THE COTSWOLDS: All You Wanted to Know About It in One Article
Updated: Jul 29
The Cotswolds is a place on Earth, which we believe, should be on everyone’s Bucket List.
I came to the Cotswolds in 2009 for the first time. My husband and I had just got married and we were looking for a picturesque place in our own country to spend our mini-moon. We had some ideas to consider but a few of our friends convinced us that the Cotswolds is by far the best place to visit!
Wow, I was absolutely blown away by the place! Imagine… charming little honey-coloured stone cottages, entwined by roses and surrounded by foxgloves… everywhere you go… cute little villages on rolling hills… quirky cobbled streets… pretty little boutique-style independent shops… vintage tea rooms… as if that wasn’t enough to start with.
Needless to say, we had an absolutely great mini-moon and fell in love with the Cotswolds so deeply that we felt we had to come back for our 1st wedding anniversary… then 2nd… then 3rd… Well, you’ve got the point.
The Cotswolds is “a needle” you get badly addicted to.
What is the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds is the area in the South-East part of Central England which was formed throughout millennia, from the very first Celtic settlements dating back to 2000 B.C. to the present day.
Today the Cotswolds has a status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
What does the word “Cotswolds” mean?
Cots-Wolds came from 2 words combined together.
One is known for sure. Wolds is an Old English word for the uplands (hills), gently rolling away from the oolitic stone ridge laying between Hawksbury in the south and Chipping Campden in the north. The rocks that form the Cotswold Hills date back to the Jurassic period between 210-140 million years ago.
The other word – Cots – has two still arguable definitions:
“Cot” as an Old English word for sheep enclosure;
“Cot” as a name of a Saxon farmer who settled there.
No one actually knows which one of these is true. But our vote goes to “sheep enclosure on the rolling hills”!
You will probably not see anywhere else in entire country so many sheep grazing in the beautiful countryside.
Where is the Cotswolds?
Well, you know now that it is in England.
To be precise, in south-west part of Central England. Historically, it was bordered by Hawkesbury to the South, Ilmington to the north, Cheltenham to the west and Chipping Norton to the east. However, throughout the past century the influence of the area has spread out and now quite often includes Bath, Gloucester and Woodstock.
Some travel books went even further and now included Stratford-upon-Avon as a part of the Cotswolds, which is frankly wrong. Stratford has its own unique historical heritage and appearance and very little influence (if any) from the Cotswolds. Besides, the official modern Cotswold border is a good 10 miles away from Stratford.
Today the Cotswolds lays within 6 English counties: mainly Gloucestershire, then Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Somerset.
Is the Cotswolds a good destination for staycations in the UK?
First, it’s right in the middle of the country. No matter where you are, it will not take you long to travel there.
Close proximity to M5 and good railway links have made this region an easy to reach perfect holiday spot, especially for staycations in the UK.
If the see-side pleasures aren’t important attributes of a holiday for you, then the Cotswolds is the place. Picturesque walks, quaint villages, countless attractions (when they re-open again)… and even one of most well-known inland beaches complete with many water activities.
What is so special about the Cotswolds and why should it be on my Bucket List?
If we could give you a simple answer, it would be “There is no other place in the world like this”. Literally. It’s unique!
You will not see entire villages and even towns built from honey-coloured limestone anywhere else. Most of these beautifully preserved cottages and churches date back centuries! Most of the inhabitants are descendants of the original settlers. Our Graziers Cottage was built in 1720 and is virtually unchanged in over 3 hundred years.
The reason for this was simple – lack of major roads and hard terrain made it very difficult to move around or transport goods to the area.
People who lived in the area were working locally, farming local breeds and local crops, digging local limestone to build their dwellings and stone walls marking their land boundaries…
Traditionally, farm workers and builders were the most popular occupations in the Cotswolds.
The architecture of the Cotswolds buildings is so unique to the area that in 1964 the region was recognised as one of outstanding natural beauty.
Nobody can use non-native building designs or materials now in the Cotswolds. The appearance of villages and market towns has been carefully preserved to remain unchanged over hundreds of years…
As a heritage area, there is simply no room for anything large: big chain stores, supermarkets etc. You will only find it in the Cotswolds on the outskirts of settlements, out of sight.
All the historical buildings can accommodate are small boutique-style shops, selling artisan produce, vintage clothing, luxury items made by hand or in a limited quantities; antique shops; quirky restaurants and pubs… maybe a museum dedicated to a local wonder…and of course – the icing on the cake – proper traditional tea rooms!
So when you are in the Cotswolds, all you want to do is… wander around the towns & villages dropping in the shops, enjoying the atmosphere, observing the village life, admiring the architecture, the pretty cottage gardens… stopping for a coffee or tea and cake… then continue strolling and stopping for lunch… dinner… etc. depending on how fit or hungry you are.
Is there anything else to do in the Cotswolds other than the village strolling?
As with any large area, the Cotswolds has quite an extensive list of attractions. Each of them could easily fulfill an entire day of your life. In this blog post we can only name them and add a short description.
Beautiful folly tower built in 1798 on the top of Fish Hill, a perfect viewing point across 13 counties!
Chedworth Roman Villa
One of Britain’s largest Roman Villas, which dates back to 400-200 AD.
The icon of the Cotsowlds – a row of cottages built ca.1500 for wool storage, became weaver’s cottages in the 17th century. Now owned by the National Trust, tenants live in all the cottages apart from Number 9, which is a holiday let.
The correct way to pronounce it is “sue-dley”. A magnificent Tudor castle and gardens built in the 15th century. Queen Kathetrine Parr, the only surviving wife of Henry VIII, is buried here.
Family run lavender-growing farm with magnificent views over the Cotswold hills. Open for visitors June – mid August. Flowering fields, oil distillery in action. Farm shop sells its own produce: essential oil, toiletries etc.
Full-scale distillery producing Cotswolds Dry Gin and Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky. Take a tour followed by sample testing but book well in advance due to high demand!
Cotswolds Farm Park (Adam Henson’s Farm)
Working farm with a display of rare breeds and many activities for the children.
Home to one of the largest private tree collections in the country. Beautiful walks along 56 acres. Playground. Nature trails. Café with delicious food. Garden centre.
9 acres of gardens and woodland transformed into a “bird zoo”: penguins, flamingos, pelicans, tropical birds and more than 50 aviaries… there is also a terrarium with giant tortoises and other reptiles.
Collection of rare vehicles, toys and memorabilia from bygone eras.
1/9 scale replica of Bourton-on-the-Water. All buildings built from Cotswold stone.
A puzzle-maze experience. Navigate through the hedge walls to the centre and crack some clues which you find on your way. Correct answers form a key sentence to finish the game. It took us 30 minutes to complete!
Model Railway Exhibition
One of the finest operating indoor model railway layouts in the country. Covers approx. 500 sq. feet and contains sceneries of open countryside, mountains, industrial sites etc.
Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens
A non-traditional zoo where the animals aren’t kept in cages but within enclosures which are carefully landscaped and designed in a way that the visitor can come into close but very safe contact with the animals.
Bibury Trout Farm
A working trout farm set in the middle of the picturesque Coitswold village of Bibury. Visitors can stroll along the ponds and feed the trout or catch their own fish and barbecue it onsite. Farm shop sells smoked fish.
Cotswold Country Park & Beach
An extensive private parkland on the shores of the Cotswold Water Park. Enjoy a large inland sandy beach and relax with a picnic or barbecue – or take part in one of many fun activities.
If you are keen walker, what could be better than exploring beautiful unspoiled countryside stopping occasionally at a quaint village pub? The Cotswolds has many picturesque walks for all levels.
One of the entry-level walks (5.75 miles, or 9.3 km) starts right outside Graziers Cottage.
You won’t get bored whilst in the Cotswolds. That’s a promise.
What are the must-see villages and towns in the Cotswolds?
This is a very difficult question indeed! There is probably no recipe for everyone’s taste.
We came up with our own list however. Not in the order of our preferences but based on how far it is from Graziers Cottage.
Upper and Lower Slaughters
What is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds is such a versatile area - it can be enjoyed anytime!
Summer is probably the most attractive part of the year when you can expect better weather. This is the time when accommodation prices soar, especially around Summer school holidays (from mid July till end of August). Normally attractions, restaurants and tea rooms are flooded with tourists as this is the busiest time of the year. However, it might be slightly different this Summer when places re-open again following social distancing guidelines.
Autumn is slightly under-valued, in our opinion. The English weather still feels summery, sometimes until the end of October. The number of tourists drops, especially amongst those with children – unless your trip falls on October school half-term holiday! Generally, Autumn accommodation prices are more reasonable and you can get a table at the restaurant without a reservation.
Winter is the cheapest season of all in terms of accommodation… unless you stay for Christmas or New Year’s Holiday. However this is the time when Cotswolds villages look the most romantic of all – decorated with fairy lights, shop windows look like “a child’s dream come true”... brass bands are playing... late night shopping is enjoyed by merry crowds... mince pies and mulled wine is sold everywhere you go… the atmosphere is just incredible!
And it starts as early as the last weekend of November when Bourton-on-the-Water traditionally presents a “floating Christmas tree” in the middle of the River Windrush streaming all the way through the village.
Spring starts with an impressive snowdrops display all over the Cotswolds… there are literally carpets of this delicate flower around Grazires Cottage! The accommodation prices remain at its lowest until Easter – and then start rising all the way to Summer. The weather is very changeable: we have seen snow suddenly covering the Wolds in March and a blistering heatwave in the middle of April… There are some Spring ideas for you:
There is no right or wrong time to visit the Cotswolds. Just see what suits you best.
We hope that this post has given you some inspiration to visit the Cotswolds. Despite all the challenges we are currently facing. Just to switch off and relax.
We could only fit this much in without the risk of it turning into an endless article. However we promise to come back with more information and tips on individual places and attractions. If you don’t want to miss it, you can subscribe to our mailing list.
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