With its thatched-roof cottages, golden stone buildings, great pubs and quintessentially British countryside, the Cotswolds is one of the prettiest patches of rural England you could ever explore – and only a short journey London Paddington. September Withers recommends where to visit, stay and eat in our guide to this beautiful part of the world.
Take a GWR train to Cheltenham Spa
The regency spa town of Cheltenham is also known as the cultural capital of the Cotswolds. There’s the jazz festival in May, the science festival in June, the music festival in July and the literature festival in October, all of which attract performers and visitors the world over.
As a town, Cheltenham is both stylish and elegant, adorned with regency terraces and architectural heritage features. The shopping, restaurants and bars are all pretty good too, especially The Brewery Quarter, which plays host to lots of high street retailers and restaurants.
During your stay you must explore the glorious Pitville Park, which features beautiful lakes and the magnificent Pump Rooms.
Take a GWR train to Chippenham
The historic and lively market town of Chippenham is a gem of a place to visit, with a vibrant community spirit to boot.
If it’s retail therapy you need, kick-start your shopping spree at the Market Place near the main high street. With a mixture of independent and mainstream retailers, there’s something for every budding bargain hunter.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the weekly market springs into life offering fresh fruit and vegetables, Mediterranean foods and olives, florists, toy stalls and more.
Aside from shopping, there are plenty of beautiful walks and nearby villages to explore. The village of Lacock is worth walking to via the Wilts & Berks Canal. It’ll take you just over four miles to reach this picturesque place on foot but once there, you’ll see why it’s a firm favourite with film and TV producers, having appeared in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Downton Abbey. Lined with black and white timber and stone houses, a visit here is akin to stepping back in time.
Take a GWR train to Bradford-on-Avon
Filled with pretty winding streets, lanes and alleyways that are brimming with independent antiques shops, clothes shops, cafés and more, Bradford-on-Avon is a gorgeous town to visit for a day trip or long weekend.
Make your way to the iconic Town Bridge for stunning views of the River Avon and surrounding hills. If you enjoy long countryside walks, follow the Kennet and Avon Canal along its towpath for a 10-mile ramble to the city of Bath, stopping for a pint in one of the picturesque pubs en route.
Alternatively, you can hop on board the Barbara McLellan trip boat, which departs at various times on Saturdays, Wednesdays and during bank holiday weekends. Don’t miss the weekly market held every Thursday by the river and peruse the food stands offering local cheeses, freshly baked bread and organic vegetables.
Take a train to Kingham and then an onward bus or taxi journey
Brimming with quaint British pubs, cosy tearooms and honey-coloured cottages, this tiny Cotswold market town will especially appeal to romantics.
Stow-on-the-Wold is every bit as English as you can imagine, with a fudge pantry, cheese shop and traditional butchers keeping foodies well fed.
Fans of The Lord of the Rings should pay a visit to St Edward’s Church on Sheep Street, as the church doors are believed to have inspired Tolkien to create the Doors of Durin.
Budding artists should make their way to Fosse Gallery, open Monday to Saturday, for exhibitions by contemporary British artists.