Your Hotel in Cotswolds StoneThe Cotswolds are made of limestone, to be specific oolitic limiestone. To geologists it’s calcium carbonate pressed together tightly like fish roe. The ancient greek words that make up ‘oolite’ are for ‘egg’ and ‘stone’. So much for geology, for most visitors the real appeal of limestone is in the colour of a hotel in Cotswolds stone or a row of cottages, as well as the curve of the landscape.
You’ll see quarries all over the Cotswolds and it’s a still a requirement that buildings use local limestone for repairs and additions. The local limestone is usually thought of as yellow or gold but, when newly quarried, it varies from an orange-hued blond to a pale cream.
Your hotel in the Cotswolds is likley to evoke the gentle colours and gentle landscapes of the area, They are, after all, linked. Limestone is pretty soft and the gentle contours of the wolds have been formed by the action of the elements. No mountains, harsh contours or angularities here. The stone also dictates the landscape in other ways, beech woods are part of the landscape, rare and beautiful lime-loving wild flowers and grasses. In the slopes that are too steep to plough and by the side of the road more common flowers grow.
For centuries the Cotswolds was dominated by open sheep-friendly terrain. To some extent these have been replaced by arable fields and, in the right season, fields sway with green, bronze or the acid yellow of rapeseed. Barley is king, it thrives on drained, shallow soil. A few years ago it occurred to someone that no-one was distilling some of this barley and The Cotswolds Distillery was created in pursuit of excellent whisky. Perhaps a something try at the end of a long day back at your hotel in the Cotswolds.
Cotswold stone, as well as shaping the natural landscape so directly has also dictated the character and form of local buildings. Some oolites form a fine-grained stone which is easy to cut - in fact it can literally be sawn into blocks. This is when it is newly quarried, later it hardens on exposure to the air.
This material forms the basic building material for your hotel and Cotswolds houses and other structures. Even the rooftiles are made of a specific type of surface Cotswold stone, which splits when left over winter into a usable thickness. Flooring, too, is made of local stone. The saying is that you can do anything with Cotswold stone except eat it.Hotel buildings in the Cotswolds are often former manor houses and, indeed, The Cotswolds area is famous for its cute cottages and manor houses, but also for stone walls. This is a reminder that stone was once easier to come by here than wood.
Visit ancient sites such as Belas Knapp, a long barrow near Winchcombe and you’ll see ancient slated walls, supplemented by modern ones - the skill hasn’t changed much in 4000 years. Stone walling needs to be made of the right stone quarried at the right time of year - if not it will crumble due to frost damage after a few winters, something that sometimes people discover when they pay too little for new drystone walls. Hotel, Cotswolds, landscape - all together as one perfect rural escape.
Oxfordshire Hotels in the CotswoldsWinter is an interesting time to visit the Cotswolds. The most popular seasons are Spring and Autumn, but Cotswold Hotels have their own special charm in the colder season. Most are monuments to comfort - think of open log fires, excellent food and drink and village locations that make them perfect for a quick exploration of nearby woodland and scenic spots.
The Cotswolds has become year-round popular in recent times and more and more local attractions are opening up right through the year - helping to ensure that Cotswold hotels have an ever improving list of options. That said, hoteliers smile a little when guests get so comfortable that they never leave the hotel - often the temptation of a good book is enough for guests seeking perfect relaxation. We’ve noticed how hotels are dropping the books-by-the-yard approach to their bookshelves and are actually creating proper libraries. A trend we like. You’ll also find hot tubs and spas in many hotels and we’ve noticed how many Cotswold hotels happen to be within perfect walking distance of the local pub. Barnsley House hotel have thoughtfully arranged things so that they also own the Village Pub over the road. New member, Artist Residence in Oxfordshire has gone one better by having a very fine pub downstairs (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms) Very cosy and hygge, we reckon.
Speaking of hygge, the Scandinavian approach to cosy living in colder weather, we’ve also notes how many of our hotels are adopting ‘Scandi-cool’ interiors. Almost as if they are made for Winter visits. Cotswolds Finest is very proud to welcome two new properties to its collection of Cotswolds Hotels for 2018.
Artist Residence is a terrific smaller property (with just five bedrooms) in the Oxfordshire village of South Leigh. That puts it within easy range of both Oxford and the Cotswolds, perfect for guests from London and the South East looking for Cotswolds hotels. Bedrooms have a fresh and cool design (Instagram fans will be pretty happy here) and this is a pretty chic new option for visitors to the area.
The accommodation is located over and around an Inn, Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms. Design values are high here too, with Mr Hanbury's Dining Room. It’s basically one of the most atmospheric of dining rooms amongst Cotswolds hotels, with House of Hackney wallpapers and Connor Brothers contemporary art dotted around. Look out for the Andy Doig neons too. When modern design meets historic pub the results can be inspirational and that’s the case here - full of surprises and a welcome addition to our cast of special Cotswolds hotels.
Dining is heavily centred on the Cotswolds location, especially as the chef is a huge fan of foraging.
Local attractions include Burford, the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Blenheim Palace. Or you can keep sightseeing local too with a trip to the local church to see the medieval ‘doom’ paintings. Every year, The Cotswolds runs through a calendar of events both natural and human. The ‘Cotswolds’ season is well established now and any visitor to the area is well-advised to check to see what is happening during their visit. Events are not always on a large scale, but can add a lot to a short break.
Things begin to get interesting in February, with the arrival of snowdrops. Local attractions such as Painswick Rococo and Colesbourne open up for snowdrop viewing, an excuse to get out and about and do a bit of people watching too, ideally over tea and cake. Every Hotel in the Cotswolds will offer St Valentine’s breaks, which are ever-popular and, a little later in March, Cheltenham Festival is another signal that the visitor year has properly begun. The Festival comprises four days of jump racing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup as its climax.
There are festivals dotted around the Cotswolds. We like Chipping Norton Literary Festival, which takes over this small North Cotswold town in late April (26-29th in 2018). It punches above its weight in terms of the names it attracts and is a warm, chatty, friendly event.
In May there are some of the more eccentric events for which the Cotswolds is famous. It’s a good tip to add an extra day at your hotel in the Cotswolds in the last Bank Holiday Monday in May, for example. It’s when you can see both Woolsack Racing in Tetbury (a tribute to the importance of the wool industry in the Cotswolds) and Cheese Rolling, near Gloucester. Both involve steep slopes! The Woolsack races are run up the steep Gumstool Hill in Tetbury, carrying a woolsack. A crowd of 5000 or so pack the town and it’s a entertaining day out. Over at Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, Cheese Rolling is all about catching a Gloucester cheese which is rolled down a hill. It’s a dangerous and hilarious event - unlike anything anywhere else. Hotel breaks in the Cotswolds can really be unique. Most of the Cotswolds are in Gloucestershire and it’s that County that gets most of the attention when the area is considered for hotels in the Cotswolds. Having said that, other counties are important too - especially Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire has the second greatest Cotswold ‘footprint’ - and some of its biggest attractions. Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site, the Cotswold Wildlife Park is a crowd pleaser and some of the villages such as Burford and Lechlade are amongst the most worth-visiting. Plus it’s always good to have Oxford within easy reach.
Oxfordshire hotels in the Cotswolds include the Feathers at Woodstock, which has a kitchen run by Dominic Chapman (of Great British Menu fame) and a remarkable collection of gins, over 450 in fact. The bar was first into the Guinness Book of Records for stocking the greatest variety of gins on the planet and the hotel is a popular one, occupying one side of the market place in the historic town. The gates of Blenheim Palace are a short walk away.
Head out for the day to explore Chipping Norton, great for antique shops, and the nearby Rollright Stones an ancient site with its Kings Men stone circle, King Stone and ‘Whispering Knights’.
Artist Residence is a new hotel in the Cotswolds - based on an old Inn (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms) with just five bedrooms, done to chic design standard.
It’s great, with a particularly cosy dining room. The walls are embellished with modern art and floral House of Hackney wallpapers. The Inn is in South Leigh, a quiet Oxfordshire village. You can walk up to the ancient church to see the Medieval ‘Doom’ paintings, all very Gothic. This newest of hotels in the Cotswolds is recommended if you’re looking for a bolthole to escape to from London - you leave after work and be here for dinner, easily.
Nearby, you can explore picturesque Burford with it’s single main street leading downhill towards the river. The nearby Barringtons (Great and Little Barrington) are two Cotswold villages that really feel as if they belong in the 1950s - every cottage is a free flower show. Explore Kingham too, with a couple of good pubs and the nearby Daylesford Farm Shop. Daylesford is good for people watching, perhaps a wry smile at the prices and to immerse yourself in the cheese room. The cafe is buzzy and colourful and, again, if you can smile at the prices, an enjoyable place to be. They sell clothes and gardening knick-knackerie on site too. It’s perfect for your inner Marie Antoinette.
Visitors looking for a Cotswolds hotel shouldn’t overlook Oxfordshire.
Cotswold Hotels in the WinterWinter is an interesting time to visit the Cotswolds. The most popular seasons are Spring and Autumn, but Cotswold Hotels have their own special charm in the colder season. Most are monuments to comfort - think of open log fires, excellent food and drink and village locations that make them perfect for a quick exploration of nearby woodland and scenic spots.
The Cotswolds has become year-round popular in recent times and more and more local attractions are opening up right through the year - helping to ensure that Cotswold hotels have an ever improving list of options. That said, hoteliers smile a little when guests get so comfortable that they never leave the hotel - often the temptation of a good book is enough for guests seeking perfect relaxation. We’ve noticed how hotels are dropping the books-by-the-yard approach to their bookshelves and are actually creating proper libraries. A trend we like. You’ll also find hot tubs and spas in many hotels and we’ve noticed how many Cotswold hotels happen to be within perfect walking distance of the local pub. Barnsley House hotel have thoughtfully arranged things so that they also own the Village Pub over the road. New member, Artist Residence in Oxfordshire has gone one better by having a very fine pub downstairs (Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms). Very cosy and hygge, we reckon.
Speaking of hygge, the Scandinavian approach to cosy living in colder weather, we’ve also notes how many of our hotels are adopting ‘Scandi-cool’ interiors. Almost as if they are made for Winter visits.
For many years Westonbirt Arboretum led the way in the winter, with an illuminated woodland trail named Enchanted Christmas. The combination of tree shapes and creative lighting is, indeed enchanting. Crowds are huge and it’s a highly recommended event.
Sudeley Castle has recently picked up on the idea and their ‘Spectacle of Light’ adds illuminated castle buildings and trees to the excitement of exploring the grounds at this Tudor castle. Guests at Cotswold hotels love the experience and are also very enthusiastic about a new venture at Blenheim Palace, whose ‘Christmas at Blenheim' event (which runs until January 1st) runs on an even grander scale. The Palace’s formal gardens are lit up to create a marvellous after dark spectacle. Their tunnel of light is sensational, as you pass under thousands of twinkling lights. Bright illuminated boats bob on the lake and there’s a giant water fountain too.
For many visitors the opportunity to base themselves at one of our Cotswold hotels is also a chance to shop in the nearby villages for truly individual gifts - or to visit Daylesford Organic for a bit of celeb spotting. For other guests at Cotswold hotels, a stay is a chance to forget the shops in favour of a walk on the Cotswold Way or a visit to walk around a local National Trust property such as Upton House.
Another option is to explore local theatre, which includes the Royal Shakespeare theatre in Stratford, well within range of the North Cotswolds.
Exploring local drinks from Cotswolds hotelsWhat is the Cotswold drink? Believe the celeb loving national press and it's Champagne. To be fair, a lot of Champagne is drunk at Cotswolds hotels, not least during Cheltenham Festival's Gold Cup week.
In reality, beer is the daily drink and the experience of a pint on the terrace or in the garden of one of the Cotswolds hotels or pubs is a deeply pleasant one. Local breweries dot the area - look out for Donnington ales from the north Cotswolds which is surely one of the prettiest breweries in Britain. Hook Norton is a more famous name nationally, a well known Victorian brewery that offers tours and still delivers by horse drawn drays to local pubs.
DEYA is at the other end of the scale, a Cheltenham-based new wave brewery absolutely focused on quality. It's probably in the top 10 breweries in the country. Look out for Steady Rolling Man. If you see it, try it.
Cotswold Brewing Company was set up by a former mass market brewery employee who wanted to inject some quality into things by creating a new Cotswold brand. Their Cotswold lager is a great summer day beer and they have developed a wheat beer, IPA and stout to build the range. Quite easy to find and stocked by quite a few Cotswolds hotels.
Wychwood Brewery makes the popular Hobgoblin Ale from its base in Witney. We also like Stroud Brewery, where Greg Pilley's organic craft beers are made with local barley. 'Organic Beer from Round Here' as they say.
Years ago, the only local spirit for Cotswolds hotels to stock was initially a semi mythical Gloucestershire whisky which was actually blended in Scotland for the village of Oldbury. You can still buy it and it is well reviewed.
There's more choice now though, especially with the arrival of the Cotswolds Distillery, the first properly commercial distillery in the Cotswolds. Located in Warwickshire, the business offers a Cotswold Single Malt and a Cotswolds Dry Gin. The gin is a staple in a Cotswolds hotels bar these days.
The whisky uses barley grown and processed in the area. Sherry, bourbon and wine casks are used. So far only test batches have been released and the initial reports are that it's a floral English whisky. Scottish whisky is the most regulated drink in the world and English producers perhaps benefit from the ability to experiment a little more. Certainly it's already clear that the Cotswolds Distillery aim is to produce a whisky that reflects its location in the Cotswolds. The gin already achieves the use of local ingredients such as Cotswold lavender.
The final version whisky should be available from October 2017. It's gin was recently voted best in the world at the World Gin Awards.
Gin fans can now add a Cotswolds Distillery tour to their cotswolds hotels breaks - but do book ahead as they are very popular. Tours take place at 11am and 2pm, daily. There's a walk in tour at 1pm if you're in the area at short notice.
Autumn attractions near Cotswolds hotels and innsFor many, Autumn is the best time to stay at cotswolds hotels and inns. The area has an arboretum at each 'end' and, in between, plenty of wide open spaces with Cotswold Beech trees taking star billing. If you plan a visit to the area from late September onward you should be guaranteed a display of tree colour. And there's always the prospect of a good pub or afternoon tea at one of the many cotswolds hotels and inns at the end of a long walk - meanwhile there's a nip in the air and the crunch of leaves underfoot. Rather romantic actually.
The arboreta referred to are Westonbirt, near Tetbury in the South Cotswolds. This is the 'National' Arboretum and attracts huge crowds for its displays in various russet hues - from copper to Japanese Maple reds. There are over 15,000 trees here, so allow plenty of time to explore woodland paths. There is inevitably an especially large crowd at weekends in October.
Batsford Arboretum, in the north Cotswolds is a little smaller in scale. The garden has oriental associations and there is added photogenic addition of a Japanese style bridge and tea house to add some style to your selfies.
To the east of the area Blenheim Palace, provides another option, with its 'Capability' Brown parkland and fabulous tree and lake setting. This year, they plan various events through the Autumn period - well worth planning your stay at your choice of cotswolds hotels and inns around.
If you're even just mildly adventurous there's no real need to join the crowds at the area's large scale Autumn attractions. There's a walk that the locals love from every Cotswold village - ask at reception desks in Cotswolds hotels and inns around, check at local tourist information centres or bring the subject up in the pub and you'll benefit from local knowledge.
To help we've included a suggested local walk from each of our hotels on this website - see hotel pages for ideas. Painswick, for example has stunning Autumn views across the valley and a walk alongside the local public golf course to Painswick Beacon. The Manor House at Castle Combe also offers a wooded valley walk and Thyme offers a walk that embraces Autumn colour and quaint Cotswold churches. Utter peace is easily available from our Cotswolds hotels and inns.
A particular favourite that is not, perhaps, so well known is the National Trust estate at Sherborne Park in the central Cotswolds, just a small parking charge here and then you can head off to explore the magnificent woodland surrounded village. The estate pops up on the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes and can be reached from most Cotswolds hotels and inns.
Cleeve Common and nearby Cheltenham are good value in Autumn, with the town's famous parks providing a gentle walking option amongst lakes, parks and specimen trees. Cheltenham has an historic theatre too - designed by a famous theatre designer named Frank Matcham, in 1891. In the Winter, a traditional hotel in the Cotswolds is a good match with a another British tradition - pantomime. Pantomime is basically a musical comedy theatre performance for families, drawing on a stock of well known stories such as Aladdin, Puss in Boots and the Babes in the Wood. For the rest of the year there is a programme of theatre, musicals and comedy at the theatre which is called the Everyman.
Dining at luxury Cotswolds hotelsLuxury Cotswolds hotels offer some of the best dining rooms in the Cotswolds, embracing the range from Michelin stars to smart pub.
In general, dining rooms have been busy becoming less formal, many dropping the tablecloths and library atmosphere in favour of more simplified local menus with friendly service in a more relaxed atmosphere. These days luxury Cotswolds hotels restaurants represent a fashionable option for diners.
Leading the way, Randall's at the Three Ways in Mickleton is a proper brasserie, in the sense that you will feel as comfortable ordering a soup and roll as you will a four course lunch. Nice open fire too. The John Greville Restaurant at Charingworth Manor offers a great value fixed-price menu, based on a firm 'buy local' policy. Nearby, at Cotswold House Hotel, the Cotswold Grill shows exactly why a luxury Cotswolds hotels restaurant is often a great choice, with doors opening through to a lovely garden, despite the town centre location. Meanwhile at Dormy House Hotel, there are two restaurants (served by the same kitchen) with the Potting Shed a popular local option, next door to the slightly smarter main restaurant.
Russell's of Broadway is first and foremost a restaurant, but offers a few rooms upstairs. In fact it's one of the most charming 'restaurants with rooms' in the country. There's another surprise up the hill at Moreton in Marsh, where you can step through the door at the Manor House to discover the Beagle Brasserie and a huge garden at the back.
Lords of the Manor at Upper Slaughter has held a Michelin dining star for the last 8 years and is Gloucestershire's only Michelin-starred hotel - the very definition of luxury Cotswolds hotels. From there, it's a short walk to the Bourton on the Water where The Dial House is at the very heart of the village with its two dining rooms overlooking the river.
An amazing collection of over 450 gins in its bar, risks overshadowing the restaurant at The Feathers in Woodstock, near Blenheim Palace, but, in fact, Great British Menu regular Dominic Chapman is at the helm in the kitchen and the restaurant is on great form.
Heading south to the famous village of Bibury, The Swan Brasserie is newly refurbished and always busy, at the heart at this popular, beautiful village. Nearby, the Village Pub in Barnsley is a well-established dining pub, serving classic Cotswold ingredients simply and very well.
Almost over the road (and under the same ownership as the Pub), Barnsley House grows its own vegetables in its Rosemary Verey planned Potager. The house speciality is Vincisgrassi, a very old Italian recipe. There's an Italian influence too at nearby Swan at Southrop, near Lechlade. Despite that, it's the distillation of what a modern Cotswolds pub is all about.
There's a grouping of luxury Cotswolds hotels in and around Tetbury starting with Calcot Manor which has both a fine dining restaurant and the Gumstool Inn, a pub attached to the hotel. The Beaufort Restaurant at The Hare and Hounds, is an esteemed restaurant in beautiful surroundings, near Westonbirt Arboretum. Farthest south in the Cotswolds, The Old Bell is Britain's oldest purpose built hotel, in the shadow of Malmesbury's impressive Abbey. It's an intriguing, ancient building but dining here is informal and pleasure. Great for romantics. Cotswolds Finest's group of luxury Cotswolds hotels is completed with another Michelin-awarded grand country house, the magnificent Manor House at Castle Combe.
Luxury Cotswold Hotels for BeginnersIf you don’t know The Cotswolds well, here are some ideas to help you choose which amongst luxury Cotswold hotels is right for you.To start with the basics, the Cotswolds is the name given to an area distonguished by limestone and gentle hilly slopes between Bath and Chipping Campden. The name is from old English - Cots = sheep pens, Wolds = hills: Cotswolds.
Also dotted around the edge are Cheltenham and Oxford. Luxury Cotswold hotels are part of the attraction of visiting, there’s a long traditional of romantic weekend breaks and somehow the list of charming Cotswolds stone hotels seem to grow and grow. In fact, that’s why Cotswolds Finest Hotels was formed - the choice was a bit overwhelming.
Luxury Cotswold Hotels - North and South.
If you don’t have a particular hotel or destination in mind, one way is to decide whether north or south Cotswolds is right for you - and it’s not just not a matter of where you travel from. Very broadly speaking, the North Cotswolds is better known, thanks to the fame of its market towns (Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford and others). The area offers a more ‘commercial’ face of the area, with towns such as Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury popular with coach groups - of course you can always beat the crowds by staying in these beautiful places.
It’s hard to say where exactly the Cotswolds becomes the south Cotswolds, but Cirencester is a good start. The south part of the Cotswolds is equally agricultural and beautiful, but the villages tend to be lesser-known and there’s a ‘real’ quality to this part of the Cotswold hills. It’s also where you’ll find Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate) and attractions such as Westonbirt Arboretum and the Cotswolds Water Park.
Stroud Farmers’ Market is a big Saturday morning draw and nearby Nailsworth is a foodie favourite.
There are hundred of luxury Cotswold hotels, villages and hamlets in the Cotswolds and our tip is that it’s best to relax and spend time in a couple of them, rather than try to ‘tick them all off.’ They’re all kind of similar, although each has something unique about it. Very often luxury Cotswold hotels are a key part of village life too, another reason to stay there.
If you’re staying in the south Cotswolds, you’ll have the Georgian City of Bath within range, as well as excursions to Berkeley Castle and Chavanage House which is used in the current Poldark TV series, appearing as the Poldark family home. Castle Combe is one of the most famous villages anywhere in the Cotswolds, tucked away in the far south.
So, if you have enjoyed a stay in the Cotswolds, don’t feel that there’s no reason to come back and stay at another one of our luxury Cotswold hotels - there’s plenty to explore, north or south.
The arts from your Cotswolds luxury hotels baseCotswolds luxury hotels are a great base for exploring local arts events.
The local list of events is extensive - a kind of Cotswolds ‘Season’. There are some real surprises too.
For example, the North Cotswolds has its very own opera house. Longborough Festival Opera is, in fact one of the UK's finest country opera houses - an intimate 500 seat theatre set amidst the glorious rolling hills of the Cotswolds. Each performance at Longborough is a new production, created especially for the venue - the Producers work with talented designers, directors, conductors and the best up-and-coming artists to bring you something you won't have seen anywhere else.
A visit to Longborough ensures an intimate and unique experience which truly captures the drama and emotion happening on stage. It was once reviewed as ‘like Glyndbourne before the war’. A visit fits nicely with a stay at one of the Cotswolds luxury hotels, in keeping somehow.
The season runs to the start of August with a chance left to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute or Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. Dining is an important part of the experience at Longborough Festival Opera. 90 minute dining interval allows time to relax and enjoy the picturesque grounds: you can reserve a space in the on site restaurant or bring a picnic.
Highly recommended - especially as part of a longer stay at one of the cotswolds luxury hotels in the Cotswolds Finest partnership.
Theatre isn’t, perhaps, the first thought when planning a Cotswolds luxury hotels break. But perhaps it should be.
Apart from the fact that Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre is within easy range of much of the Cotswolds, you’ll find a heady mix of local theatres and out-door events on offer. For those in the know, there’s a regular program of musical theatre, comedy and touring productions - including one or two places known locally as secret try out venues for the odd big name.
Chipping Norton Theatre is a theatre, an arthouse cinema, a gallery and a concert hall. Praised by The Guardian for “A programme of distinctive artistic adventure”, the theatre is small but punches well above its weight. Seats 213 people.
Further south, the Sundial Theatre in Cirencester is a 275 seat venue always worth checking out. The likes of Michael McIntyre and Jack Dee have appeared in warm up gigs here.
Giffords Circus tours village green type settings through the summer - a very stylish night out and not to be missed if they’re performing near you during your stay at one of the Cotswolds luxury hotels.
Look out too for Shakespeare performances from Rain or Shine Theatre Company at venues such as Painswick Rococo Garden.
The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham is the house theatre for the area - a delightful Frank Matcham designed venue.Farthest south in the area, Bath’s Theatre Royal, built in 1805 is, famously, haunted and one of the oldest theatres in the country.
Cotswolds luxury hotels are your key to unlock the best of local culture, whether local opera, theatre or cultural events.
Hotels and Inns in the Cotswolds2017 has been declared the year of literary heroes by VisitEngland in a drive to celebrate the importance of authors and poets in the country. We took a look at our own hotels and inns in the Cotswolds to dig our some literary connections - and found a few surprises along the way!
Thinking of purely Cotswold characters, Laurie Lee comes to mind first. His novel Cider With Rosie (published as Edge of Day in the US) described childhood in the small (real) village of Slad, a world of cottages, the village pub (The Wool Pack is still there) and church. Cider with Rosie is a lyrical effort and his sequel As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is if anything, even more poignant.
These days hotels and inns in the Cotswolds occupy some of those Stroud valleys and other Cotswold locations. The Painswick Hotel is nearby and also not far from Cranham, where local WWI poet Ivor Gurney walked, traumatised by his experiences in the Great War.
The area around Batsford, Sezincote and Broadway had its literary moment in the sun at about the same time. Nancy Mitford live at Batsford House during the Great War and based part of Love in a Cold Climate on her experiences there (It was called Alconleigh in the novels). She later lived at Swinbrook, where she is buried.After the war, J.M. Barrie spent time at Stanway House and returned the favour by buying a new cricket pavilion for the village. Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are well used to answering questions about local authors. One of the most common questions is about Shakespeare, who did describe Gloucestershire in Richard II and may have lived at Dursley.
I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire;
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draw out our miles, and make them wearisome.
But I bethink me, what a weary way
From Ravenspurg to Cotswold will be found
If Shakespeare did live in Dursley , it’s pleasing that J.K. Rowling also contributed to that town’s fame by naming the family in her stories after the place too. J.K. was at school near the Forest of Dean and a couple of references popped up in her stories. The filmed stories used Gloucester Cathedral as a location.
Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are often used for creative writing courses - often sessions include walking in the area - something that has inspired several literary greats in the past. J R R Tolkien took epic walks from Oxford and into the Cotswolds and is thought to have and the act of walking in the area has given participants and used the area around Chipping Campden as inspiration for ‘Weathertop’ and (as a lover of a good pub) is thought to have modelled The Bell Inn in Moreton in Marsh as ‘The Prancing Pony’ in Lords of the Rings.
Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds are within easy reach of Bath, which Dickens took a bit of a dislike to (Pickwick Papers) but which was celebrated, slightly mocked and immortalised by Jane Austen. She lived in the town from the time of her father’s retirement until his death - about 5 years, so she knew the place well.
Lewis Carroll The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass spent significant time around Stow-on-the-Wold, where his friend Reverend Edward Litton was the rector of a church.
Graham Greene’s career, after poor sales of his first novel, brought him to Chipping Campden to concentrate full-time on his writing. Living in a cottage called Little Orchard, he completed Stamboul Train which was his first commercial success.
Hotels and inns in the Cotswolds offer many opportunities for touring and exploring - following a literary theme is a good way to discover some of the lesser-known parts of the area.
Visiting historic houses from hotels in Cotswolds Visiting an ancient castle or historic house is a popular pastime in Britain - people love to hear stories of kings and queens and historic characters. Many of our guests use their hotels in Cotswolds to explore the long list of stately homes, castles and historic buildings in the area.
From hotels in Cotswolds, one of the most visited castles is Sudeley. It’s a Tudor Castle, meaning that it dates from the 15th Century. It’s an impressive building with beautiful gardens, but the thing that captures the imagination is that it was once owned by King Henry the Eighth.
Henry (1509-1547). Henry was desperate to have a male heir and married six times seeking a son. His various wives came from England and Europe and he disposed of them in different ways; “Divorced, Married, Died, Divorced, Married, Survived” is something that children still learn at school. Katherine Parr was King Henry’s last wife, the one who survived him and she is entombed in the chapel. At the castle, you can also see some of Katherine’s love letters.
One of our favourite places is Chavanage House. It is said to have a ghost (we love a good ghost story - hotels in Cotswolds often report sightings too!).When Britain had a civil war, in the 17th Century, Colonel Stevens, the owner of Chavanage 17th century, reluctantly agree that the King Charles (who was a prisoner) should be executed. His daughter, in a fit of anger at the decision, laid a curse upon her father. Eventually Colonel Stevens died and all were assembled for his funeral, a carriage drew up at the door of the manor house driven by a headless man. The Colonel was seen to rise from his coffin and enter the hearse driven by the headless personage, who as he drove away assumed the shape of the dead King, Charles I - this being a reminder of the Colonel's disloyalty to the King. The headless ghost and carriage is said to reappear whenever the end of the family line dies.
The Cotswolds has a unique offer for film location managers: hotel, Cotswolds, scenery, built heritage and natural beauty all combine to make it an attractive location. Here are some famous locations and their real life names - which may help to explain why certain places look familiar to you when you visit for the first time. In fact, the Cotswolds in general also pop up in BBC Countryfile, because Adam Henson’s Cotswolds Farm Park is near Naunton.
Owlpen Manor, a Tudor manor house and garden, near Dursley, was location for The Other Boleyn Girl, based on Philippa Gregory's acclaimed best-selling novel.Chavenage House was used for Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson’s memoir. And also the recent BBC revival of the Poldark stories, where it appeared as the Poldark family home. The hotel Cotswolds combo seems to have worked its magic on location managers again.
Outdoor scenes in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s movie Cemetery Junction were filmed in the Stroud Valleys.From your hotel Cotswolds is not the only option - the cloisters attached to Gloucester Cathedral have been used in many of the Harry Potter films - appearing as ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardary’ - pupils from the adjacent King’s School appeared as extras, Harry’s classmates. The Cathedral has also popped up in episodes of Sherlock and Dr Who.
Arlington Row in Bibury, near Cirencester, provided a street-scene backdrop in the fantasy adventure film Stardust, which starred Sienna Miller. The country Christmas scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary was shot in Snowshill and the crew returned to the area for the sequel Bridget Jones's Baby. The Christening scenes were filmed in Swinbrook church.
One of our favourite places to visit from hotels in cotswolds is Chavanage House. It is said to have a ghost.
When Britain had a civil war, in the 17th Century, Colonel Stevens, the owner of Chavanage 17th century, reluctantly agree that the King Charles (who was a prisoner) should be executed. His daughter, in a fit of anger at the decision, laid a curse upon her father.
Eventually Colonel Stevens died and all were assembled for his funeral, a carriage drew up at the door of the manor house driven by a headless man. The Colonel was seen to rise from his coffin and enter the hearse driven by the headless personage, who as he drove away assumed the shape of the dead King, Charles I - this being a reminder of the Colonel's disloyalty to the King. The headless ghost and carriage is said to reappear whenever the owner of the house dies.
Ghost hunters also love a visit to Woodchester Mansion a unique Victorian Gothic house hidden in a beautiful Cotswold valley. It is an unfinished masterpiece. Building started about 1857, but mysterious stopped in the mid-1860s. Floors and ceilings are missing, walls not plastered and windows unglazed. All the secrets of the construction of the Mansion are visible - something vou will never see in another Country House.
On the Eastern side of the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace is an extraordinary place. It’s a World Heritage Site and the only non Royal, non episcopal palace in Britain. Blenheim Palace was built to mark a series of spectacular military victories against the French. The scale is enormous.
Kelmscott Manor was the scene of a tragic love affair. It’s the perfect Cotswold manor house. In Victorian times (19th Century) Kelmscott Manor was leased by William Morris and his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Both were artists, Morris a hugely influential designer of wallpaper and furnishings (still popular today) with connections to Liberty shop in London. Morris brought his family to The Manor, which was then a setting for a love affair between Jane, Morris’s wife, and Rossetti. Morris accommodated the arrangement in the interests of his wife and friend. These days you can visit the house, see the designs and crafts and learn the whole story. There’s a fine garden too - a terrific day out from hotels in cotswolds.
The ‘visiting a country house’ from hotels in Cotswolds experience is never complete without afternoon tea in the cafe and maybe a visit to a garden shop. Most are open between April and October.
Spa hotels CotswoldsCotswolds Finest Hotels was created to help people planning a visit to the Cotswolds to find their way through the almost overwhelming choice of hotels in the Cotswolds. Our partnership of twenty plus hotels cover inns, town house hotels and manor house hotels. We’re not a chain so there are plenty of quirky things to discover amongst all that tradition. Every Friday evening, for example, you might see a procession of excited people arrive at the Three Ways House Hotel in the small village of Mickleton, near Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds. This hotel, one of the few genuinely family-owned hotels in the Cotswolds, is home to The Pudding Club. The ‘Club’ is open to all and sees six traditional British Puddings brought to the table (after a carbohydrate-light main course). It’s a beautiful sight - diners get to taste them all and vote on their favourite of the evening.
It’s a fun evening and the owners have taken their Pudding Club evenings to Japan and New York in the course of a long career.
The hotel rooms are also some of the most inventive amongst hotels in the Cotswolds, themed along pudding lines - with a Spotted Dick room, Sticky Toffee room, Oriental Ginger room, Syrup Sponge themed room and, of course, a Chocolate Suite. There’s a long tradition of spas in the Cotswolds, all those spa hotels cotswolds associations ring true - manor houses with luxury treatments, fresh air and good restaurants. One of the oldest hotels is Charingworth Manor, which has been around for 700 years or so. Tennis courts, gym , pool and sauna make the hotel a great choice for active types. Nearby Cotswold House hotel is a spa retreat in the centre of Chipping Campden popular for the hotels Cotswolds charm and Decleor treatments.
Dormy House, nr Broadway, recently reopened after a substantial refit that put the pool and Spa at the centre of the experience for guests - walk in, float out, is the promise. Guests at nearby Foxhill Manor have access to the Dormy Spa.
Further south amongst hotels cotswolds, The Painswick is another hotel that has recently been fully refurbished and returned with two new rooms for treatments - rooms just happen to have one of the best views in the Cotswolds. The spa uses Elemis skincare products and Leighton Denny for manis and pedis.
Barnsley House, near Bibury offers a spa tucked away in its grounds, with an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool outside. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a wide view of the hydrotherapy pool, gardens and countryside.
Calcot Manor Hotel and Spa is a revered name amongst hotels cotswolds, with an outdoor pool , tennis and outdoor gym, free bikes and seasonal horse riding on offer. The Spa is situated in a quiet corner of the grounds, close to the main house, it’s everything you would expect from a hotels Cotswolds Spa. Quiet, calm, beautifully designed and with the uplifting spa aroma that instantly suggests relaxation.
The Calcot Spa team will do whatever they can to make sure you have everything you need and that every detail of your visit is taken care of. The building is lovely, the lavender-lined outdoor hot tub and open fire is inviting and of course the healthy menu is delicious – but most importantly, the spa and the team are exceptional. You will have a great time.
Massages, facials, body polishing, reflexology, waxing, pedicures, manicures and make-up applications are all available at Calcot Spa. There are seven treatment rooms.Amongst hotels Cotswolds villages remain very popular and, for many, a Spa is an important part of a weekend stay. If you’re booking, the advice is to book spa treatments and sessions early because Cotswolds Finest Hotels are very often as much loved and used by locals as by guests. The combination of Spa treatments, Cotswolds clean air and open spaces and the new emphasis on healthy and organic menus is a powerful one and keeps Spa lovers coming back to the area.
Cotswolds Luxury Hotels and the National Garden SchemeOne welcome development in recent years has been the growth in National Garden scheme properties opening up in the Cotswolds. The scheme sees private gardens opening up for locals and visitors and has proved very popular with guests at Cotswolds Luxury Hotels. It's a chance to see a ‘real’ garden, chat to the proud owner and pick up a few ideas and hints. Highlights for 2017 include the nicely named Awkward Hill Cottage, near Bibury, Barnsley House garden (which also happens to be one of the hotels in our collection of Cotswolds Luxury Hotels) and Beverston Castle , which is a romantic ruin near Tetbury, nearby Berkeley Castle also participates. We also like Eastleach House near Cirencester and the Arts and Crafts Garden at Cotswold Farm, also near Cirencester. A few gardens are opening for the first time in 2017. Guests at The Dial House can pop over to nearby Greenfields. Downton House garden is near The Painswick Hotel and Brocklehurst is a romantic Garden at Hawling near Cheltenham. Incidentally if you’re bringing your dog to one of our Cotswolds Luxury Hotels, many National Garden Scheme gardens welcome dogs look for the logo in the brochure.
NGS gardens are great fun and you’ll often find tea on offer and a few plants for sale.
Cotswolds Country hotels for outdoor attractions There are a surprising number of great outdoor attractions in the Cotswolds - there is so much to do for guests in Cotswolds Country Hotels. Not surprisingly, many of them focus on farming and wildlife. Perhaps the best known outdoor attraction these days is the Cotswold Farm Park which is farmed by the BBC Countryfile presenter, Adam Henson. It has always been a hot spot for families with toddlers but these days attractions a much wider age group, including lots of ‘Adam’ fans.
Cotswolds Country Hotels reach across the region - to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds where the Wildlife Park offers the surreal sight of white rhinos on a Cotswold lawn, amongst many other animals - and soem superb gardens. A great day out.
Further south there’s Cattle Country, which might sound like a Wild West movie, but in fact turns out to be a large adventure park that is a real hit with families. A newer venture which provides an activity not usually associated with Cotswolds Country Hotels is 417 Bike Park on Crickley Hill, near Cheltenham. Basically a mountain biking haven, it is giving second thoughts to anyone who thinks of the Cotswolds as all abut historic gardens and afternoon tea.
In the South Cotswolds, visitors are also often surprised by by the Cotswolds Water Park, where over 40 square miles of lakes offer everything from waterskiing to zipwires.
Gardeners Hotels in the CotswoldsGardens in the Cotswolds are a delight especially through the Spring to Autumn main season and it’s true that with some Hotels in the Cotswolds a garden break begins even before you leave your accommodation thanks to some impressive settings. Leading the pack is Barnsley House, which was the home of Rosemary Verey, the celebrated garden designer. The gardens are maintained and are the most beautiful amongst Hotels in the Cotswolds. There are honourable mentions too for Charingworth Manor, on it’s hilltop location and Cotswold House which has drawn inspiration from the amazing gardens (such as Hidcote and Kiftsgate) nearby to create a unique hotel garden in a village centre setting. The Manor House in Moreton in Marsh in a surprise garden, step into the hotel from the busy High Street to discover a surprisingly quiet garden at the rear. It’s a lovely space and in demand for weddings. Lords of the Manor has just planted a new herb garden, a nice addition to the classic walled garden at the rear of this most idyllic of Hotels in the Cotswolds. Meanwhile, a stay at Thyme gives the feel of living in an entire Cotswold village, with the walk to the church by the river Leach a haven for wildflowers.The view from your hotel is also a key part of the pleasure. At Lords of the Manor you can look out over a private 8 acre Cotswold garden, complete with meadow, lake and island. Barnsley House has the distinct advantage of its Rosemary Verey designed garden, unique amongst Cotswold hotels. Step out of the Dial House and you are immediately amongst the hustle and bustle of the Cotswolds’ busiest village.
The visitor season for Cotswolds gardens really runs from Easter to October, although two arboreta (Westonbirt and Batsford) are certainly worth visiting on any day of the year. Hotels in the Cotswolds benefit from perhaps 20 nationally important gardens within the Cotswolds area.
Hidcote Manor is the National Trust flagship, a sequence of ‘rooms’ that draws visitors from the around the world. Kiftsgate Court offers one of the most spectacular sights in any garden, the Kiftsgate rose which grows 25m high up into a nearby tree. Bourton House Garden is popular, featuring herbaceous borders and topiary. Sudeley Castle holds a popular June Rose Week and Painswick Rococo is literally a ‘must see’ if you want to experience a Rococo period garden: it's the only one in the country. Further south in the area, Hotels in the Cotswolds have being relishing the chance to introduce guests to Prince Charles’ Highgrove Garden near Tetbury. It’s become easier to get a ticket recently but you’ll still need to book. The Hare and Hounds hotel offers packages.
We need to make special mention of Autumn in Cotswolds. The Beech tree is the Cotswold tree, often lining the roads and lanes leading to Hotels in the Cotswolds and producing the most fantastic display of copper colours every Autumn.
Cotswold hotels - the weird and the wonderful.Cotswold hotels come in various shapes and sizes - one of the joys of a visit here is that standardisation is not an issue. For example, at Three Ways House hotel, you can stay in a Chocolate Suite, a room dedicated to the subject. chocolate. At Russell’s in Broadway you can sleep surrounded by Gordon Russell furniture and at The Manor House in Moreton in Marsh, options include Apple Cottage, a self-contained retreat for two people complete with its own garden and a hot tub.
Debate continues over which is the quirkiest bedroom amongst Cotswold hotels - at The Painswick you can bathe whilst overlooking an entire Cotswold Valley. The funky bedrooms at Foxhill Manor have been used by members of Take That and Lady Gaga (not at the same time) and if you simply prefer a bit of heritage to provide atmosphere where you sleep, it’s hard to beat The Old Bell at Malmesbury, Britain’s oldest purpose built hotel. The view from your hotel is also a key part of the pleasure. At Lords of the Manor you can look out over a private 8 acre Cotswold garden, complete with meadow, lake and island. Barnsley House has the distinct advantage of its Rosemary Verey designed garden, unique amongst Cotswold hotels. Step out of the Dial House and you are immediately amongst the hustle and bustle of the Cotswolds’ busiest village.
The variety on offer isn’t limited to nice bedrooms, the best Cotswold hotels are usually at the centre of village life and often have quirky bars and restaurants to add a little extra to a stay.
At The Feathers in Woodstock you’ll find the first bar to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the greatest number of gins available on the planet. Today, there are over 400 available, with Gin Experience menus to help you find your way around.
The Pudding Club is based at the Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton. Regular meetings, where puddings are celebrated, are open to all. Foxhill Manor or Dormy House can arrange a Segway Safari for you, Russell’s in Broadway happens to also run a very fine fish and chip restaurant whilst the team at Lords of the Manor are always happy to show you the ancient wine cellars. Cotswold hotels don’t come much more ‘Cotswold’
than the Swan at Bibury, with its views over Rack Island to Arlington Row, one of the most photographed places in England. Thyme, a gem of property in Southrop offers an in-house CookerySchool. A stay in one of these Cotswold hotels offers a little more.
Cotswold hotels can be hard to leave, but relax. You could always plan your return visit to a Cotswolds Finest hotel on your way home.