Cotswold weekend breaks

Rewild Things, Cotswolds staycation guide
Rewild Things, image by Brett Charles

Not just a bucolic playground for the London elite, Cotswold weekend breaks offer rural idylls of captivating walks through vast countryside, cosy pubs with roaring fires, and rooted‑in‑the‑soil dining experiences that don’t cost the earth. Kathryn Lewis reveals where to eat, drink, shop and stay

Where to stay

Covering six counties and 787 square miles, the Cotswolds hosts a diverse range of options for easily accessible weekend breaks. From transcendent country house indulgence to rustic charm here is your guide to the perfect Cotswold getaway.

Thyme

Maxing out at the luxury end of the scale is Thyme in Southrop, Gloucestershire. Owner Caryn Hibbert describes the cluster of restored farmhouses, cottages, barns and a former rectory as ‘a village within a village’, which is a fitting description because there’s really no need to explore beyond its peaceful English gardens. Enclosed within the Thyme estate are two restaurants, a dining pub, a spa with outdoor pool, a gallery and a cookery school. And, as if that wasn’t enough to keep guests entertained, the amenities are supplemented by a busy schedule of workshops such as floristry classes and guest‑maker craft events.

Along the same ultra‑luxe‑village‑life lines is The Rectory at Crudwell in Wiltshire. With just 15 bedrooms and a three‑bedroom cottage in the grounds, the Grade II‑listed honey‑coloured‑stone hotel has an exclusive feel. It’s particularly popular with the gastronomically inclined who stay the night to dine at its restaurant, which in 2022 was passed into the safe hands of award‑winning chef Rob Weston – who brought with him his skilled team from Michelin‑starred La Trompette in Chiswick. Those who can’t secure a booking in the restaurant should pop over the road to sister pub The Potting Shed, also overseen by Rob.

The Fish

The Fish in Broadway, close to the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border, hosts a clutch of contemporary rooms in its converted coach houses and stables, yet the hotel and retreat’s real draw is its suites hidden within the woodland canopy. The Fish’s three treehouses are ideal for families, but are also equally attractive to couples who want to relive their childhood fantasies of sleeping in the forest – albeit in sumptuous surrounds.

Double Red Duke

The Cotswolds is synonymous with country inns and many offer a bed for the night above their rustic bars. In the Oxfordshire wing of the region, Double Red Duke ticks all the boxes for a fabulous break. Diverging from the archetypal country‑chic aesthetic, owners Sam and Georgie Pearman have dressed the 17th‑century coaching inn in bold colours, quirky wallpapers and bright fabrics to create a one‑of‑a‑kind destination in which to meet, eat and sleep.

Wild Thyme & Honey

In Ampney Crucis near Cirencester is Wild Thyme & Honey, another beautifully renovated boutique inn. Its 24 bedrooms are styled to reflect the Cotswolds setting while also taking inspiration from the open‑plan industrial style of Manhattan’s loft apartments.

Rewild Things

Finally, adventurous folk looking to fully immerse themselves in the Cotswolds’ rural magique should book a treehouse at Rewild Things in Gloucestershire. Set in branches above a section of the Elmore Court Estate that’s been returned to nature as part of a huge rewilding project, the elevated wooden pods are fantastic hideaways in which to disconnect from the everyday and reconnect with nature via activities such as wild swimming and foraging.

The team at The Rectory - perfect for Cotswolds weekend breaks
The Rectory

Where to eat

Dining pubs are the beating heart of the Cotswolds food scene, so wherever visitors wander they’re never far from a proper pint of ale and a hearty meal scoffed from a weathered wooden table.

The Kingham Plough

The Kingham Plough at Chipping Norton has a long‑standing reputation for fantastic food, which owners Matt and Katie Beamish have upheld since taking over from chef Emily Watkins in 2019. Local produce such as Smokin’ Brothers salmon, Wye Valley asparagus and Cotswolds venison guide the seasonal menus of creative and classic pub dishes. Start with nibbles like crispy rarebit bites with smoked bacon jam before moving on to comforting mains such as crab linguine with confit tomatoes, parmesan and pangritata.

The Bell Inn

In 2017, born and bred Cotswolds boys Tom Noest and Peter Creed took over The Bell Inn at Langford, breathing new life into the much‑loved local. Their M.O. was to do simple things well and craft the kind of food they love to eat. The result is a charmingly casual country inn serving rustic dishes such as devilled kidneys on toast, Hereford rib‑eye steak and wood‑roasted hake with borlotti beans and roasted tomatoes.

The Woolpack Inn

For an altogether different take on pub dining, seek out The Woolpack Inn in the Slad Valley where former Ubiquitous Chip chef Adam Glover gives centre stage to often overlooked ingredients. Order a smattering of plates for the table and graze on the likes of mutton chops with lentils and anchovies, and onglet with horseradish and pickled walnut.

The Cotswolds isn’t all about pub dining, however. In the centre of Cirencester Park foodies will find Roots + Seeds Kitchen Garden, a contemporary cafe and restaurant crafting dishes from ingredients sourced from within 25 miles of the site. The project from the team behind The Scenic Supper pop‑up opened in spring 2023 and has already won a flurry of fans for its seasonal brunch, lunch and dinner menus.

The Stump

Nearby in Foss Cross, on first impressions The Stump might look like another trad country pub but this isn’t your usual watering hole. Inside, the team craft seriously good wood‑fired pizzas and European‑style small plates like anchovy and bone marrow flatbread, and prosciutto with watermelon and almonds.

Michelin Stars

The region is also home to a few Michelin‑starred establishments. Visit The Dining Room at Whatley Manor in Malmesbury and Bybrook at The Manor House in Castle Combe for polished tasting menus served in grand settings.

A plate of food from Roots + Seeds Kitchen Garden, The Cotswolds.
Roots + Seeds Kitchen Garden

Where to shop

While crowds might flock to one outspoken former Top Gear presenter’s farm shop in Chipping Norton, there are plenty of alternatives for those who don’t want to line Clarkson’s pockets.

Daylesford Organic

Daylesford Organic in Gloucestershire is the Cotswolds’ original destination farm shop. Located on a working farm, the shop is filled with Daylesford’s own ethically grown and reared produce as well as items from other local artisans with a similar sustainable ethos. Stick around to eat too, either at Michelin Green Star‑awarded The Trough cafe or The Old Spot restaurant.

Jolly Nice Farm Shop

Another popular place to pick up delicious things and stop for a bite to eat is Jolly Nice Farm Shop in Frampton Mansell near Stroud. Its butchery specialises in rare‑breed meats, with much of the produce on the counter sourced from Jolly Nice’s own fields.

Vintopia

On the outskirts of Nailsworth, wine buffs will want to drop into Vinotopia. Launched in summer 2023, the expansive wine barn is brimming with bottles to sample and take home. As well as wines from across the world, Vinotopia also stocks spirits, craft beers and products from local producers such as cheese, charcuterie and nibbles.

The Cotswold Cheese Co.

And for an expanded selection of fromage‑based delights, check out The Cotswold Cheese Co‘s trio of shops in Burford, Moreton‑in‑Marsh and Stow‑on‑the‑Wold.

Bottles of drinks on display at Vinotopia, The Cotswolds
Vinotopia

Where to drink

Speciality coffee can be hard to come by in rural locations (we recommend taking an Indy Coffee Guide on your travels), but in Stow‑on‑the‑Wold visitors have a few quality establishments to choose from. On Sheep Street, coffee fans can watch and smell the roasting magic happen at tiny espresso bar and micro‑roastery Stow Town Coffee, while on Digbeth Street they’ll find the utterly charming New England Coffee House where new‑wave coffee is served in a classic Cotswolds setting.

Also in the artisan market town is The Cellar, a contemporary neighbourhood wine bar serving and selling organic, natural and biodynamic drops. A concise menu of European small plates, such as ortiz anchovies, duck rillettes and leeks vinaigrette, fortifies the intriguing wine list.

The Cotswolds is home to a small fleet of breweries, creating everything from real ale to experimental crafts. In 2014, landlords Jim and Claire Alexander launched Yubberton Brewing Co. so they could make their own range of organic ales and bitters for their duo of country pubs: The Killingworth Castle near Blenheim Palace and The Ebrington Arms near Chipping Camden. Both are lovely spots in which to sink a refreshing Goldie pale ale.

And in Somerford Keynes, on Friday evenings the team at Cotswold Lake Brew Co fling open their taproom doors and invite the public in to sample the beers. Check the brewery’s social and website for info on upcoming events such as live acoustic music and party nights.

Keen to stay up-to-date on what’s new and get the heads-up on the best places to eat, shop and stay in the South West? Want to support independent publishing and creativity in the region? You can do both at once when you take out a subscription to the printed edition of Food Magazine. Subscribe here.

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