The Cotswolds is like something out of a fairy tale. Famous for its charming, cobbled streets, cute tiny cottages covered in trailing ivy and rolling hills, it really is one of the most picturesque places to visit.
Between Christmas and the New Year, I was lucky enough to spend three nights and four days there. I’ve put my staycation into words and created this guide to take you through what we got up to and share the best bits, as well as my tips and recommendations to inspire any future trips and ensure you make the most of the area.
Setting off on our three-hour journey from Suffolk to Cirencester on the 28th of December 2021, we had a three-night stay booked and were very excited to use it to extend the celebrations of Christmas!
We decided to base ourselves in one location, so we didn’t have to worry about changing hotels and packing and unpacking our belongings unnecessarily. I had chosen the area of Cirencester as it was pretty central to all the places we wanted to visit – all being between 20 to 45 minutes away.
We stayed at a hotel called The Fleece and I would definitely stay there again! There are plenty of other hotels to choose from in this area and lots of campsites too.
Tip: For anyone thinking of visiting this hotel, there is actually a small car park that is free and available to guests but isn’t advertised online because of its size. However, there is also a larger pay and display car park located about 5 mins walk away that we used the first night. Every other night we were lucky enough to find a space at the hotel.
You could tell when you’d entered the Cotswolds because, as we approached, it was busy. Being such a beautiful destination, it’s no wonder why people flock to the Cotswolds, and while it might be this busy all year round, travelling around the Christmas season certainly didn’t help. We were really hoping to visit Bibury on our way down but there was simply no parking and way too many other people, and so we thought best leave it to another day, or even on the way home.
We arrived in Cirencester late afternoon and went straight to the hotel to check-in and freshen up. We went for a walk around the town to take in the last of the festivities and it was nice because everything was lit up by fairy lights and the Christmas tree was still standing.
We had dinner at the Bear Inn Pub which I had pre-booked because of the time of year.
Tip: I would definitely always recommend pre-booking, especially if you are only planning to visit once and are desperate to try the restaurant! I pre-book wherever we go so we’re not disappointed.
The food here was as you’d expect from a town pub – affordable and comforting. It was the dessert that stood out for me though – we had a pain-au-raisin bread and butter pudding and, my oh my, with a thick, creamy and custard. It was good and just what we needed to kick off our holiday and keep the feeling of Christmas and indulgence alive!
We started the day with breakfast in our hotel which was absolutely lovely. Sitting in front of the hotel’s log fire, it was so typically cliché and we definitely looked like we belonged on a Christmas card, but it was the best place to enjoy poached eggs on toast on a chilly December morning. That day’s itinerary included visits to some of the most picturesque villages, so we were eager and excited to set off.
As anyone who finds themselves in the Cotswolds and is a fan of Top Gear or the Grand Tour, you’ve got to visit Jeremy Clarkson’s farm shop – The Diddly Squat Farm Shop. It was a 40- minute drive from Cirencester and as exciting as it was to see it in the flesh, we weren’t there for long. The weather wasn’t on our side and there was a huge queue which would have taken around an hour. We decided that a selfie with the sign was good enough for us and we ticked it off the list!
From here, we drove 18 minutes to Stow-on-the-Wold. We took in the sights of the pretty village, popped into a few boutique shops and visited St. Stephen’s Church which is famous for its hidden little door. It looks like something straight out of a Disney film and could transport into one!
Now, instead of driving to the next village, we actually walked. We took the footpath called the Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold Circular. It takes you through a selection of villages, such as Slaughter, that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise!
Tip: It’s easy to follow but just before you get to Slaughter, you have to walk across two open fields which are very muddy and boggy so dress appropriately!
Luck was on our side as the clouds cleared and the sun actually made an appearance, so walking was a great way to see the Cotswolds for what it is and really experience the wide-open spaces and fresh air it’s so famous and loved for! After about a four-mile walk, we arrived in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Tip: it was very busy, and I can only imagine it was because of the time of year. With everyone having time off work over Christmas we soon realised that we weren’t as original as we first thought when booking our trip away.
However, even with the crowds we still had an amazing time. We walked along the river Windrush and visited a very busy (which is always a good sign) bakery called The Cornish Bakery. We both tucked into a freshly baked and warm Cornish pasty and egg custard tart – the perfect meal to fuel us for our four-mile walk back to the car.
We were having such a nice time that we forgot how few hours of daylight we had left to walk back. Whilst our journey back was mostly uphill, it was accompanied by a beautiful sunset and views as far as the eye could see – definitely worth making the trip by foot rather than car! We drove 30 minutes back to our hotel in Cirencester.
Tip: We followed a footpath through the village, along the main road and over numerous fields. It was well signposted and led you straight to the next village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
That night we ate at a bar called Somewhere Else. They had a pop-up/street food restaurant with two menus on offer, one serving Indian fusion and the other fried chicken and loaded fries. We ordered a selection from both menus but the standout for me really was the parmesan, truffle and garlic mayo fries. Man, were they good and I actually still think about them now! I can’t recommend the food here more; can you tell I’m a foodie yet?! The service was good, friendly and prompt too! After a couple of drinks to round off the night here, we headed back to our hotel to get rested for the next day of adventures.
Our next day meant another day of exploring and getting to know the Cotswolds a little better.
This time we decided to stray from the hotel for breakfast and visit a bakery that I had spotted the day we arrived. It was called Knead and from the window, I could see the most impressive sausage rolls, chocolate orange tiffin (drool), stuffed croissants and donuts. It simply was a must visit! And you really must visit because it was delightful – the perfect way to start the day, I say!
One thing that I will always remember about this day was the amount of cake we ate. I genuinely think we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner because everywhere we visited had cute bakeries with mouth-watering offerings that we simply couldn’t say no to – it was still technically Christmas after all!
After eating, we jumped in the car and headed to Castle Combe first. This was one of the villages I was most excited to see just because it’s so fairytale-like! The drive took around 40 minutes.
Tip: There is a free car park at the top of the village. Once parked, head to the bottom of the village on foot and next to the river is the ultimate photo opportunity.
After taking some photos, we ended up doing a circular walking trail here. We followed a route we found on the Countryfile website. This took you from Castle Combe to the village of Ford and back. It was just over four miles and was very easy to follow.
Tip: Take your walking boots! The trail was muddy and slippery. I was in wellies which would have been absolutely fine if I wasn’t walking mile upon mile. As you can probably guess, I had a few blisters. But I’m a tough cookie and didn’t let it ruin my experience!
Once we’d had our fill of this village, we got on the road again. We didn’t have such a strict schedule, so we just went where the road took us and ended up in the village of Lacock. This ended up only taking 15 minutes and was where we enjoyed afternoon tea which consisted of a yummy slice of banana cake. By the time we were finished, the sun had started setting and the daylight was disappearing. We decided to make the 45 minute drive back to base and chill before we had dinner.
It was our last night, so we decided to have dinner at the hotel. The food looked amazing and from what we’d experienced at breakfast, we were eager to dig in! I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but this was a meal I will probably remember for the rest of my life! We were on ‘holiday’ so took full advantage of this (who wouldn’t?!) and indulged in a three-course meal with a couple of G&T’s to celebrate the good time we’d had. Sharing tempura prawns and homemade warm bread with butter and oils, freshly fried fish and chips and rounding it all off with the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever had. To say we were stuffed is an understatement! It’s safe to say we went to bed very happy that evening!
We packed up ready to head home but there was one village we were yet to visit. Lucky for us it was on the route home, so we got ready, checked out and hit the road. It was New Year’s Eve so we were eager to get home in good time, but this last stop was only a 16 minute drive away so it would have been rude not to have said hi!
I was so happy that we visited this village on the last day of our trip because when we arrived in the village of Bibury, it was pretty much empty – compared to when we drove through it on our first day, when it was very busy.
We were able to walk along the river undisturbed and saw trout swimming freely; the village is known for these, and you can actually visit a trout farm here. Whilst strolling, we were also lucky enough to see a Kingfisher hunting. We continued our walk and ended up admiring the charming cottages that make up Arlington Row.
As I said, it wasn’t as busy as when we drove through it on our way to our hotel on the first day, so we were able to get a few nice photos, which ended our trip perfectly!
The last stop
most touristy destinations in the area and, if I were to return, I think I would venture for the lesser-known places, maybe a little further out. Don’t get me wrong, everywhere we saw was beautiful and I’ve ticked it off my travel list but if you’re like me and prefer fewer people and more wildlife, find a less popular area.
However, the business could arguably be because of the time of year we chose. With school holidays, Christmas holidays and Bank Holidays, it’s a crazy time of year so, on reflection, next time we visit we’ll choose mid-week when the kids are still at school.
Visiting the Cotswolds by motorhome or campervan is great, with plenty to keep you busy for a number of days. Even if the weather isn’t on its best behaviour, if you couldn’t tell, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to fill your time! Just remember the roads can be busy, a bit narrow at times, and at the moment of writing a little rough.
For more UK travel inspiration, read our guides on:
- Travelling Scotland by Motorhome
- Best Winter Motorhome Sites in the UK
- Top 10 Most 'Instagrammable' Destinations for UK Motorhome Holidays
- 10 of the Best UK Motorhome Routes
Last but not least, if you are thinking about getting yourself on the roads in a motorhome the most important thing to remember is insurance - make sure to get a motorhome or campervan insurance direct with Lexham and kick start your travels today!