Barely two hours west of London, the gentle hills and stone-built villages of the Cotswolds spread for almost 100 miles from Chipping Camden to Bath, an area of small hamlets, quirky traditions, interesting food and an overwhelming sense of rural timelessness. Honey-coloured Cotswold stone distinguishes low-key communities such as Painswick, its church still marked by Civil War canon-fire, Bourton-on-the-Water, regularly voted one of England’s prettiest villages, and Guiting Power further north, surrounded by woods and pleasant country walks.
In fact, almost all Cotswold villages boast peaceful circular walking routes and interesting old pubs, reflecting the area’s time-capsule appeal; but there’s much grandeur, too. Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, spreads over 2,100 parkland acres at the eastern edge, and Sudeley Castle, once home of Katherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII, is now home to an extraordinary garden. More than 30 nationally-important gardens offer a blaze of colour over much of the Cotswolds, many such as Hidcote near Chipping Camden, run by the National Trust.
Cheltenham is the thriving main town, famous for horse racing, Regency architecture and also for a series of intriguing festivals celebrating literature, science, music, food, and more. Longborough Festival Opera at Moreton-in-the-Marsh extends the area’s musical appeal, and food in its most natural form can be examined in personal detail at Cotswolds Farm Park near Guiting Power, also at many farmers’ markets all over the region. The Cotswolds famously produces over 100 types of cheese, much fruit, and the tasty Gloucestershire Old Spot pig.