The Cotswolds are now Disneyland for the middle class – here’s where to go instead

holidays in wye travel holidays cotswolds disneyland country weekend middle class – joe daniel price

Laurie Lee moved to the Cotswolds in 1917 and remembered him thus: “I was dropped from the courier’s wagon at the age of three; and there, with a sense of bewilderment and terror, my life in the village began ”.

Swap the Hybrid SUV Cart and you will have the experience of many West London children, repotted during the pandemic. Where else would they run? For many, the rest of the British countryside has disappeared, in a breath of fresh air, lightly scented with manure. All that remains are 800 square miles of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. The Cotswolds. And so, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the average house price in the area increased by 15 percent in the year through March. This is the equivalent of £ 171 per day. Enough, in fact, to get hold of one of this season’s key rural rah accessories from Barbour’s collaboration with Alexa Chung.

Nor has this collective amnesia infected only the second home set. Even day trippers among us swerved blindly and mindlessly up the A44, in long lemming-like tailbacks. Bourton-on-the-Water (such a self-reflexively pretty place that has a sanctuary by its very smallness in the form of a model village) recently had to enlist the services of marshalls to “promote good behavior” after besieged by tourists cattle.

Unrepentant Hype

All of which makes me wonder if the Cotswolds really are all of this. They are miles from any beach. They don’t have large mountains or vast lakes. Am I really all that I am cracked to be?

In a certain way, yes. They are immodestly, shamelessly gorgeous. Rolling hills, ancient woodlands, gentle streams … home to some of Britain’s most rarely seen wildlife, as well as its most common celebrities. Not for nothing have they been named the largest area of ​​outstanding natural beauty in England. And it’s not just nature. There are all those little honey villages, with their winding alleys, church steeples and cottages built with that limestone that literally shines, as if the houses had been subjected to the same expensive juice cleaning as their new owners.

William Morris (arbiter of upper-middle-class taste since about 1860) declared Bibury “the most beautiful village in England”. Today, the Cotswolds have hard data to support this. Its architecture is actually demonstrably more beautiful than that of any other place. In 2016 Savills, estate agents, scoured all listed buildings in England and calculated that the highest concentration is in the Riversmeet neighborhood of the Cotswolds, where there are 25 listed buildings for every 100 residents. The runner-up? Ampney-Coln, also in the Cotswolds.

bibury cotswolds travel - Getty

bibury cotswolds travel – Getty

The area also wins over the other two key British measures of caliber: it has the highest number of National Trust sites in the UK and its richest concentration of antique shops outside London. Basically, the Cotswolds are a comfortable blanket of a British past. And everyone wants a corner of it. “Bourton is not a theme park, it doesn’t open and close nor is there an entry fee – it’s a lively village, home to around 4,000 residents,” the official website states. Yet … 10,000 grockles crowd its streets every day in August, more than an average day in Thorpe Park.

Across the Cotswolds as a whole, 60% of visitors prefer four- or five-star accommodations. They spend most of their money (£ 127 million per year) on food and drink, the second on shopping (£ 83 million per year). And with those who work there for the price of living there, it starts to sound a lot like Disneyland, doesn’t it?

Whose fault is it?

One could blame Raymond Blanc who, in 1984, opened his luxury hotel and restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, attracting the area’s first stars (from Michelin and the stage). Since then, both have spread like lush ivy. But perhaps the real culprit is the A417. At the end of the nineties the connecting road between the M4 and the M5 was overhauled. Suddenly, the path for timid travel writers for work (mea culpa) has become tempting. Unlike the Quantocks, Lakes or Cairngorms, the Cotswolds are located at the sweetest point in the south. For those in Birmingham, Cardiff or London these are the golden curls of the weekends: not too close, not too far.

Raymond Blanc Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons overcrowded cotswolds hotel - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Raymond Blanc Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons overcrowded cotswolds hotel – Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

And so the wheels of countless Chelsea trackers were set in motion. The Camerons arrived in 2001. The following year, Lady Daylesford opened the shop on an organic farm that a recent Tripadvisor review called “the most expensive garden center on earth.” Even Jeremy Clarkson swallowed hard when asked to fork out £ 85 for the ingredients of his he plows.

By the way, Jezza bought a farm in Chadlington in 2008, calling it Diddly Squat in a funny comment on the income of farmers who kept shearing sheep instead of tourists. But 2015 was the real watershed in the metamorphosis of the Cotswolds in Spitting Image’s campaign caricature.

This was the year Soho Farmhouse opened and the Camerons spent New Year’s Eve in an “old school nightclub” launched by limp-haired Alex James, the Britpop-himbo turned cheese cooker. A better overlooked period followed, consisting mainly of shepherd’s huts, supermodels, spa hotels, six-course tasting menus, and a particularly surreal episode in which a retiree was rear-ended for parking his yellow car outside the house, thus ruining the idyllic ones. Instagram post of Arlington Row, Britain’s most photographed row of cottages.

Arlington Row cotswolds instagram - Getty

Arlington Row cotswolds instagram – Getty

Then, the apotheosis. Last year, Boris Johnson and Carrie held their wedding party at Daylesford House, a stone’s throw from Chipping Norton and the garden center owners who had sent weekly baskets (ready meals for two, £ 50 aft) to Downing Street during the blockade. Guests relaxed on hay bales, then ate and drank round barrels. And, look, I’m sure it was divine. I’ll just leave the following here, without comments, for comparison. In the 18th century, Marie Antoinette had a farm of madness where she played dress up when she got bored of palace life (according to one story – perhaps apocryphal but persistent – goats were washed and dressed in ribbons before she milked them).

Still, you know what? What if the Cotswolds became a kind of Disneyland? They are making the rest of the British campaign a public service for which we should all be deeply grateful, absorbing all the Range Rovers and rubber stagecoaches. So let them eat the cake. Or maybe these days, a Cotswold cheese and a basket of wine (£ 110, MSRP).

You are AONB to rival the Cotswolds

The Meon Valley in Hampshire

This Hampshire paradise of rolling hills and clear chalk streams is filled with pretty villages covered in flint, wood and wisteria. Take Hambledon, whose old club earned him the nickname “cradle of cricket” and where the whoever’s shopping opportunities await you at the village vineyard and winery.

Where to stay: Langrish House, a small family-run stately home in the middle of the South Downs National Park.

The Wye Valley, Herefordshire

Considered the birthplace of British tourism, the Wye is awash with romantic riverside walks, lush alluvial meadows and steep wooded hills that have been immortalized by artists such as Turner and poets including Wordsworth and Coleridge. “If you’ve never sailed the Wye, you’ve seen nothing,” wrote Reverend William Gilpin, the original travel writer, in 1782.

Where to sleep: Bridge House, a Georgian B&B on the riverside near Ross.

Wye Valley alternative to Cotswolds - Alamy

Wye Valley alternative to Cotswolds – Alamy

High Weald, Kent and East Sussex

Literally storybook stuff, the High Wealds have rolling hills, babbling streams, historic homes, and ancient woodlands (including the current 100-acre wood). Take a trip on the Bluebell Railway, visit Sissinghurst Castle, and don’t forget to play sticks.

Where to stay: The Bell in Ticehurst, a 16th century inn once frequented by Rudyard Kipling.

Howardian Hills, North Yorkshire

Nestled between the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of York, these rolling hills are dotted with scenic villages, classic park landscapes and Iron Age earthworks. It is so surprising that much of Brideshead Revisited was filmed here. It is named after the Howard family, who still own much of the land and whose magnificent 18th century home is not to be missed.

Where to stay: The Star Inn, a Michelin-starred restaurant with chocolate box rooms, thatched-roof pub look.

Cranborne Chase, southern England

Straddling Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, this great AONB takes its name from the hunts that once took place there. It is now one of only 17 Dark Sky reserves in the world, in recognition of its light pollution-free conditions for stargazing. In daylight, think of the gentle limestone hills, woods that are home to centuries-old trees, and clear chalk streams. Then there is Cranborne itself, probably the most beautiful village in Dorset.

Where to stay: 10 Castle Street, a beautiful Queen Anne house, with a magnificent garden and nine bedrooms, at the end of a road in the pretty village of Cranborne.

10 Castle Street hotel in Dorset - Getty

10 Castle Street hotel in Dorset – Getty

Dedham Vale, Essex and Suffolk

This pretty stretch of wide river, water meadows and church steeples under the great skies of East Anglia is truly perfect – it’s known as Constable Country, but Gainsborough was drawn to painting it too. Half-timbered houses and rickety windows abound in prettier villages like Stoke-by-Nayland. Rent a rowboat from Dedham Boathouse and drift down the River Stour.

Where to stay: The Sun Inn is a cozy 15th century pub with rooms. Low beam, a wood burner and Suffolk beers on tap. More decent, seasonal and local food.

What other areas of outstanding natural beauty rival the Cotswolds? Tell us in the comments section below

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