Itinerary – The Cotswolds Experience

A European Experiences week has an ideal balance of structure and flexibility, activities with the group and time on your own. Because our groups are small and we use two vehicles, we sometimes split into two groups or take a few group members on a spontaneous late afternoon excursion. We may also adjust our plans based on weather, the interests of the group members, and unexpected opportunities. If there’s a special festival in a nearby village during your week, we’ll likely rearrange things to be there.

We’ll describe a “typical” week in the Cotswolds, but be aware that every Cotswolds Experience week is somewhat unique! Your week might be organized differently, and experiences may be added or not included. And this sample itinerary doesn’t include some special stops we’d like to surprise you with when we’re together.

Day One

We’ll meet the group at the train station in the market town of Moreton-in-Marsh, on the direct line from London’s Paddington Station (a 90 minute trip). It’s a 15 minute drive to Chipping Campden and the friendly inn on the High Street that will be our home for the week.

Chipping Campden market hall

Chipping Campden’s market hall, built in 1627

You’ll have time at the hotel to unpack and settle in, and then we’ll take a stroll around the town. Later that evening we’ll meet for drinks at the inn’s pub. Over a wonderful dinner of locally-produced food, served in a private dining room, we’ll get to know each other and discuss our plans for the week.

Day Two

Sudeley CastleThis morning we’ll drive through the lush green countryside to the village of Winchcombe. Our destination is Sudeley Castle, a stately home built in the 15th century. The castle is best known as the home of Katherine Parr, the surviving sixth wife of King Henry VIII. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and includes a museum and an interesting aviary.

We’ll enjoy lunch outside Winchcombe at a tea room at an apple farm, enjoying their famous apple juice and fresh berries from the farm.

After lunch we’ll visit Hailes Abbey, founded in the 13th century and once a very important Cistercian abbey and pilgrimage site. It was dissolved in 1539 (as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII) and today is in ruins. We’ll visit the site on a self-guided tour and also visit the nearby parish church.

On our drive back to Chipping Campden, we’ll detour through the beautiful countryside and make a short stop in the lovely village of Stanton.

Dinner tonight is on your own at one of the restaurants or pubs in Chipping Campden. Many people enjoy the Indian restaurant, one of Great Britain’s most popular cuisines.

Day Three

We’ll stay very close to Chipping Campden today. We’ll begin our day with a historical walking tour of Chipping Campden, led by a local Cotswolds warden. We’ll learn the history of this well-preserved town, which dates back to the 12th century and was a prosperous wool market town. As part of our tour, we’ll visit the 13th century village church, St. James.

Kiftsgate Court GardenAfter our tour we’ll travel a few miles to Kiftsgate Court, a family home and extensive garden. The garden has been developed by three generations of women, beginning in the 1920’s. The garden is best known for the famous Kiftsgate rose, the largest in England, which normally blooms from early to mid July. (See Kathy’s article on Kiftsgate to learn more about this beautiful garden.)

We’ll have a simple lunch at the tea room and then visit the garden.

A few minutes from Kiftsgate is another famous garden, Hidcote Manor, developed by Major Lawrence Johnston in the early 1900’s. This garden is known for its series of distinct rooms, separated by hedges, each with a different theme. There is an excellent National Trust gift shop. You can also wander down the lane to explore the tiny hamlet of Hidcote Bartrim with its thatched cottages.

Dinner tonight is at a historic pub in the nearby village of Bretforton in the Vale of Evesham. The inn dates back six centuries. The manager Nigel will share the pub’s history and talk about its present day activities and will also host a beer tasting for our group. We’ll enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the cozy pub dining rooms.

Day Four

Moreton-in-Marsh was founded as a market town in the 13th century. Today the town hosts a busy outdoor market on Tuesday mornings with about 200 sellers. Our group will visit the market and explore the village High Street, lined with 17th and 18th century houses.

We’ll then drive just outside Moreton where you can choose between two possible activities. You can enjoy the Cotswolds Falconry Centre, including a unique demonstration involving owls, falcons and other birds of prey. Or you can visit the nearby Bourton House garden, featuring luxuriant terraces and wide herbaceous borders with stunning plant, texture and color combinations.

Lunch today is at the pub in the beautiful village of Snowshill. And after lunch we’ll enjoy one of the highlights of the week: a visit to the nearby Cotswold lavender farm. This is a 75-acre commercial lavender farm, with several acres set aside for visitors to wander and enjoy. There are also several large areas of colorful wildflowers.

At the Cotswold Lavender farm

We’ll have a very special dinner tonight at an elegant hotel in nearby Mickelton, where we’ll begin our evening with drinks in the garden. The restaurant’s menu features fresh, seasonal produce from the local area. The restaurant is also known for the “Pudding Club” and a special emphasis on traditional British “puddings,” including our all-time favorite—sticky toffee pudding.

Day Five

Today we’ll travel beyond the countryside of the Cotswolds to the nearby town of Stratford-upon-Avon, about 30 minutes away.

Shakespeare's birthplace - Stratford-upon-AvonStratford-upon-Avon is known as the birthplace (in 1564) and home of William Shakespeare and is a picturesque town on the River Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company, one of the most famous theatre companies in the world, is also based here.

We’ll stay together for a visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace, and you can also join us to visit two other Shakespeare sites in the village. We may even take a boat ride on the River Avon. You’ll have time on your own to explore the town, shop, and have lunch.

When we return to Chipping Campden, you can join us on a optional short hike through the fields to the neighboring village of Broad Campden. You’ll enjoy this quiet village with its many thatched cottages.

Dinner tonight is on your own in Chipping Campden.

Day Six

Our main destination today is Blenheim Palace, located near Woodstock, about 40 minutes from Chipping Campden. On our way to Woodstock we’ll take a small detour to see the Rollright Stones, an isolated complex of three ancient monuments dating from the 4th to 2nd century BC. The site includes the “King’s Men,” a circle of 77 low-standing stones.

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is one of England’s largest and most important stately homes, built between 1705 and 1724 and now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough. Our day at Blenheim Palace includes a self-guided tour of the public rooms, one of which was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, whose uncle was the 8th duke. You’ll then be able to visit several museums located on the site, as well as the extensive gardens, including a beautiful rose garden and an arboretum. Lunch today is on-your-own, and there are several options on the palace grounds.

We’ll return to Chipping Campden later in the afternoon. If Giffords Circus is performing nearby, we’ll enjoy a simple dinner and then this unique circus, a Cotswolds tradition. (No wild animals are involved.) If the circus isn’t an option, we’ll enjoy a special dinner in Chipping Campden.

Day Seven

We’ll begin our last day in the beautiful and historic town of Broadway. Its wide High Street is lined with chestnut trees with a mix of period houses and cottages made of the honey-colored Cotswolds stone, many of which now house shops and galleries.

Above the town of Broadway, we’ll visit Broadway Tower, the second highest point in the area. From the top of the tower we’ll enjoy expansive views across the countryside.

Lunch today is at a family-owned cafe where our groups always have a very warm welcome. They also have an extensive gift shop.

In the afternoon we sometimes journey to the village of Upper Slaughter and enjoy a one-mile walk through the countryside to the next village of Lower Slaughter. Or, we might visit the Manor House and Gardens at Snowshill, featuring the eclectic collections of the former (eccentric) owner… always a unique experience!

Walking between the Slaughters

One last round of drinks at the pub… then our farewell dinner at our hotel. This will be another wonderful meal served by long-time staff members who will now be your friends.

Day Eight

We’ll have our last breakfast together and then make the short drive back to the station in Moreton-in-Marsh. We know you’ll take with you memories of a wonderful week!