Unravelling the history, mystery and charm of the Cotswolds without breaking the bank is perfectly possible. The six-county Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty may host some of England’s most country-chic hotels, lavishly converted mansions and ultra-luxe spas, but beyond the most touristy towns and trails you’ll find unique properties that keep things stylish, peaceful and sensibly priced – all bookable on Culture Trip.
A colourful art-filled bolthole, The Close occupies a glorious heart-of-Tetbury townhouse from the 16th century. The lovingly converted, all-different rooms are freshly styled with bold prints, statement walls and original artwork, and have robes, slippers, coffee machines and full-sized Bramley bath products, too. Stays here involve browsing Tetbury’s antique shops and wandering Westonbirt Arboretum, Highgrove Gardens and once-Roman Cirencester. Then retreat to the fire-warmed library or the walled fairytale garden with a G&T, before dinner at the season-inspired Garden Room Restaurant.
There’s a Shoreditch-design edge to this affordable Georgian townhouse looking out on Cheltenham’s Pittville Park, home to the 19th-century Grecian-inspired Pump Room. Bold prints and punchy colours meet antique furniture, patterned tiling, historical features and original artwork in the 13 rustic-chic rooms (all dog-friendly). Luxury touches include Bramley and Acqua di Parma toiletries, hot-water bottles, cosy robes, rain showers and, for Excellent rooms, freestanding baths. Start the day with Insta-worthy breakfasts of avocado and poached eggs or smoked salmon. Doesn’t sound like a budget hotel? Our thoughts exactly.
What could be more authentic Cotswolds than staying at a cosy cottage tea house in the lovely, high-walled market town of Stow-on-the-Wold? The four modern-rustic rooms (all with coffee kits) are styled in soothing neutral palettes with pops of colour and art, some with beamed ceilings or antique furniture. Cotswolds-grown ingredients fuel the full English breakfasts and the afternoon teas of home-made cakes, oven-fresh scones and decadently rich cream, which you can devour in the sunny split-level terrace garden.
Chic 16th-century inn The Swan delivers on both design and gastronomy. Between Burford and Chipping Norton, with foodie favourite Kingham nearby, it’s in a less-touristed, still-charming patch of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Timber beams, open fireplaces and wood floors mingle with floral-stamp wallpaper and statement textiles; the handful of rooms have all-natural toiletries and, for some, freestanding baths. The ambitious gastropub wows with seasonal Cotswolds-sourced dishes such as Swinbrook Farm beef and red wine pie, and impressive wines.
Medieval homes surround a spectacular gothic church in the market town of Northleach – home to this creeper-covered hotel. Part of the classic-on-the-outside, cool-on-the-inside Lucky Onion group (also behind Cheltenham’s much-loved No 131 and No 38 hotels), The Wheatsheaf reimagines a 17th-century coaching inn with arty flair – colourful throws, freestanding bathtubs, Cotswolds-inspired tones, velvet bedheads, organic toiletries and roaring fires. The locally loved restaurant shows off seasonal British ingredients in deliciously inventive creations such as Cotswolds gin cured trout and beetroot-spelt risotto. Cirencenster, Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford and Chedworth are nearby.
Peter Creed and Tom Noest’s prize-winning, modern-British cooking has transformed the 17th-century Bell Inn into a Cotswolds-food-scene highlight, just south of honey-hued Burford. Dine by the crackling fire or out in the beer garden: hearty classics get an inspiringly original makeover, with fresh, locally procured ingredients finding their way into oven-fired pizzas, beer-battered fish and succulent steaks with hand-cut fries. Then stumble over to one of the eight effortlessly cool rooms, which spotlight historical quirks alongside king-size beds, feature walls, walk-in showers and local 100 Acres toiletries.
Set in a meandering mid-19th-century mansion on the edge of Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury, the Hare and Hounds hits just the right country-cosy, boutique-charm blend. Whether you pick the original historical building, or the flashier Silkwood Court extension, all rooms have Molton Brown toiletries, fluffy bathrobes and jolly colour schemes (some are dog-friendly, too). The smart Beaufort Restaurant revolves around seasonal Cotswolds flavours, and there’s more relaxed dining at Jack Hare’s Bar.
In the honey-stone village of Bledington, this 500-year-old pub fuses country-retreat snugness with creative up-to-date style. Within a 10-minute drive you can be strolling around pretty Stow-on-the-Wold and Cotswolds-glam Daylesford Organic Farm, or checking out Kingham’s lively foodie scene. Courtyard rooms feel fresh and contemporary: those in the original inn channel a more rustic charm. At meal times, dig into jazzed-up, local-produce British cooking, including beer-battered haddock and rotisserie chicken.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.