Your Week in the Cotswolds
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 (Saturday)
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 our village of Chipping Campden and the friendly inn on the High Street that will be our home for the week.
You’ll have time at the hotel to unpack and settle in, and then we’ll take a stroll around the village. Later that evening we’ll meet for drinks at the inn’s pub. Over a wonderful dinner in a private dining room room, we’ll get to know each other and discuss our plans for the week.
Day Two (Sunday)
This 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 a few tiny stone villages.
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 (Monday)
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 the village, 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.
After 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.
Just down the lane from Kiftsgate is another famous garden, Hidcote Manor Garden, developed by Major Lawrence Johnston, an American, in the early 1900’s. This garden is known for its series of distinct rooms, separated by hedges, each with a different theme. You can also make an early return to Chipping Campden to spend more time in the village.
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 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 (Tuesday)
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 to the tiny village of Dorn and the Old Farm. We’ll be welcomed by Sarah and Simon, the third generation of their family to live in the 15th century farmhouse and work this farm, part of the Batsford estate. Sarah will lead a tour of the farm and explain their many activities. They raise sheep, cows, and chickens; grow several kinds of grains; and also run a B&B, campground, and farm shop. She and Simon will host us for lunch, a meal featuring products from their farm. Our visit here is a highlight of the week.
After lunch we’ll visit another area of the Batsford estate, where you can choose between two possible activities. You can visit the arboretum, one of the largest private collections of trees and shrubs in the UK. From one of the paths, you’ll get a good look at Batsford Manor, once home to the famous Mitford sisters. Or you can enjoy the Cotswolds Falconry Centre, including a unique demonstration involving owls, falcons and other birds of prey.
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 (Wednesday)
Today we’ll travel beyond the countryside of the Cotswolds. We normally offer two options for the day—either a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon or Oxford.
Stratford-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. Stratford is a 30-minute trip from Chipping Campden on the public bus. We’ll stay together for a visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace and your ticket allows access to other Shakespeare sites in the village. You’ll then have time on your own to explore the town, visit other Shakespearean sites, shop, and have lunch. You can return to Chipping Campden on an early afternoon bus or one later in the day. For those who take the early bus, you can join Kathy on a short hike through the fields to the neighboring village of Broad Campden.
The other group will travel to Oxford by train from Moreton-in-Marsh, a journey of about 40 minutes. Oxford, known as the “city of dreaming spires,” is a small city of 165,000 people and the site of Oxford University. The university is made up of 38 colleges, each with their own facilities. We’ll have a walking tour of the city, including a visit to Christ Church College, founded in 1524. Then you’ll have time on your own to see more of the city, visit other colleges, shop, and enjoy lunch. You might also want to visit the Ashmolean museum of art and archaeology. This group will arrive back in Chipping Campden around 5:00 pm.
Dinner tonight is on your own in the village.
Day Six (Thursday)
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 is one of England’s largest and most important stately homes, built between 1705 and 1724 and now home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough. Our day at Blenheim Palace will include a 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 another village, perhaps in Stow-in-the-Wold.
Day Seven (Friday)
We’ll begin our last day in the beautiful and historic village 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.
Lunch today is a relaxed picnic at a small park between Broadway and Chipping Campden.
After lunch, 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. There’s an option for a four-mile walk on the Cotswold Way back to Chipping Campden. Since we’re starting at a high point, this walk is level or downhill. You can also return to the village by van, perhaps to visit the Arts and Crafts museum or finish your shopping.
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 (Saturday)
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!