Continue in the same direction along the edge of the fort and then turn right for a pleasant woodland walk, which eventually arrives at the main road. Take the minor road directly opposite and immediately after the left turn, turn right on to the footpath leading down to a patch of woodland and follow it back to Uley, conveniently close to The Crown, where you can slake your thirst with a pint from the Uley brewery.
The little village of Stanton, near Broadway, seems to have the best features of the Cotswolds all tucked in together at the foot of the escarpment. Here are the traditional cottages and a 17th-century manor house; a charming church and welcoming pub. You can take a gentle walk down the valley to Stanway or a more demanding climb up Shenbarrow Hill.
One very old tradition is still upheld in many parts of the Cotswolds – the traditional mummers play, featuring heroes such as Robin Hood and St George and comedy villains. They are performed in many locations: two of the best-known take place aon Boxing Day at Gloucester Cathedral and at Marshfield near Bath, where the oddly named Paper Boys perform.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway
The Railway Station,
Toddington GL54 5DT
Enjoy Cotswold scenery in comfort on the wettest days by taking a trip on a steam train between Laverton and Cheltenham Racecourse. If you have children, you can turn it into a seasonal treat by taking a Santa Special, on certain dates.
The Cotswolds includes many fine churches, built on the proceeds of the wool industry.
St Mary’s Church, Painswick has a peal of 10 bells and they are rung following a tradition that began more than 400 years ago.
St Mary’s, Fairford (20 miles to the east) is a beautiful church in a lovely village. Its greatese glory is its stained glass windows. You can contemplate the glories of heaven depicted there, but the most colourful sections
are devoted to the demons and fires of hell.
All Saints Church, Selsley is very different. A simple little building on the edge of Selsley Common, it is a reminder of the importance of the Arts and Crafts movement to the Cotswolds, with glass from the William Morris studio and designs by such well known artists as Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones.
Arts and Crafts
The Cotswolds are famous as the birthplace of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, and a tradition of high-quality work continues. This makes the area an exceptionally good place to shop for rural crafts.
New Brewery Arts, for example, contains workshops for all sorts of crafts, from jewellery to furniture. There is a shop and regular exhibitions.
Brewery Court, Cirencester GL7 1JH
Winchcombe Pottery produces a variety of stoneware, fired in a wood-burning kiln.
Winchcombe GL54 5NU
Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music restores and sells antique music boxes and musical automata, and demonstrates an astonishing range of mechanical musical instruments in its museum.
High Street, Northleach GL54 3ET