Anna Dusseau | 2nd March 2020
Perhaps I am rather late to the party, but has anyone noticed just how great The Cotswolds are for a mini break or even more extended getaway? Set in the luxuriously undulating landscape that governs the boarder between Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, this glorious region of the UK enables you to skip the carbon-footprint guilt and 10-minute queues for tepid cappuccinos, in favour of rolling countryside, Tudor cottages and an abundance of attractions and activities. What’s not to like?
According to my friend Karen – and nobody’s research – the region of The Cotswolds is ‘within a 2 hour drive from everywhere’ and indeed, this bald claim has proven the case for my family and our 30/40-something friends who, after fleeing the capital like a swarm of cockroaches after the arrival of infant termites somewhat dampened the experience, now find ourselves scattered around the triangle between Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge. Thus, in the wake of dream-feeds and mashed avocado and Peppa Pig, my husband and I have found ourselves rather frequently booking with airbnb or Baby Boltholes to spend the weekend in a cottage with old friends, walking the dogs, sipping red wine and watching our children furiously chomp through an entire pack of Oreo cookies, have an argument, make up, and then retreat beneath bed frames with torches and demonic giggles. It is, in short, 48 hours of bliss.
Not that you necessarily require a set of ankle biters to enjoy The Cotswolds’ idyllic villages such as Chipping Camden and Painswick where, quite frankly, I imagine an afternoon stroll with an ice cream and a poke around the local farmers’ market must be enhanced by the absence of strident voices demanding where the toy shop is. Luxury Spa Hotels such as Barnsley House (where a mid-week getaway will set you back nearly £500) and Calcot are, I like to imagine, child-free zones and rightly so. Set in acres of sublime private grounds, a top-end spa break could be just the tonic for the work-weary urbanite and, for a splash of art deco glamour as well as less eye-watering prices, you could try Cowley Manor or go the whole caboodle with Thyme Hotel, Spa, Farm and Cookery School. No need to bring the car.
But perhaps that’s not what floats your Martini, in which case you may be relieved to hear that there is more than a good pub lunch and a facial on offer here. Rob Ireland’s activity days provide immersive country-pursuit days for groups and businesses, ranging from clay pigeon shooting and quad bike trekking to supercar hire (I have deliberately withheld this last piece of information from my indulgent husband and petrol-monkey son). So from Go Ape treetop climbing to hot air ballooning and caving in the Forest of Dean, there should be something to satisfy most adventurous palettes. For a truly off-grid experience, however, I would thoroughly recommend giving Timberdoodle geodome a go. Set in an entirely isolated and private section of woodland, around a 10 minute drive off-road from the farmhouse, this knocks glamping out of the ball park and comes equipped with log burner, outdoor fire pit, outdoor shower and kitchen, plus breathtaking views and immediate access to Chiltern Hills trekking. Admittedly, we did this in November with 3 small children which gave collecting firewood before sunrise a hauntingly apocalyptic vibe, but that’s by the by.
So there you have it! The mid-life-crisis guide to The Cotswolds. Or, put another way, the deep green oasis of poor phone reception and excessive carbohydrates where the life-weary traveller can undo their top button for a few days and forget to tune into Channel 4 News. Of course, you must visit the extravagant grounds at Blenheim Palace. Of course, you must check out the Roman Baths if you venture south of the boarder, and Gloucester Cathedral, if you venture north. And of course, you are required to drink an extra glass of red at lunch and casually forget to read the menu for the gluten-free small print. But more than that, I hope it is a refreshing and rewarding experience that makes you fall in love with staycations again and leaves you half-wondering what Peter Jackson went all the way to New Zealand for.
Don’t be a stranger! Click here to subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter, including FREE video tutorials on homeschool topics!