Centrally located in the south-western region of the UK and bordering the counties of Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spans a distance of 90 miles long and 25 miles across, with its highest point reaching heights of 1,083ft. Awarded as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, thanks to its beech woodlands and limestone landscapes, the area’s central location in the country means that it is perfect for holidaymakers looking for both short breaks and longer stays. Famous for its impressive rambling hills and lush green vegetation, the Cotswolds AONB is a place that holds a wealth of unique landmarks and scenery and is one of the UK’s most dramatic natural areas. Beloved by many, its potential as a fantastic holiday destination is plain to see for all those lucky enough to grace its wonderful landscapes.
The Cotswolds is most famous for its impressive rolling hills and the area is distinguished by the limestone formations that appear in its buildings and lands, providing an ideal foundation for many rare and interesting plants to grow. The Cotswold landscape itself is a massive draw for many visitors choosing to explore the area as its beauty is unmatched. Its dense forestry, ancient trees and spectacular farmlands provide a powerfully relaxing experience, holding many fantastic walking and cycling routes to enjoy.
There are many historic towns and villages throughout the Cotswolds that are completely unique, hiding wonderful gems for you to discover. Quintessential English villages lined with mellow honey coloured cottages and an abundance of gastro-pubs offering the finest of local produce. Stow-on-the-Wold, ‘where the wind blows cold’ is a particularly beautiful market town which sits unusually at the top of a 700ft hill. Originating as an Iron age fort, there is history to be seen wherever you look. Found in the market square is its looming ancient cross – a nod to the town’s former religious importance, whilst at the opposite end can be found the old town’s stocks hinting towards the practises of an archaic life once lived in the town. For visitors, the town houses some of the finest antique stores and art galleries which attract collectors from around the world, along with some of the best bistros and tea rooms in the entire Cotswolds area, so you can treat your taste buds whilst you take a well-earned break from all the sightseeing. Twice a year in May and October, Stow hosts the ancient gypsy horse fair which attracts hundreds of sightseers from far and wide.
Chipping Campden is another fantastic Cotswolds market town to visit. Historically used as the trading centre for wool in the Middle Ages, today sees it as an impressively aesthetic town that is famed for its sophisticated high street, dated between the 14th and the 17th centuries, with charming cottages that remain untouched from their era. Hidcote Manor Garden is a National Trust Garden located near to Chipping Campden which holds many unusual plants and flowers in its grounds. Expertly manicured and preened to perfection, the garden is a splendour and is impressive during the summer months when the sun highlights its beauty. Another incredible landmark is St. James’ Church, located at the heart of Chipping Campden and a viewable site for miles around the town.
The church itself is extravagant and extremely decadent; a magnificent site which is still used as a working church today. In Chipping Campden there are a number of eateries and tea shops serving locally sourced produce and by using only the freshest ingredients, the homemade cakes and pastries all offer a delicious taste of the Cotswolds.
Whilst the Cotswolds is landlocked, there is plenty of fun to be had for water lovers. Comprising of 150 lakes with an area of 40 square miles, the Cotswold Water Park is a watery haven with plenty of adrenaline-packed activities on offer to keep the entire family entertained. You can hire boats and canoes for a gentle paddle across the water, or for something a little more extreme you can try wakeboarding, windsurfing and water-skiing to really get the heart pumping and the hands sweating. For a more relaxing day out, the lakes are perfect for fishing and angling and for bird-watching enthusiasts there are plenty of exciting species’ of rare birds to spot whilst sat down by the lakes.
The River Avon runs through the Cotswolds and provides the perfect setting for river boat trips. Hire a boat and explore Stratford-upon-Avon from the waters edge or take a cruise and tour of Evesham Lock and Hampton Church. Take a boat trip along the River Thames and see the spectacular Christchurch College whilst passing the quintessentially British Oxford punts and university boats; or enjoy the scenery and a more relaxed slow amble along the Thames to Lechlade where you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of kingfishers, otters and herons (we were – take a look at our cruise from Lechlade to Cricklade and spot the heron!).
With around 3,000 miles of walkable terrain, the Cotswolds offers some of the best gentle paths, challenging hills and scenic routes for the more active holidaymakers to enjoy. The area is also incredibly dog-friendly so you can bring your dog along to enjoy a walking holiday. The Cotswold Way National Trail is a 102 mile stretch that spans between Chipping Campden and Bath and runs through the prettiest towns and villages in the Cotswolds, passing the most significant historic sites along the way. Within the long distance trek there are many shorter circular trails that can be walked instead. The Cleeve Hill Ring is a 6 mile trail and offers some of the most impressive sites to view in the Cotswolds. Incorporating flat paths as well as sloping hills, the walk has been rated ‘moderate’ difficulty so can be completed by almost anyone. Hills, streams and woodland will be passed along the way so the walk is one of the most diverse in the area.
With plenty of pubs and tea rooms to stop off in, cycling in the Cotswolds can be a fantastic excuse to sample all of the best beers, ales (try the Hookie!) and teas on offer in the area, and for serious cycle enthusiasts there are plenty of long and difficult trails to test your ability on. The Cotswolds is particularly ideal for road bikers as this is considered the best way to see the area. The Stroudwater Canal route lasts for a distance of 12 miles and rests away from the hustle and bustle of the busy roads. It is a beautiful, scenic trail which passes along the canal’s nature reserve and is full of wildlife including the occasional deer (if you’re lucky). For something a little more difficult, the Sustrans route provides an ample challenge and passes through quiet woodland before hitting steeper climbs up towards the Hampton fields. Following the route will also take you straight to the Cotswold Water Park so can be a welcome traveling option if wanting to avoid a car journey.
A visit to the Cotswolds is a rewarding experience and the area provides a host of fun activities and great days out that allow holidaymakers to get some fresh air whilst witnessing some of the UK’s most impressive landscapes.