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A last-minute weekend in The Cotswolds

Gorgeous villages, stunning walks, great eateries, fantastic shops and many a spot to sleep – The Cotswolds makes for a great wintery short break

How to spend a weekend in The Cotswolds (Flickr: tiarescott)

The Cotswolds is England as it lives in our imagination – rolling green hills and stone villages, country pubs and pursuits, hedgerows and country churches. It straddles five counties, and although the vast proportion of it is within Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, it nudges into south Warwickshire, and touches the edges of Worcestershire and Wiltshire too.

Yet despite sitting between three major motorways and several national rail lines, its rural steadfastness is what sets it apart. There are no cities here, nor even any large towns to speak of, and instead the gentle hills of the Cotswolds make up a bucolic idyll, dotted with picturesque villages, churchyards, and undulating fields with crops and sheep or the occasional alpaca.

Whether you fancy a good walk and a pub lunch, a pampering at a country house hotel or a spot of shopping and a cream tea, there is arguably no better place in England.

Below we highlight the very best places for a great weekend with a little help from Cool Places; read more at www.coolplaces.co.uk

A place to stay

Cheap sleeps: Stow-in-the-Wold Youth Hostel

Cheap isn’t really something you associate with the Cotswolds, but this place delivers on location as well as price, right in the heart of Stow, and offering family rooms as well as the usual dorms.

Cosy B&B: The Bay Tree

Burford is a classic Cotswolds destination, and this place fits the tea-shop-and-knick-knacks vibe perfectly, with very comfy rooms in a determinedly old-school environment.

Boutique Bolthole: The Wheatsheaf Hotel & Inn

The rooms, restaurant and overall atmosphere of this re-furbished 17th century inn are almost the epitome of the upscale boutique pub-with-rooms, making it one of the best places stay in the area by far. There’s a choice of rooms so you don’t have to spend a fortune, and the restaurant was named as the county’s ‘dining pub of the year’ in 2012.

Eat and drink

Urban cool: The Tavern

To the dudes that hang out in Cheltenham this light, buzzy hangout is one of the places to eat and drink in town – and is good for a quick bite at lunch, a leisurely dinner or just a coffee. Plus, in a very un-Cotswolds touch, they serve spam fritters!

Pub grub: The Falkland Arms

It’s a gastro pub, but not as we know it, in that there are no children allowed in the bar, where, among other things, they serve snuff. The food is great and you can enjoy it in a formal dinning room, or in the still very pubby, er, pub.

Flash the cash: The Kingham Plough

Time was this was a rough old boozer where a tired cheese roll would have been considered gourmet fare. Now, located in the delightful Oxfordshire village of Kingham, it’s one of the best places to eat in the Cotswolds, serving spectacular food in either a posh-ish restaurant or more informal bar.

Stuff to do

Horticulture Heaven: Hidcote Manor Gardens

We love this amazing Elizabethan garden, fashioned around a century ago into a series of outdoor ‘rooms' that ooze variety, playfulness and invention – in short everything a garden should be.

To the Manor Born: Blenheim Palace

Sometimes this travel writing lark is easy, you’d be mad to go anywhere in this part of Oxfordshire and miss Blenheim Palace, which is truly one of the great house-and-garden complexes in the whole of England.

Family fun: Cotswold Farm Park

Get down and dirty with the rare breeds at this muddy and surprisingly authentic glimpse of life on the farm.

Cool PlacesCool Places is a new website devoted to selecting and celebrating the best of UK travel, whether you’re booking a last-minute weekend away or looking for ideas for next year’s holiday. They cover the UK’s best places to stay, from stunningly located campsites to cosy boutique hotels, great gastropubs and restaurants to beachside cafés, and the country’s quirkiest independent shops and markets. Check it out, and add your own local favourites

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