The English countryside is glorious in springtime. Colorful gardens, adorable lambs, and fresh greenery fill the landscapes in a beautiful effort to make up for the bleakness of winter. Given how much I enjoy the early spring in London, I can’t help spending a spring weekend in the Cotswolds to see the season in an even more magical environment.
Spring Weekend in the Cotswolds
My boyfriend and I make a very last-minute decision to head out to Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, jumping in the car on Friday after dinner and arriving in Chipping Campden just in time for last call at the local pub. We’re happy to be here, and excited for a weekend break in the countryside.
Towns and Villages
Basing ourselves in Chipping Campden, we make a point of exploring the town throughout the weekend. It’s one of those picture-pretty places full of Cotswold stone houses that glow golden in the afternoon sun. The high street is full of pretty shops and lovely facades, and it all feels perfectly charming.
Over on Sheep Street, we duck into the historic home of the Guild of Handicrafts, where 3rd-generation silversmith David Hart shows us around his workshop and lets us sign a guestbook dating back to 1903. Our signatures join those of famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, and it all feels like a delicious step back in time.
Down the high street, we explore the quiet surroundings of St. James’ Church and the adjacent Court Barn museum, which is dedicated to the designers and craftspeople of the Arts and Crafts movement. Parts of the movement—which focused on traditional craftsmanship and design around the turn of the 20th century—centered in the Cotswolds, and there’s a lot of history here.
Not far from Chipping Campden is Broadway, another famous town in the Cotswolds. There too we pay homage to the Arts and Crafts movement with a trip to the Gordon Russell Design Museum. We get an impromptu tour of the famous 20th-century furniture designer’s work from one of the staff members, who shows us around the museum and reveals secret compartments and other hidden elements as we go.
Back on the high street, the Cotswold stone is aglow in the bright spring sunshine and we can’t help sitting outside for cream tea in the courtyard of the famous Lygon Arms hotel (which, incidentally, was owned by Gordon Russell’s father and houses some of the son’s furniture among other medieval-feeling works).
When we’ve soaked up enough of Broadway’s impossibly pretty streets, we head up the hill to Broadway Tower, a romantic 18th-century folly overlooking the countryside. The second-highest point in the Cotswolds, it not only offers great views but also exhibits on residents and guests like William Morris—another famous figure from the Arts and Crafts movement.
When we need a break, we drive to Bretforton, a rural village in Worcestershire that might just be the prettiest place I’ve ever seen. Its little streets are full of those quintessentially Cotswolds houses, and it’s home to the Fleece Inn, a historic pub with low ceilings, little rooms with timber beams, and enough open fireplaces to make me feel like I’ve just stepped into a Tudor world.
If it wasn’t for the fact that our food takes over an hour and a half to arrive (apparently there’s a problem in the kitchen) and it’s a bit disappointing when it comes (I need a chainsaw to cut through the batter on my fish), I would love it.
Heading south from Bretforton, we drive down to Painswick.
This town is different from the others in that the buildings are mostly made of gray stone. But even without the traditional yellow glow, the town has a beautiful atmosphere.
The churchyard alone, with its giant walk-through hedges, is straight out of a fairytale.
Over on a side street, a secret little Arts and Crafts museum sits in a deconsecrated church with a gorgeous stained glass window by Edward Burne-Jones, a famous artist from the Pre-Raphaelite movement who also worked with William Morris. The Ashton Beer Collection is a treasure trove of furniture and other magical finds.
Not far from Painswick is Sapperton, a village with a long Arts and Crafts history—the churchyard of St Kenelms holds the graves of Ernest Gimson and the Barnsley brothers, important figures in the movement.
It’s also home to house-shaped hedges, pretty homes, and a lovely country pub called The Bell at Sapperton. We stop at the last of these for a pint while soaking up the warm ambiance and the big beer garden out front.
Spring Gardens in the Cotswolds
But the Cotswolds are more than just the pretty villages and picturesque towns. Given it’s spring, the gardens are high on our priority list.
Hidcote Manor Garden
Just outside Chipping Campden, we visit two of the most famous gardens in the Cotswolds. The first is Hidcote Manor Garden, an expansive Arts and Crafts garden with “rooms” full of flowers, topiary trees, and other lovely surprises.
Created by American horticulturist Lawrence Johnston, the flowering plants and curling climbers were collected throughout his travels to places as far flung as South Africa and China. My boyfriend and I can’t help lingering on the sun-drenched benches, closing our eyes and listening to the sounds of the birds in the trees.
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Just down the road are the Kiftsgate Court Gardens, a family-run place with a lovely country house surrounded by steep hills covered in flowering plants and trees.
There are walkways that lead to hedge-lined ponds, crescent-shaped pools overlooking dramatic expanses of Cotswolds countryside, and dainty sunken gardens centered around fountains. Kiftsgate Court Gardens are smaller and more intimate than Hidcote, but just as lovely.
By the time we’ve finished exploring, our weekend break in the Cotswolds has come to a close. We make the 2-hour drive back to London, our minds full of the sights and sounds of the countryside.
And when we get home, we’re already talking about when we’ll travel there again. Spring is still in its early days, after all, and there’s a lot more loveliness to come.
How about you? Where would you go on a spring weekend in the Cotswolds?