Beyond London: Why the Cotswolds Should Be Your Next Vacation Spot
Charming and picturesque.
Updated Dec 10, 2019 1:40 PM
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The Cotswolds, an 800-square-mile stretch of rolling English countryside, has always been charming and picturesque, but with an influx of new places to eat, shop, and stay—even Soho House has moved in—the area can now also officially be considered cool. Head to the hills (or “wolds”) for a romantic weekend, family-friendly farm adventure, or marathon antiquing spree. But first, read on for our list of the best fire-lit pubs, idyllic gardens, and cozy-chic inns. Consider this a first-timer’s guide to England’s pictureque countryside.
Food & Drink
The Swan Inn
This wisteria-covered inn is known for both its locally sourced, seasonal pub fare and posh history. Previous owner Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, was the youngest of the Mitford sisters, a family of glamorous—sometimes infamous—20th-century aristos. Downton Abbey buffs, take note: It’s also where Lady Sybil’s elopement was filmed.
The Wild Rabbit
Church Street, Kingham
Owned by the proprietors of Daylesford, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the U.K., this gorgeously cozy restaurant serves modern British dishes with ingredients harvested fresh from the fields each morning.
The Kingham Plough
The Green, Kingham
After a hard day of antiquing, refuel with Sunday roast at this acclaimed gastropub, helmed by Fat Duck alum Emily Watkins. Afterward, you can head upstairs and tuck yourself into one of the lovely guest rooms, then wake up to a full English breakfast and start all over again.
The Old Butchers
7 Park Street, Stow-on-the-Wold
Despite its name—and the fact that it is located inside a former butcher shop—this laid-back eatery is best known for its seafood. Really, though, there’s something here for everyone. If warm octopus Niçoise and scallops with seaweed butter don’t float your boat, it also makes a mean burger.
Jaffé and Neale Bookshop and Café
8 Park Street, Stow-on-the-Wold
Spend an afternoon absorbing the charming town of Stow-on-the-Wold from this picture-perfect sidewalk café-bookshop. Once you’ve had your fill of people-watching, pick one of the staff recommendations off the shelves and tuck into some classic Victoria sponge.
The Chequers Inn
Church Road, Churchill
With garden seating in the summer and a roaring fire in the hearth all winter long, there’s never a bad time to take advantage of this pub’s impressive selection of local beer and wide-ranging menu of delicious nibbles—from trendy dishes like burrata and wild garlic pesto to classic fish-and-chips.
Daylesford Farmshop and Café
If your ideal morning consists of farmers’ markets, cinnamon lattes, and restorative yoga, make time for this London A-lister destination. With flower arranging, art, and cooking classes, Daylesford’s sustainable working farm also features a fishmonger, a cheese room, and an al fresco pizza bar—so come for a freshly baked loaf of honey, fig, and walnut bread, then find a million more reasons to never leave. (Editor’s note: Do not miss the jam section. Trust us.)
Bamford Haybarn Spa
At Daylesford, Kingham
Retreat from the excitement of Daylesford’s shops to the back of its sprawling property, where you’ll find the luxurious Bamford Haybarn Spa. The stunning holistic wellness center focuses on deepening your connection with nature, and where better to discover that bond than while being massaged with botanical-based body oils among rolling green pastures?
The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum
Clarence Street, Cheltenham
An impressive variety of treasures is on display here: an important Arts and Craft movement collection (think: original William Morris wallpapers); Dutch and Belgian paintings gifted by Baron de Ferrieres; sketches and watercolors by famed polar explorer Edward Adrian Wilson; and even a new World of Wonders gallery for the kids.
Oxford Shirt Company
54 High Street, Burford
For a comprehensive education on classic British clothing, flip through the racks full of quintessential brands like Dubarry of Ireland, Liberty of London, and Crew Clothing. And you can’t leave the Cotswolds without at least trying on a heritage Barbour jacket.
Oxford Brush Company
54 High Street, Burford
You won’t realize how much you need a handcrafted hairbrush, toothbrush, or clothes brush until you walk into this artisan’s storefront. Bristles have never been so chic!
At the Organic Shop, The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold
Former Barneys New York fashion director and current English countryside connoisseur Amanda Brooks has opened a boutique filled with everything you need to top off your fantasy Cotswolds cottage—and wardrobe. Ask for a (complimentary!) cup of coffee from the adorable bar in the back to sip while you daydream and browse.
3-4 Church Street, Stow-on-the-Wold
You can spend hours combing through the floor-to-ceiling shelves and stuffed alcoves of this snug little bookshop. Browse the English classics, local guidebooks, and beautiful stationery—and be sure to give a quick nuzzle to the friendly shop terrier, Brock.
Burford Sweet Shop
94 High Street, Burford
Step into this confectionery lined with jars of colorful candy and feel like you’ve entered another decade (or possibly even Harry Potter’s Honeydukes). We suggest starting off with a taste of traditional British sweets: Flying Saucers, Mint Humbugs, and Clotted Cream Fudge. But hey, why stop there?
7 Pittville Street, Cheltenham
This ethically made contemporary label collaborates with independent designers and offers all the woolly sweaters, linen dungarees, and gingham blouses you need to blend in with the local gentlewomen farmers.
30 Long Street, Tetbury
Occupying two former World War II aircraft hangars and an old bus garage, this favorite of interior designers is a veritable trove of quality pieces (with serious price tags). It stocks one of Europe’s largest collections of decorative antiques, so you might want to clear your afternoon.
Station Mill Antiques
Station Road, Chipping Norton
Just the place to pick up an antique souvenir (or five), this market houses more than 80 dealers selling everything from vintage spice racks to Victorian ribbons. When you need a breather, enjoy a nice cuppa and a buttered crumpet at the Mill Kitchen, its in-house eatery.
35 Long Street, Tetbury
Intimidated by warehouse antiquing? Head to this expertly curated boutique dotted with wicker picnic hampers and delicious-smelling candles. For art collectors in search of contemporary work, look for the eponymous owner’s still-life oil paintings among the weathered goods.
Places to Stay
Great Tew, Chipping Norton
The swanky members’ club has gone a little bit country. Enjoy horseback riding, outdoor heated pools, and 40 cabins spread out over 100 acres of lush farmland. There are also more urban amenities: a full-size movie theater, spin classes, and a hair salon. (And, no, you don’t have to be a member to stay.)
Sheep Street, Charlbury
This newly revamped 16th-century inn is a handsome mix of exposed brick and bold textiles. If the eight rooms are all booked, stop by the pub anyway to grab a pint. It’s popular with the locals.
West End, Northleach
Staying at this stylishly renovated 17th-century coaching inn means waking up in former piggeries and stables (don’t worry—you’d never guess it now) and walking downstairs to one of the best English breakfasts you’ll ever encounter, including eggs and soldiers and deviled kidneys on toast.
Call ahead to reserve some Wellies so you can explore the 11 acres that surround this luxury manor house, landscaped by legendary garden designer and former owner Rosemary Verey. Afterward, relax in the hydrotherapy pool or, better yet, the bath. Room 1 has a pair of side-by-side tubs for an ultra-romantic soak.
Thyme Country Retreat
Southrop Manor, Southrop
Less of a hotel and more of a magical “village within a village,” Thyme offers guided foraging walks, cooking classes, and killer cocktails at the Baa (the wittily named lambing shed–turned–bar). In the morning, you’ll check out well rested, with a little more knowledge about wild horseradish and maybe a residual buzz, too.
Houses & Gardens
Peek inside the opulent homes of England’s elite, then take a stroll through some of the country’s most gorgeous grounds—an excuse to buy local wool outerwear if we’ve ever heard one.
Constructed in 1805, during the rise of British India, this estate was built in the style of the Mughal Empire, with red sandstone, copper domes, and gardens decorated with Hindu motifs.
Once the home of the eccentric Charles Paget Wade, a man who spent his inherited wealth and the first half of the 20th century collecting unusual objects from around the world, it now houses 22,000 of his treasures, including an early penny-farthing and his great-grandfather’s pocket compass.
Kiftsgate Court Gardens and Hidcote
Two influential gardens located half a mile apart, Kiftsgate and Hidcote are worth the detour—the former for its signature roses and the latter for its rare trees and shrubs.
For a peek into the Georgian era, don’t miss Rousham. Designed by 18th-century English architect William Ken, the layout remains largely unchanged—from the statues of Roman gods to the picturesque parterres.
This massive manor is the only non-royal house in England to hold the title of palace. While you won’t spot Her Majesty, you will find an English Baroque–style mansion—the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—as well as a lineup of festivals, exhibitions, and recitals throughout the year.
Highgrove Royal Gardens
It’s not every day that you get to wander around the country home of Charles, Prince of Wales. We recommend taking the Champagne Tea Tour, which guides you through the highlights and ends with afternoon tea and a glass of Highgrove bubbles. (Be sure to book your tickets in advance.)
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Domino, titled “The Cotswolds.” Subscribe to be the first to receive each issue!