Living in the city of London is fantastic, however it is easy to miss the tranquility and green open spaces synonymous with the country. With this in mind, we decided to pack our bags and head to the greener pastures of the Cotswolds for a long weekend. The Cotswolds is the second largest protected landscape in England and covers 2,038 km2 (504,000 acres). It is also very conveniently situated 2 to 3 hours by car from central London depending on traffic.
The area is largely rural with the lowest population density in England and is very picturesque with story book style architecture, think old stone buildings and steep arched gables. The beauty of the area even inspired poet and playwright T.S. Elliot to pen some of his many poems.
Getting there – Our SUV Road Trip
We drove up in a family friendly, rather sporty red Mercedes-Benz GLC Sport SUV with black leather provided to us by the lovely guys at Mercedes-Benz UK. The new GLC is a successor to the GLK, the second generation of the mid range SUV. I particularly liked the navigation system with a large display, which meant I didn’t drain my mobile with Google Maps. The boot was also wide enough to accommodate our pram and two cabin sized suitcases comfortably.
An added bonus, the privacy glass windows meant I could breastfeed without people looking in. My favourite feature, (and Ava’s too) had to be the panoramic glass sunroof stretching over the entire roof, Ava was distracted for a while as she stared up at the sky from her baby seat during the short drive.
Accommodation at Calcot – An idyllic Family Dedicated Manor
As we are now travelling as a party of three, I was after family friendly accommodation in a lovely period property. After a recommendation from another lovely mum, I came across a country retreat called Calcot in the town of Tetbury.
And it is everything you would expect from a country manor set over an impressive 220 acres, muddy boots at the entrance, open fireplaces, a pub style restaurant and conservatory, a spa with outdoor hot tub, long walking/hiking trails and most importantly, dedicated family accommodation.
Our family suite included a baby pack with an Avent steriliser, bottle warmer, changing mat and nappy bin. We also had a separate kids room with bunk beds and a crib which was set up for Ava. A lovely little gingerbread cookie was waiting on her pillow on arrival. The kid’s room also had a handy wall mounted baby listening device.
For the adults, I found the suite was nice and large with a walk in wardrobe, great mattress, room service was quick – we had snacks and dessert delivered after the drive from London (no calorie boundaries I’m afraid), fresh fruit daily, fluffy robes and my necessity, a Nespresso coffee machine.
We didn’t use them this time but there is an Ofsted registered creche and baby sitters which can be arranged. The indoor heated pool at Calcot Spa has children’s swimming times which we took Ava to for a little splash around. The changing rooms have a handy play pen where I could place Ava while I was getting dressed. And for the older kids, The Playzone & The Mez is a hang out zone with Playstations/Xboxes, board games and books.
The most pleasant surprise was mealtime with Ava. Calcot have catered for children with specialised menus (including a puree menu for babies), afternoon tea times set aside especially for for kids and they provide all plastic cutlery, plates, bibs, bottle, and a variety of Ella’s organics.
The attention and care given to our family was impressive, and this included the patience of waitstaff when Ava threw half her meal on the floor and it was cleaned up promptly with no fuss.
The grounds also have tennis courts, an outdoor pool (only open in summer though), a kids playground, woodland gymnasium, mini football pitch, a disc golf course, free bikes to hire and horse riding (at certain times of the year).
Country Pursuits – What to do & see
This wonderful sanctuary is a 30 minute drive from Calcot in Prinknash. I love this place as the birds and animals are free to roam, no cages or pens like in conventional zoos. The bird park was created by Philip Meigh in 1974 who believed that ‘birds look beautiful in the wild and seldom do in captivity’ and this was his concept for the design of the park, free roaming wildlife.
We saw deer including the sweetest baby deer and got a chance to feed them. There were also plenty of peacocks, ducks, swans, miniature donkeys, pygmy goats and several varieties of chickens.
Bags of bird food can be purchased on arrival and the park also has food dispensing machines for the other animals for 20p per go. Once you are done, there is a cafe and gift shop to sit down and relax for while. Well worth a visit!
Painswick Village, Gloucestershire – Queen of the Cotswolds
On our way back from the Bird and Deer Park we stopped in the lovely village of Painswick known as the Queen of the Cotswolds. The majority of the village centre is mainly constructed from quarried Cotswold stone. We explored the village, visited a few shops, galleries and had a coffee at a small cafe. The parish of St Mary has a garden with 99 yew trees and legend tells a tale of the 100th never growing. If visiting in July, Painswick puts on a arts festival.
And below I’ve listed a few other areas in the Cotswolds and their main highlight which are also worthwhile to see, as relayed to me by one of our close friends who grew up and lives in the Cotswolds (and it is best to always trust a local).
|Area to Visit||Main Highlight|
|Tetbury||The Royal Gardens at Highgrove – The private gardens of their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall|
|Malmesbury||Malmesbury Abbey – An anglican church set in a beautiful 12th Century abbey in the heart of historic Malmesbury, Wiltshire|
|Cirencester||Nice Historic Market Town|
|Longleat||Longleat Safari – drive through in car safari with lions, tigers, baboons and rescued elephants|
|Bibury||Perhaps the most prettiest village in the UK, with Arlington Row, England’s most iconic row of cottages|
|Bourton on the Water||Lots of tea rooms and nice pubs, and a grade II listed model village|
|Lower Slaughter||Attractive village to explore with limestone cottages in traditional Cotswolds style|
Where to Eat – From Farm to Plate
We ate at our hotel for our weekend visit, a lovely little pub known as The Gumstool Inn, which has a variety of traditional English pub style dishes. There is also The Conservatory for finer dining too. However, I have it on good authority that these places are definitely worth checking out, see below.
|Restaurants and Pubs||Locale||Point of Interest|
|Smoking Dog||Malmesbury||A locals pub|
|The Horse and Groom||Charlton||A la Carte Menu changes daily, in line with the seasons|
|The Potting Shed||Crudwell||Creative British menu|
|The Old Bell||Malmesbury||England’s oldest Grade I listed pub and hotel|
|The Tunnel House||Coates||A little gem in the middle of nowhere|
|The Old Bell (at Sapperton)||Sapperton||Pretty pub famous for its long canal tunnel|
|The Wild Duck||Ewen||Cool Pub/Restaurant with ducks flying over entrance|
|Whatley Manor||Easton Grey||Michelin stared and a beautiful place to dine|
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend away in the Cotswolds and we will certainly be back soon. If you have more suggestions of things to do or see in this historic and lovely part of England, pop a comment below so I can add it to my list for next time!
Kerstin // Lux Mumma