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Three enticing tours in and around the Cotswolds

Three inspiring ideas for where to go in and around the Cotswolds, from Bath to Bourton-on-the-Water

Reading length: 4 minutes

The Cotswolds: a land of honey-hued houses, nestled in medieval market towns, set amidst undulating hills. It’s easy to see why so many Britons seeking a retreat from frenetic urban living choose this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as a destination. It’s a favourite, too, amongst international visitors looking for the postcard-perfect vision of England. 

Novelist J.B. Priestley described the region as: "the most English and the least spoiled of all our countrysides. The truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them."

Should you wish to see these handsome towns of ‘glimmering’ stone yourself, here are three suggestions for a journey in the Cotswolds. 

Broadway, Bourton and beyond 

Broadway has a history harking back more than 5,000 years, but it became especially prosperous in medieval times. Today, this large village with its epitomic limestone buildings is an excellent starting point for a day tour of the Cotswolds. Wander down Broadway’s tree-lined high street, stopping into some of the charming shops, cosy cafés and inviting pubs along the way. If you’ve time, be sure to visit Broadway Tower, an iconic folly set atop a hill that affords gorgeous views across the pastoral landscape. 

Continue to Bourton-on-the-Water, a chocolate-box village whose attractive high street is flanked by the River Windrush. This sleepy conurbation has become a must-see on the tourist trail, not least for its charming riverside tearooms, quaint Grade II-listed model village, Cotswold Motoring Museum and Kit Williams-designed Dragonfly Maze.

Finally, head north to Hidcote Manor Gardens. This National Trust estate is home to a prized Arts and Crafts-inspired garden: more than four hectares of manicured green space, divided by walls and hedges into ‘rooms’. Each of these spaces has its own curated character, and is filled with displays of perennials and unusual shrubbery. It’s undoubtedly one of England’s finest gardens.

Bath – the Roman spa city

On the fringes of the Cotswolds AONB lies one of the most attractive cities in the UK. Much of Bath is built from oolitic limestone, sourced from local mines and giving the city its characteristic honey hue. Once a Roman encampment, Bath had grown into a fashionable spa retreat by the 1700s, and is now one of the most visited cities in the UK. 

There is plenty to occupy you on a tour of the city. The historic Baths are a must; wonderfully preserved, they form one of Northern Europe’s most complete Roman sites and reflect over 2,000 years of history. Although you aren’t permitted to take a dip due to the quality of water, the nearby Thermae Bath Spa draws water from the same mineral-rich source, treats it, and uses it across its own soothing baths. 

Beside the Roman Baths lies Bath Abbey, a hallowed place of sanctuary in the heart of the city. Impressive fan vaulting, intricate stained-glass windows and characteristic Bath stone make quite an impression as you stop in for a service, tour or simply a few moments respite.

Bath was an important location in two novels by former resident, Jane Austen, and the Royal Crescent and famous Circus have starred in many adaptations. Their Palladian architecture typify England’s Georgian period, and are worth a visit in person.

Chipping Campden to Shakespeare’s Stratford

You may wish to begin your exploration of the Cotswolds in the north of the region, in which case, Chipping Campden is a superlative starting point. This small market town charms with its myriad medieval listed buildings and row upon row of honey-hued houses. Be sure to pop into the boutique shops along its wide high street. If you’ve time, Kiftsgate Court Gardens near the town deserve a visit; these landscapes gardens were established and developed by three generations of women gardeners, and brim with colourful, harmoniously arranged flowers. 

Continue north to Stratford-upon-Avon at the very edge of the Cotswolds. The market town is best known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. During a visit, tour the half-timber house where it’s believed he was born in 1564, then head to Holy Trinity, known as ‘Shakespeare’s Church’ as it is where the Bard was baptised, married and buried. Finish at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in the nearby village of Shottery, the delightful timber-framed childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife and now serves as a public museum.

Classic Cotswolds

6 nights from £3,059

Slip on the Barbour jacket and head out on a week-long tour of the essential sites and landmarks of the iconic Cotswolds

Dormy House

Southern England, UK and Ireland

Discover farmhouse chic at the Dormy House, Broadway. Think cosy corners, crackling log fires, soft interiors and a warm welcome

Ellenborough Park

Southern England, UK and Ireland

Don the Dubarry's and explore the Cotswold countryside at this luxury 15th-century estate, family and dog-friendly. Fine dining and spa treatments await