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Although it goes without saying that the best way to see the Cotswolds is on foot, traversing the many footpaths that scatter the hillsides and valleys, there is a second (possibly more leisurely and slightly more lazy) way to see this region
Today we look at a less demanding way to view the Cotswolds: By Car. We also look at some of the better locations to enjoy. Once you see some of these little hidden gems, you may even decide to get out of the car and stretch those legs!
With undulating hills, rolling countryside, and river valleys complete with quaint villages, the Cotswolds really is the perfect place to explore by car. Often it can be said that some of the most secret places are hard to find on foot given that they are so deep into the hills, and so jumping into your car you can navigate your way to some very special locations.
The Cotswolds’ landscape is beautiful, full of romantic honey-coloured buildings, old traveller’s pubs, village ponds and the bustle of the market square. The rich and diverse history of the Cotswolds is perfectly captured within the many towns that encompass this region. You have Stow-on-the-Wold, which dates back to Roman times, and parts of Gloucester that herald from the Anglo-Saxon era. There really is something for everyone in the Cotswolds. So whether you prefer the busy town centre of regency Cheltenham, the village atmosphere of Bourton-on-the-Water, or the peace and quiet of Woodstock, check out our driving roads to help you get the best out of touring the Cotswolds.
Painswick is a small Gloucestershire village and a great starting point to travel around the Cotswolds. Taking the A46 from Painswick you can travel up the valley where you have great views of Cheltenham and Gloucester as you look back. Or head south towards Stroud and enjoy spectacular views, as you get closer to the royal residence of Gatcombe Park.
There are many smaller country roads leading off from the A46 that will take you to the tiny villages such as Slad, Edge and Bisley, offering traditional pubs and great shops. Slad (and The Woolpack pub) is especially noteworthy given its link to Laurie Lee and the famous book Cider with Rosie. The local pub servers very good food and on a clear day the views are stunning.
Described by Forbes Magazine as ‘one of the best places in the world to live’ Burford is perhaps the most recognisable of Cotswold locations. Some see it as a shopper’s paradise with plenty of antique and gift stores, plus an array of classic village pubs and not forgetting some of the best tea rooms in the land – Huffkins for example. In terms of the touring options and villages to see, the A40 which runs across the top of Burford and forms a good framework with the A44, (which will take you through Woodstock, and Chipping Norton) and beautiful town of Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow on the Wold beyond.
Those from outside the Cotswolds like to call this ‘the Golden Triangle’ (Burford, Chipping Norton and Stow / Moreton) where you will find some of the most prestigious and chocolate box villages of the entire region. Places such as Kingham, Churchill, Broadwell, Bledington, Oddington are all very ‘sought after’ villages to coin the Estate Agent’s phrase. Add to these the charming villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter and Upper and Lower Swell and you’ll have seen some utterly stunning spots.
Taking the A44 from Broadway and heading up to Evesham, you can then drive back down towards Tewkesbury via the A46. You’ll pass beautiful stately homes, historical churches and charming villages such as Bishop’s Cleeve, Woodmancote and the Saxon borough of Winchcombe, all situated at the foot of Cleeve’s Hill, where you can stop and take in the breath-taking views of Cheltenham and Gloucester. Carry on back to Broadway or you can divert across to Northleach, from there you can travel down to Cirencester and the Cerneys, renowned for their water parks.
Unlike ‘The Golden Triangle’ this area is perhaps a little less known. The villages are still very much ‘Cotswolds’ and offer some stunning charm and some of the most untouched architecture, with certain locations having had next to nothing developed in terms of housing due to local bylaws forbidding such change. Villages such as Stanton (excellent pub The Mount too), Paxford, Buckland Laverhill and Snowshill are such examples. We would certainly urge and recommend a good nose around these villages.
Cheltenham is another ideal starting point for your tour around the Cotswolds. The biggest of all the towns in the area and located on the western fringes of the Cotswold Hills, by taking the A40 towards Charlton’s Kings towards Andoversford, you’ll pass wonderful landscapes that include forests and wooded areas and reservoirs. Carry on through to Shipton and then take the A436 to Crickley Hill Country Park, set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswolds hills. You can divert off this track and explore the many villages and towns above this road, such as Leckhampton and Shurdington, or carry on through to Brickhampton, ending back at Cheltenham town centre.
An alternative route would be to head north towards Winchcombe on the B4632 (called a scenic route). Just as you enter Winchcombe take the turning towards Charlton Abbots, which will eventually bring you to the A40, but not before you have passed through some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire region. One of the team in Manor Cottages describes it as his best journey! Turn off at any time and you will head deeper into the Cotswolds Hills – and who knows what you will find.
We hope that these few simple ideas will give you the incentive to be a little more adventurous when driving in the area and may even get you out of the car once you arrive in these quaint hideaways!
Manor Cottages are a locally based, family business who specialise in Holiday Cottages and Self Catering Accommodation across the Cotswolds. With over 270 holiday properties, they are the largest supplier across the region and generated over 30,000 visitors to the Cotswolds in 2013.
For more information, contact us by calling 01993 824 252. You can view our full range of properties in the Cotswolds by browsing our website.