Like so many of you reading this, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to far-flung places in the world, but I always return to where my roots are. The pyramids of both Mexico and Egypt are breathtaking in their scale and majesty, but the natural peaks of the high wolds take some beating. The snaking Mississippi running past the French Quarter in New Orleans makes your heart skip a beat, but the majestic River Severn with its tidal bore will stop you dead in your tracks.

This is no one county. The Cotswolds area is made up of parts of six different counties – Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Somerset – and the different personalities and topography of those counties is reflected in this diverse, but distinctive, region. This is a place where, despite its fairly central location – it forms that liminal border land between Wales and southern England – it has held on fiercely to its identities and dialects. From the soft West Country burr of rural Gloucestershire and Somerset, to the West Midlands twang of parts of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, and the suggestion of Received Pronunciation as we head eastwards towards Oxford and its ‘Dreaming Spires’, there is a sense of place and belonging.

Historically, much of the wealth of the Cotswolds was built on the wool trade, and this can be seen in its fine churches and picturesque mills, built to glorify and sustain this profitable industry. The majestic local breed of sheep – the ‘Cotswold Lion’ – with its shaggy, dreadlocked fleece can still be seen grazing the hills and fields of the region.

The Cotswolds has become a destination for artisan food lovers, too. From local cheesemakers – including the famous Double Gloucester used in the annual cheese rolling races – to real ale and organic cider makers, and world-class vineyards, you will love our local specialities. You’ll also want to try our rare-breed Gloucestershire Old Spot pork, Bibury trout, and Tewkesbury mustard (so ‘thick and pungent’, Shakespeare makes mention in Henry IV).

And, for lovers of the great outdoors, you’ll be delighted to discover ancient woodlands, sweeping parklands, riverside and canalside walks, and enjoy activities from hiking to horse riding. If historic towns and villages are more your thing, you’ll want to explore the famously honey-coloured Cotswold stone streets of Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Bath, Cirencester, Stow-on-the-Wold, and the impossibly beautiful Castle Combe.

Welcome to the Cotswolds; we do hope you’ll stay and enjoy our hospitality!

5 things to do in the Cotswolds in 2024


Visit the historic castles, abbeys and churches
With many built on the profitable medieval trade of the ‘Golden Fleece’, you’ll want to take in the beauty of churches such as Fairford, Northleach and Winchcombe. For history on a grander scale, try Sudeley Castle, Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucester Cathedral and Warwick Castle.

Walk in the footsteps of literary heroes
Some of our greatest writers have their roots planted deep in the Cotswold soil. ‘Cider With Rosie’ author Laurie Lee grew up in the village of Slad; then there’s Regency Bath’s Jane Austen; Lewis Carroll of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ fame; ‘Lord of the Rings’ writer JRR Tolkien; and, of course, that Shakespeare fella from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Buy a ticket for a festival
There are so many cultural highlights in the Cotswold year, it’s difficult to recommend just a few. If forced to, though, essential tickets have to be to Cheltenham’s festivals of Jazz, Science, Music and Literature; Stratford’s Literary Festival; and the summertime delights of music festivals such as Wychwood, Big Feastival and Wilderness.

Visit a traditional pub
From the waterside delights of places such as The Inn at Fossebridge and The Swan Inn, Swinbrook, to characterful town centre pubs such as The Tavern in Cheltenham, Café Rene in Gloucester, and The Alehouse in Stroud, there’s a pub for every taste. If you really want to feel like you’ve earned that pint, though, we recommend the welcoming sight of a hostelry at the end of a Cotswold walk.

Try a spot of animal magic
The Cotswolds has some wonderful farm parks, such as Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park; wildlife parks, including Burford’s Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens; the tropical paradise of Stratford Butterfly Farm; and the thrill of Crocodiles of the World near Brize Norton – the UK’s only crocodile zoo.

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This article appeared in the Great British Staycations magazine.

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