Spanning the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire, the Cotswolds is one of the UK’s most visited and romanticized regions.
In amidst these downy hills, winding bridleways and swathes of green farmland are jumbles of honey-colored villages, picturesque cottages, cozy pubs, and more antique shops than you can shake a stick at.
There are few places that marry rural serenity with upscale sophistication as well as the Cotswolds so here’s your luxury guide to this lovely district: where to stay, eat, and what to do.
Where To Stay
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire
For a taste of lavish luxury, check in at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa. Sprawled at the end of a mile-long avenue of beech trees, this creeper-clad manor house is the epitome of grand Cotswolds glamour.
Dating back to 1720, wandering through the beautiful Palladian mansion feels like you’ve fallen into a Jane Austen novel; rooms are lavishly and traditionally styled, with paneled walls, ornate fireplaces, oil paintings, and thick, tasseled curtains.
The 42 bedrooms and suites are all personally designed, and most feature four posters beds, comfy sofas, and immaculate marble bathrooms.
Things are more contemporary in the hotel’s spa complex, which includes a 20-meter-long indoor pool, a hydrotherapy pool, and a sauna, steam room, salt room, and amethyst room.
Pamper yourself with one of the many treatments on offer – the ESPA Strength & Resilience Massage is an especially indulgent treat. The food is just as exciting: feast on decadent delights in the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones, or for something more informal, head to The Brasserie for some classic European food.
Oak House No.1, Gloucestershire
For a more cozy experience, there’s Oak House No.1, a boutique B&B in Tetbury.
This splendid Georgian property may look like your archetypal Cotswolds home, but inside the aesthetics take an unanticipated turn.
Merging bold, contemporary style with classic country charm, the entire property is a work of art: the deep-blue living room abounds with vibrant paintings and elaborate antiques, and gleaming chandeliers and decorative vases are just some of the adornments in the red and green dining room.
Upstairs things are no less decadent. Of the three guest rooms, the Cavalier Suite is the grandest; there’s a vast bedroom with a four-poster bed, a comfy library packed with old books, and a pristine bathroom with a walk-in shower at one end and a bathtub with a TV at the other.
The breakfast spread doesn’t let down, either – dally over an array of pastries, jams, and fruit, then fill yourself up with a hot breakfast cooked to order.
Where to Eat & Drink
The Conservatory at Calcot, Tetbury
Known to be one of the Cotswolds’ best hotels, part of the prestige of Calcot Manor comes from its two restaurants, The Conservatory and the pub-style Gumstool Inn.
Both are outstanding, but if you want luxury there’s only one choice. Contemporarily-designed, flooded with sunlight and with sensational views of the adjacent gardens, The Conservatory serves up fresh, seasonal food made with plenty of local produce.
The service is faultless and the bright staff well-informed – whether you want to know which wine to pick or where the vegetables were grown, someone’s on hand to help out.
Choose from dishes including line-caught Cornish turbot with braised gem lettuce, herb gnocchi, and caviar hollandaise, or beetroot and goats cheese cannelloni with tender stem broccoli and blackcurrant puree; vegans are well taken care of, too. Save room for desserts like dark and white chocolate mousse with Bailey’s ice cream, or lemongrass crème brûlée with orange sorbet.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
Belonging to the Daylesford estate – one of the most eco-friendly organic farms in the country – it’s no surprise that The Wild Rabbit’s menu is packed with freshly-picked ingredients from its gardens.
The restaurant’s popularity is no secret: it’s almost always chock-full, but you can perch at the bar while you wait for a table and sip a glass of wine from a local, independent vineyard.
The award-winning chefs create a constantly-changing menu that includes dishes like a slow-cooked egg with lightly pickled vegetables, carrot broth, fennel oil, toasted fennel, and sweet cicely seeds, or Cornish plaice with pea and herb ravioli, kohlrabi and ricotta. Desserts are delicious and innovative – think Sheep’s curd mousse with blueberries, honeycomb and apple marigold.
What To Do
While the Cotswolds definitely isn’t short of idyllic villages, it’s Burford that provides one of the region’s most iconic sights: a swooping High Street lined with old-fashioned cottages with leaning gables and mullioned windows.
Many of these houses are now independent shops, tea rooms, restaurants or pubs, and as such Burford is one of the most bustling places to visit in the Cotswolds. It’s where to come if you want to pick up a few souvenirs: the Burford Garden Company is an absolute delight, selling everything from stylish garden furniture and aromatherapy kits to silk quilts and vintage armchairs.
Be sure to visit the famous Burford Sweet Shop, which has jars upon jars of old-fashioned candies like sugar mice and licorice of all sorts. There are plenty of antique shops, galleries and stylish boutiques too: Slate Clothing and Maggie White are two of the best.
Explore Westonbirt Arboretum
Most people come to the Cotswolds to enjoy a reprieve from the rush of city life, and as Britain’s national arboretum, the 600-acre Westonbirt is the perfect place to take a walk.
With over 16,000 trees and 17 miles of well-kept trails, you could stroll all day here and only see a portion of what these gardens offer. Unlike other arboretums, which are arranged botanically, Westonbirt is laid out aesthetically, and as such it’s one of the most stunning and photogenic tree gardens in the world.
The newest addition to Westonbirt is the 300-meter Treetop Walkway, which rises gently to a height of 13-meters and provides magnificent views across the arboretum as you enter. These next few months are ideal for an autumnal day out – and when the leaves turn crimson the arboretum blazes like fire. Bring your camera!