From famous farmers markets, outstanding natural beauty and unmissable experiences, there’s so much to pack into a three-day trip to Gloucestershire.
In this three-day Gloucestershire itinerary, SoGlos rounds up some of our favourite things to do and places to visit on a long weekend. Also, see SoGlos’s 24 hours in Gloucestershire and 48 hours in Gloucestershire itineraries if you’re here on a shorter trip, or a week in Gloucestershire itinerary, if you’ve got more time to spend.
9am – Start the day at Stroud Farmer’s Market
Taking place every Saturday in the heart of the town, the famous Stroud Farmer’s Market is a foodie’s paradise. The award-winning market showcases the very best in local produce, from just-baked sourdough bread and locally grown fruit, to the tastiest sausage rolls and freshly-fried falafel – not to mention locally-brewed beers and Gloucestershire wines. It’s the perfect place to pick up goodies for a picnic before heading off for a day of exploring.
After a leisurely stroll around the farmer’s market, stop off for a coffee at one of Stroud’s lovely coffee shops. Woodruffs Organic Café offers an extensive range of teas and coffees, alongside a tasty menu of vegan and vegetarian dishes; while Brick & Brew at The Malthouse Collective serves brunch, lunch and incredible buttermilk waffles with toppings spanning everything from streaky bacon and scrambled egg to Nutella or maple syrup.
12.30pm – Spend an afternoon strolling around Painswick Rococo Garden
Carpeted with snowdrops in winter; bursting with colour in spring and autumn; and buzzing with activity in summer, Painswick Rococo Garden is one of Gloucestershire’s most unique and beautiful places to visit. The 18th century attraction is the UK’s only surviving complete rococo garden – and it’s full of surprises, with colourful follies dotted around, beautiful wood carvings to discover amongst the trees and even a maze to explore. As well as being family and dog friendly, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic, too.
4pm – Have a drink in Laurie Lee’s local
In the heart of the village where Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie is set, The Woolpack Inn in Slad is bursting with traditional Cotswold charm. Literature lovers won’t want to miss their chance to have a pint of cider at the famous author’s local while they’re in the area.
7pm – Marvel at the magic of Giffords Circus
One of the most magical experiences in Gloucestershire, Giffords Circus goes on tour from April to October each year, with the 2022 tour kicking off at its HQ on Fennells Farm near Stroud. This year’s show is a Mexican-themed extravaganza, promising extraordinary stunts, gravity-defying aerial performances, prancing ponies, live music and colourful costumes all under Giffords’ famous big top.
As well as a spectacular show, Giffords Circus also has its very own restaurant, Circus Sauce, touring the country along with the show, featuring seasonal produce and ingredients foraged from the local area to create creative, nostalgic dishes and an utterly unmissable experience.
If you’re not lucky enough to be visiting when the circus is in town, you’ll still be spoilt for choice with delicious dinner options in Stroud. For an early dinner, the Five Valleys Market has a diverse range of street-food style traders, with options including sushi, Thai and Italian dishes; look out for cult favourites The BBQ Society and Fat Toni’s pizza.
In the town, you’ll find even more tasty options, like locals’ favourite Tomari-gi, which serves up authentic Japanese dishes from rich, warming ramen and donburi rice bowls to freshly made sushi – with plenty of vegan choices on the menu. Galgos Latino offers ‘a culinary journey through Latin America’ with tapas-style small plates including everything from prawn ceviche, steak chimichurri and tacos, to traditional dishes inspired by the owners’ Venezuelan roots.
Stroud even has its own dedicated vegan restaurant, with Karibu offering an entirely plant-based menu of globetrotting dishes with craft beer and cocktails, too.
11pm – Stay at a beautiful Stroud hotel
For those looking to spend a night in the lap of luxury, Burleigh Court Hotel and Stonehouse Court are both stunning Cotswold country manor house hotels with beautiful rooms for families and couples, all with incredible views over the Cotswold countryside to wake up to. Some rooms even boast romantic four-poster beds. Meanwhile, The Amberley Inn offers a more relaxed vibe in a still upmarket environment, with comfortable rooms and impressive views over Woodchester Valley.
10am – Explore the Stroud District’s exciting attractions
A must-visit for animal lovers, Slimbridge Wetland Centre is a huge wetland nature reserve that’s home to an array of wildlife, including migratory Bewick’s swans in winter, pretty kingfishers in spring, newly-hatched ducklings, goslings and cygnets in summer and cranes in autumn.
While history enthusiasts won’t want to miss seeing the actual cell where King Edward II was imprisoned before his murder at the historic Berkeley Castle – which boasts fascinating exhibits and gorgeous grounds, too.
In nearby Nympsfield, the spectacularly spooky Woodchester Mansion is a Grade I listed unfinished gothic masterpiece with a mysterious back story – and one of Gloucestershire’s famous filming locations. From April to October, visitors can explore the mansion, looking out for quirky features like fireplaces in the middle of walls, as well as its resident population of greater and lesser horseshoe bats. The mansion sits within the stunning Woodchester Park, which is well worth a wander around too, especially in the sunshine.
Or for an adults-only alternative, head to Woodchester Valley Vineyard for a tour and tasting session to sample some of its award-winning wines produced right here in Gloucestershire.
3pm – Pay a visit to the famous Purton Ships’ Graveyard
Purton Ships’ Graveyard, also known to locals as Purton Hulks, is a fascinating attraction that’s been named one of the most unusual museums in the UK. The stretch of the River Severn between Sharpness and Purton is home to a ‘ghost fleet’ of over 86 beached vessels, some dating back as far as 1909, providing a wonderful walking route that stretches the legs and the imagination.
7pm – Indulge in an eight-course dinner in Nailsworth
Diners are in for a real treat at Wilder in Nailsworth, which creates a surprise eight-course tasting menu from scratch every night. Promising ‘creative cooking’ using seasonal ingredients, the three AA Rosette-rated restaurant on Market Street provides a feast of textures, colours and flavours for foodies – with matching wine or soft drink flights available, too. Wilder also has five rooms to make it an overnight experience, with a complimentary continental breakfast served in your room the following morning.
If tasting menus aren’t your thing, William’s has a daily-changing menu specialising in seafood like oysters, moules frites, lobster thermidor and its signature fish soup; the award-winning The Olive Tree serves a Mediterranean menu; while Egypt Mill offers a menu of rustic British dishes and sourdough pizzas in a unique setting with a water wheel – as well as being a bed and breakfast, too.
10am – Spend a day amongst the trees at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum
After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a day soaking up some of Gloucestershire’s outstanding natural beauty, with Westonbirt Arboretum being one of the most wonderful places to visit in the county, if not the country. The 600-acre site is a riot of colour that changes throughout the seasons, with five national tree collections and over 2,500 different species – including its very own ‘Westonbirt Diva’ magnolia.
Admire the blazing red leaves of the Acer Glade; stand next to some of Britain’s tallest trees; discover some of the rarest trees in the world and how Westonbirt is helping to preserve them; and for a truly spectacular experience, head to the STIHL Tree Top Walkway to experience Westonbirt from 13 metres up in the canopy – with fun, interactive activities for kids to enjoy along the way.
There’s plenty more for little adventurers to do, too, with not one but two Julia Donaldson-inspired activities back on the ground. See if you can find the Gruffalo sculptures hiding out in the trees or follow the new Superworm trail to learn all about the minibeasts that call Westonbirt home.
5.30pm – Relax with an evening spa session at Calcot & Spa
After three days of exploring, there’s no better way to round off your trip than with a relaxing evening spa session at Calcot & Spa in nearby Tetbury. Guests can enjoy a choice of 25-minute treatments, including mini facials, massages and nails; full access to the spa facilities, including a heated indoor pool, sauna and steam room; as well as dinner in the Conservatory Restaurant. Calcot & Spa also offers luxurious rooms for overnight stays.
Tetbury has plenty of other beautiful places to spend the night, too, from boutique Georgian townhouse Oak House No.1, upmarket Cotswold inn The Snooty Fox to traditional, cosy Cotswold pub, The Royal Oak.