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The Cotswolds has got to be one of the most romantic places around; this beloved UK National Park is full of rolling countryside, pretty villages and characterful cosy cottages that are just the right size for two. So if you are thinking of whisking your loved one away for an extra special Cotswolds getaway, we have compiled ten of the most romantic things to do in this glorious English region.
1. Spend time exploring a pretty Cotswolds village
Conjure up in your mind the quintessential English village and it is probably filled with the honey-hued buildings and thatched cottages that the Cotswolds are famous for. The villages here are as pretty as can be and are regularly featured in TV series such as Father Brown and Downton Abbey. Stroll hand in hand through traditional high streets, wander by a gently flowing river, then call in at classic tea rooms and independent shops for the ultimate idyllic day together.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a waterside village that’s known as the Venice of the Cotswolds due to its series of bridges over the River Windrush. There is a resident population of friendly ducks, gorgeous shops that include the Cotswolds Pottery studio, and some lovely riverside cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by. Bourton-on-the-Water even has a tiny replica of itself called The Model Village where the beautiful historic buildings have been recreated to scale of 1:9.
Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter are two small villages that are linked together by the tiny River Eye. The streamside walk between the Slaughters is one of the prettiest around with characterful stone buildings that look like they have come from a classic period drama. Copse Hill Road in Lower Slaughter was named the most romantic street in Britain by Google Street View and the village’s wonderful 19th-century water mill has been converted into a craft store and museum. It’s well worth stopping by The Lord of the Manor in Upper Slaughter - this fabulous 17th-century inn combines a seven-course taster menu with a varied selection of fine wines from its well-stocked cellar.
Castle Combe is a village in the Wiltshire Cotswolds that has previously featured in a range of TV shows and films including Stardust, Dr Doolittle and War Horse. Castle Combe highlights include an ancient market cross, the 13th-century St Andrew’s Church and the Castle Combe racing circuit at the edge of the village. Choose from a couple of great village pubs and finish off your visit with tea and homemade cakes at The Old Rectory Tearoom.
Bibury in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds was once described by 19th-century designer William Morris as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds and it remains every bit as lovely today. The River Coln flows alongside the Bibury main street and there’s a traditional village shop and post office that you can call in for picnic supplies. The Grade I-listed Arlington Row in Bibury is one of the Cotswolds' most-photographed streets - a collection of classic English cottages that date back to the 14th century.
2. Take a romantic Cotswolds walk
What could be more romantic than walking with your loved one through some of England’s most picturesque scenery? There are lots of lovely Cotswolds walks to try - whether you are looking for a short summer stroll or a longer ramble where you can stop for refreshments in a country pub or two.
The Cotswolds Way is a waymarked walking trail that takes in much of the area’s wonderful scenery. It stretches over 100 miles in total from Bath to Chipping Campden, but you can easily walk just a small section of the route such as:
- A 4.5-mile circular walk around Chipping Campden which includes areas of shaded woodland and a wonderful view from the top of Dover’s Hill
- A 6-mile walk that follows the final section of the Cotswolds Way into Bath
- A 4-mile woodland walk that starts and ends at the The Royal William pub in Cranham and takes in beech and springtime bluebell woodland plus Cooper’s Hill which is used for an annual cheese rolling festival.
- For an early evening stroll, we recommend a 3-mile circular route near Stow-on-the-Wold that takes in the medieval village of Lower Harford and a section along the banks of the River Windrush.
A great pub walk to try is the 10-mile Bourton circular which follows the River Eye and Windrush Way around the Slaughters, taking in the villages of Naunton and Bourton-on-the-Water. There are lots of pubs that you call in at during this pretty walk including The Black Horse at Naunton and The Slaughters Country Inn.
3. Explore a historic stately home
From a castle that was once the home of Katherine Parr to the spectacular Blenheim Palace, there is a range of stately homes to visit during your romantic Cotswolds break. Here are some of our favourites:
The birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site and one of Britain’s finest historic houses. The lavish 17th-century palace is located within acres of beautiful Oxfordshire parkland, at the edge of the Cotswolds National Park. Admire ornately designed rooms that are filled with exquisite paintings and furniture, stroll through Capability Brown-designed formal gardens and wander through ancient woodland and blankets of springtime bluebells.
Located in the rolling Cotswolds hills near Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle combines restored castle rooms with award-winning gardens and romantic medieval ruins. The wonderfully preserved 15th-century west wing of Sudeley Castle includes the former Anterooms of Katherine Parr, who was the last of King Henry VIII’s wives and is buried within the grounds. The ten formal gardens at Sudeley include the Queen’s Gardens, named because of the original Tudor Parterre that Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey, and Elizabeth I all once walked upon.
The National Trust’s Charlecote Park looks out over the River Avon from a spot near Stratford-upon-Avon at the northern cusp of the Cotswolds. Originally built in the 16th century, the house was extensively remodelled during the 19th century and is filled with lavish furnishings, family paintings and treasured antiquities. Charlecote’s ancient landscaped parkland is a haven for local wildlife with herds of fallow deer and rare-breed Jacob sheep amongst the animals living here.
Chastleton House and Gardens
This rare example of a Jacobean country house was built in the early 17th century by a wealthy wool merchant has been a time capsule for almost 400 years. Chastleton House and Gardens was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1992 and visitors can now explore the authentically preserved rooms of this grand estate. The first-ever game of croquet was played within the gardens of Chastleton House and, during the summer months, you can still enjoy a game or two on the lush green lawns.
4. Enjoy a romantic meal
There’s no shortage of excellent Cotswolds restaurants where you can enjoy a romantic dinner for two during your short break or holiday.
The Ox Barn at Thyme
Thyme is a collection of restored historic Cotswolds buildings, nestled in the village of Southrop, that includes a kitchen garden, botanical spa, cookery school and The Ox Barn restaurant. Located in a former oxen house with exposed beams and dramatic archways, The Ox Barn celebrates the best of British cuisine using fresh seasonal produce.
The Wild Rabbit at Kingham
The Wild Rabbit is part of the Daylesford Estate, a sustainable organic farm in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. The contemporary light-filled dining room has vases of wildflowers on the tables and an open kitchen so you can watch the talented chefs at work . Many of the ingredients on the menu are hand-picked from the Daylesford market garden or sourced from local Cotswolds farmers.
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, Malmesbury
For an extra special treat, The Dining Room at Whatley Manor holds a prestigious two Michelin stars and serves a gastronomic tasting menu that you can wash down with a selection of wine flights. The restaurant is set in 12 acres of grounds and you can take a stroll around the elegant rose garden after your meal for the ultimate romantic dining experience.
Nestled in a peaceful Cirencester courtyard, Jesse’s Bistro is an intimate restaurant with chunky stone walls and characterful wooden beams that serves a daily set menu for lunch with a la carte options for dinner. Meat comes from its own Jesse Smith butchers with cheese and vegetables from other local suppliers.
5. Admire the view on a summer picnic
The rolling hills of the Cotswolds countryside make the perfect setting for a romantic summer picnic where you can enjoy some of the finest views around as you graze on your tasty treats.
Robinswood Hill Country Park
This 250-acre country park is set atop a Gloucestershire hill and there are a number of viewpoints where you can look out over the Cotswolds and Malvern Hills. Take a walk along a waymarked nature trail and keep your eyes peeled for red kites before settling down for your picnic.
Located near the Cotswolds Way, Leckhampton Hill is a park and nature reserve that looks out over the historic spa town of Cheltenham. We recommend stopping by Cheltenham first to stock up on picnic supplies then setting out your picnic blanket at the top of the hill. It’s also worth seeking out Leckhampton Hill’s unusual rock formation known as The Devil’s Chimney.
A unique folly that’s set on one of the highest points of the Cotswolds, Broadway Tower is surrounded by a wonderful country park which has a number of designated picnic spots. It’s well worth stopping by the wonderful Broadway Deli for your picnic food then climbing the famous tower after you have finished your feast.
Enjoy panoramic views over the Severn Vale from Coaley Peak, a peaceful National Trust site near Stroud. It’s up to you whether you sit at a picnic table or set down a blanket in Coaley Peak’s beautiful wildflower meadow.
6. Travel through the countryside by steam train
The Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway travels through 14 miles of the Cotswolds countryside between Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse. Enjoy views over the Vale of Evesham, the Malvern Hills and some of the area’s most idyllic hamlets and villages as the heritage train whistles along the track. Stations where you can catch the train are:
It’s worth hopping off at Winchcombe Station where you can enjoy some refreshments in the 1950s style tearoom and travelling in style for a day at Cheltenham Races. You can also enjoy a range of food and drink on most services and some trains have a vintage cream and red dining carriage.
7. Stroll through a beautiful Cotswolds garden
Enjoy the sights and scents of an English country garden and take a walk through the trees in a Cotswolds arboretum. Here are some of the most romantic Cotswolds gardens to visit:
Located near Moreton-on-Marsh, the 26-acre Batsford Arboretum was once home to the Mitford family and features swathes of seasonal flowers set amongst almost 3,000 trees that include the national collection of Japanese cherry trees along with autumnal Japanese maple, and beautifully fragrant magnolias.
Painswick Rococo Garden
Painswick is the UK’s only complete surviving rococo garden and is filled all with the quirky features and fabulous flowers that you would expect from this flamboyant art period. Follow serpentine paths down through the secret valley and discover hidden follies, romantic benches and stunning vistas. There’s also a wonderful maze to get lost in during your visit to the Painswick Rococo Garden.
Bourton House Garden
The privately owned Bourton House Garden surrounds an 18th-century Manor House in the little village of Bourton-on-the-Hill and features a topiary walk, a fountain courtyard and a secluded knot garden. There are a number of exotic plant species and a splendid 16th-century Tithe Barn where you can enjoy a home-made cake after a stroll through the garden’s beautiful parterre.
Nestled in the rolling Cotswolds countryside near Chipping Campden is the National Trust’s Hidcote. It is one of the UK’s finest Arts and Crafts gardens and is filled with intricately designed outdoor ‘rooms’ that are divided by a series of hedges with narrow pathways leading to secret secluded chambers. After exploring, you can take a seat by the tranquil lily pond or head into the wilderness section of the garden for a peaceful picnic.
8. Head out to a show
If you fancy heading out to a show as part of a romantic Cotswolds evening, there are a number of playhouses and theatres to choose from:
The Theatre Chipping Norton
This charming Cotswolds venue is part theatre, part concert hall and part cinema and you can enjoy original plays, musical shows, stand-up comedy, and live classical performances in the heart of Chipping Norton.
This intimate Cirencester venue seats up to 200 people in the main auditorium and features a couple of bars and a great restaurant, so it’s easy to combine dinner and a show. The talented team of actors perform a series of well-known plays throughout the year.
Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre
Stratford-upon-Avon is well-known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare so where better to enjoy one of the bard’s plays than at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre? You can enjoy views over Stratford-upon-Avon from the theatre’s 100-feet-high viewing platform and visit landmarks such as Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s cottage before sitting down to the play.
9. Tour a Cotswolds vineyard and a lavender farm
The lush green valleys of the Cotswolds countryside are home to several fine English winemakers as well as a fragrant lavender farm. Here are some of the places where you can take a tour around the pretty vineyards and flower fields:
Woodchester Valley Vineyard
Woodchester Valley grows ten varieties of grapes across three vineyard sites in the Stroud Valley and produces white, rose, and sparkling wines at its family-run Woodchester Farm winery. The experience starts with a glass of wine before you’ll take a tour of the Woodchester vineyard and sample a selection of its latest vintages in the tasting room.
The south-facing slopes of the Poulton Hill estate are home to almost 9,000 vines that produce 20,000 bottles of wine each year. It’s a small family-run vineyard and the grapes are harvested by hand to produce award-winning wines including the premium Bulari sparkling white and rose varieties. Tours here are a relaxed affair where you’ll learn more about growing the grapes and sample a number of the finished wines before receiving a voucher to spend in the on-site shop.
These wonderful purple-hued fields are located in the Cotswolds Hills that look out over Broadway and the Vale of Evesham. Over 40 varieties of lavender are planted here for use in essential oils, bathing products and home fragrance. The fields at Cotswolds Lavender can be visited between June and August when you can breathe in the wonderful aromas as the lavender is harvested.
Three Choirs Vineyard
Three Choirs is one of England’s oldest vineyards and has a tranquil setting in the Gloucestershire countryside. Tasting tours here are led by experienced guides who’ll take you through the wine-making process. You’ll also get the chance to wander through the vineyards and sample four fine wines before you head to the on-site bistro for a tasty lunch.
10. Relax in a characterful Cotswolds pub
The Cotswolds is filled with traditional cosy English inns where you can spend time relaxing with your loved one in front of a wood-burning fire. Here are just some of our favourite romantic Cotswolds pubs:
The Porch House
This Stow-in-the-Wold pub is reputedly England's oldest inn, dating back to 947 AD. The Porch House features chunky stone walls with low beams and has romantic candles and wood-burners to add to the rustic charm.
The Bear Inn
This traditional 17th-century village pub has warm and cosy interiors and an idyllic spot within the peaceful village of Bisley. Cosy up in front of the wood-burning fire then enjoy a candlelit meal for two.
A fine example of a Georgian country inn, the Eight Bells has characterful stone walls, a menu of top-notch pub grub and a pretty garden that looks out over St James’s Church in Chipping Campden.
The Frogmill has an idyllic location in the Gloucestershire countryside, around 7 miles from Cheltenham. It’s an elegant country pub with quirky design touches and a spacious beer terrace that’s ideal for a warm summer’s day.
The Swan Inn
This honey-hued pub in the heart of Broadway has a lovely beer garden that looks out over the pretty village green. Stylish interiors and great food make this the perfect choice for a romantic evening out.
The Mount Inn, Stanton
Enjoy wonderful views across to the Malvern Hills from The Mount Inn, a 17th-century classic Cotswolds pub that has an elevated spot in the tranquil village of Stanton. The bar area comes with a large inglenook fireplace to keep you cosy and warm on even the coldest of evenings.
Book a romantic Cotswolds cottage
Have you been inspired to head to the Cotswolds for a romantic couples’ retreat? Browse our range of romantic cottages across Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire and find the perfect base for your next getaway.
Thatched Cottage near Chipping Norton
Our beautiful Cotswolds cottages are brimming with original features and you’ll find characterful beams, traditional thatched roofs and cosy wood burners in some of the loveliest locations around.