What makes the Cotswolds so special is that it combines breathtaking beauty – with stunning views over a patchwork of rolling fields, river valleys and chocolate-box cottages – with a rich heritage of kings and queens, battles and historical landmarks.
It also sits conveniently close to London, whilst also providing a central point from which to branch out towards historical Oxford and Bath, the south coast of England and north towards Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon.
In a nutshell, there’s no shortage of things to do when you visit the Cotswolds. But here is our shortlist of 20 absolute musts when you’re next in the area.
You can’t visit the Cotswolds without dropping into Oxford, the “City of Dreaming Spires”. Built in the 12th Century, this small city centres around its prestigious university with 38 colleges and a legacy of 28 British Prime Ministers.
The town itself has a thriving “punting” scene, with boats to be hired at Magdalen Bridge on the High Street, or at the Cherwell Boathouse, tucked away in North Oxford. The Bodleian Library (pictured above), the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs are also iconic Oxford landmarks and just a stone’s throw from The Turf Tavern, a bustling 800-year-old pub renowned for its “Old Rosie” cider.
2. Blenheim Palace
Where: Woodstock OX20 1PP
The palace itself is a World Heritage Site bursting with a 300-year-old history, and boasting some spectacular views and walks around its lakes and woodlands.
The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough, much of the palace itself is open to visitors, and so are the adjoining Pleasure Gardens. There are spectacular walks around the park, across the Grand Bridge over the Queen Pool; through the woodlands where 1000-year-old trees can be found, one of which is the Whomping Willow featured in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
3. Daylesford Farm
Where: Daylesford, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0YG
Daylesford Farm, the playground of the rich and famous, is the place to go if you want to buy some of the most organic and delicious Cotswolds produce (and catch sight of a celebrity if you’re lucky).
This award-winning farm shop offers a vast range of freshly picked fruits, vegetables and herbs, and you can also enjoy a cafe, bakery and creamery, and even a Wellness Spa in adjoining spaces. As you peruse the farm, you’ll do so in the company of its freely roaming farm animals, giving you an authentic taste of rural England. If you want to fully embrace the experience, book yourself onto a Daylesford cookery course.
4. The Slaughters
Where: Gloucestershire, GL54 2HP
Linked by the River Eye, a tributary of the River Windrush, Upper and Lower Slaughter (nothing nefarious here; “Slaughter” means “muddy place”) are two beautiful Cotswolds villages you must visit.
Lower Slaughter is home to an Old Mill that was recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Meanwhile, Upper Slaughter is known for being one of England’s 13 “doubly thankful” villages, meaning it lost none of its soldiers who went to battle in either the first or second World Wars.
5. Clarkson’s Farm: Diddly Squat
Where: 5-12 Chipping Norton Rd, Chadlington, Chipping Norton OX7 3PE
If you’re in the area, and especially if you’re a fan of Clarkson’s Farm, DiddlySquat is well worth a visit. Opened by TV powerhouse, Jeremy Clarkson it sells local honey, apple juice and milk, as well as cakes, pastries, treats and other local products.
Watch out for crowds at peak times but definitely worth a visit.