Friday, May 10, 2013


By Jennifer Richardson

The Cotswolds, a picturesque network of hamlets, villages and market towns in southwest England, is known for its honey-colored stone cottages, stately homes and stunning scenery. Each year, tourists from around the world visit gardens and sip tea in just a handful of the more well-known spots. But there’s much more to the Cotswolds than gardens and tea shops. Here are my five can’t-miss activities for any visit.

Gustav Holst Way near Guiting Power
Walk: The single essential experience of the Cotswolds is to go for a walk. The idyllic scenery–rolling hills dotted with contented herds of cows and sheep–is best experienced through direct immersion. The Cotswold Wardens offer guided walks, but armed with an Ordnance Survey map you can go it alone. I’ve also documented four of my favorite Cotswold walks in Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, and you can find interactive guides to them all online at  Tip: pack a waterproof jacket and a pair of lightweight hiking boots; sneakers don’t stand a chance on this often-muddy terrain.

Favorite Sunday Roast, Naunton
Eat: The quintessential British meal is a Sunday roast, and there’s no better place to experience it than a country pub. Armed with the Sunday papers, lunch can turn into an all-day affair. Whether its lamb, beef, chicken, or pork, the meat is likely of local provenance, and will come with a slew of vegetables, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding. My favorite spot is the Black Horse Inn at Naunton. Slightly more upscale offerings include the Village Pub in Barnsley and the Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach. Vegetarians will fare best at the excellent Abbey Home Farm Shop and Café. Tip: book in advance. Despite the sleepy feel of the area, pubs and restaurants fill up.

Dog-friendly Dayleford Organic
Shop: My favorite shopping experience in the Cotswolds is rummaging through the reclamation yard at Little Rissington, chock full of everything from garden ornaments (stone orbs and mushrooms are particular favorites in the Cotswolds) to antique ledge and brace doors. Not much here will fit in the overhead compartment of a plane, but you may find a brass door knocker or an antique book that will make a suitably portable souvenir. Nearby, and at the opposite end of the shopping spectrum, is a pristine set of converted farm buildings that is Daylesford Organic. Known as the Harvey Nics of the Cotswolds, Daylesford has a tasteful selection of kitchenware, gardening tools, and clothing. If all the shopping has worn you out, a spa and an excellent café are onsite to revive you. Tip: If you’re a royal enthusiast, head further south to the market town of Tetbury. Here you will find a great selection of antique shops along the High Street, as well as the Highgrove shop, named after Prince Charles and Camilla’s nearby Highgrove estate and offering a selection of tasteful memorabilia.  

When in Rome: The Cotswold’s Roman lineage includes the Fosse Way (A429), also known as the Roman Road and one of the main north-south routes through the area. Of more interest are the National Trust’s Roman Villa near Chedworth and the Corinium Museum in the market town of Cirencester (pronounced siren-cess-ter). If your timing’s right at the Villa, you will be treated to a gladiatorial display by middle-aged men (and at least one woman on my visit) of questionable fitness, in addition to some fine mosaics and, of course, tea and cakes. Tip: If your visit to England includes a stop in London, head to the British Museum where several of the Roman mosaics on display are from the Cotswolds.

Horses in the Coln Valley
Horseplay: Drive or walk around the Cotswolds and it won’t take you long to realize this is horse country. Stud farms, racehorse training facilities, jumping equipment and, depending on your timing, the Hunt are all in bountiful evidence. Equestrian-themed outings include a match at the Beaufort or Cirencester polo clubs, point-to-points, and a day at the races at the Cheltenham Racecourse.  Cheltenham Week, which includes Ladies’ Day—the Cotswoldian equivalent of the Kentucky Derby—takes place each March. Tip: Check the dates of Cheltenham Week when planning your visit to the Cotswolds. Even if you’re not attending the races, restaurants and accommodation are extremely busy during this period.

The Details
The Black Horse Inn
+44 (0)1451 850565

The Wheatsheaf Inn
West End, Northleach
Gloucestershire, GL54 3EZ
+44 (0)1451 860244

The Village Pub
Cirencester GL7 5EF
+44( 0)1285 740421 

Abbey Home Farm Shop and Café
Abbey Home Farm
Burford Road
Cirencester GL7 5HF
+44 (0)1285 640441

The Cotswold Reclamation Company
Unit 2, Sandy Lane Court
Little Rissington
Gloucestershire GL54 2NF
+44 (0)1451 820 292

Daylesford Organic Farmshop & Café
Daylesford near Kingham
Gloucestershire GL56 0YG
Telephone +44 (0)1608 731 700

Highgrove Shop
10 Long Street
Gloucestershire GL8 8AQ
+44 (0)845 521 4342

Chedworth Roman Villa
Yanworth, near Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL54 3LJ
+44 (0)1242 890256
OS Grid Ref: 163:SP053135

Corinium Museum
Park St, Cirencester
Gloucestershire GL7 2BX
+44 (0)1285 655611

Hunts in the Cotswolds

Cirencester Polo Club
The Bothy, Cirencester Park
Cirencester, GL7 1UR
+44 (0)1285 653225

Beaufort Polo Club
Down Farm
Westonbirt, Tetbury
Gloucestershire,GL8 8QW
+44 (0)01666 880510

Cheltenham Racecourse
Gloucestershire, GL50 4SH

Still want to visit gardens and drink tea? Try these for both:

The Author

Jennifer Richardson is an American Anglophile who spent three years living in a Cotswold village populated straight out of English central casting by fumbling aristocrats, gentlemen farmers, and a village idiot. She is married to an Englishman who, although not the village idiot, provides her with ample writing material. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California along with her husband and her royal wedding tea towel collection, but her first book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, is based on her experience in the Cotswolds. Americashire is out now from She Writes Press, and you can purchase it here. You can find Jennifer online at:


My husband and I wanted children right away, so I wasn't certain how I would like Jennifer Richardson's book in which she questions whether or not she's ready for motherhood. (I most assuredly agree that those who don't genuinely want children should not have them. There are far too many bad parents in the world without adding another set.) However, I need not have worried, because Ms Richardson sweeps the reader into a picturesque life my husband and I dreamed of living some day for a long vacation. Not the depressing parts, of course, just the fun parts.

First of all, I loved her descriptions of life in an English village. We had a glimpse of this life while staying with a friend in Kent on several occasions, but living for an extended stay in the Cotswolds would be so much nicer than a visit. The author's descriptions painted vivid pictures that delighted me. She doesn't poke fun at England/the English, but at all of us. We are the same people everywhere, aren't we? There are tiers of society in every village, including mine in North Central Texas. Her clever wit merely brings the eccentricities into sharp focus. 

As the book progresses and I learned of her medical problems, I sympathized with the couple. Although her wit takes the sting from the reader's view of her diagnosis, it is sad nonetheless. Does she make the right choice? I'll leave other readers to determine that for themselves. In the meantime, I recommend this book for those who love memoirs, travel books, and introspection.

Thanks for stopping by.

1 comment:

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks for sharing with us Jennifer.