It’s easy to see why Gloucestershire is one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, being home to the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of the most famous cathedrals in the country and the most complete Regency town in England too.
In this week-long Gloucestershire itinerary, SoGlos showcases a whole host of the very best things to do, places to see and delicious things to eat, drink and buy when you’re visiting the county for seven days.
Day 1 – Adventures in the Forest of Dean
Start your holiday surrounded by nature in the Forest of Dean, with luscious ancient woodlands, breath taking beauty spots and fantastic family attractions all around.
Intrepid explorers can admire the full scope of the forest’s incredible natural beauty with a hike to the top of Symonds Yat Rock, to be rewarded with stunning views over the Wye Valley. Hire a canoe or kayak and take to river when you head back to the bottom; or for a more relaxing option, grab a table and enjoy a riverside drink at The Saracen’s Head Inn, where Sex Education fans can get a glimpse of Otis and Jean’s famous red and white house overlooking the River Wye.
For those with little ones in tow, with its unique outdoor sculpture trail; family-friendly Superworm trail; Go Ape treetop adventure; and family cycle trail, Forestry England’s Beechenhurst site is an ideal base for a family day out in the forest – with nearby Cannop Ponds and Mallards Pike accessible from the nine-mile family cycle trail providing an idyllic lakeside setting for a picnic.
Symonds Yat isn’t the only famous filming location in the forest, with Star Wars fans able to see the site of the iconic lightsaber battle between Kylo Ren and Rey from The Force Awakens at Puzzlewood. There’s plenty more to explore at the magical woodland, too – while the adorable Perrygrove Railway is just across the road, offering steam train rides through the woods ideal for families with children up to 10-years-old.
For anyone interested in the history of the area, Clearwell Caves gives visitors a chance to see some of the oldest mine workings in the country, meet the forest’s freeminers and walk in the footsteps of Doctor Who, while the Dean Heritage Centre in Soudley is a family-friendly attraction that documents the area’s rich and fascinating past through its five museum galleries.
Foodies won’t want to miss the chance to go foraging in the forest, with Harts Barn Cookery School in Longhope and Tudor Farmhouse in Clearwell both offering foraging experiences to seek out wild garlic, edible mushrooms, sorrel, wild fruits and flowers, depending on what’s in season, before cooking up a feast with your foraged finds.
The forest also offers a number of quirky experiences, too, from llama trekking at Briery Hill Llamas in Newent, to visiting the largest true crime museum in Europe at Littledean Jail near Cinderford – where thankfully you can calm your nerves with a pint of award-winning Bespoke Brewery beer at the nearby Littledean Tap, afterwards.
Spend a night under the stars
After a day of adventuring, an overnight stay in the Forest of Dean provides the perfect opportunity to leave the stresses of life behind and reconnect with nature. While there are plenty of campsites to pitch up a tent or park a caravan, for a truly unique experience, indulge in a spot of glamping.
From safari tents at May Hill Woodlands, quirky yurts at Mrs Mills’ Yurts near Longhope, award-winning cabins at The Roost in Mitcheldean to the luxurious Hudnalls Hideout treehouse in St Briavel’s, these glamping destinations allow visitors to sink into wood-fired hot tubs; light a fire and toast marshmallows; or wrap up in a blanket and spend the night stargazing, before retiring to a cosy bed before another day of exploring.
Day 2 – A day in gorgeous Gloucester
Head off bright and early for breakfast at one of Gloucester’s independent coffee houses –like Hubble Bubble and Guru in the city centre, or Bake & Brew and On Toast at the docks to set you up for a day of sightseeing.
As the county’s most iconic building, Gloucester Cathedral is a must-visit. From wandering the famous cloisters to spot Harry Potter filming locations; marvelling at the spectacular architecture; finding the tomb of King Edward II; to trekking to the top on a Tower Tour for some of the most spectacular views across the county, a trip to this stunning building won’t disappoint. You can even pick up a takeaway afternoon tea from The Monk’s Kitchen to enjoy on Cathedral Green when the weather is good.
Literature lovers young and old won’t want to miss Beatrix Potter museum The House of the Tailor of Gloucester on Gloucester’s prettiest street, just a few feet from the cathedral. There are plenty more museums to explore in the city, too – with the Museum of Gloucester being home to parts of the original Roman walls of Glevum, the world’s oldest backgammon set and the historically significant Birdlip Mirror; the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum providing a fascinating insight into the lives of local servicemen; and the National Waterways Museum documenting the story of Britain’s canals and rivers – with Gloucester being the most inland port in the country.
The historic docks are a beautiful place for a waterside stroll, with Victorian warehouses and the Mariner’s Chapel to take in – not to mention a chance to see spectacular boats, listen to sea shanties and enjoy loads of free entertainment if you’re in town during the Tall Ships Festival.
For shopping galore, right on the docks is Gloucester Quays – a great place to pick up designer fashion and homeware at outlet prices, with big brands including All Saints, Barbour, Levi and Ted Baker, as well as local brands Raging Bull and Weird Fish.
When it comes to evening dining, visitors have plenty of choice in Gloucester, with a diverse selection of incredible independent restaurants. Casual diners will love grabbing a sourdough pizza at Hooker & Eight, trying Vietnamese classics at Viet Yummy and tucking into Thai food at Bangkok Canteen, all on Westgate Street.
Or head back to the docks for a Mediterranean-inspired evening by the waterside, with Settebello serving up authentic Italian flavours and its famous metre-long pizzas; and Greek on the Docks cooking up traditional Greek dishes that will transport you straight to the Aegean, with waterside views from its terrace, too.
For a unique place to spend a night in Gloucester, book a stay on the LV14 SULA Lightship. The historic vessel boasts a rare, working Fresnel lens and has been lovingly restored with two luxury cabins to stay in. It was even featured on BBC Two’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.
Or for those who’d prefer to spend the night on land, Gloucester boasts plenty of well-known hotel chains outside of the city centre, with beautiful spa hotel Hatherley Manor, just north of Gloucester, or country house hotel Hatton Court on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Day 3 – Discover the Stroud district
While Stroud itself boasts a buzzing vibe, a world-famous farmers market and a plethora of independent businesses where visitors can shop, drink and dine, there’s plenty to explore in the wider Stroud district, too.
For an outdoorsy day out, keen walkers will love stretching their legs along the Cotswold Way from Coaley Peak to Selsley Common, taking in stunning views of the Cotswold Hills, the Severn Valley, the Forest of Dean and even the Brecon Beacons on a clear day. There’s also the chance to go stand up paddleboarding along Stroud’s canals.
If you’re in the area during bluebell season, be sure to head to Cam Peak in Dursley, to see the summit carpeted with flowers; or take a stroll around Painswick Rococo Garden for a dose of colour whatever the season, with the beautiful 18th century attraction being the UK’s only surviving complete rococo garden.
Wildlife-loving visitors and families won’t want to miss a trip to Slimbridge Wetland Centre, while history buffs can see the place where King Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle, wander amongst the ghost ships at Purton Ships’ Graveyard, or brave the haunted halls of the unfinished Woodchester Mansion in Nympsfield, spotting filming locations from the BBC’s His Dark Materials and Netflix’s The Crown.
Literature fans can stop off for a drink at the pub that inspired Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie at The Woolpack Inn in Slad and foodies can sample some of Gloucestershire’s award-winning wines with a tasting session at Woodchester Valley Vineyard or enjoy a pint at the Stroud Brewery canalside taproom.
For a traditional family dinner, opt for a Cotswold pub like the Fostons Ash Inn, The Bell at Selsley, The Ragged Cot or The Royal Oak in Tetbury for a hearty meal where local, seasonal produce is the star.
Head into the centre of Stroud for a more eclectic mix of independent eateries, like locals’ favourite Tomari-gi ramen bar, South American restaurant, Galgos Latino, and dedicated vegan restaurant Karibu.
Or, for a special showstopping meal, Wilder in Nailsworth offers a surprise eight-course tasting menu with matching drinks flights.
Day 4 – Explore the Regency Town
As the most complete Regency town in England, Cheltenham is a beautiful place to spend a day (or longer, of course!), with impressive architecture around every corner. Take a wander along the pretty Promenade; admire Cheltenham’s grand Town Hall; see if you can spot the Caryatids in Montpellier, stopping off for a drink at The Ivy, housed within the Rotunda with its incredible domed ceiling, while you’re there; and further out of town, head to the beautiful Pittville Park to see the Grade I listed Pittville Pump Room.
If you’re visiting in spring and summer, a swim at Sandford Parks Lido is a must. The heated outdoor pool sits within four acres of landscaped gardens, perfect for a spot of sunbathing after taking a dip; while The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, which is undergoing a huge refurbishment, is ideal for exploring on rainy days.
The Brewery Quarter also has plenty to keep all ages entertained, from adventure golf, bowling and soft play to Creams dessert café – not to mention quirky cocktail bar The Alchemist, craft beer hotspot BrewDog and social darts venue Flight Club for young-at-heart adults, too.
A little further afield, visitors can walk in the footsteps of royalty with a trip to Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, to see the final resting place of Queen Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife, and explore the beautiful gardens surrounding the castle. Or if you’ve got little ones, head to Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park in nearby Guiting Power for an animal-themed adventure at the home of Gloucestershire’s most famous farmer.
Cheltenham comes alive in the evening with a swathe of incredible independent restaurants, bars and nightclubs. To eat, enjoy vibrant Sri Lankan street food and ‘Cocotails’ at The Coconut Tree in St Paul’s, exceptional Japanese food at KIBOU and YOKU, Spanish tapas at Bar Padron, American comfort food at The Tavern – or go all out with fine dining at GL50, Purslane and Gloucestershire’s only Michelin star restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage.
For a nightcap, there’s ultra-Instagrammable candyfloss cocktails at No. 131, crystal-inspired cocktails at The Apprentice star Sophie Wilding’s Imperial Haus, incredible infusions at Merchant + Lab and an extensive collection of whiskies and wine at John Gordons – with Home & Botanic nightclub catering to those looking to party into the small hours.
From Gloucestershire’s only five-star hotel, Ellenborough Park and the luxurious Queens Hotel, to gorgeous boutique hotels like No. 131 in the town centre and No.38 The Park in the leafy suburb of Pittville, there’s no shortage of places to spend the night in Cheltenham, either. With budget options, such as the Premier Inn at The Brewery Quarter, too.
Day 5 – The most beautiful village in England
Get set for the day with brunch at one of Cheltenham’s fantastic independent cafés, with Woodkraft in the town centre; Baker & Graze in the Suffolks; and Curious Café and Bistro on Bath Road, serving up everything from classic full English breakfasts and smashed avocado on toast, to spicy shakshuka and stacks of sweet buttermilk pancakes.
Once you’re fuelled up, head off into the Cotswolds for a picture-perfect day out in what William Morris described as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. The quintessential Cotswold village of Bibury is a must-see, with the famous Arlington Row being one of the most photographed – and Instagrammable – places to visit in the county.
As well as classic, chocolate-box cottages around every corner, there’s plenty of history to discover in Bibury, too – from the Saxon Church of St Mary; the picturesque 17th century Arlington Mill, which is now a holiday rental; to Chedworth Roman Villa, complete with surviving mosaics, around 20 minutes outside the village.
Wildlife-lovers can explore the Rack Isle nature reserve in the heart of the village, looking out for the resident dragonflies, kingfishers, grass snakes and water voles, not to mention Belted Galloway cows in summer. While keen walkers can pick up the four-mile Bibury Circular walking route to stretch their legs and soak in some of those stunning Cotswold views.
For a wholesome way to enjoy lunch, head to Bibury Trout Farm, where from March to October each year, visitors can catch and barbecue their own fish. No experience is necessary, the trout farm provides all the equipment you’ll need, with the fun, family-friendly activity aimed at absolute beginners.
If you don’t fancy catching your own, The Catherine Wheel is a 15th century Cotswold inn serving traditional pub grub and stone-baked pizzas, while those with a sweet tooth can enjoy afternoon tea at The Swan Hotel.
An afternoon in Cirencester
The former capital of the Cotswolds is just a 15-minute drive away from Bibury, with Cirencester boasting beautiful architecture; the fascinating Corinium Museum which has one of the largest collections of Roman artefacts in the country; and thought-provoking craft exhibitions at New Brewery Arts.
Art lovers won’t want to miss taking a trip to Cotswold Sculpture Park a short drive away in South Cerney, with the unique outdoor gallery exhibiting over 200 sculptures when it’s open from April until September each year.
The Corn Hall in the centre of Cirencester runs regular events like an antiques and collectibles market, vintage and artisan fair and Cotswold Craft Market, too – ideal for picking up unique bits to take home, while Cirencester Park – part of the Bathurst Estate – is a beautiful place for a late afternoon stroll with a coffee from its horse box café.
There’s an abundance of places to stay in this area, like the super stylish boutique hotel, Ingleside House on the edge of Cirencester; the luxurious The King’s Head Hotel in the heart of the town; De Vere Cotswold Water Park offering a spectacular lakeside location in South Cerney; and plenty of charming Cotswold pubs with rooms in the surrounding villages.
For those looking for a longer self-catering stay, there’s also Log House Holidays nearby, with a collection of cosy log cabins overlooking the lakes at Somerford Keynes, boasting wood-fired hot tubs, rowing boats and 130 acres of unspoilt grounds to explore – perfect for families and groups looking to stay for a few days.
Day 6 – The Gloucestershire Cotswolds
With so many charming villages to explore, spend the day on a tour of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and experience the very best of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is a picturesque destination characterised by its low footbridges over the River Windrush, which flows through the village. There’s plenty for families to do, including Birdland Park and Gardens, The Model Village, The Dragonfly Maze and Cotswold Motoring Museum, while the 1.3-mile-long stretch of the Cotswold Way between Bourton-on-the-Water and Lower Slaughter offers spectacular views of over the countryside.
Lower Slaughter itself is home to Britain’s ‘most romantic’ street – Copse Hill Road – and a great place to stop off for lunch at a traditional Cotswold pub like The Slaughters Country Inn. Meanwhile, Stow-on-the-Wold is home to the oldest inn in England, The Porch House and the door that supposedly inspired J.R.R. Tolkein’s Doors of Durin at St Edward’s Church.
Over towards Kingham, you’ll find Daylesford with its award-winning farm shop stocking fresh produce from its farm, as well as a café, restaurant, bar, cookery school and even a wellness spa.
Tolkein fans also won’t want to miss stopping off for a drink at The Bell Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh – the pub which is said to have inspired The Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings. Moreton is full of characteristic Cotswold honey-coloured stone buildings, too – with the High Street offering plenty of independent boutique shops to browse. And, just outside the village, there’s also the beautiful Batsford Arboretum to explore, with 56 acres of grounds and over 1,000 species of trees from all over the world, as well as the spectacular Sezincote House, a Mogul Indian palace with romantic landscaped gardens.
Offering one of the most unique dining experiences in the county, The Scenic Supper at Todenham Farm should be on every foodie’s bucket list. With a changing seasonal menu featuring local produce, diners can enjoy the likes of Cotswold chicken ravioli; asparagus with white truffle and egg yolk; and rhubarb parfait with white chocolate – all while watching the sun set over the gorgeous Cotswold countryside from their own private glasshouse.
Moreton-in-Marsh is just a short drive from The Scenic Supper and offers plenty of places to stay, such as the White Hart Royal Hotel, the Manor House Hotel and the Redesdale Arms. While Stow-on-the-Wold a little further away boasts boutique hotels like The Old Stocks Inn and The Stag at Stow, as well as characterful Cotswold inns like The Bell at Stow and The Porch House.
Day 7 – Chipping Campden
Start the day with fresh coffee and breakfast at Blockley Village Shop and Café before heading into the quaint Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. Take a leisurely walk down the pretty High Street or meet local artists and craftspeople at The Gallery at the Guild in Chipping Campden’s Old Silk Mill.
For horticultural inspiration aplenty, take a trip to the internationally-renowned Hidcote Manor Garden just north of Chipping Camden, with its intricately designed Arts and Crafts-inspired gardens providing a delightful day out.
An afternoon exploring Tewkesbury
Tewkesbury is an ideal place to round off your Gloucestershire trip, with easy access to the M5 when you’re ready to head home.
Take a scenic river cruise to see the sights of the medieval market town from the water, including Tewkesbury Abbey, the town’s iconic Tudor houses and Tewkesbury Marina. Explore the 900-year-old Benedictine abbey to admire its impressive architecture and enjoy a moment of peace and stillness; retrace the steps of 15th century soldiers on the Battle Trail walking route through the town; stop off for a drink overlooking the water at a riverside pub like The Boathouse or the 15th century Lower Lode Inn – and be sure to pick up some famous Tewkesbury Mustard if you’re in town when the markets are on.