Picture the scene: the car is packed, your canine companions are secure and you set off for a dream weekend in the Cotswolds. When you arrive, you are welcomed and presented with a completely bespoke itinerary for your stay, tailored exactly to you and your doggy's requirements, where all you need to do is turn up at the right place, at the right time, and the rest is taken care of. Restaurant reservations confirmed, too. Sound heavenly?
SoGlos got the lowdown from Gemma Conway of Cotswold Cottage Gems — a luxury holiday cottage company based in Bourton-on-the-Water — on creating the dream Cotswold country escape that's perfect for both you and your furry friends too.
Where to stay
With over 700 square miles of countryside and quaint honey-hued villages, the Cotswolds is an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty and the ultimate staycation for you and your four-legged friends to explore. Cotswold Cottage Gems has 12 beautifully appointed cottages, which are all pet-friendly to ensure you can bring along the whole family. It even supplies canine-friendly treats on arrival, by locally-produced Cotswold Choice, along with dog bowls, blankets and poop bags to use throughout your stay.
With a self-catering cottage, guests have the flexibility to relax in a home away from home, without worrying about other guests and strict check-in and check-out times, knowing that the facilities will be 100 per cent dog-friendly. And to add to this convenience, the gorgeous properties owned and managed by Cotswold Cottage Gems are all on the doorstep of some beautiful scenic walks, local attractions, pubs and restaurants that all welcome dogs.
Cotswold Cottage Gems has cottages located throughout the Cotswolds, in stunning locations such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh, Longborough, Cold Aston and Stow-on-the-Wold. It even offers a pet-sitting service, for dog owners who need to attend events such as weddings but don't want to leave pups for long periods of time.
Where to eat
For breakfast: The Hive in Stow-on-the-Wold opens at 9am and serves dishes like a full English breakfast, bacon sarnies, smashed avocado on sourdough and smoked salmon on pumpernickel. Well-behaved dogs are welcomed into the front of the restaurant. In Bourton-on-the-Water, The Croft is a riverside cafe offering a variety of cooked breakfasts, poached eggs on sourdough and pretzel subs, among other delicious dishes.
For lunch: The Feathered Nest Inn at Nether Westcote near Chipping Norton is an award-winning traditional Cotswold pub with a 350-year-old history, serving tasty eats such fish and chips, Longhorn beef burger, lobster thermidor and steamed halibut. Over in the sleepy Cotswold hamlet of Kineton, The Halfway is a 17th-century inn with oodles of traditional charm. Owned by the University of Oxford until 1975, the inn is now run by two chefs who have both worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, so diners can expect lunchtime dishes such as double-baked cheese souffle, braised blade of beef and Brixham wild bass to be cooked to perfection.
For dinner: The Porch House is a quintessentially charming old Cotswold inn at Stow-on-the-Wold that dates back to an amazing 947 AD. Diners can tuck into dishes such as crispy salt and pepper squid to start, an 8oz picanha Brazilian-cut rump steak for a main course and a baked triple chocolate brownie for pudding.
And for pre and post-dinner drinks: the bar at Moreton Wine Merchants in Moreton-in-Marsh has a wonderful selection of wines to taste, as well as a scrumptious charcuterie board to graze on. While Smiths of Bourton is renowned for its cocktail menu, with inspired concoctions such as a Heimlich Manoeuvre (blackcurrant leaf syrup, Plymouth gin, fresh lime juice, Suze aperitif, absinthe mist and orange oil) and a Nervous Breakdown (Becherovka herbal liqueur, Cotswolds dry gin, lemon and lime sherbet, fresh lime, IPA and Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters).
Where to visit
Pull the wellies on and take a relaxing stroll around Greystones Farm Nature Reserve in Bourton-on-the-Water. With 66 hectares of wildflower-rich meadows to explore, the reserve is home to otters, water voles, swallows, house martins and owls, among many other wonderful native species. Dogs are very welcome here but Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust asks that they be kept on a lead when near grazing livestock.
Broadway Tower and country park has over 200 acres for four-legged friends to zoom around in. While dogs aren't permitted in the tower museum, there is plenty for pooches to do here, including walks, a dedicated canine playground — featuring paw-some agility obstacles — and a dog-friendly cafe and restaurant for a spot of lunch or an afternoon tea.
Painswick Rococo Garden is a magical place for the whole family — especially the four-legged members. While it's a must-see destination in the summer when the gardens are in full bloom, in autumn the scarecrow trail leads you around beautiful woodland as the trees display magnificent rich reds and oranges; and the enchanted light trail by night in December and January showcases beautiful willow sculptures all aglow for the festive season.
Another venue that is particularly special in the autumn is the 60 acres at Batsford Arboretum when its unique collection of some of the world’s most rare trees, shrubs and bamboos are turning for the season to display an amazing array of colours.
For a more floral experience, a wander around the pick-your-own flower fields at Chippy Flower Farm in Chipping Norton is delightful, perhaps topped off with a stop for lunch at The Chequers pub in the nearby picturesque village of Churchill — its garden is the perfect suntrap for warm autumnal afternoons.
For a taste of award-winning English wine, the Little Oak Vineyard in Chipping Campden welcomes dogs with open arms, while their owners can enjoy a wine tasting and learn how Cotswold wine is made.
And for a treat that's just for your perfect pooches, The Cotswold Grooming Co in Stow-on-the-Wold is a doggy salon where pups can choose from a full groom for up to three hours or a wash and fluff for up to one and a half hours. It even offers a facial scrub and a final luxury finishing cologne spritz, so pets can leave looking and feeling like royalty. After a pamper, pups and their owners can browse the huge collection of doggy accessories, clothes, food and toys in the shop, perhaps taking home a little memento of their perfect weekend in the Cotswolds.
The best dog walks
There are an abundance of gorgeous walks in the Cotswolds, but Cotswold Cottage Gems and its four-legged employees, Woody and Mr Bojangles the pug, recommend five of their favourite countryside stomps, each with a pub along the way for those all-important doggy treats and hearty lunches.
Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters circular walk — 5.4 miles — two to three hours: taking in some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, this walk takes you along the banks of the rivers Windrush and Eye, past historic churches, cottages and manor houses — pubs along the route include Lords of the Manor Hotel in Upper Slaughter; The Slaughters Country Inn and The Slaughters Manor House in Lower Slaughter.
Naunton to Notgrove circular walk — 6.2 miles — two to three hours: taking you through some of the prettiest woodland in the Cotswolds, this walk is perfect for a stop at The Plough Inn at Cold Aston.
Westcote and Icomb circular walk — 6.3 miles — three to four hours: exploring the four Cotswold villages of Bledlington, Nether Westcote, Church Westcote and Icomb, this loop starts and ends at the Kings Head Inn at Bledington, a 16th-century pub in a picturesque setting.
Cirencester Park circular walk — 6.9 miles — two to four hours: depending on how far you wish to roam around the beautiful Bathurst Estate, a stroll in Cirencester Park will take you through historic parkland, woodland, past a lake and by a deer park. There is an on-site cafe inside the park, or stroll past the Cicely Hill park gates into Cirencester for a plethora of pubs and cafes to choose from.
Cowley to Colesbourne and Upper Coberley — 6.5 miles — three hours: this walk starts at The Green Dragon, a hidden gem of a pub tucked away in Cockleford in the heart of walking country. Park in the pub car park and meander through the fields from Cowley village through the Colesbourne estate and on to Coberley, looping back to the pub for a well-earned rest and refuel.