Discover the history and heritage of the Cotswolds on a variety of themed tours, from traditional touring by car or bike to ones for foodies and aficionados of real ale. All set in the beautiful landscape of the Cotswolds, there are heaps of historic highlights along the way. Here are eight ways to discover the rich heritage the Cotswolds has to offer.
Join a classic Cotswold Tour
A good place to start on an exploration of the Cotswolds is to choose one of the tours offered by Cotswolds Tours and Travel. Their classic Cotswold Tour will take you to well-known highlights like Chipping Campden and Broadway but also to lesser-known villages such as Blockley and Stanton. These may seem familiar too as they have featured in many a TV drama. This family-run company is based at their farm in Bourton on the Hill and visitors are welcome to explore the ancient tithe barns and even to try their hand at drystone walling.
If you would prefer to explore at a slower pace, then book in for a guided tour on an electric bike with Cotswold Electric Bike Tours. Riding along through quiet country lanes will give you a different perspective of iconic villages such as Lower Slaughter and Broadway. Stop for tea and scones or to photograph a sheep or two grazing peacefully. If you want to ‘go your own way’ on a self-guided tour, stay for a few days and explore the beautiful Windrush and Coln Valleys.
An essential part of the Cotswold landscape are cottage gardens – that showcase an eclectic mix of willowy hollyhocks, daisies and geraniums. Wildflowers have their place here too. Learn how to plan your garden, grow your own flowers, and make beautiful arrangements at Bloomery on the Farncombe estate near Broadway. Workshops are available whatever the season – learn how to create a hand-tied bouquet or a sophisticated vase arrangement. Extend your visit with lunch at the Potting Shed or stay over at Dormy House.
The history of the Cotswolds goes right back to Roman times and beyond. To see how the region has evolved over time, a visit to the Corinium Museum is a must. From the Stone Age right through to modern times, the story of the Cotswolds unfolds through its collections of prehistoric tools, Roman mosaics and Anglo-Saxon grave goods. The museum runs workshops for children and talks for adults.
Follow in the footsteps of many of England’s monarchs and pay a visit to Berkeley Castle – but don’t end up like Edward II, who is rumoured to have been murdered here! Built in 1153, the castle has remained in the Berkeley family for 27 generations and has many a tale to tell – including starring in films like Wolf Hall and The Other Boleyn Girl. Children will love having a go at archery or juggling in the courtyard with the castle’s jester. Free activities, including craft workshops, are on offer throughout the school holidays.
A humbler mode of life can be traced at Cogges Manor Farm, a medieval farmhouse complete with a walled garden. However, it too may be familiar as it doubled as Yew Tree Farm in Downton Abbey. Children will love the pygmy goats and miniature Shetland ponies, or they might prefer to dress up in historical costumes or take a welly walk along the Windrush.
A tour that includes a historic pub, good food and good beer is not just for dads. GoCotswolds have several tours on offer, including their very popular Brewery and Pub Tour. Pick-up points are at Stratford-upon-Avon and Moreton-in-Marsh railway stations and the first stop is at the Purity Brewing Company where you can sample a variety of beers and lagers before heading for lunch at The Fleece. In the afternoon, you have free time to explore Chipping Campden before winding up at the nearby Ebrington Arms.
You might think you have died and gone to heaven on a Culinary Comforts Tour. This mystery tasting tour will take you through the elegant 18th-century streets and alleyways of Bath, where Jane Austen once trod, on a tasting extravaganza. Along the way, you will stop to sample (or buy for later) artisan coffees, speciality breads and local cheeses from the farmers’ market, alongside many other foodie treats. Your guide will give you top tips on where to dine and shop during your stay in this most southerly town of the Cotswolds.