The sheep-clad hills, picturesque honey-coloured Cotswold stone villages and market towns, and quieter pace of rural life ticks all the boxes for those interested in stately homes, gardens, ancient coaching inns and sources of literary inspirations when delivered at a leisurely, travel less see more pace. With Stratford-upon-Avon to the north, Bath to the south and Oxford to the east, the Cotswolds wins the prize for THE travel less, see more destination. Relate this to a good map of England and you will quickly see its proximity to London Heathrow and to the cruise terminal at Southampton. Here are 10 inspiring ways of discovering one of the loveliest corners of England.
Great Gardens of the Cotswolds
Not many of your green-fingered clients and garden club contacts will know that the Cotswolds plays host to no fewer than five former winners of the prestigious Historic House Association/Christies Garden of the Year Award. In addition, the Cotswolds counties of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire also are home to more than 170 properties that open when at their very best as part of the National Garden Scheme. With programs that are imaginatively put together and perhaps include a visit to Highgrove House and Gardens, the private residence of their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, you can promote a Chelsea or Hampton Court Flower Show tour that your horticultural contacts will never have seen before.
Tastes of the Cotswolds
The recipe for this unusual perspective on the Cotswolds blends together castles, historic houses and gardens with imaginative foodie experiences. These include a tasting tour of a privately-owned stately home that makes its own cheese, a tour of an award-winning organic farm, a close encounter with the Herb Society, cooking your own lunch at a cookery school, the Parade of Puddings at the Pudding Club and a visit to an edible garden.
Putting the Tea in the Cotswolds
This is a very appealing idea for slow travel enthusiasts, who want to ease up the pace of their tour so that each day is punctuated by morning cups of coffee and afternoon tea and cakes in award-winning tea rooms, cathedral refectories, privately owned gardens and other interesting locations. Small groups might also enjoy a talk on how a traditional English Afternoon Tea should be correctly served.
Mine’s a Pint of Speckled Hen
Pub and brewery tours are often marketed as man only programs, but in the Cotswolds, you can double your group size, double the fun and double your profit by offering a tour that includes four memorable brewery visits while others not interested in beer can follow their own itinerary nearby. And yes, there really is a beer called Speckled Hen and there are many others with even more exotic names and flavours.
Pre and Post-Cruise Extensions in the Cotswolds
If you look at a map, you will see that a visit to Salisbury Cathedral, a pub lunch and a leisurely tour of Stonehenge make for an interesting journey from Southampton (your cruise port of call) to the Cotswolds. For Heathrow arrivals, heading west on the M5 motorway will get you to Cirencester in about 90 minutes, which with the rush hour traffic could be how long it takes to get from Heathrow to your central London hotel. You may also find that you can check in sooner to your Cotswold hotel, which gets things off to a much better start.
A Cotswolds Tour of your Bookshelf
The closer you look at the Cotswolds, the more you will see that it works as a hub for an entertaining literary tour. With Shakespeare’s England at one end and Jane Austen’s Bath at the other, you can include Laurie Lee’s “Cider with Rosie” and follow in the footsteps of Father Brown and Agatha Raisin before finishing with a bibliophile walking tour of Oxford that includes Inspector Morse, Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. Every October the Regency spa town of Cheltenham stages The Times and Sunday Times Literature Festival, a celebration of the written word with some of the world’s most exciting writers, thinkers and speakers.
Four Castles and a Palace
This tour starts with the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle before travellers move to a crenelated view of four more great castles in the Cotswolds. They even get an English Afternoon Tea in the sumptuous surroundings of one of them. If castles really are your thing, you can add another day to include the magnificent must-see fortresses at Warwick and Kenilworth before finishing with a breath taking few hours at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough.
Equestrian Badminton and Eventing
Pause for a moment and think about the number of riding schools and equestrian centres within a 50-mile radius of where you live and then consider what sort of response you might get to a Britain travel program that included three days at Badminton, arguably Europe’s top three-day equestrian event. It takes place in early May and the odds are that your target audience has never been offered anything like this before. For horseback riding families, you should talk about the Festival of British Eventing, which takes place in early August at Gatcombe Park, the spectacular home of the Princess Royal and her family.
Arts and Crafts in the Cotswolds
Back in the early 20th century, the Cotswolds became an important centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement when craftsmen and women followed in William Morris’ footsteps and settled in villages throughout West Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. The legacy lives on in and around his former home at Kelmscott Manor and at the Gallery at the Guild in Chipping Campden, a cooperative of artists and craftspeople who exhibit their work at the historic home of the Guild of Handicraft.
The Olimpick Games And More Unique Cotswolds Curiosities
In June 1612, Robert Dover started the Cotswolds Olimpicks to channel some of the more competitive traits of the local people in the picture-perfect market town of Chipping Campden. Then as now this brilliantly bizarre sports event includes singlestick, Tug of War, the Championship of the Hill, wrestling, jumping in sacks, dancing and shin kicking. Nearly 406 years later this tradition continues, so time your Cotswolds visit to coincide with next year’s event. Also, at this time of the year, I can add a traditional cheese rolling event (dates back to the early 1800s) the annual Tetbury Woolsack Races, a long-standing traditional display of strength and the annual World Poohsticks Championships.
Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at www.customgb.co.uk or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.