With beautiful countryside and pretty little villages, the Cotswolds makes for one of the best chilled weekend breaks outside London. Although you might think spring and summer would be the best time to visit, there’s lots to be said for a winter break too – it’s far quieter, cheaper, and you can cosy up by the fire in one of the many great pubs after a long walk. We headed out in the depths of February for the weekend, so here’s a few tips on how to spend a winter weekend in the Cotswolds.
The Crown Inn
The Crown Inn is located in the very quiet village of Church Enstone, which is close to Chipping Norton and to Soho Farmhouse. There’s not much else going on in the village other than the pub, but the location makes for a nice base to explore – you can also nip in to Farmhouse if you are a member or know someone that is. The pub itself is a classic old stone building with bar and dining room downstairs, and just five guest rooms upstairs. We bedded in for the night in the ‘Heythrop’ room, a King Double with en-suite that had a huge rolltop bathtub – another benefit of a winter visit is a nice hot bath at the end of the day. For dinner, we tucked into classic pub dishes such as ham hock terrine, and beef & Guinness pie with mash and winter greens, plus apple crumble for dessert. If you’re staying over, don’t miss the full English fry up the next morning too, all made with produce from local farms.
Middle Rose Cottage, Blockley
For our next two nights we stayed in the beautiful village of Blockley in a little cottage managed by local specialists Luxury Cotswolds Retreats. We stayed in Middle Rose cottage, a very slender house in the heart of the village. The house can sleep four people, but it’s probably better for just a couple – although it’s split over three floors, the very narrow size of the house does mean that everything is packed into quite a small space, so it could get crowded with more than two of you. Downstairs there’s a stone fireplace, living area and kitchen; a small bedroom and bathroom on the first floor; and then the master bedroom on the top floor. Thankfully the lofted ceilings mean you won’t be banging your head up here, but watch out in the rest of the house! It’s all very cosy, rustic and charming.
D’Ambrosi Fine Foods
Although there are a couple of pubs and an excellent cafe in Blockley (more on that below) we wanted to have our first meal in the house – but we didn’t really want to have to cook. So on the way we stopped in Stow-on-the-Wold to visit D’Ambrosi Fine Foods. Run by Jess and Andrew D’Ambrosi, this cute little deli (they also have a new one in Chelsea now FYI) has everything you need for a dinner at home, with minimal effort required. We got brilliant fried chicken with a sweet maple chilli dressing; a zesty charred corn salad with red onion and lime; Vietnamese-style ‘slaw; and spicy sesame noodles with cucumber. Do not miss desserts either – there is an incredible clementine almond cake with dark chocolate glaze that is seriously next level!
Blockley is a sleepy little village (which is a plus point in our books) but it does have a great little cafe – Blockley Cafe. We headed there in the mornings for breakfast, where you can get classics like a Full English and eggs benedict, as well as teas and proper coffee. We had chorizo hash with poached eggs, as well as a banging bacon sarnie. What’s perhaps more unexpected is the fact that they are also open for dinner – the menu changes every four weeks and is served Wednesday – Saturday. Well worth checking out.
Blockley is a great base for walks in the area, and we started a great circular 5 mile route directly after breakfast at the cafe. If you haven’t downloaded the All Trails app yet, get it now. The basic version is free and it will show you all the walks in the area – and ensure you won’t get lost.
The Milton Hare
On the drive back to London, we stopped at The Hare (which is actually owned by the same people as The Crown Inn). We parked up, went for another huge walk, and rewarded ourselves with a pint and an epic Sunday roast at The Hare afterwards. A seriously good roast beef with all the trimmings, Yorkshire puds, excellent gravy and a huge vat of cauliflower cheese. It’s well worth making a stop here.