Imagine villages lined with pretty cottages, tea rooms, historic pubs, quaint shops and bunting, alongside castles, rolling wolds and stunning countryside. The Cotswolds in Gloucestershire is all these things and more. It’s one of the most ‘quintessentially English’ and unspoiled regions of England and it’s also the playground for the rich and famous including Kate Moss, David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson.
Why visit the Cotswolds?
You can see why it’s so popular – it attracts 38 million visitors per year. It’s an area of ‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’; The vast majority of the Cotswolds is unspoilt with varied landscapes and geological features; And has several ancient villages and market towns, where nothing has changed for the last 300 years and buildings date right back to the 14th century – their most striking and famous features being the honey-coloured limestone; Meanwhile, there are hundreds of guided walks, riding and cycle trails; Plus country parks, gardens, historical buildings, archaeological sites and museums.
This isn’t the first time we’ve visited these parts. In fact, it’s our fourth. Over the years we’ve been drawn to its charms – spending weekends in various romantic establishments and even attending a wedding. Plus, being so close to London, it’s a quick getaway from the city – around two hours with no traffic.
Poulton and The Falcon Inn
Our base was in a small village called Poulton at the Beehive Cottage (read here for our review of a family-friendly Cotswolds cottage), situated about 15 minutes from the town of Cirencester. Poulton consists of a small green with a children’s playground, one fantastic local pub called The Falcon Inn – where we received a warm welcome and really tasty food with locally sourced ingredients, and a village shop which sells all essentials, such as wine…
Things To Do in The Cotswolds
During our four-day family break in the Cotswolds, we had a full itinerary: We hired bikes and cycled around the stunning landscape of the Cotswolds Water Park (read here for more), as well as jumping on board a steam train to Cheltenham and back.
A Family Break in the Cotswolds
Throw into the mix a visit to a bird sanctuary, dinosaur trail and a motor museum – as well as scoffing several cream teas and drinking many welcome pints of beer, the only disappointing thing for us was the weather. But that’s nothing new for the MTM family! We also enjoyed spending time in a couple of picturesque towns and villages.
Bourton on the Water
Described as the ‘Little Venice’ of the Cotswolds – there’s no denying that this local beauty spot is hugely popular with tourists. But don’t let that put you off. Bourton straddles the river Windrush with its series of pretty low bridges beside tree-shaded greens and tidy stone banks – great for strolling along and feeding the ducks. And if you’re feeling brave – like Monkey and his uncle – you can also wade in the river!
The main stretch is filled with tea rooms, pubs, and gift shops as well as a model village and motor museum. And we were lucky enough to take a leisurely stroll before the rain came.
The highest town in the Cotwolds, ancient Stow was thought to have been founded in the 11th Century and was famous for its sheep market. Writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) once recorded that 20,000 sheep were sold during a single day. Another reminder of Stow’s past is the little alleys leading from the market square. These were intentionally built narrow and winding as a way to control and count sheep. Also in the square are the old penal stocks now a famous Cotswold landmark.
Stow is also the location of the oldest inn in England with a history reaching as far back as 987AD. Of course, we had to visit The Porch House for some refreshments.
We enjoyed wandering Stow with a good mix of chic bistros, inns, hotels, and cosy tea shops – and we made a mental note to perhaps stay in its vicinity when we return next time. It certainly has more of a buzz than Poulton, and was a lot less touristy than Bourton.
As much as there is to see and do in the Cotswolds – it was also important for us to just relax and spend time together as a family – a proper family break in the Cotswolds. Catching up with my brother-in-law, eating lots of nice food and drinking far too much wine.
Soaking up history and enjoying the rolling countryside was just an added bonus and, even though we weren’t far from home, we’d been transported into a bygone era of England’s charming past – something which is so lacking in our cities’ highstreets nowadays. We just wished we’d had longer to enjoy it…