View from Broadway tower

Cotswolds for England is likely what Provence is for France, Tuscany for Italy or Andalucia for Spain. Except, of course, that the weather here is not as exceptional as it is in the aforementioned continental regions, to put it mildly.

Things to See

Touring the villages, manors and gardens, complemented by walks in the fields, is the primary sightseeing activity in Cotswolds. (Please note that Oxford is addressed in a separate entry; while it sits on the fringe of the region, it is more freqently visited on its own, rather than in conjunction with a Cotswolds tour, even though it is on the way to Cotswolds from London).

Bourton-on-the-Water ♥♥♥ is the most picturesque of the villages that we visited, aided by a small river Windrush that runs through the town center. Several bridges span the river, which is flanked by inns and cafes on one side and a green town square on the other. The central portion of the town feels park-like because of this arrangement.

Birdland ♥, which is home to over 500 different species of birds, is located literally up the street from the center of town. There are penguins, pelicans, flamingo, toucans, emus, owls, peacocks, etc. The penguins are fed in the afternoon, accompanied by a lecture from the handler, always drawing a big crowd.

There is Dragonfly Maze ♥ next to Birdland. It sends you on a quest to collect 14 clues around its path, which when put together spell out directions for uncovering the mystery at the end of the maze. Adults play too, but kids absolutely love it.

One other attraction in Bourton that we did not visit is the Model Village, a 1/9-scale replica of a Cotswolds town.

Stow-on-the-Wold ♥ is bigger and more well-known, but it suffers from being too car-friendly, with the main town square literally being one big parking lot. The Market Square is quite big and built around the town church. Many of the square’s buildings are architecturally astounding, most housing antique and gift shops and art galleries. On Digbeth Street, off Market Square, we came across Kenulf Art Gallery which has a fantastic collection of modern painters.

Stratford-upon-Avon ♥ is Shakespeare’s birthplace, with several attractions devoted to the man. We were primarily interested in strolling around the town core, which is quite pleasant, if too touristy. The “waterfront”, where two small rivers meet in the center of town, is very nice, with a small park and several restaurant barges docked along the banks.

Sudeley Castle’s ♥ main apartments are accessible with a guided tour only, which we skipped. The part of the castle that we were able to see houses a curious if small exhibition, but is hardly anything special. The grounds are nice. The castle earned a heart mostly because of its pheasantry, which displays a couple of dozen of impossibly brightly colored species of pheasant, as well as peacocks.

Chipping Campden ♥ is not as airy as the other towns that we visited, with the High Street hemmed in by stone houses much more than in Bourton or Broadway. But that actually gives the village a bit more medieval feel. There are many lovely cottages all over this village.

Hidcote Manor Garden ♥♥ would have earned three hearts, if not for the time of the year. When the roses are in bloom and the sun shines, it has got to be absolutely stunning. On a cold day in early April, with only a few blooming flowers, it was still very alluring.

Broadway Tower ♥♥ is situated at the second highest point in Cotswolds, and you can see across 13 different counties from its top. Small tower rooms hold a simple exposition on the history of the area and the tower itself, but the view from the top is the reason to come. Vast fields with grazing sheep surround the tower, allowing for refreshing countryside walks.

Broadway ♥♥ is simply beautiful and architecturally cohesive, its wide main street – that gave the town its name – defined by stunning period houses.

Snowshill Manor ♥♥♥ has an enchanting, if unremarkable, garden with many benches strategically tucked away in various corners. The manor itself is truly extraordinary, not so much for its architecture or interior design, as for the collection it houses. It can only be described as a collection of everything. The estate’s owner in early 20th century gathered art objects, curiosities, and seemingly everything else from all over the world. The house is chock-full of stuff. There is a room of dozens of early bikes, another one of sewing machines, a display of samurai gear, model ships, clocks, toys, paintings, musical instruments, etc, etc. Fascinating! Despite the fact that the entry to the house is regulated by timed tickets, the place is fairly cramped and you cannot help but queue after other visitors at times. The manor is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and opens only at noon on other days.

There is plenty more to see and visit in Cotswolds. For instance, the town of Moreton-in-Marsh holds a great market every Tuesday, but that did not coincide with our plans. Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle did not fit into our schedule either. The list can go on…


Jill Carenza Cotswolds Riding ♥♥♥, in Stanton, offers horse-riding lessons and hacks. Even the person who never sat a horse before can enjoy a leisurely ride through the village and surrounding hills. The semi-private hack, lasting around an hour, is well worth it.

Honeybourne Pottery ♥ is a small shop in a plain village. Paul, who owns the shop, offers a brief lesson in pot-making, and then lets the kids try their own hand at shaping a lump of clay on the wheel. In addition, there are hundreds of vases and piggy banks that kids can paint if they wish.

Places to Eat

Several of our culinary stops were by recommendation of our innkeeper, but we also winged it a couple of times.

All places last visited in Spring 2007.

The Baker’s Arms ♥♥ in Broad Campden is a family pub, tended by nice middle-age ladies. The food is hearty, the ambience of a real country place, the cost quite low. Cash only.

The Oppo Cafe ♥♥♥ in Stratford-upon-Avon is a fairly sophisticated restaurant that fills up very quickly after 7pm. The service is very prompt, the food excellent. Our damage: £80 for a meal for four, including a bottle of wine.

Bantam Tea Rooms ♥ in Chipping Campden served a very tasty Chicken Hot Pot dish and was fully occupied during lunchtime. Large fireplace and heavy wooden tables give the place a bit of communal feel. Our damage: £35 for lunch for four.

Randall’s ♥♥ at Three Way House Hotel in Mickleton is a brasserie off the bar area that is a bit bland in appearance, but serves very nice meals. It is also home of “famous” puddings, one of which Natasha quite liked. Our damage: £65 for four people, including a bottle of wine (there is also a formal dining room at the hotel, serving prix-fixe menus at £32, which we did not try).

Small Talk Tea Rooms in Broadway is listed as a Tea Room of Distinction. It is good not only for teas, but also for light meals. Service is nice, the food a bit on pre-cooked/just-heated side. Cash only.


Other notes for UK