Touring the Cotswolds in Your Own Way

My favorite part of the English countryside is the Cotswolds, an AONB (Area of Outstanding National Beauty) in the heart of England, two hours west of London, between the popular tourist destinations of Bath (to the south) and Stratford-upon-Avon (to the north).

The Cotswolds has picture-perfect English countryside with gentle rolling hills, fields of crops, large wooded areas and valleys carved out by flowing rivers. Tucked away in these valleys are historic Cotswold villages, with golden Cotswold stone houses dating back hundreds of years and spectacular “wool churches” built when this was a properous wool producing area.

There are many things for the visitor to do in the Cotswolds.

  • For the walking enthusiast there are hundreds of miles of public footpaths and several long distance paths.
  • People who like to explore by car will love the narrow lanes that criss-cross the countryside.
  • The historian can visit pre-historic stone circles and burial grounds, Roman ruins, ancient abbeys, medieval castles, historic houses and Industrial-era mills.
  • Flower lovers will love the beautiful public gardens, many run by the National Trust.
  • And for everyone there are charming pubs with real ale and really good food, farm shops with local organic produce, tea rooms with homemade cakes and scones, beautiful villages to explore, views that never quit.
Naunton and farm fields, Cotswolds
Naunton and farm fields, Cotswolds

Here are three ways to tour the Cotswolds with different levels of travel independence: an organized tour, custom day tours and resources for the independent traveler.

European Experiences – a small group tour

You want to go to the Cotswolds, but don’ t want to spend hours and hours reading and researching? You don’t want to do the driving (drive on the left – yikes!!!)? Then a small group tour is the perfect way for you to see the Cotswolds.

Kathy and Charley Wood started out doing small group tours in the Luberon, their favorite part of France. Now they have added their favorite part of England – The Cotswolds Experience. Kathy and Charley are experienced European travelers and even spent more than a year traveling throughout Europe a few years ago. They have been to the Cotswolds many times.

They have designed a week-long tour, based in the charming market town of Chipping Campden, to show you the best of the Cotswolds. Their next Cotswolds tour is June 2010. Leave the planning and the driving to them!

We have known Kathy and Charley for several years, first meeting them in Europe during their year+ trip. I highly recommend their tours. European Experiences is part of Slow Travel Tours, a group of small group tour operators for Europe.

Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden, Cotswolds

Tour the Cotswolds – custom day tours

You are an independent traveler and enjoy researching and planning your trip, but want to get an insider’s view of the Cotswolds and maybe have a day or two off from driving (drive on the left – yikes!!)? Schedule a day or two for a custom tour of the Cotswolds.

Tim Harrison was born and raised on a family farm in the Cotswolds. He knows every village, every countryside lane, everything you would want to know about the Cotswolds.

Tim offers Tour the Cotswolds, custom driving tours of the Cotswolds. Tell him what type of things you want to see and do and he creates a personalized itinerary for you. Then he picks you up in his comfortable Lexus and shows you a side of the Cotswolds that many travelers never see.

Tim and his wife Jackie live in Snowshill, one of the most charming villages in the Cotswolds.

We met Tim and Jackie at their lovely house during our trip this summer. Jackie fed us the best afternoon tea that we had on the whole trip. Tim took us on a short driving tour of the area. I highly recommend Tim’s custom driving tours, and their B&B looked like a great place to stay.

Church in Swinbrook
Church in Swinbrook, Cotswolds

Cotswolder – travel guide for the independent traveler

You are an independent traveler and love researching a trip? You are ready for the driving challenge (drive on the left – yikes!!)? Then I have the website for you!

Steve and I have been going to the Cotswolds yearly since 2004. We love this area! I took my detailed travel notes and turned them into a website –  Cotswolder, a travel guide for the Cotswolds. I describe the main market towns and recommend things to do and see, places to eat, places to stay and nearby villages to visit. Visit the site and use it to plan your trip!

This summer we spent five weeks in the Cotswolds and had one of our best vacations ever. We are both finally comfortable with the driving and we know the area so well that I hardly need to consult the map or GPS. But, after all the months we have spent in the Cotswolds, there is still more to see and do, so we will be heading back soon. And if we eventually see it all, we will just do it all again.

“I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way. ” (My Way)

Walking along the River Coln
Walking along the River Coln, Cotswolds

Resources

  • National Geographic Traveler, Waking a Sleeping Beauty, September 2009 by Steve McClarence. “A Brit from the industrial north of England explores the storybook world of the Cotswolds, in a classic British sports car.” There is a good photo gallery.
  • The Cotswolds, tourist office website. Order tourist brochures to be mailed to you.
  • Visit Cotswolds, tourist office website with travel information, accommodation booking and more about the Cotswolds.

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

4 thoughts on “Touring the Cotswolds in Your Own Way”

  1. Hi from Chipping Campden. Just arrived from Bath. Lovely places to spend some time in Sept. Tetbury was also a nice little town we drove through today. May go back to visit. Narrow roads with left-hand side curbs make for scary drive for us Canadians.
    Will read more of your site this week. Thanks for Clive-a treasure. He drove and entertained us from Southampton pier to the Queensberry Hotel in Bath.
    chiaro

  2. Hi Chiaro! Tetbury is a nice town, but I think too long a drive to go back to (well over an hour). Other lovely towns are near you – Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, Winchcombe.

    Also think about what you want to see on the day you drive to the airport. You could stop at Burford on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, then drive south to Wiltshire and see Avebury with its huge ancient stone circle – very different from Stonehenge.

    I remember well what it is like the first time driving in England. I sit in the passenger seat and say “too close, too close” until Steve asks me to stop talking. It always seems to the passenger that you are too close to the edge, while the driver thinks he is too close to the center line! They just don’t have our concept of “road shoulders” and all roads seem to have curbs, hedgerows or stone rows right at the edge. Plus the lanes are more narrow.

    I am happy that you liked Clive ( http://www.drive-u.co.uk ). He has driven us from the airport to Bath several times and it is such a luxury to not have to drive in a jetlagged state. The Queensberry ( http://www.thequeensberry.co.uk ) is a lovely hotel. We have stayed there twice and love the historic building and the location.

  3. The Cotswolds are superb to tour by car. And Stow-on-the-Wold remains a firm favourite with some gorgeous cottages for rent. But lanes are narrow and walkers can get frustrated. We suggest a road and pub tour of the Cotswolds, followed by the wilderness and walking paradise of the Lake District. The Romantic Poets got it right, drawing their inspiration from this rugged landscape!

  4. It has been 20 yrs since we have been in the Lake District and we must get up there again – it is magnificent. But I have to defend the walking in the Cotswolds – footpaths are well marked and documented in hiking guides, you can walk for an hour or for the whole day, the countryside may not be “rugged” but it is beautiful for walking. I think you miss most of what the Cotswolds has to offer if you stay in cars and pubs.

    Living in the Rocky Mountains in the US (northern New Mexico), I have “rugged” at my doorstep. I like the contrast of the walking/hiking in England because it is gentle and easy.

    P.S. Am now in love with your Mark the Field Bag!! Beautiful!!

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