Hidden Gems of the Cotswolds | Going a Step Further
There is so much to see in the Cotswolds. Officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), special care has been taken to preserve this landscapes special qualities. Cycling and walking through the Cotswold’s sleepy villages, ducking under wooden archways, along cobbled streets and looking up at thatched roofs, it is easy to feel you have stepped through a window of time and into a bygone age. What better way to discover the rural villages and the larger market towns than by bike or by foot, travelling at your own pace through the countryside.
We visit locations imbued with colourful pasts, breath-taking in their grandeur, including the magnificent Blenheim Palace, the incredibly well-preserved Roman Baths, and the Neolithic Stonehenge. Our tours go further. We take our guests off the beaten track, down winding lanes and away from the crowds to visit some hidden treasures that the Cotswolds has to offer.
Romantic Cotswold Gardens
Our favourite tucked away gem in the Cotswolds is Hidcote Garden. Nestled in the hills near to Chipping Camden, this garden was designed by the American Lawrence Johnston to be a series of unique outdoor rooms. As you move through the beautifully cultivated courtyards and secret gardens, each archway reveals a separate room-like space, bright with colours and foreign species brought back from Johnston’s horticultural expeditions around the world. This garden, begun in 1910, became Johnston’s life work and shows clearly his genius and passion for bringing gardens to life – glimpsed through hedges and revelled along grand vistas it gives each visitor the feeling of moving through his own house, more lived in than the cottage overlooking this outdoor palace.
Next door to Hidcott Gardens is another horticultural masterpiece at Kiftsgate Court Gardens. Sat atop the same hill, these two gardens could not be more contrasting in character. Evolving over three generations of female gardeners following its creation by Heather Muir, special effort has been made to allow this garden to develop organically. Particularly striking is the garden’s evolution of colour. Like a fine tapestry, the colours weave together to create a masterpiece of cultivated art, larger than its individual parts; vibrant and rich. This garden contains within it a maze, fountains and avenues but its most famous inhabitant is the Kiftsgate Rose. Planted in 1938 it is claimed to be the largest rose in Britain, measuring 24 meters wide and 15 meters high! It would be even greater if it were not cut back by Kiftsgate’s gardeners who fear for the structural integrity of the beech tree it has colonised, due to the rose plant’s enormous weight.
Chipping Camden itself, set slightly to the North of these two gardens, is a beautiful market town that we visit on our tour. Quintessentially Cotswolds, its houses are built of local golden limestone that glows in the sunlight and marks it out as ‘postcard perfect’. Chipping Camden grew up a very wealthy medieval town – its wealth built quite literally off the backs of its sheep (or Cotswold Lions as they are known). It is one of the Cotswolds’ more prominent ‘wool towns’, its church and several other prominent buildings having been sponsored by the wool merchant William Greville (d.1401). Marking the Northern tip of the Cotswolds, and both a start and end point of the famous Cotswold Way, a popular walking route running the entire length of the escarpment, this town represents the Cotswolds through and through and is a real favourite on our tours.