The Cotswold Way runs down the escarpment of the west of the Cotswolds with breathtaking views of the surrounding areas comprising mainly Gloucestershire but also parts of Somerset. From its beginning in Bath all the way up through Stroud, its highest point (and the highest point in the Cotswolds) at Cleeve Hill in Cheltenham and on to its conclusion in Chipping Campden, this walk promises more than 100 miles of some of the choicest countryside in the UK. Only the Cotswolds can boast five European Special Areas of Conservation, three National Nature Reserves and more than 80 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. But that’s not all, and this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that I’m lucky enough to call home will prove it in the same ways it has done for countless generations, and will continue to do for many more.
One of the clearest memories I have of feeling truly at one with the countryside and all the layers of complexity disguised in effortless beauty was during a walk of some 20 miles along a section of the Cotswold Way. I was fresh out of university with a stretch of free time ahead of me and a head and heart full of Romantic poetry and the hunger to see more of the region that raised me. So, jacketed up and with bootlaces securely tied, I was dropped at an entry point at Wotton-under-Edge, happily slung my pack with tent, sandwiches, soup, burner, books and a few other essentials onto my back and was off. Suffice it to say that twenty-four hours was enough for me that time round. But I wasn’t in it for the long haul and it was never about endurance. I felt that unmistakable draw to the country (fuelled all the more by the immortal lines of Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and co) – that country you can spend years in and never really see – that pull was the point, what moved me to retreat to a freedom that for a time I’d forgotten but that I know now can always be relied upon.
There are countless ways onto that path (both the literal and the metaphorical) and they’re always there to be found at the ends of the busy man-made roads that direct us unawares through the colder sides of the towns and the villages of the everyday; there is always a start or a mark of continuance – your way back to a truly better state; a cleaner, quieter, more raw presence in the world and in life. But the real beauty of it is its simplicity, the very ease of putting yourself back in the way of beauty, but a position that can just as easily be forgotten or neglected for too long a time.
The time is always now. The gates are waiting to be swung open again, the bridleways, paths “less travelled by” and all that lies between is waiting for the next eager pair of boots to be christened by the rugged day, and in every softly buzzing honey-stoned centre to be passed through there can be found a nod, a smile of recognition and an understanding that need not be spoken. Go your own way in these humble counties. See them in all their forms and in all weathers. Find yourself truly amongst them. Find yourself walking the Cotswold Way.
What better way to get started than to stay in one of our enduringly special houses in the Cotswolds? A selection can be found below, to give you a taste. Click on their names and photos to learn more about each, and who knows, this could be the starting point to one of the most special holidays of your life. Make these houses your base, make them a part of the story, a space to unwind and exchange thoughts on the spent day and plans for the following days. Make of them what you will. They, and this unique countryside that surrounds them, are there for you.
Mill Farm | Sleeps 28 | Ewen, Cotswolds
No matter the road, be led to Ewen, to the proof that country setting and style, complimented with just the right touch of the different, reigns supreme. No matter the age, the relation, the story, become a family in a house both familiar and perfectly different.
Marsden Manor | Sleeps 20 | Rendcomb, Cotswolds
Marsden Manor sits majestic and magnificent beneath the song of the Cotswolds skylarks. Behind the heavy door and mullioned windows, Marsden is a full English from the Aga. It’s a dip in the pool. It’s a barbie on the lawns and it’s the gleeful sprint of free-range kids who’ve found the games room, wendy house or tennis court.
The Zen House | Sleeps 12-14 | Cheltenham, Cotswolds
The hot tub bubbles away on the terrace, the heated pool overlooks the landscaping and the sophisticated sprawl of Cheltenham, and the huge screen in the cinema room will do any movie justice. This is a modern miracle in gleaming glass amid the Regency splendour. Inner peace is easy at The Zen House.
Norton Hall | Sleeps 16 | Mickleton, Cotswolds
Go all Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh in a Cotswold manor house as English as the croquet you can play on its manicured lawns. Swim in the heated pool, take to the tennis courts, wander down to the lake, set the barbie to sizzle on the terrace. Savour the silence, live the English rural dream.
Barnhouse | Sleeps 10 | Lechlade, Cotswolds
The Barnhouse at the lakes presents a balance in contemporary chic and natural grace. Take dinner on the second-floor terrace, lose your cares in the heated pool, curl up by the log fire, while the trees sway in the wind and the lakewater laps against the shore. Spend time with the people you love in a place you won’t want to leave.
Why not browse the rest of our luxury cotswold cottages?