A holiday in the Cotswolds conjures up summer-y scenes: romantic walks through wildflowers, country pub pints… But, it’s a winter wonderland too, with snowglobe villages and hot toddies by stoked inglenook fireplaces. Our guide to a winter break in the Cotswolds has hot tips for couples, hidey-holes for chill-dodgers, frosty pursuits for the warm-blooded and the sparkliest Christmas events. The best of the British countryside awaits…
WHAT TO PACK
In the Cotswolds, country casual is more finessed. You can make like chic cottage-owner Kate Moss in boots over jeans and a statement coat – but don’t forget these wintry essentials:
• Wellingtons Hunter boots are the country set’s go-to choice, but Burberry‘s biker-style boots bring a little urban edge to the ‘wolds.
• A waterproof Swap Barbour for Roxy’s youthful splash-guards: the Hanna bomber and Ellie parka are our picks. Stutterheim’s outdoor wear has sleek silhouettes and cool colours, too.
• Woollens H&M and Uniqlo’s cashmeres are budget-kind. The Swedes and Scots excel at winter warmers too: labels Ganni and Barrie make covetable knits.
• Something fancy Mud-speckled jeans won’t raise eyebrows, but if dressing for fireside drinks, Cecilie Bahnsen’s voluminous velvet dresses are chic, Christmassy and roomy enough to comfortably feast in.
• Rugged footwear Pack a pair of stylishly sturdy Sorel boots for rambling on and on.
• Loungewear With a set of silky Olivia Von Halle pyjamas, the world’s your fainting couch.
If the plan is cosiness at all costs and to admire the snow-frosted scenery from within, here’s how to stay toasty:
• The welcoming hearth The pull of the Artist Residence Oxfordshire’s flagstone-floored bar is strong. Fire crackles, ale flows, pews are cushioned and, come weekends, local musicians crack out a few choons – luvverly.
• The hot toddy Take the Cotswolds Distillery tour for a warming whiskey tasting and a hot toddy – a drinkable hot-cross bun swirled with cinnamon.
• The hot chocolate The Find coffee house in Regency darling Cheltenham is made with home-made ganache, then topped with chantilly cream, honeycomb chunks and marshmallows.
• The pub with a dog The Seagrave Arms welcomes four-legged friends and its mod comfort-food menu (caramelised-onion soufflé drizzled in gruyère sauce, peanut-butter crème brûlée…) treats owners. Or, take Fido to the trad Weighbridge Inn – home of the hearty two-in-one pie.
• The Sunday roast If, for you, roasts are a vehicle for Yorkshire puds, the Angel at Burford’s monstrous Yorkies will satisfy. Alternatively, the Maytime Inn’s meaty roast has slabs of striploin, wash down with lashings of gin and chase with a hearty crumble.
• The hot tub The Lakes by Yoo, a country estate with contemporary villas, has an indoor steam room and sauna, and an open-air hot tub to keep you on a low boil.
• The cosseting spa Be slathered in warming hot oil or swaddled in seaweed in the spa at luxury hotel Ellenborough Park.
• The fireside table Thyme hotel’s local, the Swan at Southrop, has thriving patches of heirloom vegetables growing onsite, and most of the menu is grown metres from your table – the one by the open stone fireplace, of course.
• The cosy caff Locally grown chain of tearooms, Huffkins, use local ingredients to make warming stodge: we love their rarebits and caramelised lardy buns.
A to-do list for those who layer up and go – rain or no – snow bunnies and those craving a brisk hit of fresh air:
• The snowy walk Head to the Malvern Hills for an undulating rural panorama. Most animals will be hibernating, and you’ll need to be sure-footed if it’s snowy, but the views are magical. History buffs will enjoy seeing Britain’s best-preserved hill fort.
• Leaf peeping Westonbirt Arboretum dons a fiery autumnal coat when the leaves start to turn. Admire the foliage from the treetop walkway, grab a bag filled with rounders and cricket kit, or download the Treequests app to go on a mini adventure.
• The Insta stop Bibury village’s Arlington Row is the Cotswolds’ money shot, but we suggest a schlep up Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hill – a sweeping vantage point for glorious greenery. Once you’ve snapped your fill, settle on the bench for sunset.
• The husky ride Not confined to the frosty north, Arctic Quest’s packs of sled dogs can zip you through the Cotswolds on a chariot. Learn how to mush in a hands-on two-hour session.
• The tobogganing spot If it snows, hike your sleds up to Capability Brown folly, Broadway Tower. The slopes around give good momentum-gathering incline. After, descend into the nuclear bunker then emerge for hazelnut hot-chocolate at the Morris Café.
• The farmers’ market On Saturday, from 9am–2pm, Cornish farmers unload their fresh harvests in Stroud. It’s one of the Cotswolds’ most famous markets; the stall’s sweets, breads, bottles of natural wine, cheeses and cartons of fresh-from-the-pan raclette fill a picnic basket nicely.
Keep it couples-only to see the Cotswolds’ swoon-ier side. With windswept vales and snuggle-for-warmth nights, romance is laid on as thickly as cream on a scone. Here are the best date destinations and places for popping-the-question:
• The meet cute The Porch House pub has wood-burning stoves to sit by, window seats to get cosy in and nooks and crannies for uninterrupted eye gazing.
• Date night Kelmscott pork with salsa verde, twice-baked double Gloucester soufflé: star billing goes to local produce in Dormy House’s Potting Shed eatery. It’s impressive yet laid back – you could dine in your rambling gear, if that’s what your beloved is into….
• The love boat Cheltenham’s Pitville Park is lovely in itself, with a Grade-I-listed Pump House and bird- and-bunny-filled aviaries. But, the lake’s dinky vessels are just-right for two.
• The minibreak Foxhill Manor is Dormy House’s standalone stately residence. Interiors bring together swagged curtains and velvets with modern hues and chandeliers. Book the Oak Suite for side-by-side twin bath tubs overlooking the grounds (discreetly).
• The proposal An English country garden for the ages, Painswick Rococo Garden was once the site of lavish Georgian parties. This is the only pleasure garden of its kind open to the public and it’s folly-filled and flowery. With a pink turreted summerhouse, lacy exedra, and a maze, perfect proposal moments are assured in all weathers.
• The wedding Thyme sits by a sweet country church and receptions can be held in its flower-bedecked Tithe barn – it was the venue of choice for a certain Miss Moss, so you’re in good company.
• The honeymoon Check into Dormy House’s chintz-chic Rose Cottage, which brims woth classical English romance. And – less classic, but amorous nonetheless – it has a private hot tub.