Before visiting I always thought the cotswolds were a couple of small towns on the East side of Oxfordshire that had once been used to film part of The Holiday. The sheer size of the Cotswolds is huge and the area of outstanding natural beauty takes up miles upon miles of hills and countryside.
The villages that make up the Cotswolds are the ultimate staycation destination, if like me you work in a busy city and want to get away and relax for a few days. There’s nothing like getting back to basics with great food, friendly faces and quaint British villages aplenty.
I booked a couple of nights at the recently rebranded Cheltenham Park Hotel for my 5th anniversary with my partner, James. The Cotswolds had been on both of our list of places to visit in the UK so it seemed like the perfect trip. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my life but I have seen hardly any of England and the UK so am trying to make this a priority. Little did I know at the time of booking that my boyfriend was going to propose to me on our 5th Anniversary so suddenly my surprise of a couple of nights in the Cotswolds didn’t seem quite as big a deal, nonetheless when the time came we were both really excited for a couple days away from London.
Life and specifically work had been really busy so far in 2017 so when our weekend in the Cotswolds came around at the end of March it was well needed. As much as we needed some time to relax we also wanted to see as much of the Cotswolds as we could in a long weekend. We stayed on the edge of The Cotswolds in Cheltenham but as we drove this turned out to be a perfect spot for us. If you are visiting the Cotswolds without a car I would recommend staying in one of the more well known towns; Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-wold or Bourton-on-the-water.
After driving up from London we arrived on the Friday afternoon, we started off by going to the gym, followed by relaxing in the spa area of the hotel. Over the years I’ve admittedly become a bit of a spa snob so although it was lovely – it was nothing compared to the spa area at our local Virgin Active in London or the Intercontinental in Berlin (we seem to use this spa as a comparison for most spa’s we visit). If you’re looking specifically for a hotel that has amazing spa facilities then this probably isn’t the hotel for you.
We had some dinner in a nearby pub with some prosecco, Guinness and Gin & Tonic’s. We didn’t have a late night as we had a long list of places to tick off from our ‘Cotswolds to do list’. The weather makes all the difference when you have a couple of days away and we were really lucky in the end. The whole weekend was forecast rain and thunder but actually the sun shown for the majority.
We started early by driving to Cleeve Hill for a long walk, it was actually pretty windy but the stunning views made it totally worth it. The one thing we noticed was how quiet it was, it was so nice as this is not something you get to experience living in London.
We both love castles and the history they hold so our next stop was Sudeley Castle in the north of the Cotswolds. Sudeley Castle was actually our highlight of the trip as we learnt loads, got to take some great pictures and had afternoon tea in the sun. The highlight of the Castle’s history is that it is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried in it’s grounds – Katherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII is buried in a church on the grounds. Sudeley is a family run Castle and business and they really have thought of every last touch to make your visit to the castle memorable and worthwhile.
After lunch we headed to Bourton-on-the-Water, a picturesque typical Cotswolds village, which is so worth visiting. The only downside was as it’s such a popular spot it is overrun with tourists. It was so lovely to be able to stroll around with no set agenda, eating homemade ice cream as we walked by the river followed by a visit to the Bourton-on-the-water miniature village. The model village is set out exactly like the real town and every though I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘must do’, it was cheap entry and a fun place to visit, especially if you have children.
On our last day we stopped off in the tiny village of Bibury; a beautiful picturesque fishing village known for its expanse of listed traditional cottages, waterways, and open countryside, not to mention its fish farms and seafood restaurants. We only spent about half an hour here as the weather was taking a turn for the worst but it was just as cute in real life as it looks in the photographs.
Barnsley House was recommended to us as a lovely hotel to visit to see the gardens and have some drinks or food. It was absolutely stunning & if you are looking for a luxury break then this hotel is definitely worth looking at, it doesn’t come cheap – though you definitely get what you pay for. After looking at the spa facilities online we thought we’d try and book in for a spontaneous massage each but unfortunately they were fully booked. One day I would love to go back and stay there, ultimate luxury.
What I loved most about the Cotswolds is that although we did a lot over the weekend there is still so much more to see and do. Thanks for a fabulous weekend Cotswolds, we’ll be back soon!
Thank you for reading my first blog post on Katie Travels.