How To Get Away From The Crowds & Enjoy The Cotswolds
A local Cotswolds hotelier recently told us that the region has never been busier. Staycationers are stacking out hotels in the Cotswolds because going abroad, despite all the COVID easing, still feels a bit risky. And the news footage of queues at airports doesn't help.
The Cotswolds has always been a popular destination. It's the reason why we run several classic Road Trips through the region every week. But those crowds can take the edge off what is certainly one of the country's prettiest places.
Worry not. Because with a bit of pre-planning you can easily escape the crowds in the Cotswolds. That's thanks to one simple fact about the area: once you get off the busy main roads that connect most of the towns, the roads get very small very quickly. That means less traffic, which means more peace. If you're prepared to drive a little slower and watch out for oncoming tractors, you can really enjoy a quieter pace just around the corner from all those tourists.
Head to any of the beautiful destinations below and you'll be discovering a slice of the Cotswolds less travelled. And the trip to get there, through rolling countryside, will all be part of the trip.
Here are our five favourite Cotswold destinations off the beaten track. We've picked them because they combine a chance to escape main roads as well as being a great place to arrive.
Nestled on the slopes of a typical Cotswolds valley, a visit to Guiting Power is like stepping back in time. Here you can experience the Cotswolds without the crowds and much as it probably seemed to the farmers and labourers who populated it 100 years ago. Unlike many Cotswolds villages it feels lived in. That is thanks, in part, to a charitable Trust that owns about half of the properties in the village. The Trust's focus on providing affordable housing means that local people can still live here. And so despite its chocolate box looks, Guiting Power has avoided the blight of second holiday homes that affect most of the Cotswolds. It even has its own Post Office, a rarity for such a small village.
The village is close to Cheltenham and right in the heart of horse racing country, so you'll see several very expensive manor houses nearby. There are two pubs in the village, including the superb Hollow Bottom, which is well worth a visit.
Adlestrop has earned its place in history for something rather poignant and timeless. It is mentioned in a 1914 poem of the same name by Edward Thomas, who recalls its quiet, unspoilt loveliness during a brief stop by his train on the eve of the First World War. The poem captures a moment of peace and stillness, and is an early example of something we would now call 'mindfulness.'
The poem gained added poignancy because Thomas would die in battle three years later.
Adlestrop is worth a visit simply to see why Thomas was so enchanted. Turn off the busy A436 and you're very quickly in a world that he would recognise. The village is quiet and unspoilt and, just like the poet, almost certainly you'll hear a blackbird sing (if you're not quite sure what a blackbird singing sounds like, we recommend the excellent ChirpOmatic phone app).
Just around the corner from Adlestrop and well worth a detour is the lovely village of Evenlode. Unlike Guiting Power the preponderance of second homes and holiday homes means Evenlode feels a bit deserted at most times of the day, but it is well worth a visit as the architecture is so beautiful.
The village has recently become famous because of its nearby resident, Alex James the former bassist of Blur. He runs a large farm that is famous for its cheeses and annual food and music festival. But even if you miss out on celebrity spotting, Evenlode has a charm well worth exploring.
Once voted the prettiest village in Britain, Kingham is the sort of place they stick on the top of chocolate boxes. Because it really is lovely, an uninterrupted mix of jumbled cottages and manor houses. The village's proximity to London and nearby farmshop-to-the-stars, Daylesford, means that it is busier and beset by vacant holiday homes, but it is worth a trip because it remains so lovely to look at.
Besides Daylesford there is also a great pub with rooms in the village, called The Wild Rabbit. Sadly you may need to take out a second mortgage - this part of the Cotswolds is alarmingly expensive to stay and eat out in. Best to just visit and wander the side street of Kingham - which of course is free of charge.
If you want to get away from the Range Rovers and Kardashian wannabes that seem to populate certain parts of the Cotswolds, head for Ilmington. Right on the northern edge of the Cotswolds close to Stratford it has seemingly escaped the gentrification so typical of this region. Where some Cotswolds villages, over-run with holiday homes and second homes, can make you feel like you've stumbled on the set of the Living Dead, Ilmington still feels like a real, living village.
And it is a lovely village. Set in the folds of a rolling valley its buildings rise and fall around an unspoilt green. It feels as if this is a place where people actually live and work.
Another reason to visit Ilmington is the stunning minor road that connects it to the tiny hamlet of Charingworth to the south. This single-track road lifts and drops across the edge of a beautiful Cotswolds escarpment, providing panoramic views to the left and right. It's so good that we use it on our Cotswolds Highlights Tour.
Our base in Worcestershire puts all of these destinations - and the rest of the Cotswolds - within an hour's drive. You can enjoy the region as part of our Driving Trail and Daily Hire experiences or let us be your guide with our range of Cotswolds Road Trips. To find out more, CLICK HERE.
Graham Eason, Great Driving Days. 01527 893733