The Cotswold hills outstanding natural beauty lies between the M5, M40 and M4 motorways in southwestern and west-central England. Being rich in history and romantically picturesque, it still can be difficult for visitors to get to know the country roads and niche pockets of wonder. Situated directly on route from London and Oxford is Burford, an attractive town and golden opportunity as the first stop to stretch your legs and breathe in some Cotswold air. Head south and you hit Bibury, home to Arlington Row. You are forgiven if you muddle the names around; the majority of villages in the Cotswold begin with the letter B. The two things to know about Bibury; it has a trout farm and restaurant where you can catch your own trout, and to some more importantly, has provided the backdrop for a Hollywood blockbuster Bridget Jones's Diary.
Once rejuvenated, journey onwards and upwards to Bourton-on-the-Water with a slight detour to the Slaughters (the name is not a reference to killing things). This is an idyllic way in which to see the unchanged towns straddling the banks of the River Eye. In Lower Slaughter, visit the adorable church of St Mary, parts of which date back to the thirteenth century. Upper Slaughter is less visited, and the reason why is quite puzzling. The River Eye flows through manicured grassy banks and can be crossed many times by quaint old bridges, perfect for your Kodak moments.
Once you hit Stow-on-the-Wold, or more commonly referred to as Stow, you will be ready to tackle and consume a Ploughman's lunch. Ironically, there is no better place than the local pub, The Plough Inn.
Hot tip: It is worth booking a table!
Here, the scotch sirloin steak served with chips, onion rings, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes is a grand choice, or the traditional plough baked ham with a honey mustard glaze served with free range eggs and chips absolutely lives up to expectation. Child friendly, with their own little bite sized menu to deliberate over, this is a lunchtime winner for all. During the height of the wool industry, Stow was the mother of all annual fairs, selling up to 20,000 sheep at one time, so it is no wonder the Market Square stands tall boasting it's former importance. An important shopping centre, fine Antique shops Art galleries and an elegant array of Cotswold town houses also lend a hand to the large number of tourists who leave their footprint in this historical part.
Comfortably reenergized, the next section is a twenty-minute drive West and will lead you to the doorstep of the award-winning gardens and romantic ruins of Sudeley Castle. With one thousand years of fascinating history, this is not just your typical mum and dad attraction. There are activities for older children and younger children, most notably The Hauntings. It is said that people have reported seeing a tall woman, dressed in a green Tudor style dress, looking listlessly out of a window and walking through the Queen's garden. This woman in particular, being the daughter of Catherine Parr, King Henry VIII sixth wife in her marriage to her second husband Thomas Seymour. Catherine gave birth to her daughter Mary, at age 35, then a week later died of puerperal fever and was buried on the grounds of Sudeley in the Chapel of St. Mary. After being abandoned by her father, Mary was taken in by a close friend of her deceased mothers. There is no record of Mary Seymour after 1550.
Hot tip: This hauntingly and eerie piece of history is great reading material for the children on the drive to Sudeley Castle.
To brighten the mood, 'The jewel of the Cotswold's' Broadway, is a mere sixteen-minute drive North. Living up to its reputation, it seems the stone buildings here become more beautiful with the passing years. Whether it is more shopping you are after or to simply soak up the village with its horse chestnut trees and period houses, this stunning scenery and unique location is well worth the stop.
Here, metaphorically speaking comes a crossroad. Your layover in Broadway is the perfect gateway to visit the famous Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of the one and only, William Shakespeare. Technically speaking, Stratford is on the outskirts of the Cotswold's, but why should that stop you? If you choose this path, allow yourself forty minutes for the next stretch continuing North along the A46 motorway and why not book in one night's accommodation, and head back to Oxford or London the next day with a stop in Banbury. Stratford really does showcase why it hosts three million visitors a year with attractions including but not limited to; the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the graceful river Avon and the ability to encompass that classical English ambience.It is highly recommended to have the overnight stop to reduce longer distance drives, however for those who do not have the flexibility to add in an overnight stop in Stratford or simply are not interested and do not mind putting their hire car through it's paces, please start the engine and head directly west from Broadway to Banbury for another half hour or so drive. On the way, concur with the other passengers on calling in to Upton House. This is a National Trust property offering taster tours, which run before the house opens for free flow at 1pm.
Hot tip: The garden here is lovely and the best time to visit is late Spring/Summer.
Slowly but surely the iconic round journey of the Cotswolds is coming to an end, and as you slowly head back towards London or whichever big city of origin, the quaint villages, history and simmering rivers and creeks will be an invaluable memory and experience. And don't forget your camera, although if you do, no matter you can always leave your footprints here a second time.
If you're ready to discover Cotswolds, give one of our friendly reservations staff a call on 1300 656 601 to book your car hire, or hop online and browse for yourself to find the perfect car hire!