A little more than an hour outside of London, the Cotswolds is a timeless countryside escape — one of the most romanticized stretch of England. The English hotspot is a place of natural beauty: luxury villas, boutique hotels, and townhouse stays are set amid honey-hued villages, verdant rolling hills, and blooming gardens. Lately, the classic destination has seen a wave of fresh additions that have kicked things up a notch to a new kind of country-cool — a rural playground, reborn again. Here’s our list of what not to miss in the Cotswolds, from the most in-the-know places to stay to the top foodie addresses and where to shop…
WHERE TO STAY
BARNSLEY HOUSE — A romantic, super-stylish manor house
A former dwelling of the late author and renowned landscape architect Rosemary Verey, Barnsley House is luxury countryside retreat set on 11 beautifully manicured acres in the Gloucestershire. It feels as if you’re staying in a private estate – with just 18 spacious and stylish rooms and suites that resemble stable yards. Only these stable yards are integrated with luxury modern amenities: think 300-thread-count sheets, skylights, high-tech audio systems, plus bathrooms with sumptuous twin soaking tubs and state-of-the-art plasma screens. There’s a rustic spa hidden away, There’s a rustic spa hidden away on the grounds, a 30-seat cinema, and an in-house restaurant, The Potager, which features a refined, fresh and fantastic menu. The hotel also owns a more casual establishment a few hundred yards away, The Village Pub, which offers heartier fare like beer-battered fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding.
FOXHILL MANOR — A modern mansion manor
If you’ve ever dreamed of having own country mansion set in 400 acres of rolling English countryside, Foxhill Manor is the closest thing to living it. With just eight bedrooms (put The Oak Suite at the top of your list) and a gifted chef at your beck and call, you’ll be able to live like lord and lady of this honey-stone estate tucked away in sublime scenery. Cadge a lift two minutes down to Dormy House’s award-winning spa whenever you fancy, and take advantage of the full-on Scandi-style thermal suite and the Veuve Cliquot champagne bar-cum-nail-parlour. Treatments are as indulgent as they are beautifying — so treat your face to diamonds and black truffle before you head to lunch on the Greenhouse terrace.
COWLEY MANOR — An Italianate country house with a funky flair
Situated on 55 meticulously manicured acres near Cheltenham, Cowley Manor is a grand old Italianate stone estate – and is not your typical country-house stay. Inside—contrast to bold to the stately, stone-faced exterior—Cowley Manor surprises with funky, bright colors and mod furniture. Perhaps the biggest draw is the C-Side Spa, where you can splash away in the cool, Miami-style indoor or outdoor pools, and enjoy extremely well-executed treatments, a steam room, sauna and nail room.
CALCOT MANOR — A family-friendly farmhouse
Three rolling miles from the village of Tetbury, Calcot Manor offers the acme of family escapes in a renovated 14th-century farmhouse. With child-centric facilities at every turn, there’s no better place in the Cotswolds for families. Bundle up with the whole gang and stay in a special split-level family suite, take a dip in the swimming pool with floats galore, explore the pirate ship in the garden, and breeze through the meadows on bicycles. Seeking some romance? Drop the little ones off at the professionally-run crèche and hightail to the spa for some TLC of your own. much-needed R&R. On property, you’ll also find a children’s play room, a cinema, an indoor pool and sophisticated dining. And if you’re a twosome sans toddlers — no need to worry — all of the rooms in the main house are couples only!
THYME — An elegant epicurean estate
Those in search of a quintessential countryside escape, look no further than Thyme. A boutique hotel with 17th-century cottages and refined rooms dotted throughout Southrop Manor’s 150-acre estate, Thyme encapsulates a William Blake-penned vision that’s lured London’s fashion set (even Kate Moss tied the knot here). With an on-site farm, a cookery school revered among foodies, a cozy local pub and exclusive spa treatments held in a farmhouse, there’s no better place for a traditional village experience than Thyme.
ELLENBOROUGH PARK — A majestic fifteenth-century thoroughbred
A stay at Ellenborough Park is like stepping into a grand English novel. The ancient manor house, set in the heart of the Cotswolds on the original Cheltenham racecourse, offers 61 traditional bedrooms and suites located in four distinctive buildings. Favorite pastimes include golf, shooting and polo. There are also stables and riding schools nearby, and the hotel offers a race-day shuttle to the adjoining track. Trek along the historic, 100-mile-long Cotswolds Way, or borrow some Wellingtons for a walk around the 90-acre parkland. Soothe and rejuvenate tired muscles with a Bamboo Massage at the spa.
TOP TABLES & SECRET PUBS
THE WHEATSHEAF INN
Come to the Wheatsheaf Inn on any night of the week to find the handsome bar stuffed with locals. It’s one of the best restaurants in the Cotswolds, blending sophisticated ingredients with familiar preparations. The other draw? The beers on tap are constantly changing and the wine list couldn’t be better.
LORDS OF THE MANOR
One of the few Michelin-starred establishments in the Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is a popular place for celebratory evenings out. A pleasing menu and polished service alone are worthy to make the trip.
THE BELL AT SAPPERTON
A pub loved by locals, the award-winning Bell at Sapperton is worth the drive to the sleepy little town in Cirencester — or you can even ride your horse and tie him up outside! Snag a spot at a scrubbed wooden table next to the roaring fire and savor comforting dishes like shepherd’s pie and the crisp belly of Old Spot pork. Spoon a towering knickerbocker glory washed down with tea to properly conclude the memorable meal.
For low-key eats head to The Tavern, where the style of menu is American retro with a dash of Cool Britannia. What’s not to love about little cups of chili popcorn before epic burgers, chickpea chips, and beef short ribs?
THE WILD RABBIT
A fashionable pub owned by the same proprietors as Daylesford Organic, The Wild Rabbit is the perfect place for Sunday lunch when you can expect roasted meats with all of the fixings.
WHAT TO DO
Quintessentially British and cozy, the Cotswolds is the perfect place to relax by the fire with a cup a tea. But it’s also a place brimming with history, with its rolling hills home to mryiad monuments, gardens and castles...
Horses have been raced in the Cotswolds since the Saxon times and there's no better way to see the beautiful Cotswold hills come alive and experience an exciting race. Racing season begins late October and runs through January, and picks back up again mid-March through May.
COTSWOLD BALLOON SAFARI
Head up into the sky as the sun rises from Ellenborough Park and see the glorious landscapes of the Cotswolds from above.
A 1930s style circus, Giffords Circus is a magical, musical village-green circus that tours Gloucestershire, the South West of England and London. The costumes are handmade, the sets are painted in barns on their farm, and the animals are trained and by the circus themselves — and most importantly, are treated fairly with the utmost proper care.
An award-winning working farm, Daylesford Farm houses an iconic farmshop in Kingham. Get lost in the most spectacular florist shop, sort through the freshest fruits and vegetables picked right from the farm earlier that morning, nosh on delicious cheeses from the creamery or have a cup of tea at the café. An afternoon spent at Daylesford Farm will truly make you appreciate the simplest things in life.
- Hidcote Manor Garden — One of the most influential and best-known Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain, Hidcote Manor Garden is designed in sequences of linked outdoor "rooms" of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders.
- The Royal Gardens at Highgrove — At the private residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Royal Gardens at Highgrove are lavishly tended grounds created with imagination and passion by Prince Charles over the last 35 years. Opened on select dates, the renowned gardens are some of the most inspiring and innovating in the United Kingdom.
- Kiftsgate Court Gardens — Spectacularly set on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, Kiftsgate Court Gardens is the creation of three generations of women gardeners and is especially known for the Kiftsgate rose, the largest rose in England. Harmonious color schemes adorn the upper garden, while Mediterranean sun-lovers bask in the sheltered lower gardens.
- Sezincote House — At the heart of the family-run Seizncote estate that spans 4,500 acres of rolling Cotswold countryside stands a 200-year-old Mogul Indian palace, set in a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes, waterfalls and canals reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.
WHERE TO SHOP
The Toy Shop, Moreton-on-Marsh
Move over Harrods and Hamleys! The Toy Shop takes the cake with nine rooms bursting with toys from crafts, jigsaws and puzzles to traditional wooden toys, magic tricks and sports equipment is enough to spoil your little ones silly!
With a stock of hip, cult labels, Foundation is the place to swoon over boho jewelry, gorgeous bags and pretty dresses by labels you probably have never heard of.
Listen up, fashionistas! If Boutique 3 isn't already on your radar, then it most definitely should be. This chic store in Cheltenham stocks the best designer labels and is a must when you're in the Cotswolds.
A cool British clothing brand, Olive is headquartered and nestled in the picturesque town of Cheltenham. Conceptualized and created by a team of independent designers, the brand offers modern an high-quality clothes in a welcoming surrounding.
Written up in Vogue as one of Britain's best boutiques, Anna Lizzio is a gorgeous boutique with chic finds from labels all over the world.
The town of Tetbury is peculiarly rich in antique shops, so nose around the villages for unchartered finds. Be on the look out for two of our favorites: Lordfords and Long Street Antiques!
BENEFITS OF BOOKING WITH ITKE:
The ITKE team can assist in booking hotels and plan full itineraries in the Cotswolds. Please contact us for exclusive complimentary amenities, upgrades and discounted rates at select properties. Subject to change.