Nothing gets me excited like a last-minute weekend getaway from London. On a Friday evening, my boyfriend and I decide to be spontaneous and take an impromptu trip to Gloucestershire. We hop in the car Saturday morning and drive west for a cozy winter weekend in the Cotswolds.
Winter Weekend in the Cotswolds
Our weekend centers around three places: Cheltenham, Painswick, and Bibury. They’re some of my favorite towns in the area, and I can’t wait to see what they have to show us.
We arrive in Cheltenham in time for a late breakfast. Following our noses to a buzzing restaurant called the Boston Tea Party, we settle in by the window for a meal of sweetcorn hash and poached eggs. It’s just the thing to fortify us for a day in the cold, and by the time we’re finished I’m ready to explore the town.
Most of our exploration focuses on a part of Cheltenham I’ve never visited before: The Wilson. Formerly called the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, it’s best known for its collection of Arts and Crafts Movement furniture. The museum keeps us entertained with impressive new displays and good temporary art exhibitions. Its warren of rooms leads us around through the centuries, revealing treasures from bygone eras.
From Cheltenham we get back in the car and head towards Painswick. On the way we can’t resist stopping for lunch at The Butchers Arms in Sheepscombe. The pub is just the cozy place I always hope to find in the Cotswolds, and the fact that the village has the word ‘sheep’ in the name is an added bonus.
After lunch we continue into Painswick, which I’ve long believed is the prettiest town in the Cotswolds.
With its lovely stone buildings and giant hedge-filled churchyard, Painswick is a photographer’s dream.
So is our hotel, The Painswick. My boyfriend found it last-minute and snagged us their only remaining room. The place is gorgeous inside and out, and we can’t get enough of the beautiful design and attention to detail in the decor.
But our winter weekend in the Cotswolds is a quick trip, so we tear ourselves away from the comfy sofas to go on one of the hotel’s many suggested walks.
Called “Cider with Rosie” after Laurie Lee’s famous book, the 5-mile ramble takes us across Juniper Hill and into Slad village, where Lee was raised and is now buried.
It’s a beautiful walk through pastures and woods, and we’re rewarded in the middle with lunch at The Woolpack in Slad. The pub has been around for over 200 years, and its wooden interiors and warming food are just the things to fortify us for the walk back to Painswick.
The last stop on our Cotswolds itinerary is Bibury, another of the loveliest towns in Gloucestershire. Its famous Arlington Row is one of the most photographed streets in the Cotswolds, and for good reason.
The row’s 17th century weavers’ cottages are straight out of a storybook, and the Rack Isle water meadow provides a beautiful vantage point for admiring them.
And the nice thing about being here in winter is that nobody else is. I’m able to photograph the iconic houses without waiting for people to clear out of my shots. It’s no small thing at such a frequented destination.
My inner photographer satisfied, we hop back in the car for the drive home to the capital. It’s been an amazing weekend getaway from London, and all the better for having been spontaneous.
Have you spent a winter weekend in the Cotswolds? Where did you go?