The Cotswolds is roughly 25 miles across, and 90 miles long.. this has created a vast area of land full of honey coloured cottages and rolling green hills.
England is full of great places to visit, so where do you go when you only have a day to explore? I was staying in Stratford on Avon for a wedding, it was a beautiful weekend and so thought I would make the most of the Sunday and FINALLY venture into the Cotswolds.
Stratford sits just above the northern border of the Cotswolds, so I focussed on the more northern villages and towns, starting along Fosse Way, once a Roman road linking Exeter in the south west, to Lincoln in the east. I didn’t plan out my route, I prefer to wander. Around ten minutes south of Stratford I reached the pretty village of Halford. Still part of Warwickshire, Halford is where Fosse Way crosses the River Stour, so there has been settlement here for hundreds of years.
Beyond Halford I decided to turn off the main road, and discover the villages on the back roads. The next village I stopped at was Ilmington, en route to Chipping Campden. I walked full circle of the village, parking at the Howard Arms, a 400 year old Cotswold Inn.
I strolled up through Middle Street – you can do this on foot only, it is a dead end for cars – and round past the parish church, St Mary The Virgin, dating back to the middle part of the 12th Century. As it was mothers day the churchyard was full of flowers, and it was clear to see this was a popular place.
I would highly recommend continuing on the road towards Chipping Campden and taking five minutes to stop at the viewpoint where the road forks. There is a memorial bench up here facing straight out onto the countryside of Gloucestershire, it’s breathtaking.
As you arrive into Chipping Campden there is a great view on your left hand side, this will be obvious as you are driving into the town. If you enter through the gate, there is a footpath right across the field, from here you can admire the magnificent East Banqueting House, a beautiful Jacobean building that overlooks the now ruined Old Campden House.
Take some time to admire the views before heading into the market town itself. Chipping Campden is home to buildings dating back to the 14th Century and was once a rich wool trading area back in the Middle Ages. The High Street is a bustle of locals, tourists, restaurants, cafes, and many upmarket boutique shops.
After some lunch I knew I need to head back towards home, Chipping Campden was a lot further west than I realised when I looked on Google maps! But I knew I needed to visit Snowshill before I turned around, this is a village I saw on Bridget Jones years ago, and have been wanting to see ever since. So I headed south and took the B4081 where you pass great views over Broadway Tower.
There are various places to park in and around Snowshill, but please be considerate, this is a stunning and very small Cotswold village and the parking in the central part of the village really does ruin the atmosphere.
This picturesque village was my favourite of the day, you just have to get creative with photo angles as the parked cars are a little annoying… The village itself is home to just 164 people and dates back to prehistoric times, an early bronze age hoard was found close by in the 19th Century. Located in Gloucestershire, it is most well known for Snowshill Lavender Farm and Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property that is open to the public.
Time to go home… the back roads of course. Through Stow-on-the-Wold and up through the Oddingtons before a quick pit-stop at Daylesford, a small village on the Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire border. Set on the banks of River Evenlode, Daylesford was entirely built by the late Mr Grisewood, which explains why this village is full of near identical chocolate box cottages.
I gave up on my sat nav after a while and ended up in a charming village named Kingham. I parked up and went for a stomp.. In Cotswold cottage heaven I spent 30 minutes or so walking round the village, and up to the parish church of St Andrew, dating back to the 14th Century. In 2004 this village was named ‘England’s best Village’ and I can see why… The majority of these stone houses and cottages remain completely unspoilt, situated on roads around a picture perfect green, this is a village you would have believed only existed in movies.
After Kingham it really was home time, I made my way over to the A40, and took the back road back to Hertfordshire… The are many more places of interest and beauty in the northern Cotswolds, the area is full of them, so it can be quite the task to decide which to visit. My one regret was not having time to visit Broadway, if you can make a full day of this then please include this (I would sandwich this visit between Chipping Campden and Snowshill). I will be back, but next time I will have more time! If you’re planning a trip to the Cotswolds there are a fantastic selection of B&Bs and Hotels available through HotelsCombined.