This gentle landscape of sloping hills lays on hiking trails, glorious gardens and organic farms, with spa-starring hotels to rest up in at the end of the day.
After frenetic London, the Cotswolds instils in visitors the desire to slow down, relax and reconnect with nature – or with themselves. Spread across five counties, the Cotswolds makes up one of England’s green and pleasant Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, marked by ivy-clad cottages and centuries-old villages with church steeples piercing bucolic landscapes, laced with hiking trails passing by pubs and palaces. Here’s how to dial back the pace in the Cotswolds.
The ancient Foxholes woodland along the River Evenlode will immerse you in a tranquil setting of blue bells in spring and foxgloves in autumn. The abundant honeysuckle feeds 23 species of butterflies, and the woodland is also home to nuthatches, treecreepers and seven species of bats, including the seldom-seen Bechstein’s bat. The ideal way to explore the ancient nature reserve is to follow the 11km (7mi) circular Wild Walk, starting in Shipton-under-Wychwood.
If you were to walk the entire 164km (102mi) Cotswold Way route from Chipping Campden to the Roman city of Bath, you’d reward yourself with a very long soak in the Somerset city’s natural thermal baths upon arrival. But you don’t have to hike the entire trail. One popular stretch runs from Cleeve Hill to Dowdeswell. At 317m (1,040ft), Cleeve Hill is the highest point along the trail and on a clear day you can see all the way to Cheltenham and beyond to Wales.
In the heart of the Cotswolds, Chedworth Woods sits between the villages of Chedworth and Withington on the south side of the River Coln. It’s home to huge beech, oak and hazel trees – perfect for forest bathing. That’s where author and nature guide Ian Banyard takes participants for mindfulness walks to relax, unwind and discover the benefits of bathing in sylvan sounds, also known as forest therapy or shinrin-yoku – its Japanese name.
You know you’re in farm country when your restaurant of choice is called the Trough, which is the main dining room at this award-winning organic farm by Carole Bamford, where all ingredients are produced by organic farmers. It’s an ideal midday stop if you’re hiking or cycling: kick off your boots (or cleats) and enjoy a feed of freshly caught fish, grass-pastured beef or risotto made with Daylesford’s Greek-style cheese. You can load up on goodies in the Daylesford Farm Shop to take home, too.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Discover the best pet-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds, which are bookable on Culture Trip.
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