Known for their gentle rolling hills, the Cotswolds, as the UK’s largest Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) has become a favourite bolthole for the rich and famous. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to imagine why people are flocking here to seek respite from hectic city life.
One thing you will love about the Cotswolds are the charming chocolate-box villages, picture perfect ideals to spend time in… but what if you want
to get out and experience a bit more of this wonderful location – what should you see?
Here at Humphreys of Henley we want to share our favourite finds, things we know you will love… make sure you read right to the end, because we have a top Concierge tip to make your luxury holiday in the English countryside really special!
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1. Take in English culture at Blenheim Palace – One of our favourite places to visit in the Cotswolds has to be Blenheim Palace. This UNESCO world heritage site is absolutely stunning and a real must see! Dive into the history of the palace and the grounds, designed by Capability Brown and stay long enough to be won-over by one of the many events they host, from; art exhibitions, delightful garden shows, a battle of the proms night to classic cars shows.
If you are thinking of a longer stay, then read more about our luxury holiday ideas at ‘How to get the best out of your trip to 3 of England's famous castles ’.
2. Visit Sudeley Castle & Gardens, Tudor home to Katherine Parr – the last remaining private English castle to have a queen laid to rest in its grounds is Sudeley Castle. This beautiful gem is rich in regal history from Henry VIII to King Charles I and has some stunning formal gardens for you to stroll through. The one thing we recommend you see is their collection of rare and endangered pheasants.
3. Take in Kelmscott Manor, inspiration to William Morris – William Morris is said to have described Kelmscott Manor as ‘Heaven on Earth’ and took great inspiration for much of his iconic work from the Manor’s gardens and extensive antiquities collection of scripts and art. Although not home to the Morris family until after William’s death, the Manor has now become home to much of his possessions and works.
4. Stroll through Rousham Gardens – Rousham represents the first phase of English garden landscape design history. Designed by William Kent, the gardens offer a glimpse into the history of formal landscaping.
We recommend you have a picnic with you for this trip, because you will want to sit and watch the world go by!
5. Enjoy a boat trip along the Cotswold Canal – Rich in commerce history the Cotswold Canal system links Gloucester to Oxford and the River Thames. It was built to ferry goods from mills to merchants. Canals like this were once an important part of how we traded as a country and so are revered as sites of significance for us Brits.
We strongly recommend you take a private charter at Ebley to enjoy the Ebley — Ryeford Double Lock — Stonehouse Court cruise. It’s a perfect opportunity for a champagne picnic!
6. Enjoy a flutter at the races during Cheltenham Festival – Held every March, Cheltenham Festival is a four-day highlight on the racing calendar. To make your trip really special we recommend booking an exclusive VIP hospitality visit and fly in by helicopter from your hotel to enjoy your day at the races, with luxury dining included. What a great highlight to your trip!
7. Walk along the Cotswold Way – For those of you who would like a little more activity, you simply must walk at least part of the Cotswold Way. At over one hundred miles of walking the Cotswold Way will take your through the gentle rolling hills and chocolate-box villages you have only seen in pictures.
If you don’t want to walk the full trail, then there are plenty of circular walks that take in just part of the wonder of this landscape. You can even have a go at Geocaching!
8. Breathe in the heady aroma of Cotswold Lavender – Known for its relaxing qualities lavender has long played its part in English history… did you know that Queen Victoria preferred lavender jelly to mint with her roast mutton?!
Cotswold Lavender is a family run farm not too far from Cheltenham. We recommend visiting in mid-July when the flowers will be in full bloom and you can also visit the distillery (although it may not be in production until harvest time you can still see the process the plants go through to distil the oil).
9. Enjoy Owl Evening at Cotswold Falconry – Whilst many falconries offer more traditional bird of prey experiences, Cotswold Falconry has a rare gem of an experience, Owl Evening.
Here you will get an opportunity to witness various breeds take to the evening and night sky, as well as hold a few for photo opportunities.
10. Create your own cheeky tipple at a Whisky Blending Masterclass – Okay, so the Cotswolds aren’t well known for their whisky, but bear with us, because this is an experience you will not want to miss!
The Cotswold Distillery has been distilling reputable single malts from locally grown barley, and award-winning gins (including locally grown lavender) since 2014 and is the first full-scale production distillery of it’s kind in the region. They offer several tours, but the one experience we know you will love is a blending masterclass, where you can make a wee dram of your own to sup!
Whilst you enjoy planning the experiences you will take in on your luxury holiday, we highly recommend that you don’t forget about your dining experiences. The Cotswold has a number of wonderful locations to dine in, once of which is Dormy House who offer a dining theatre experience called MO - an eight course tasting menu for just 12 guests at a time.
Experiences like this really round out a luxury holiday and make the memories you are looking to create for you and your loved ones.