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.
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.
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.
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)
- 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.