Take a break from a hectic journey along the A40 and spend some time exploring the charming Cotswold market...
The embodiment of quintessential Cotswold beauty, the Anglo-Saxon town of Winchcombe lies nestled in a valley amongst the Cotswold Hills which rise dramatically around it.
With a mix of honey-coloured stone, whitewashed and timber-framed buildings, it really does conjure up an idyllic vision of the past but this is not a town that’s frozen in time. Alongside some incredible heritage sites, you’ll find a wide selection of independent shops and businesses as well as some fabulous pubs and cafes for a pit-stop along the way. Take a look below at some great examples of what the town has to offer.
Famed for being the home and burial place of Henry VIII’s last Queen, Katharine Parr, and with royal connections going back over 1000 years, Sudeley Castle is a must-see on any visit to the town. As you step inside its magnificent surroundings now, it’s hard to believe that it lay derelict for almost 200 years at the end of English Civil War. Full of amazing artefacts, from Katharine’s love letter to Thomas Seymour to Charles I dispatch box, there really is something to please everyone. Outside, there are glorious gardens, a fantastic adventure playground and a pheasantry boasting some rare and endangered species of pheasant from around the world. Open from March to December.
A traditional 16th century, wisteria-clad building, this charming pub is worth a detour for its genial atmosphere. Step inside and you’ll find pared-back shabby chic, a good range of cocktails and some great cask ales from local Cotswold breweries. If you’re wanting a family Sunday lunch for the family, then this ticks all the boxes. Very dog-friendly – it even has its own beer especially for dogs (don’t worry, it’s just vegetable stock), the appropriately named ‘Snuffle’.
Found inside the Victorian red brick town hall, you’ll discover plenty about the lives of local people in this fascinating museum. Spanning from its 8th century roots to the industrial era of 19th century, and all the ups and downs in between, the collections feel very personal. There’s even a range of police uniforms from around the world, collected by a former local resident. Children are well-catered for as activity sheets are supplied and there’s also a small shop. Open Monday to Saturday from April to October.
You’ll experience a real sense of history as you enter the St Peter’s through its old oak doors. There’s been mention of an abbey dedicated to St Peter here from the 800s (you’ll see a model of what it looked like inside) although the current church dates from the mid-15th century, with a major restoration taking place during the 1800s. Embroidered panels from the 15th century vestments survive and are on display inside. Try spotting all the fascinating, and quite grotesque, gargoyles around the exterior walls of the church!
Buy, browse or simply enjoy a nice cuppa in this fantastic, Grade II listed antiques centre in the heart of the town. It really is a great place to while away an hour or so, with two floors of antiquities to discover as well as delightful, extensive gardens in which you can take tea during the summer months. With stock regularly updated, it’s almost impossible to leave empty-handed as you’ll find something to suit all budgets and tastes. Not to be missed if antiques are your thing!
If you’re looking for somewhere to have a lovely meal that’s not a pub, then the well-reviewed Wesley House (John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, stayed here) is a great choice. Set in the stunning 15th century timber-famed building you’ll find a cosy restaurant serving quality modern British cuisine. Start with a pre-dinner drink by the inglenook fireplace before moving to your table. You can also dine in the bright and airy Atrium with lovely views over the Cotswolds.
Wandering past the front of this store, you’d be hard pressed to think that behind the front door lie six showrooms to explore, packed full of a wonderful variety of antiques dating mostly from 17th to 19th centuries. Beneath timber-beamed ceilings, the whitewashed walls of each room show off the furniture, mirror and paintings at their best and there’s an amazing range of oak and walnut furniture on offer.
Just a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Winchcombe lies the historic Hailes Abbey. Once an important centre of monastic life, all that’s left is a ruin but it’s an incredibly impressive ruin indeed. You can almost imagine the monks going about their daily life as you stroll around the site – it has a very special atmosphere. Take an audio tour to find out more and don’t miss the museum housing all the finds from the site. You can even catch the steam train from Winchcombe which stops (on request) just 600m away! Open from April to October.
A gift shop for the whole family, Emporium is stylish yet welcoming. Beautifully laid out, the shelves are bursting with lovely things – from greetings cards to hand lotion, from notebooks to scented candles. Bring the kids too as there’s a whole area dedicated to them called Mini Emporium where you’ll find pocket money toys from the princely sum of 50p. They can even watch a film while you spend a precious few minutes browsing.
With an ethos of encouraging customers to be savvy about where their food and drink comes from, this fabulous deli has everything from everyday staples to more indulgent treats. You can try before you buy giving you the confidence you’re getting exactly what you want. There’s a range of gift foods while hampers can be made up to order. Gluten-free and organic products are readily available. What’s more there’s decent café on site serving soups, sandwiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks.
We love this traditional bakery with its striking bow window out front – perfect for peering in at the delicious variety of baked goods on offer. With a pedigree going back 60 years, the bakers stick with tried and tested methods to create a fabulous range of loaves and speciality breads – no preservatives or additives in sight! Not only that but you’ll also find yummy cakes and pastries (including the famous Cheltenham Dripper) as well as artisan chocolates. There’s a gluten-free range too.
Want a bracing walk in the country with some fascinating English heritage thrown in? Well, it’s definitely worth taking the steep climb via the Cotswold Way National Trail to visit this ancient, Neolithic burial ground and experience the incredible sense of peace and tranquillity it gives. Excavations over the centuries have revealed some of the many secrets that this long barrow keeps. We wonder how many more there might be?!
Great for both locals and visitors alike, this popular pub has a good ambiance in its informal restaurant. Using seasonal produce from local suppliers wherever possible, the food is honest and unpretentious whether you’re after a sandwich for lunch (with a side portion of chips included of course) or something more substantial. The draft beers are highly recommended and dogs are very welcome!
Brought to you by specially selected suppliers, freshly ground coffee beans and the finest loose teas are a real draw at this recently refurbished tearoom. Enjoy a cup of either during a break in a busy day exploring the town. Feeling peckish? You’re in the right place for a delicious pie or slice of quiche for lunch or why not try their delicious afternoon tea with copious sandwiches, scones and cakes all piled on a three-tier stand. What’s not to like?!
With sales taking place every month, this well-run auction house has a cornucopia of antiques and collectables frequently going under the hammer. Viewing usually takes place the day before the sale so if you want to grab a bargain, make sure you check out their website for the dates. You never know what treasures you might find!
Showcasing home, lifestyle and art all under one roof, this concept store is a fabulously decadent setting for all that it holds within. You’ll find yourself drawn in by the fantastic window displays and once inside, there’s a fantastic array of lighting, furniture, wallpapers, fabrics, tableware, home fragrance and gifts from all over the world, all incredibly tasteful and covering a range of budgets. Browsing is positively encouraged and dogs are welcome too.
A unique experience for all the family, you won’t be disappointed by a trip on this historic steam train service. This part of the former Birmingham to Cheltenham line survives through the sheer hard work and determination of the volunteers who run it. Sit back and enjoy the rolling Cotswolds countryside from your window, whether you take the full trip from Buckland (soon to be extended to Broadway) to Cheltenham Racecourse or climb aboard at one of the stops in between). Trains run between March and the end of October with additional services over the Christmas period. Keep an eye out for special events throughout the year!
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