Although I live in the UK, I spend more time holidaying outside of it. One of the reasons is probably the notion that because I live here, I can explore any time (which never happens!). Another is because holidaying in the UK can be expensive, in which case one may as well go abroad. I’ve actually wanted to visit the Cotswolds for over a year but put it off for these reasons.
Recently however, I’ve been doing a lot of research into finding bargains and actually, it turns out that taking a staycation is more affordable than I thought.
With the rise of properties advertised on trivago, hotels.com, Airbnb, booking.com and more, the increased competition seems to have brought prices down.
With this in mind I booked a 2 night bank holiday stay in Cheltenham – which provides easy access to the Cotswolds towns – for the very reasonable price of £63/night for 3 people.
Upon arrival at the Big Sleep hotel I have to say, my husband and I were impressed. The room was very spacious, even after fitting a double bed and single bed in, not to mention a desk and chair. So much so that I did my yoga the next morning with ease (before anyone thinks I’m a yogi, I do the equivalent of 10 minutes of stretching)!
To make the most of our short stay we headed out straight after breakfast to the Hidcote National Trust, about a 45 minute scenic drive from Cheltenham.
There are numerous gardens to visit in the Cotswolds but I chose this one because it is famed to be one of the most beautiful in the country. The gardens are designed like rooms, each one leading to another secret garden. It felt like a little part of paradise on earth and my husband, who is by no means interested in strolling around trees and plants, found he was having a great time chasing our daughter through the weaving paths and behind cherry blossom trees. The whole location was beautiful and evoked so much peace that it really got me thinking, you can see why paradise is described as a garden.
With the little one worn out and ready for a nap we reluctantly left and took another scenic drive to Chipping Campden, an historic market town that dates back to around the 14th century. Driving through the village feels wrong – cars just don’t belong there. A horse and cart would be much better suited to weave through the narrow roads, past the golden-coloured stones and onto the High Street.
Back in Cheltenham we decided to have Afternoon tea at the Well Walk Tea rooms, one of the oldest running shops in the whole town. Entering the tea room is impressive – think Dolores Umbridge’s office with tapestries instead of creepy cats. The great thing about this place is that they cater for everyone, vegetarians and gluten intolerance included. We ordered the full works and got two 2-tiered towers of cakes and pastries along with sandwiches. The sandwiches weren’t particularly special but the home-made cakes hit the spot after all our walking. What really topped it off though was the genuinely welcoming staff and wonderfully comfortable atmosphere.
All the staff looked happy to work there. It made me think, I can’t remember the last time any service staff in London looked happy to be serving?!
Jumps into refrain of Beauty & the Beast’s talking candlestick’s melody of ‘life is so unnerving, for a servant, whose not serving…’
Appetites satiated, chocolatey faces wiped clean and a short pit stop in the hotel later we headed out, this time to Gloucester Cathedral. It was full of tourists – even after closing time – and it’s easy to see why. The incredibly high ceilings look formidable with their vaults and arches, and to think it was built over 600 years ago! A wander around the church reveals a lot of history about the people who once lived in and around Gloucester, including the tomb of the son of William the Conqueror.
We then hopped back in the car to catch sunset on the highest local viewing point, Broadway Tower. Although it was sunset the view wasn’t great, since the position of the sun was in such a way that there was a lot of glare. It was also really windy at the top of the hill so we quickly returned to the car.
We had planned to eat at a halal Thai and Indian fusion restaurant, but we were still full from afternoon tea and so opt
ed for some cookies from Sainsburys instead. Having done that my husband then went on Just Eat and ordered Indian takeaway, which was actually pretty good!
We headed back home early the next morning, stopping off at Ellenborough Park to enjoy their wonderful tree swing.
Would I go back? Absolutely. The Cotswolds are the answer to a short break that we all desperately need every once in a while. What makes it perfect is that there is something for everyone, whether you are a young couple who are looking for quality time in beautiful surroundings; a burnt-out city worker needing some peace; or a mum who wants to arrange a fun and affordable family break.
Top tip: take or hire a car to explore the little villages and country lanes with ease.