The Cotswolds are filled with chocolate-box villages and conjure up images of a more traditional time gone by. A hugely popular destination for tourists and locals alike it is a well-known and well-documented region of England. However, we were keen to see some of the hidden gems and undiscovered experiences out in the rolling hills so set off on a Cotswolds exploration
In just under two hours from Central London, Dominique and I arrived at Kemble, a historic village and a wonderful way to be introduced to the Cotswolds. Our first stop was Chavenage House, or more commonly known as Trenwith House in the popular Cornish series, Poldark. The family of this beautiful property greeted us with a warm welcome and at this point we already started to feel like a family friend, rather than a visitor. We toured the house, viewing the dining hall and billiard room as well as the beautiful bedrooms, including the one Oliver Cromwell stayed in during the civil war.
Nearby, is Tetbury - the local village to Prince Charles, which is full of antique shops; those interested could easily spend the whole day here - bartering and bargaining! Driving through Cirencester, we saw views of the Roman Wall, linking it back to once being the second largest Roman City in the country. We learned that Stow-on-the-Wold was built like a square to shield the locals from the wind. Also, the walk from Upper to Lower Slaughter is a hiker's dream!
Maybe not compulsory, but we felt obligated to test out the local village pub in Barnsley and it didn't disappoint! Hidden wooden benches and a smoky smell from the fireplace, it was perfect to test the local produce on this autumn day.
Our overnight break was at Ellenborough Park Hotel, a 15th century estate set amongst the rolling hills and adjacent to Cheltenham Racecourse. The bedrooms are a mixture of traditional and modern luxury. We were amazed by the feel of the place - bearing in mind its size, it felt homely and warm. There are a dozen or so bedrooms that allow dogs and with an outdoor heated swimming pool and local activities, it really would be perfect for a multi-generational family.
The following day, we were greeted by one of those typical English mornings - bright blue sky with a chilly breezy in the air. With the ideal weather, we participated in a private clay pigeon shooting at Ian Coley Shooting School; it turns out we were naturals! The experience is suitable for children as well as adults.
We made good time, so we included a pits stop at Sudeley Castle & Gardens, the only private castle to be the burial place of a queen, Katherine Parr. With so much to explore, half a day would easily pass you by.
Visiting Stanway House was a real treat and an experience perfect for VIP clients. Home to the tallest gravity fed fountain in the world; the gardens span over 5,000 acres. The house is filled with historic artefacts and family memorabilia. The current Earl was the page boy to the Queen and use to be a Lord at the House of Lords. The family is connected to J.M Barrie, who use to play cricket on their lawn.
For those green-fingered clients, we can now offer a private tour of Kiftsgate Manor Gardens with the owner or head gardener. The view at the bottom of the garden is a 180 of the Cotswolds hills! The Kiftsgate Rose is the largest in Britain and even in autumn the scent is still incredible.
Just around the corner from Kiftsgate is Hidcote Manor Gardens, a National Trust property and home to green woodpeckers and the hummingbird moth. We wandered around the narrow pathways and came across a few secret gardens!
Our trip to the Cotswolds complete, we came away feeling we had found some amazing hidden gems and appreciated some old favourites. The Cotswolds do not disappoint as a holiday destination, whether you've been countless times or it's your first visit.