Spanning a massive 2,038km², the Cotswolds AONB encompasses five counties and borders a number of major cities. It’s an incredible place to glamp and explore, because although it’s filled with some stunning historic spots, it’s also part of an ever-changing stretch of beautiful wild. Here’s a quick jaunt from one end of the Cotswolds to the other, take the tour you could do in any order, or any direction.
Goldilocks could’ve saved herself a world of trouble, if she’d just started in the middle. So, let’s set the example. Right in the middle of The Cotswolds is Cirencester, the best place to start exploring this incredible stretch of AONB. Just a few miles outside the city you’ll find The Crown, at Ampney Crucis. Inside the honey-coloured patina of stone walls, you’ll find a very modern take on a classic. Serving seasonal, farm-to-table food sourced as locally as humanly possible. The food is just one third of the spectacle, the incredible interior design another, and the final third is the spectacle of how much of their food you’ll put away. Take the first night easy, eat and drink well, and just consider it carb-loading for now.
You’ve awoken, possibly slightly worse for wear after learning you could request bespoke cocktails at The Crown, and it’s time to shake off that dehydration headache. Best hangover cure? A good bit of exercise, and as luck would have it, you’re a 10m drive from The Cotswold Paddleboarding company at the De Vere Cotswold Water Park. Take to the water or hire the boards out for anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks. The best part? You can have the boards delivered to your front door wherever you are in the Cotswolds, so you can explore the waterway of your choice.
No doubt you worked up an appetite by now, so head on over to the edge of Cheltenham where the suburb melts into countryside. It’s a 26m drive from the waterpark, and the perfect spot to grab lunch after a workout, with small plates on the menu like whiskey cured venison carpaccio and truffled mayo or tuna tartare. Once sufficiently watered and fed, you’re right round the corner from a gentle walk across Cleeve Common, a SSSI and the largest common in the Cotswold AONB – as well as the highest point in the Cotswolds, at 330m.
After taking on the mild hikes, panoramic views and fresh Cotswold-ian air, you might feel the familiar pang of hunger earned by a blustery walk. If you head east for half an hour, you’ll find Stow-on-the-Wold, and The Old Butcher’s – Michelin starred restaurant, with an unusual eco-accolade. Nose-to-tail eating – ‘any part of the animal/plant that can be used will be used to create gourmet meals while ensuring minimal wastage’. The menu is vast, ever changing, and most importantly mouth-watering. If you need any more persuasion, just take a look at the sample menu. From here, you’ll want to retire to your space, perhaps lie back in a hot tub, or recline next to a crackling fire, and enjoy some digestif before bed.
Wherever you are, you’ve woken up with the birds, the amber light, and a cuppa on the doorstep of somewhere with incredible views. It’ll be a hard ask to leave, but food and adventure calls. If you’re still up by Stow-on-the-Wold, head south for half an hour to Cirencester, and if you can wait that long to break your fast, Jack’s Tearoom and Kitchen is the place to go. Served from 9am to 3pm, breakfast comes in many forms, from brioche bun bacon sandwiches to buttermilk waffles. Sundays, as we all know, are best spent doing Sunday things. Long baths, a good book – or a healthy amble somewhere gorgeous. Westonbirt Arboretum is just 25m away, and there’s no season it isn’t an incredible kaleidoscope of colour. Stroll the grounds, bathe in the forest, and head home pleasantly exhausted.