Mini Guide to the Cotswolds
Why go to the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds is designated 'An Area of Outstanding Beauty' and is the largest in the UK stretching from Chipping Campden, in the north, to Bath in the South (78 miles), covering an area of 2038 sq. kms (790 sq. miles) With its lovely honey-coloured stone villages and rolling countryside it's without doubt one of the most picturesque parts of the UK – and is easily accessible from most parts of the UK too. Not only is it lovely to look at, but it has a huge range of attractions – from stately homes and castles, to wildlife parks and steam railways. This makes the Cotswolds as enjoyable for a day visit as it is for a longer holiday, throughout the whole year. The area has some of the finest hotels and cottages in the UK, and babygoes2 has researched the best places to stay with little ones in tow.
By Air, Rail, or Car
Birmingham International Airport has regular flights throughout Europe, North America, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. Birmingham Airport is only 50 minutes by car to Broadway.
Alternatively, fly into London Heathrow or Gatwick where you are two hours away by car. From Heathrow there is the Heathrow Express train running every 20 minutes to Paddington Station from which there are regular connections to Moreton-in-Marsh (1hr 40mins), Evesham, Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon.
By Sea and Rail, or Car
The Cotswolds are easy to reach from Europe with ferry services via Hull, Felixstowe, Harwich, Holyhead and Pembroke. The Eurostar train from Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris links London's Waterloo International Station in just over 3 hours. Le Shuttle, vehicle-carrying trains, operate between Calais and Folkestone, a journey of about 35 minutes
What to see and do:
Eg Bourton on the Water is a resort in the countryside, a village full of attractions to keep children happily occupied all day long. The village itself is a picture, with lovely lawns for playing and picnicking beside the brook that runs right through the middle of the village, criss-crossed by delicate stone bridges.
Birdland - Park and Gardens
For Adults and children of all ages. Seven acres of woodland, river and gardens, inhabited by over 500 birds, flamingos, pelicans, penguins and cranes, 50 aviaries, also tropical, temperate, and desert houses. Picnic areas, cafe, gifts and play area.
Open all year. Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water, GL54 2BN.
Tel: 01451 820480.
The Miniature Village, a small-scale faithful recreation of the Bourton itself, through which the children can stroll like Gulliver in Lilliput.
The Model Railway Exhibition, an indoor exhibition of half a dozen working models of complex railway networks, that will entertain children of all ages for hours.
Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection
For adults and older children. Famous as the home of "Brum" the little car from the childrens' TV series, this collection of vehicles includes cars, motorcycles and caravans displayed with all kinds of memorabilia. There is also one of the largest collections of metal motoring signs and a number of teddy bears and rare pedal cars - something for everyone.
The Maze, next door to Birdland and a challenge to the most adventurous child
Allow yourself a full day for a visit to Bourton on the Water
Cotswold Farm Park
A rare treat for all the family and especially children. From Gloucester cattle to Guernsey goats, Cotswold sheep to Crested ducks, there is a rare British breed for every week of the year. Animal audio tour, tractor school and Farm Safari Ride. Touch animals, adventure playground, pets corner, gift shop, and cafe.
Open 24 March to 30 September. October at weekend only and Autumn half term. Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power, GL54 5UG. Tel:01451 850307. Web site: www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk. Directions: Follow brown signs from Stow-on-the-Wold or Bourton-on-the-Water.
Cotswold Water Park & Keynes Country Park
For adults and children of all ages. Britain's largest Water Park - 132 great lakes south of Cirencester. All outdoor needs are satisfied including:- nature reserves, country parks, water sports, Thames Path, cycling, fishing, riding, caravanning and camping. Safe summer bathing , lakeside cafe, walks cycling, barbecues, children's play area, bike, boat, and surf bike hire. Waterland outdoor activities centre. Disabled wheelchair access at Keynes Country Park.
Open all year. Cotswold Water Park & Keynes Country Park, Shorncote, Cirencester, GL5 6DF. Tel: 01285 860186. Web site: www.waterpark.org. Directions: 3.5 miles west of A419 Spine Road junction.
Cotswold Wild Life Park
For adults and children of all ages. The great favourites are the rhinos which roam in a wide ranging field surrounded by a ha ha, and when they'Sre in their pen they are so close you can scratch their backs. The Park exhibits over 200 animal species in approximately 200 acres of parkland and beautiful gardens with a fine variety of plants around a setting of a listed Victorian Manor House. Facilities include cafe, picnic areas, adventure playground, narrow-gauge railway, and gift shop. Disabled wheelchair access provided for.
Open all year. Cotswold Wild Life Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, OX18 4JW. Tel: 01993 823006. Web site: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk.
Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway
The Steam Railway is based at Toddington (between Broadway and Winchcombe) and operates a round trip of 13 miles to just beyond Gotherington a few miles from Cheltenham Racecourse. Departing from the restored station at Toddington you will travel past the village of Didbrook and the site of Hayles Abbey onto Winchcombe and finally Gotherington. The line is being extended to Cheltenham Racecourse and will be open 2003. Good views of the Cotswolds Hills can be seen from both sides of the train.
Open certain dates throughout the year. Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, Toddington, Gloucestershire, GL54 5DT. Tel 01242 621405. Web site: www.gwsr.plc.uk.
Prinknash Bird and Deer Park
For adults and children of all ages. Feed and stroke the beautiful Fallow Deer. See one of the biggest collections of displaying peacocks, the numerous waterfowl, the exotic pheasants, ducklings, the amusing Pygmy goats and the lovely two storey Tudor Wendy house by the lake.
Open all year. Prinknash Park, Cranham, GL4 8EX. Tel: 01452 812727. Directions: M5 Junction 11a, on A46 between Cheltenham and Stroud.
Depending on which part of the Cotswolds you're staying in it's an easy drive to places that offer lots of entertainment to children; for example Stratford on Avon, Warwick and especially the magnificent castle, Oxford with punting and the endlessly fascinating Pitt Rivers Museum, The West Midlands Safari Park at Bewdley, and Bath with its recently refurbished Roman baths
Safari & Leisure Park
The Safari and Leisure Park caters for adults and children with many wild animals to see and drive next to. The children will love the leisure park with many amusements.
The Park is situated on the A456 between Kidderminster and Bewdley and is open 7 days each week, including Bank Holidays, from Saturday 16 March until Sunday 3 November 2002. West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, Spring Grove, Bewdley, Worcestershire DY12 1LF. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.wmsp.co.uk.
A great day out for both adults and children. The Castle is one of the best preserved in the UK and dates back to William the Conqueror. It brings to life a thousand years of history. Here you can experience the sights and sounds of the medieval household, chilling dungeon and torture chambers, state rooms, towers and ramparts. In addition there are live shows of sword fighting, falconry, and knights jousting. This venue is a must for children of all ages.
Open all year. Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 4QU. Tel: 01926 406600. Web site: www.warwick-castle.co.uk
Cirencester, an attractive town in its own right but also the home of arguably the best and most child-friendly Roman Museum in the country. If your youngsters are on to the Romans at school see if you can get permission to go up the tower of the church in the market place; from the top you get a magnificent view of the four Roman roads running as straight as an arrow into the far distance.
Blenheim Palace Woodstock. Probably the kids won't be too interested in the opulence of the palace and the Churchill memorabilia exhibition but the parkland is a magnificent place for a picnic, and the miniature railway provides a popular ride through the park to the walled garden. Here you find a top class Jungle Jim, a challenging maze, a collection of other mazes to appeal to the nerds in your family, large scale chess and draughts boards and a putting green.
Where to stay:
Woolley Grange near Bath
Woolley Grange pioneered the way for many other country hotels to pay particular attention to their younger visitors. A grand Jacobean stone manor house, set in 14 acres of gardens, it was one of the first hotels to positively welcome children while also retaining adult appeal. The Den nursery (open 10am-6pm supervised by experienced staff), offers good childcare for all ages. Baby listening services from all bedrooms and babysitters are also available. In addition, there's an outdoor play area and plenty of rolling countryside nearby to explore.
Best of all staff actually take time to smile and chat to your child as you explore the hotel's endless nooks and crannies. It offers guests (of all ages!) a combination of luxury hotel and cosy guest house.
There are 23, individually-styled bedrooms, some of which can be arranged to interconnect (great for families). Facilities include an outdoor pool, table tennis, croquet. Treatments are available including massage and facials.
Woolley Grange is located on the fringe of the medieval wool town, Bradford on Avon, and just 8 miles from the historic city of Bath and approx. 2 hours from London by car. Nearest train stations Bradford on Avon (1 mile), Bath Spa (8 miles) and Chippenham (10 miles
Highly recommended. Our four night stay there, which was
great fun and incredibly relaxing. The Grange has the atmosphere of a
private house, rather than hotel. The staff are very friendly and the
playroom seemed popular with all the children. The food was great for adults
and children alike.
For more info or to book visit www.luxuryfamilyhotels.com quoting babygoes2.
It's the first day of the summer holidays and I'm dropping my 18 month old twins off with my parents for two nights and heading into the heart of the Cotswolds for some unadulterated quality time with my 7 year old daughter Phoebe and 5 year son Marlon. Work commitments stop their father coming too so it really is just me and them and no double buggy!
Our first stop is Calcot Manor, near Tetbury. We arrive on a pretty gloomy afternoon and are welcomed by an incredibly helpful and smiley receptionist who immediately tells us where everything is and shows us to our family suite. This is an enormous space made up of two sleeping areas divided by separating doors. The children's beds are already made up in lovely bright duvet covers and there is voluptuous looking bed for me scattered with cushions. Even the bathroom is vast and as Marlon pointed out had the largest bath we'd ever seen.
Having two babies makes 1 adult swimming with 4 children impossible so we knew that our priority for the two days was getting some good swimming sessions in. So top of the agenda was a reccy of the two pools on offer at Calcot. The indoor pool at Calcot Spa is just breathtaking. A vision of blue with amazing lighting and massively inviting. Children are only allowed in the indoor pool between 3.45 and 5.15 to allow spa visitors some
peaceful swimming time. Despite the allure of this pool we decided to be brave and daring and go for the outside option - we quite liked the idea of swimming in the rain! We ran to get changed and leapt into the heated yet still pretty refreshing pool. I had a facial booked (well you have to don't you?) for 4.30 so after the swim we headed for the Playzone. This is some crèche! Located in the upper reaches of a newly converted barn the play area caters for children of all ages. The lower level area has every imaginable toy any child up to the age of 8 would love. Marlon immediately spotted some Star Wars models and was off. The Mezzanine level is for children aged 8 upwards although I could have spent a couple of days in there myself quite easily. There's table football, Play Stations, X boxes, a Bey Blade arena, a life-size action man and to cap it all a state of the art private cinema! Phoebe of course wanted to be upstairs and the staff kindly allowed her up there to enjoy its delights. In the summer months the Spa organises outdoor activities for children over 4 years of age. The Playzone staff will accompany any
children interested over to the Spa and stay with them for the duration of the event. Activities include Five a Side football, cricket, dancing, bowls and chess and tennis.
If you do visit Calcot allow yourself a full day (or three) just to be in the Spa. It is simply beautiful. Just a year old and impeccably furnished with sleek treatment rooms and a relaxation room (with adjacent sauna and shower room like you've never seen) looking out onto the rolling countryside. Outside is a hot tub set in front of an open fire! My facial was of course lovely and even though my visit to the spa was cruelly short testament to its relaxing effects was the one client fast asleep in the relaxation room, magazine on floor and the man in the hot tub one minute reading his novel, the next minute head back, eyes closed in perfect bliss! The Spa offers you the indoor pool, a gym, a Hamman bed, Dry Flotation, 6 treatments rooms, a dedicated cosmetics area and a beautiful café to boot.
Children's tea is served between 5.30 and 6.30 in the Gumstool Inn. All tables were already laid with the appropriate furnishings (highchairs, plastic cutlery, beakers etc) to accommodate all the families in residence. Phoebe chose sausages and baked beans, Marlon spaghetti and a salad (yes he loves salad!). Ice cream to finish and I had two happy and full children ready for some relaxing. We hit our room where Phoebe discovered they had their very own TV/Video directly opposite their beds. I knew that Reception held videos and CDs so I rushed over and was greeted with an open drawer full of video treats. James and the Giant Peach was my choice and as the children enjoyed that I wallowed in that giant bath. Books read and baby monitor on I headed for the conservatory restaurant.
Dinner. Tonight I was to dine alone and call me a wimp but I was feeling slightly apprehensive. The minute I walked into the restaurant however all my fears vanished. I was met once again by a smiling member of the Calcot team and taken to a quiet corner table overlooking the gardens and fields. The waiters were just wonderful. Welcoming, chatty (but not overly), helpful and somehow reassuring. Dinner was delicious (the menu offers a beautiful selection of dishes made with locally grown and produced treats, the
majority of which are organic), my steak did really melt in the mouth, the wine flowed and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the dine alone experience. After all the majority of my meal times involve the six of us fighting for conversation slots interspersed with the hilarity (and occasional grimace) of watching the twins eating habits!
Morning came as did the rain so we made a dash over for breakfast. The weather didn't dampen the Calcot charm and the breakfast waitresses had us giggling whilst deciding what to choose from the Children's and my own breakfast menu. Phoebe ordered scrambled and I poached eggs. Mine arrived on a beautiful plastic child's plate, Phoebe had a huge serving on a huge porcelain plate. Apologies and peals of laughter abounded and the chef was of course to blame. I like that in a waitress!!
The rain eased and we decided to take advantage of the bikes available from the Spa and go on the bike trail through the countryside surrounding the hotel. The trail is 2 miles long and meanders along the edges of the fields. We were kitted out with bikes (they have something for all ages even a tiny bike with stabilisers for the wee-est of cyclists) and off we went. We saw rabbits and heard the birds and sheltered in the woods (during a downpour) and marvelled at the silence and just had a wonderful time. Marlon's legs got tired so we had a break and meandered around the trim trail. What a relief that it was too wet for me to show my children what each beautifully built wooden apparatus was meant for.
Sadly our time at Calcot was up. After just 24 hours we had to move on. Calcot is ideal for any family break be it a night or a whole week. Phoebe loved it so much she said she wanted to live there. There is so much to do and enjoy within its walls and acres and the staff are amongst the best I have come across. I'm not sure there was anything missing - apart from maybe just a bit more time!
Our next port of call was the...
Lygon Arms in Broadway .
As soon as you enter the Lygon Arms you are immediately aware that you have stepped into a building full of history and character. You are surrounded by beams of shining wood, creaking floors, antique rugs, beautiful antique furniture and that lovely smell of polish. We were again greeted by the most charming of receptionists who had us shown to our room in the thatched Orchard Cottage which is set in the hotels' abundant gardens. Our car was parked; luggage brought in and waiting for Phoebe and Marlon on the sofa was an activity pack each. They immediately leapt onto the huge antique four poster bed ('Look Mummy our bed's got a roof!') and settled down to some colouring and dot-to-dotting. What a welcome!
The weather hadn't improved so we set off again for some more swimming in the Lygons Arm's Spa pool. We were kitted out with super soft towels and in we went. This is another wow factor pool. Tiled in blue with a central darker blue star, a glass sliding roof, a balcony level all the way around and a hot tub! Again we all jumped in with glee and I had a good wallow in the hot tub while Phoebe and Marlon jumped and splashed and swam. The changing rooms had every facility you might require (showers, hairdryers, tissues, scales etc) and a swimsuit water extractor. New to me but what a great idea. The Lygon Spa offers a gym, saunas with plunge pool, a steam room, spa bath and exclusive to England Borghese treatments. The new beauty treatment rooms and hair salon mean all pampering requirements are perfectly catered for.
When we left the pool it was sheeting with rain – we made a dash to the Chestnut tree in the car park for shelter and were immediately brought umbrellas by a smiling member of the hotels' staff. Oh what luxury! We then thought we'd explore the grandeur of the hotels' main building and what a delight it was. The hallways are covered in glorious wood panelling, and an abundance of living rooms and seating areas full of amazing antique furniture, squishy sofas and chairs to disappear in and the most glorious fireplaces. It feels so beautifully medieval whilst at the same time having an amazing charm and comfort. Phoebe and Marlon just loved it. We settled in one of these rooms for tea, hot chocolate, scones and cake and sunk deep into the chairs for a good old relax.
The sky turned blue and we dashed into the streets of Broadway for some retail therapy and what great therapy we found. Beware the gadget shop directly opposite the hotel – fantastic ideas for children and adults – you won't come out without a handful of goodies. We headed back to our cottage via the gardens which were larger and more enchanting than we could have imagined. A croquet lawn led on to an even larger area of lawn (perfect for games, a picnic, lounging in the sun, day dreaming) which led onto a flower garden with sculptures which led onto another hedge segmented flower garden which led onto an orchard with tennis court! This was all a delight and we loved strolling through this amazing area looking at the plum and apple trees, dashing through the gardens, playing hide and seek – it was like your very own secret garden.
Tonight I was going to eat with my children in the Great Hall at 6.30pm. The Lygon Arms like to feed children preferably before 7.30pm. The Great Hall is another wow in the Lygon Arms building. A huge dining area with a ceiling to the sky, oak panelled walls decorated with deer head, a moose head (surely the largest moose ever to have roamed the planet), armour, coats of arms – this was heavenly for Phoebe and Marlon who were fixated by such grandeur and artefacts which became our whole conversation for the evening. The staff greeted us with hand shakes for the children and warm smiles. Martin Blunos the Lygons Arms chef of 7 months came out to say hello with more hand shakes for the children and a lovely conversation about food, how important it is for children to know about food, to sit down and enjoy it and how eating as a family is such an important thing much lacking in modern day life. He was a delightful man and made me and the children feel so welcome in this amazing setting. I could see that Phoebe and Marlon loved all this warm attention and felt proud to be where they were. It was lovely. The children's menu was brought as well as my own and I spent a while trying to decide what to have from such an extensive and mouth watering selection. Phoebe and Marlon made their choices and I opted for wild mushroom soup followed by lamb.
Our food came, the lemonade and wine flowed and we were still chatting and laughing with the waiting staff about what moose ate, foreign languages and of course our delicious food. Out of the blue two boiled eggs were placed in front of Marlon and Phoebe. 'What is this?' we all exclaimed with wonder (and I have to admit I was the most excited). This turns out to be Martin's signature dish – a boiled egg and soldiers trick. An egg shell filled with vanilla cream and a fresh mango puree in the middle (looking just like the white and yolk) and shortbread cut into soldiers. How brilliant is that? We were all ecstatic and it was fabulous to eat. Full to the brim of Martin's culinary delights we left the restaurant having realised that we had been in there for 2 hours! We had had such a great evening and once again the Lygon's staff and incredible warmth had contributed to that.
Morning came and we knew it was time to get back to the little ones. We had had such a wonderful two days but were all beginning to miss them and I didn't want two 18 month olds to outstay their welcome with my parents. We entered the Great Hall again for breakfast and were once again met by the lovely staff some of whom we had been with the evening before. The buffet breakfast was great and Marlon asked me if he could have another Weetabix. I told him to take his bowl and get another one and that I'd help him with the milk. Before I knew it the waitress was by his side, had taken his bowl and said 'I'll help you'. Marlon tried to hide a pleased smile and walked coyly with her to get his cereal. When they returned I told Marlon he was being thoroughly spoilt. The waitress replied it was a pleasure and told Marlon that when he was older he could return her favour by doing a similar nice act for a woman!
We left The Cotswolds and our 48 hours of 'grown up children' fun and headed home to reality. My lasting impressions from Calcot Manor and The Lygon Arms apart from the amazing and luxurious facilities are the people who worked there. I know the cliché that people make a place but it is very true. The staff at both hotels were kind, welcoming, fantastic with Phoebe and Marlon and made all of us feel special, at home and happy.
The day after we arrived home Marlon had been out with his father to play football. Marlon arrived home with some flowers for his mother. Lovely waitress at the Lygon Arms – your favour has already been repaid. Thank you!
The Linhay, Idbury
This single storey, spacious barn conversion is set in the small village of Idbury, on the edge of a working organic farm. The accommodation is perfect for a family. There is a large living are with vaulted, beamed ceiling & French doors to the garden. A Kitchen with ceramic tiled floor and 2 bedrooms - 1 5ft double with wrought iron bed with en-suite bathroom with shower over bath, toilet & basin and 1 bunk (bottom bunk 4ft, top bunk 3ft) with en-suite shower room with toilet & basin. Sofa-bed for alternative sleeping. The barn has everything you would need - T/cot. H/chair. SatelliteTV. Video. CD player. Elec hob & oven. M/wave. F/freezer. D/washer. W/machine. T/dryer.
Outside there is a safe enclosed garden with furniture and bbq.
The nearest shops are 3 miles away in Upper Rissington with Stow on the Wold only 4 miles away . This property is perfectly located to enjoy the quiet peaceful countryside and yet only a stones throw away from many family attractions.