Cotswolds Guide

Tyler and I were desperate for a little adventure! Last year, we were lucky to spend so much time traveling and exploring places together. 2020 has caused us to feel the travel-itch more than ever! But it’s one that we can’t quite scratch due to Covid. Luckily, we were able to rent a car and opt for a local adventure in the UK. The Cotswolds has been on our list for a while, and fall is the perfect time to cozy up in a cabin and explore the countryside.

For those that are not familiar, The Cotswolds is a region in southwest England. It is covered in rolling hills and small villages. We decided to visit for a week, which was the perfect amount of time. We couldn’t quite check off everything on our list because the region is spread across 5 counties, but we still saw a lot! And now we still have a reason to go back!

Where to Stay

The Cotswolds book up fast – and even faster due to the pandemic! Lots of people were trying to get out of the city and take a local getaway like us. There are a plethora of great hotels, but weekends are prime time for countryside trips. Since we booked a little late (about 1 month out), we had a difficult time finding one place that could accommodate us for the entire week. But we enjoyed splitting our time between two fantastic locations!

Daylesford Farm Cottages

Daylesford is an organic farm near Kingham village. It has a large farm shop on site that is basically a foodie’s paradise. They have a few small satellite shops in London too! Tyler and I bought waaaayyyy too many goodies! We were also treated to several Daylesford products when we arrived at our cottage (a bottle of rosé, bread, eggs, jam, and olive oil). Along with the farm shop, they have a spa, cookery school, coffee shop, bar, restaurant, and takeaway pizza spot within the building. There are a handful of cottages on the premises. We stayed in the “Apple Store,” which was once used to store produce for the farm! It had a full kitchen, dining area, living room with a fireplace, two bedrooms, and one bathroom. It’s such a great option because you can buy groceries from the shop and cook OR check out the restaurant which is just steps away! It’s also a short drive to Kingham, where we enjoyed meals at The Wild Rabbit and The Kingham Plough. Daylesford also has several walking trails. We loved starting our day with coffee to-go and a walk around the property.

Thyme Hotel and Spa

Thyme calls itself “a village within a village.” Its amenities include a restaurant, spa, cookery school, tennis court, pool, church, and farm, among other things! The property is beautiful and it has a long driveway to the estate where you’ll pass a field of black sheep. When we arrived, we were greeted with a welcome basket that included a cocktail kit and milk and cookies. We stayed in a “Garden Room,” which was decorated in a romantic contemporary style and had its own small outdoor seating area with a gas fire pit. We weren’t able to book a spa appointment or cooking class because they booked up a few weeks before our hotel reservation. I would definitely recommend booking those ahead of time, especially because the service industry is limiting and spacing out bookings due to Covid.

Thyme Hotel

Where We Went (and Things to Do)

  • Oxford
    • Divinity School (Harry Potter scenes were filmed here)
    • Bodleian Library (can only tour inside on Saturdays)
    • Radcliffe Camera
    • Bridge of Sighs
    • The Covered Market
    • Christ Church (stroll through the Memorial Gardens and Meadows)
    • Magdalen College
    • Punting (didn’t do this because it was raining)
  • Blenheim Park and Palace: Where Churchill grew up! Book tickets ahead of time. You will have to select a specific time to enter the park and a separate time for your palace tour. The inside tour was interesting, but a little underwhelming. I would still recommend going to walk around the park and gardens because they are beautiful!
  • Upper and Lower Slaughter: Great little villages for walking around. Copse Hill Road is supposedly one of the most romantic streets in The Cotswolds. Be aware that some of these villages are tiny! You’ll want to make sure you plan your meals around some of the busier towns or have your countryside pubs mapped out.
  • Bourton-on-the-Water
    • This bustling village is a great stop for lunch or dinner. It has lots of coffee shops and bakeries to enjoy as well! Stroll along the river and take in the picturesque bridges.
    • Model Village: We didn’t visit, but this is a great option if you have little kids with you.
    • The Cotswolds Motoring Museum
    • Cotswolds Distillery Shop (1 of 6 English Whiskey Distilleries)
    • The Dragonfly Maze
    • Birdland Parks and Gardens
  • Bibury
    • Another teeny tiny village, which has me wondering….where do these people shop for groceries??? The village is comprised of little cottages, a hotel, a church, and a post office. It’s a beautiful place to walk around! Bibury is home to Arlington Row, which is a series of cottages that were originally built in the 14th century and used to store wool! Definitely a popular photo op destination!
  • Bath
    • Climb the Bath Abbey for Views (couldn’t do this because the queue was around the block)
    • Royal Crescent
    • Roman Baths (we skipped this because we already visited several years ago, but highly recommend)
    • Drive by Stonehenge (we already visited in 2012)
    • Walk along the river
    • Get buns from Sally Lunn’s Bakery (you can get some to-go instead of eating in)
  • Castle Combe
    • Supposedly England’s “prettiest village!” And from what I’ve seen, I might have to agree! It’s very small (basically one little street), but it packs a charming punch.
  • Stow-on-the-Wold
    • Porch House Pub: One of England’s oldest pubs (since 947 AD). We didn’t have time for a pint, but it looked quite cozy!
    • St. Edward’s Church: Walk around back to see a door sandwiched by two large trees, which is rumored to have inspired the door to Moria in Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
    • This is a good town to stop in for lunch or a coffee!
  • Broadway Tower: The Cotswolds’ highest castle. The tower is quite modest in size, but the view from the top is incredible. You can spot red deer in the adjacent field and take in views spanning 16 counties! Highly recommend!
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon: The medieval market town where Shakespeare was born. Things close quite early here, so if you’re interested in taking any tours, make sure you arrive with plenty of time. We passed by Shakespeare’s family home, Anne Hathaway’s cottage (Shakespeare’s wife), and took a stroll along the canal.

What We Didn’t Have Time For

  • Westonbirt National Arboretum: We booked tickets in advance, but didn’t have enough time to visit. It’s supposed to be a beautiful destination for long walks! They even track the changing color of the leaves in the fall on their website!
  • Cleeve Hill / Cleeve Common Circular Walk: Cleeve Hill is the highest point in Gloucestershire and has incredible views! If you choose to do the circular walk, it’s 6 miles or you can do a shorter 4 mile loop.
  • Moreton-in-Marsh
    • Batsford Arboretum: Must book ticket online in advance.
    • Sezincote: Historic estate built in the early 1800s
    • Chastleton House and Garden
    • Tuesday market
  • Blockley: Small village with traditional cottages and limestone houses
  • Chipping Campden
    • Market Hall/High Street
    • Hidcote: national trust manor with lovely gardens
    • Kiftsgate Court Gardens
  • Cirencester: A larger Cotswolds market town. Some consider it the capital of the region.
    • Church of John the Baptist
    • Explore Sheep Street, Castle Street, Park Street, and Market Place
    • Cirencester Amphitheater
    • Cerney House Gardens
    • Chedworth Roman Villa (about 10 miles north)

Where We Ate

  • The Dining Room at Whatley Manor: Our favorite meal of the trip! The tasting menu was phenomenal and the service was first class. I loved that we started our experience with drinks by the fireplace before we were seated for dinner.
  • The Wild Rabbit: This restaurant featured a modern British menu. We enjoyed the fine dining experience, but they also have a more casual bar and terrace available to walk-ins. Book ahead because this place is very popular! We were only able to snag a lunch time reservation, but we’re glad we did! The food and service were excellent. The fire was going and the room was decked in autumnal decor featuring lots of different gourds.
  • The Kingham Plough: This cozy gastropub did not disappoint. Tyler opted for the burger and I had a delicious steak! Depending on the weather, you might be able to follow dinner with drinks on the terrace near a warm fireplace.
  • Ox Barn: Located within the Thyme Hotel, this spacious restaurant still has a warm and inviting vibe. The farm-to-table menu showcases produce from their garden. We went twice during our stay, and enjoyed several dishes. However, if you are staying for several days, you may want to also book some restaurants in neighboring towns because the menu only changed slightly.
  • The Trough: We booked this restaurant for our first night in the Cotswolds because it is on site at Daylesford Farm. The food was great, but this was probably our least favorite out of the restaurants listed here. They have delicious seasonal and locally sourced ingredients! The ambience is also very inviting with casual seating options, autumnal decor, and a blazing fireplace.

I am so grateful that we were able to make this trip work! It definitely gave me something to look forward to and the natural beauty of the region did not disappoint. I hope this guide helps you plan out your own adventure in The Cotswolds very soon!

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