Welcome to The Cotswolds!

I love the English Cotswolds and think everyone should visit this beautiful place at least once in their lifetime. Having lived all over the world and traveled as much as possible, I still think that this little part of England is one of the world's greatest treasures. This site is dedicated to helping spread the word and encourage sustainable travel to the Cotswolds.

If you enjoy reading this blog, please help spread the word by sharing with your friends!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Bibury Duck Race on Boxing Day

This Boxing Day event takes place in the pretty village of Bibury.  The ducks can be sponsored or you can just watch the activities from the banks of the River Coln – there’s no charge for watching.  The winner selects the charity to receive the proceeds of the days event.
There is also usually some mulled wine and mince pies to enjoy whilst soaking up some festive spirit!
Thousands of plastic yellow ducks will race down the River Coln on Boxing Day in what has become a famous Gloucestershire tradition.
The banks of the river will be lined with thousands of spectators for the annual event organised by Bibury Cricket Club.

First started around 20 years ago, duck racing is now as much part of Gloucestershire’s calendar of madcap sports as cheese rolling, shin kicking and football in the river.
Club secretary Steve Turner remembers the first race.
“There were a couple of hundred people there.  So, to see what it has grown in to now is incredible,” he says.
“Last year’s event raised more than £1,000 for the club and over £2,200 for charity.”
Each yellow duck costs 50p to buy and that money goes to the club. Larger decoy ducks cost £10 each and that money goes to charity.
“The owner of the winning decoy duck gets to nominate which charity receives the funds,” Steve explains.
“Last year £1,700 went to Cotswold Care Hospice and £500 went to Bibury Village Hall.”
Ducks sell out fast on the day every year.  Steve said people should arrive by around 10am to snap one up for the 11.15am race.

“It’s a strange thing where we’re looking round in the morning each year worrying that nobody is going to turn up,” he said.
“Then suddenly coach loads arrive and you can hardly move for people.
“Duck racing is an essential event to keep the Cricket Club going and it’s become a real Gloucestershire tradition.”

Of course, Bibury is one of the truly unspoilt gems of the Cotswolds and is well worth a visit any time of the year.  But if you're up for a taste of what makes this part of England truly unique, a visit is highly recommended.  nearby Inns and pubs are, as always, outstanding.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmastime in The Cotswolds

Just thought I'd post some nice photos of The Cotswolds at Christmas- if you have some nice ones, please share on our Facebook page.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Christmas Cheer, Real Ale, and a Roaring Fire in Chipping Campden

Even though I'm not there at the moment, I can actually smell Christmas at The Ebrington Arms after having heard about it.

This outstanding village inn won North Cotswolds Pub of the Year this year from CAMRA and their chef is in this year's Good Food Guide.  It's a proper 17th century village pub just outside Chipping Campden, complete with open log fires, and even has three bedrooms in case you'd rather stay the night (and sample all their delicious local brews).  The inn also has beautiful views across the Cotswold hills.  My experience there has never been anything less than perfect and, maybe most important of all, the owners and staff are some of the nicest people around.

As for that Christmas smell... here's a little snippet, in their own words, about Christmas at their pub:

"The Cotswolds are stunning all year round but no time is quite as magical as Christmas and New Year...  With thatched cottages billowing smoke from their chimneys and the open countryside covered in a crystal-like frost, it is a beautiful time to explore the Cotswold villages. Even better when you return home to our welcoming pub to sample our delicious homecooking in front of our roaring log fires. Not to mention the odd pint of real ale (lovingly looked after by landlord Jim) or a homemade glass of spicy mulled wine...

The Ebrington Arms is the true hub of the village community at Christmas and New Year - with carol singing, impromptu live music and a fair bit of liquid celebration! It is indeed the most fun place to be during the festive season for miles and miles around – an you too could be part of it..."

I've already got my coat on...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Christmas Carols, Morris Men, a Cotswold Pub... What could be finer?

If you're ready to get in the Christmas spirit and would like a very traditional, fun and unique experience, there's a little event this December you might want to consider.

On Tuesday, December 15, from 7:45pm, there will be carols and seasonal songs performed by the Gloucestershire Morris Men at The Carpenter's Arms in Miserden.

Morris in The Cotswolds
Morris dancing has been traced all over the English Midlands and further North, but it is particularly associated with the Cotswold area, where the most evolved form of Morris was, and still is, to be found. Here it is performed generally by six men and a musician, accompanied in most cases by a fool and sometimes a beast. The men wear a colourful costume or "kit" often based upon white, the old sacred colour.

They also wear bells, wave hankies or sticks, some say to ward off evil spirits. It was invariably a men's dance with very strong ties to the Whitsun time of year with fertility and encouraging crops to growth very much in mind.

In the past, most Cotswold villages had their own individual dances and tunes, but by the end of Industrial Revolution the tradition had almost died out, as the Victorians had introduced many other pastimes and sports. Fortunately, there was a great revival of interest in Morris Dancing in the early years of this century, led by Cecil Sharp who was the person mainly responsible for collecting and noting the dances we perform today.

The Carperner's Arms
The following is an extract from a very recent review by Food & DrinkVenture deep into the Gloucestershire countryside and you’ll hopefully stumble across the idyllic Cotswold village of Miserden. Hidden in this leafy haven lies the rustic charm of the Carpenters A rms. A warm friendly welcome on arrival, coupled with a lively atmosphere makes this the perfect retreat whether you’re sheltering from the winter cold, or looking for refreshment during the searing summer heat.

Our visit coincided with colder climes so the sight of a roaring open fire was instantly met with approval. The eye is drawn from the flickering flames to the traditional oak beams that stretch across the lounge and dining area, beneath which, sit three conveniently placed blackboards. The blackboards, as you’d expect, are brimming with home-baked delights of the traditional village pub variety.

A varied and mouth watering array of starters, including breaded prawns and creamy garlic mushrooms, provide a p e rfect bed for the wholesome mains that are to follow. You will not be disappointed; home-made steak and Guiness pie, Gloucester sausage and mash, and home-baked ham are just a few of the traditional favourites that are offered here and should grace any country menu. Finally, if you’ve room, make sure you sample one of the scrumptious home-made puddings. The Carpenters Arms delivers everything you’d expect from a country pub and more.

Location: Miserden, Stroud, GL6 7JA
Phone: 0845 200 9275
Open: Mon-Thurs 11.30am- 3pm, 6.30pm-11pm; Fri & Sat 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-midnight; Sun noon-4pm, 7pm- 10.30pm

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Cotswolds by Air

Rambling and cycling are some great ways to see The Cotswolds.  But the idea of floating over them and taking in so much natural beauty at once is something I've always wanted to do.

Ballooning in the Cotgswolds has been popular for a while, and there are even a few events for enthusiasts, like the Ballooning Grand Prix at Sudeley Castle.  One of the more popular companies, Ballooning in the Cotswolds, offers a truly memorable experience- a Champagne flight over the rolling countryside.  Flights last about an hour and can reach heights of 3,000 feet.  That's more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.  Flights are about £135 per person, which is pretty reasonable given the experience.

Of course, this isn't a winter activity- they operate from April to October.  But if you're planning a trip to the area for next spring or summer, this should be on the list.  If you're interested, their website is http://www.ballooninginthecotswolds.co.uk/.

Happy Ballooning!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Spring in The Cotwolds

A very nice video of Springtime in The Cotswolds

I just found this video online and had to share it. It really does a nice job of capturing the simple, quiet beauty of the area.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Best Free Range & Organic Food in The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are home to some of Britain's best and most natural foods. Hundreds of square miles of pristine farmland and an extremely high standard for quality produce makes the area a food lovers dream.

If you live in the area or are planning a visit, it's well worth knowing where all the best farmer's markets, foodie shops, food and drink festivals, pubs, and all the rest are. Our friends over at FreeRangeReview.com have been busy building a wonderful online food community for England, and it's a great resource for Cotswold food.

All the businesses listed are rated and reviewed by the community, so you have a good idea of where the very best are. And you can contact all the businesses directly with any inquiries. We've used them for ages now, and the recommendations have always been spot on (one of our favourites, Martin's Meats, an outstanding organic butchery, is pictured here).

To go to the interactive Foodie Map of The Cotswolds, visit FreeRangeReview by clicking here and entering the postcode of your house or the hotel where you are staying. If you're not sure where you'll be, use 'GL52'- this is Cheltenham and will show most places in the area.

We hope you have as good a luck as we have, and happy eating!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Win a night at the beautiful Dial House Hotel in Bourton-on-the-Water

If you fancy a quick weekend break in The Cotswolds and would rather not have to pay for the hotel, here's a great chance to win a night at one of the area's finest inns. And, if you can't wait for your name to come up in the monthly prize drawings, book through LateRooms.com, our partner, where they always offer the lowest prices online with no hidden fees.

About The Dial House Hotel
Privately owned and run by Elaine and Martyn, The Dial House Hotel demonstrates the best blend of old and modern to bring you the ultimate country hotel experience.

The Hotel is situated in idyllic surroundings and is built from the famous mellow Cotswold Stone. The Dial House dates back to 1698 and is the oldest building still standing in the village - it even pre-dates the bridges over the River Windrush.

Aside from the obvious beauty of the main building, the interior has been refurbished to a very high standard. The dining rooms are elegantly decorated providing the perfect backdrop for truly fabulous food which was recently awarded 2 rosettes.

In the sitting room guests love to relax by the fire in the chillier months but in the summer find themselves nodding off in the peaceful walled garden.

Whilst we welcome children for lunch and dinner by prior request, the hotel does not accept children under 12 as residents.

Win an overnight stay for 2

Just head to their newsletter sign up page, fill in the details and send it in - you may just win a free weekend for 2.

At the end of each month a name will be picked by random to receive a free night at the Dial House Hotel. So what are you waiting for?

To sign up for their Newsletter and be in with a chance, click here.

Rather just make a booking?

The the very best rates by booking through our partner, LateRooms.com. You can book The Dial House directly by clicking here.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Cheltenham Fireworks by Steam Train!

This Saturday night, if you're going to the Cheltenham Fireworks, enjoy a relaxing ride on the GWR Steam Train to and from the event... and skip all the traffic!

As firework displays go, it's pretty hard to beat the annual Round Table Fireworks Spectacular at Cheltenham Racecourse, which this year is on Saturday evening, 7th November 2009. This is without a shadow of doubt one of the best displays in the South West and attracts some 15,000 people. And of course, all those people come by car which is fine as they don't arrive all at once - but once the display is over everyone rushes for their car and you can sit waiting to get out for half an hour or more.

Now here is a brilliant way to spend that half-hour and it's a sure way to beat the exit traffic jams.

The romance of a steam train journey through the night. That in itself is a rare treat and looking out of the window you can often see the glow of the locomotive's fire on the white steam coming from the chimney, as the fireman throws a few more well-placed shovelfuls of coal into the firebox. This is the stuff of imagination; of romantic old movies; of far-away destinations with a powerful locomotive forging through the Autumnal darkness, unending miles passing beneath the clickety-click of the wheels…

Well, ten miles at any rate. Park for free at Toddington station in time to catch the Fireworks Express which departs promptly at 18.00 for Cheltenham Racecourse. You can enjoy refreshments from the buffet on the way and the display is less than five minutes' walk from the Racecourse station. The train will return about 20 minutes after the show has ended.

No need to book - just turn up and buy your tickets at Toddington booking office. Normal fares apply and remember, if you've travelled on the GWR during the day, your tickets will still be valid during the evening!

At the Racecourse, there will be a musical roadshow leading up to the display by Star FM, a comprehensive fairground while the fireworks, which start at 7.00pm, will be co-ordinated to themed music and led by DJ Joe Lemer.

The entry price, which is in addition to the train fare, is £5 for adults and £3 for children (age 5-14 years).

Contact Details:
The Railway Station
GL54 5DT
Tel: +44 01242 621405

Friday, 30 October 2009

A Perfect Autumn Walk in The Cotswolds

In the southwest of The Cotswolds, between Tetbury and Chipping Sodbury, lies the Westonbirt Arboretum, where the Autumnal arboreal fireworks are some of the best in Europe.

The arboretum was created around 1829 and many of the specimens now present date back to that time. The site covers an area of 600 acres and includes areas of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, specimen plants and open grassland. This woodland is an important area in itself as it represents one of the largest areas of woodland of its type in the area. It is primarily Oak Standards with an understorey of Hazel coppice with some areas of high forest. 
Today Westonbirt is a Grade One listed landscape. The Holford family, who started the collection, planted in a picturesque style following the guidelines laid down by W.S.Gilpin. It is the landscape that the Holfords created that give Wesonbirt the grade one listing. New maple plantings will, in time, create the world’s best collection of Maples and is in keeping with this tradition.

The combination of this variety of trees within a beautiful Cotswold setting make for some unforgettable walks, and are a must see if you visit during the Fall. If you'd like to see what Westonbirt looks like right now, check out their Autumn Colour Watch page, where new photos are posted on a regular basis. The official page is on the Forestry Commission's site, right here.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Country Wines from The Cotswolds

I love country wine. The huge variety of flavours offers up something perfect for any occasion, and they can even be drunk seasonally (I'm partial to Strawberry Wine in the summer and Mead in the depths of winter).

When I lived in Cheltenham, one of the many high points of the Farmer's Market was a stop at the St. Anne's Vineyard booth, where an endless and always changing choice of delicious, perfectly made country wines was (and still is) on offer.  Before moving to Cheltenham I had never tried country wine, and it was St. Anne's Elderflower wine that converted me... and their Mead that made me a bit of a fanatic.  This plonk is locally made right in the Cotswolds (Newent) by a couple who clearly know what they're doing and are very passionate about their product, and a tasting is highly recommended if you are passing through.  They offer tasting tours to groups of 15-25 and if you miss the farmer's market, are on sale around Gloucestershire.

Visit St. Anne's Vineyard's Website

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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Waking a Sleeping Beauty

A Brit from the industrial north of England explores the storybook world of the Cotswolds, in a classic British sports car.

On this sunny afternoon, the bells are ringing as we motor into Blockley, a secluded village in the heart of rural England. We park outside the medieval church and ask what's going on. Is it a wedding? No, says a woman with a wicker shopping basket over her arm. It's the start of the local flower show.

We cross the churchyard and join the queue outside the community hall. We hand over the £1 entrance fee and enter, only to be engulfed by a scene of joyous, unmitigated Englishness.

During our four days in the Cotswolds, that most lyrically charming region of south-central England, nothing else quite so perfectly encapsulates the appeal of village life. At one end of the hall, a framed photograph of the Queen smiles down on a group of showgoers, who in turn smile down on a vase of artfully arranged daffodils judged best flowers in the show. The woman who grew them, Brenda Samuels, can hardly believe she has won. "I'm ecstatic!" she beams.
The flower show comes at the halfway point of a driving tour that my wife, Clare, and I are taking around this region of gently rolling fields and wooded hills west of Oxford and south of Stratford upon Avon. We're following the Romantic Road to the Cotswolds' most appealing towns and villages. These picturesque communities evoke an England of timeless calm and comfortable wealth, originally built on the wool trade. It's an almost mythical place which I, growing up 40 years ago in the industrial north of the country, could only read about in books, living as I did in a city of smog and steelworks. I still have some of those childhood books, and their photographs of the Cotswolds show Arcadian scenes that have hardly changed to this day. As the English travel writer S. P. B. Mais wrote in his 1932 classic, The High Lands of Britain: "[Nowhere] else in the world can you find beauty that is more completely soothing to the soul." This blissful land was less than a hundred miles away, but it could have been another planet.

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Friday, 23 October 2009

A Traditional Cotswold Bonfire Night at the Fleece Inn

A Truly Unique Bonfire Night
If you are looking for a very unique and traditional Bonfire Night celebration, this one is certainly worth consideration.  The Fleece Inn in The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, is hosting a Bonfire Night & Festival of Light on Saturday, 7 November.  The event will feature vintage stationary engines, tilley lanterns, Black Jack Morris dancing, folk music, warming food and much more.  The event runs from 5pm - 11pm, and you may reach The Fleece at +44 (0)1386 831 173 or email them at thefleeceinn@nationaltrust.org.uk.

If you'd like to stay the night, click http://thefleeceinn.co.uk/temps/bb.html for details on the B & B, originally built in 1400AD and complete with it's own ghost!

The Fleece Inn is a public house in BretfortonWorcestershire in the Vale of Evesham: the half-timbered building, over six hundred years old, has been a pub since 1848, and is now owned by the National Trust.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bals Knap Long Barrow

elas Knap is a neolithic long barrow, situated on Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham and Winchcombe, in Gloucestershire, England. A great place to visit any time, but maybe even better on Halloween Eve.... it is supposed to have a ghost.

We found this great video of the site- very nice footage and good info about the tomb itself.  To view on YouTube, click HERE.

For details on getting there and what to do, have a look at their listing on English Heritage, the curators for the site.

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Prestbury: The Most Haunted Village in England

Any tour of haunted Gloucestershire must begin at this village on the northern outskirts of Cheltenham, close to the world-famous Prestbury Park racecourse.

More than two dozen spirits are said to haunt its streets, the most famous being the Black Abbot, who is regularly seen in the church and churchyard and occasionally in other spots including the High Street.

Photographer Derek Stafford, who was taking pictures in the floodlit churchyard in November 1990, found a hooded figure on his last slide (the photo in this posting is the actual photo).

The Black Abbot's ghostly wanderings traditionally occur on three church festivals - Christmas, Easter and All Saints' Day.

During road works some years ago a skeleton was found with an arrow between the ribs.Several ghostly horsemen have been heard and seen in Shaw Green Lane and the Burgage - one reputedly a medieval rider heading to Edward IV's camp at Tewkesbury during the Wars of the Roses who was killed by an archer, another a cavalier who was killed by a rope across the road during the Civil War and another a knight in armour.

The ghost of a young girl has been seen in the garden of the Prestbury House Hotel, which is also said to be haunted by the sound of horse's hooves.

A white lady and several shades of old women have been reported at various locations around the village.Sundial Cottage in the Burgage is haunted by a girl playing a spinet - her ghost used to be seen but faint music is still occasionally heard.

A spectral shepherd and his herd have been seen in Swindon Lane and visitors to Cleeve Corner near the church have reported waking up feeling as if they are being strangled.
Research found that a bride was once murdered in her bed there.

Visitor information: Prestbury is on the northern outskirts of Cheltenham. For details of ghost walks call Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre, 77 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1PJ
Tel: +44 01242 522878

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