The Cotswolds is one of the prettiest areas in the country, with sleepy villages, honey-hued towns, cosy country pubs and a plethora of romantic spots to cuddle up with a glass of something chilled and a delicious dinner.
SoGlos finds out the insider secrets on where to stay, eat and visit, from local holiday experts, Cotswold Cottage Gems, based in beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds
Cotswold Cottage Gems has 12 sumptuously kitted out cottages across the Cotswolds for an intimate stay for two, plus its award-winning adults-only guest house, The Lansdowne in Bourton-on-the-Water, is perfect for a night away.
A stay in one of The Lansdowne's superior rooms will see couples treated to wine, chocolates and a bubble bath for the ultimate relaxation. Handily, the guest house is located just a five-minute walk from the centre of Bourton — also known as the `Venice of the Cotswolds’ — perfect for a stroll into the village for dinner and drinks.
Where to eat in the Cotswolds
For breakfast: If staying at the luxurious Lansdowne guest house, nothing beats descending the stairs in your slippers to enjoy a perfectly home-cooked breakfast without having to leave the house. Choose from a full English with local ingredients or an elegant poached egg dish with asparagus or smoked salmon, topped with a creamy sauce. The hospitality team at the guest house prides itself on using fresh local produce from Cotswold-based suppliers such as Billy’s Eggs and Jesse Smith's butchers.
For coffee: For a pitstop in between meals or after a hearty stomp through the countryside, the artisan Bakery on the Water has a prime spot overlooking the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water and is renowned in the village for its excellent coffee and homemade scones and cakes. It uses flour milled by local company Matthews Cotswold Flour in nearby Chipping Norton for its bakes, and offers a mean afternoon tea, too.
For lunch: Bringing the taste of Venice to Bourton-on-the-Water, Venezia is the perfetto lunchtime stop. Serving up authentic, home-cooked Italian fare, this restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients, with classic dishes such as handmade ravioli, tagliatelle and cannelloni, among many others.
For dinner: Venture a little further afield to Chipping Campden in the heart of the Cotswolds for a Greek-themed feast at Michael's Mediterranean. Located in a converted wool market building, Micheal's offers an atmospheric dining experience with soft button-backed seating, floral displays and a roaring fire to set a more intimate tone. Couples can tuck into indulgent Grecian dishes such as butterflied seabass, filetto marathona, moussaka and halloumi and feta saganaki, with an impressive drinks list to complement each flavour.
Where to visit in the Cotswolds
One of the best ways to explore the Cotswolds is by car. Take a drive through some of the most quintessentially pretty villages such as the Slaughters or Bibury; enjoy a peaceful spot of antiques hunting in Stow-on-the-Wold; and pull on your walking boots and hike up the beautiful Cotswolds escarpment to check out Broadway Tower, stopping to soak up the panoramic vistas at the top.
And if staying in Bourton-on-the-Water, stroll along the river and browse the independent shops and galleries in the village, before heading off to explore Chipping Campden. It's arguably one of the prettiest villages in the area with its thatched cottages, thriving shops, art galleries — Jeremy Houghton's gallery is a must-visit — museums and picturesque countryside walks.
No visit to the Cotswolds is complete without a special trip to the nationally renowned farm shop and cafe, Daylesford Organic, with local products including organic wine, cheese, beautiful flowers and gorgeous homeware. There are also some lovely countryside walks surrounding the farm — ideal for building up an appetite before grabbing a bite to eat in its cafe.
And for something a bit more memorable during your mini break, try a private beekeeper's course at Cotswold Bees in Mickleton near Chipping Campden; learn the art of home cheese-making at Simon Weaver Organic in Upper Slaughter; or for the ultimate unique spot to perhaps even get down on one knee, take a sunrise or sunset ride in a hot air balloon with Cotswold Tours. During the hour-long balloon experience, you'll learn how to inflate and deflate the balloon, before taking in the sights from a bird's eye view in the sky, landing where the wind takes you for a celebratory Champagne toast complete with a certificate signed by the pilot.
Romantic walks in the Cotswolds
Starting in Bourton-on-the-Water from outside the Lansdowne guest house, head up through the top of the village for a stroll through the Cotswolds countryside that leads into two of the prettiest villages in England — Lower and Upper Slaughter. A walk that will take around two hours, taking in breathtaking scenery en route, loop back around towards Bourton and stop off for a local beer or cider at master brewer Rick Keene and TV farmer Jeremy Clarkson's Hawkstone Brewery at College Farm on Stow Road.