Culture Trip’s Guide to the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is among the most charming areas in the UK
The Cotswolds is among the most charming areas in the UK | © Andrew Roland / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mischa Smith
8 October 2020

A ready collection of bookable travel ideas inspired by what you love. Discover things to do, where to stay and the best spots to eat and drink.

From royalty and celebrities to urbanites, no one seems immune to the allure of the Cotswolds’ golden stone and rolling hills or “the wolds”. This rural retreat, spanning five counties, is defined by stately homes, country pubs and chocolate-box villages. Culture Trip picks the best selection of places to stay, eat and exercise.

Where to stay

The Barrel Store

Budget Hotel
4.2/5 (25 Reviews)
Courtesy of The Barrel Store / Expedia

A refined aesthetic with millennial pink walls and plenty of blonde wood makes the Barrel Store look more like a Scandinavian retreat (replete with hygge-style throws) rather than a family-friendly hostel. Plonked in the pastel market town of Cirencester, this sprawling hostel ensures a comfortable visit within easy reach of everything the arts and crafts village has to offer. The New Brewery Arts Café next door gives 10 percent off to the Barrel Store’s guests, making those chunky chocolate brownies even more irresistible.

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The Angel at Burford

Hotel, $$$
4.7/5 (59 Reviews)
Courtesy of The Angel at Burford / Expedia

Terence and Gemma have been running the Angel for almost a decade, and in that time, they’ve perfected low-key comfort, the kind that oozes a British sensibility, such as kicking off your wellies after a long woodland walk. Low-slung ceilings and plush, pillow-loaded beds beg you to hop in and relax, which is what you should do – but not before a hearty meal in the downstairs pub. The baked gnocchi sprinkled with herby breadcrumbs and creamy basil pesto is highly recommended, and it’s light enough that you’ll be able to enjoy a seasonal crumble after.

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Barnsley House

Spa Hotel, Luxury
Courtesy of Barnsley House / Expedia
The description “storybook settings” is often bandied around, but few places truly deserve that moniker. However, with twirling wildflowers, picturesque gardens and a sanctuary spa, Barnsley House does. A host of quintessentially British sports, such as polo and clay pigeon shooting, take place in and around the picture-perfect country pile, which has also become a popular venue for fairytale weddings.
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  • What to do

    ToursCotswold Discovery Trail
    From $45 per person
    2 days

    With all the comfort of a guided tour and the benefit of being with family and friends, this unique self-directed trip is ideal for those who’d rather not join a group at random. Move at your own pace, and brag to your mates about how you didn’t even need a guide with this clear map and trail pack. It even comes with anecdotes and information – just like a real-life tour guide.

    ToursGuided walking tour: Ghosts and Giggles of Gloucester
    From $11 per person
    1 hour 30 minutes
    5 (1)

    Who said fun and phantoms had to be mutually exclusive? Step into the past and unknown with Becki, your local guide and chaperone, as you walk the streets of Gloucester with the spirits that still lurk at every corner – even if those buildings of bygone eras have since morphed into the local Argos.

    Where to eat and drink

    The Hive

    Restaurant, British, $$$
    Map View

    On an archetypal Cotswold road, complete with caramel-coloured bricks, a wood-panelled exterior and window muntins, the Hive resembles something plucked from Pinterest – smashed avocados, vintage tea sets and all. The layered cakes are topped with strawberries, which adds to the typically English tweeness.

    The Kingham Plough

    Pub, Restaurant, British, $$$
    Map View
    Kingham Plough Pub Sign; Cotswolds; England; UK
    © Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo

    A warming colour palette of oatmeal awaits you at the Kingham Plough, a rustic country pub where you’ll find beamed ceilings and tables that look like cotton wheels. Yet despite a muted interior – and matching butter-hued Cotswold stone exterior – the plates burst into full colour. Vibrant, seasonal produce such as Smokin’ Brothers’ salmon and chicken liver parfait from Paddock Farm come together to create classically British dishes with Mediterranean flourishes.

    The Bell at Selsley

    Pub, Pub Grub
    Map View

    Like much of the Cotswolds, this 16th-century Grade II-listed inn is cast from biscuit-toned Cotswold stone and is a celebration of classic country style. Fail-safe pub dishes are revitalised with interesting and locally sourced ingredients, such as saffron-infused bread and sea bass with scorched pak choi.

    These recommendations were updated on October 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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