It’s as if the sun itself pours out of the golden stone of the North Cotswolds, from the curved terraces of Chipping Campden’s High Street – known as the most perfect in England – to the sweetest of rose-clad cottages clustered around age-old village greens. This is the countryside of picture books brought to breath-taking life.
Gaze from a hill in the North Cotswolds and you’ll find a spectacular view that’s little changed with the passing centuries. Over those rolling slopes, you’ll spy cattle grazing on grasslands dotted with wild orchids, the spires of quaint village churches, sloping lichen-covered cottage roofs, and clear, cool streams where ducks dabble and trout splash. Underneath that earth lies rich Cotswold limestone, so beautiful it was used in the building of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament.
Our tour, led by a knowledgeable local driver-guide, meanders through some of the Cotswolds’ most iconic spots. Chipping Campden was once the home of medieval sheep barons, who used their wealth to build marvels such as 14th century Grevel’s House and St James’ Church, considered by many to be the finest wool church in the region. Teetering Snowshill atop the Cotswold escarpment, unspoilt Winchcombe, historic Stow-on-the-Wold, and Bourton-on-the-Water – the Venice of the Cotswolds – are some of the prettiest settlements you’ll see; but none are more prized than glorious Upper and Lower Slaughter, which attract visitors from all over the world to wander along secluded pathways by the side of the babbling River Eye.
Unsophisticated as these villages are, they’re known for attracting celebrities past and present. Rock stars, supermodels and fashion designers are among those who’ve bought manors in the area in recent years. But that’s not a new phenomenon. Broadway is still full of galleries, a throwback to the 19th century when painters such as the American Francis Davis Millet fell in love with its wide main street and quaint tranquillity. While Broadway Tower was once lived in by Pre-Raphaelite William Morris; you can see 13 counties from this, the “highest little castle in the Cotswolds”.
This area is also prized for its outstanding gardens. Hidcote Manor, an Arts and Crafts masterpiece, is one of the finest of its kind in the world; while Kiftsgate boasts England’s largest rose.
Please read our North Cotswolds’ itinerary, ideal for first-time visitors.
Note: route can be arranged to fit with any start and finish point eg a Cheltenham hotel, or Moreton-in-Marsh train station etc.
During this tour, we’ll also be venturing off the beaten track to view some of the lesser-known gems – tiny hamlets and secluded manors – at the heart of this rural idyll.