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.
If Snowdrops are a sign of Spring, then Giffords Circus is a sure sign of summer in the Cotswolds. Hotel guests in the Cotswolds don’t often necessarily associate the area with circus. Giffords has a lot of charm, a design-led circus - just humans and horses basically. It usually sells out, as it appears in locations around the Cotswolds in the summer.
Cheltenham has a strong series of festivals through the year including June’s Science Festival - which occupies the town for a week of demonstrations, lectures and seminars. The standard of speakers is very high - Cotswold hotels still talk about the time that Stephen Hawking turned up…
There are maybe 200 villages and towns in the Cotswolds and many have a fete or village day through the summer. They’re usually great fun and you can usually rely on a local celeb opening it, a chance to snoop around the local big house’s garden and spot a bargain on the bric-a-brac. Such events are sometimes themed - Charlbury, for example, has a beer festival which embraces poetry, Morris dancing (you can’t have everything) and, of course, beer, cider, perry and wine to check out. June 30th 2018 is the next date.
The ‘big one’ is The Cotswolds Show in Cirencester, which is in Cirencester. 2018 dates are 7th and 8th July. Horses, hounds and ferrets are on display.
Look out, too, for Longborough Festival Opera, which was set up by a local property developer to follow his passion. Performances run between June and August and the bucolic setting has led to comparisons with Glyndbourne. There are several of our Cotswold hotels nearby in the North Cotswolds near Stow-on-the-Wold.
For lovers of live music, Cornbury (13th-15th July) offers a pretty mainstream selection every summer (Jools Holland/Bryan Adams last year) at its Oxfordshire festival venue.
Wilderness Festival (August), also at Cornbury, is more adventurous.