The Cotswolds are famous around the world for their stereotypically English landscape of rolling hills, sandy stone walls, and quaint villages. The idyllic region is home to some of Britain’s prettiest villages. It’s no wonder it attracts tens of millions of visitors every year, many wishing they didn’t have to leave.
Covering 800 square miles, the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. It is situated about 100 miles west of London and includes parts of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, South Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Bath & Northeast Somerset.
The Cotswolds are famous around the world for their stereotypically English landscape of rolling hills, sandy stone walls, and quaint villages. The idyllic region is home to some of Britain’s prettiest villages . It’s no wonder it attracts tens of millions of visitors every year, many wishing they didn’t have to leave  . For the lucky few who live in the area, there is a strong sense of community, and an abundance of activities and events to suit all tastes.
Parks & Recreation
Cotswold Water Park
The Cotswold Water Park is the United Kingdom’s largest marl lake system: 42 square miles, 180 lakes, and 20 000 wintering water birds. The magnificent oasis consists of a diverse collection of managed nature reserves and areas set aside for a vast range of outdoor activities.
The park is a haven for wildlife and wildlife lovers. It’s crisscrossed with hiking, cycling and equestrian trails, and is an access point to the much longer Thames Path National Trail. More than 70 of the peaceful lakes are available for coarse or fly –fishing, and 4 lakes are safe for open water swimming, with additional paddling areas for small children. Swimmers also love Cirencester Lido, originally opened in 1869 and still fed by natural spring water.
You can also enjoy, or observe, windsurfing, power boating, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddling, and canoeing adventures at South Cerney Outdoor, on lake 12; a Royal Yachting Association and British Canoeing training centre. You can even try your hand at raft building, dragon boating, tribal survival, catapult building, and bush craft challenges. Or experience archery, air rifles, and crossbow at The Cotswold Range; the highest rated Outdoor Activity Venue in the UK on Trip Advisor! For adrenalin junkies Lakeside Ski and Wake offers water skiing, wake boarding, and inflatable rides, while Cotswold Driving Experiences offers thrilling rally and off-road driving adventures. The Cotswold Water Park really does have something for everyone!
The Cotswolds are home to more than a dozen golf courses offering a ranch of challenges and picturesque scenery. South Cerney Golf Club offers a “challenging, yet rewarding experience” on its 18-hole course, along with an eight-bay full length driving range. Cirencester Golf Club offers upland golf at its best and specialises in winter golf. Westonbirt Golf Club provides a warm and friendly welcome, with a relatively short course offering a “thought-provoking and stimulating challenge”.
Walking and Cycling
Walking and cycling adventures are not restricted to the Cotswold Water Park, the entire region is a walker’s paradise with countless paths, connecting picturesque towns and charming villages, with welcoming inns and tempting tearooms, all surrounded by lush rolling landscapes.
There are hundreds of free-guided walks, and even more self-guided trips for those exploring on foot, on horseback or by bicycle. From here, you can even walk all 229 miles from the source of the River Thames to its mouth in the North Sea. Staying local you’ll also find plenty of parks and formal gardens, packed with rare and established flora, putting on magnificent seasonal displays.
Culture & Entertainment
The Cotswolds may have some of the most enticing landscapes in the United Kingdom, but it is not lacking in other means of entertainment, or cultural activities.
Food and Drink
The Cotswolds has a well-deserved reputation as a foodie destination. The region has a plenitude of exquisite dining options, and also many high quality food producers. Each village or town seems to have at least one noteworthy restaurant, café or public house, and plenty of friendly locals happy to offer a recommendation.
Single Gloucester cheese and Gloucester Old Spot pork can only be made in this region, under the same regulations that limit the production of champagne to certain regions of France and Kobe beef to the Hyōgo Prefecture in Japan. The Cotswolds are also famed for Stinking Bishop cheese, Cotswold Gin, Tewkesbury mustard, Bibury trout, and Hobbs House bread.
The locals are rightly proud of their food producers and you’ll find these delights on many pub and restaurant menus, and in the numerous independent food stores and farm shops that are packed full of niche delights and quality staples.
This is a farm shopper’s paradise; even the M5 services in this area has a Farm Shop! There are farm shops and food producers all over, each with its own specialities. Butts Farm Shop, South Cerney, specialises in free-range, grass-fed, British meat, mostly rare bread and butchered on site. Knead Bakery, south Cirencester is the go-to baker for fresh bread and patisserie. William’s Foodhall in Nailsworth has been a Cotswold institution for over 45 years with an outstanding fish counter and delicatessen. You can pick your own fruit and vegetables at Lotmead Farm and order boxes of organically grown produce from Purton House Organics.
The Cotswolds is home to five Michelin starred restaurants, with a further ten recommended in the coveted Michelin guide.
Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, The Royal Oak, Whatcote, Wiltshire, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park, Chippenham, and Bybrook Restaurant at The Manor House, Chippenham each have a prestigious Michelin star, while The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, Malmesbury boasts two stars.
Food (and other) Festivals
Thanks to the plethora of producers, the region can host not one, but four, annual food festivals.
Cheltenham Food Festival is held in Montpellier Gardens each June and offers visitors the opportunity to try and buy from local artisan food producers and attend themed talks, and master classes from local experts.
Similarly, the Tewkesbury Food and Drink Festival held in the Abbey Gardens, also in June, is packed with local producers and gives visitors the opportunity to attend cookery demonstrations.
Food also plays a big part in other annual festivals such as the authentic country show, the Cotswold Show and Food Festival and the many annual music and historic festivals held throughout the area.
Art Galleries, Museums and Theatres
The Cotswold Sculpture Park is set in 10 acres of lush forest just outside Somerton Keynes. There, visitors can view more than 170 sculptures, many of which are also available for sale. Of course, there is also a tearoom!
The award winning Barn Theatre puts on many performances each year (and offers tours, workshops and courses), while the Sundial Theatre’s stage is popular with touring musicians and comedians. Along with great films, the local cinema Moives@Malmesbury shows live broadcasts of theatre, opera and ballet.
Cirencester is home to more than half a dozen art galleries, including New Brewery Arts, which provides gallery space, studios, craft shops and workshops.
The Corinium Museum, Cirencester is home to a collection of Roman remains; mosaics and sculptures, found in the local area. The Chedworth Roman Villa is open to the public from February each year. The Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury, has even older exhibits, dating back to the Iron Age, along with collections detailing the more recent history of the town.
Heritage Sites and Village Life
The Cotswolds is home to many historically significant buildings; including castles and stately homes (such as Blenheim Palace, Buscot Park, Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate), alongside the Cotswold stone and thatched cottages you’ll find in the chocolate-box villages, and the many magnificent churches.
Village life is still very evident with formal and informal neighbourly gatherings. Many villages hold regular retail, farmers or craft markets; offering a great opportunity to purchase staples, and treats while catching up with the locals.
Location & Connections
With its friendly villages, welcoming locals and rolling countryside, The Cotswolds may feel a million miles away from city life; yet, the M4, M5 and M40 are all accessible. For those with more time. the winding country lanes offer plenty of opportunity for scenic leisurely drives!
The British Rail network criss-crosses The Cotswolds providing excellent connections in all directions, with lines to Oxford and Swindon (both connecting onwards to London in about an hour), or Bristol to the west and Stratford Upon Avon to the north.
Bristol Airport is easily accessible (within 45-minutes by car), providing flights within Europe, and Birmingham Airport caters for international travellers. There are also regional airports in Gloucester and Cirencester.