As Storm Francis set in across the country, I decided to book a last-minute camping trip to the Cotswolds… crazy, you might say… and many did.
Thanks to furlough, I’ve been away from my 9-5 for the majority of summer and I’ve tried to squeeze in as much hiking as my little legs could manage. I was also determined to take on some solo camping trips during my unplanned time off, but with none arranged and August quickly coming to an end it wasn’t looking likely.
However, following the good news that I’d be going back to full-time work in September, I took to planning one final adventure to round off summer. Returning to my trusty ‘501 days out‘ book, I flicked through and found several pages recommending the ‘chocolate box’ villages in the Cotswolds. I found a campsite with a pitch available for two nights at short notice and, on a whim, booked it.
So, here’s my last-minute itinerary for two days exploring the beautiful Cotswolds:
08:00 – 11:30:
Unable to pitch up at the campsite until 2pm, I decided to set off early and head straight for an adventure. I chose Leckhampton Hill as my first destination in the Cotswolds, as a quick search suggested the area of Jurassic rock is ideal for a leisurely hike. Standing at over 290 metres, the established nature reserve offers incredible views across the county below.
Areas on Leckhampton Hill have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest because of its historical features. One popular view point among the hikers exploring the hill is Devil’s Chimney – a limestone rock that stands above the town’s old quarry. There are a number of different routes up Leckhampton Hill, with many joining the Cotswolds Way. A fellow hiker I got chatting to whilst falling in love with his Labradoodle puppy, was shocked to learn that I wasn’t marching the complete National Trail, from Chipping Campden to Bath – that’s over 100 miles!
11:30 – 13:30:
A quick stop in the busy tourist trap of Bourton-on-the-Water, known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, gave me some time to enjoy an ice cream whilst dangling my feet in the River Windrush. The high street was crowded with tourists soaking up the quintessential British village and enjoying the many cafes and shops that line the river’s edge. A popular attraction in the small village is the Cotswold Motoring Museum – great if you’re a lover of vintage Minis and VW Campervans, like me.
13:30 – 14:30:
After a morning well spent exploring, I headed to the campsite to pitch up and have some lunch. In an attempt to keep costs low, I prepared a few sandwiches and tubs of pasta to have whilst out and about over the two days. Barn Field Campsite is an adult-only site not far from Bourton-on-the-Water and is owned by the lovely Bleddyn. Each pitch is separated by tall bushes, providing privacy and essential shelter from the typical British weather. I was very impressed with the peaceful site and the excellent facilities – I’m not being paid to say this, I swear!
14:30 – 17:00:
After throwing my pop-up tent to the ground, I was pitched and ready for the next adventure. I headed further down the River Windrush to the small town of Burford, which is often referred to as the ‘gateway’ to the Cotswolds. A popular tourist destination, the street is packed with pubs, cafes, and a few antique shops. I made a visit to The Cotswold Cheese Company to pick up some Windrush Valley Goats Cheese – it would have been rude not to – and watched the world go by from The Highway Inn’s outdoor seating area. As the shops started to close, I decided it was time to head back to the campsite for a chilled evening by my tent.
08:00 – 11:00:
I started the day early as there was a lot of ground I wanted to cover, setting off for Cleeve Hill – the highest point in Gloucestershire. I was expecting great things from a peak standing over 1,000 feet, and due to the many guides recommending a visit to the area, however I was somewhat underwhelmed. Perhaps my recent visit to The Malvern Hills had set my expectations of amazing views too high, but the vast open farm fields limited the views and eliminated that jaw-dropping impact some summits provide.
There were a number of dog walkers and it would be an amazing stroll for a local, however, to me, it didn’t have the adventurer appeal. Keen to move onto the next stop of my Cotswolds tour, I headed further North within the Area of Natural Beauty to the quaint town of Chipping Campden. Known for it’s picturesque high street dating back to the 14th century, tourists flock to the many shops and cafes and explore the stately church grounds. I had a pleasant bimble along the cobbled high street and through the 400-year-old market hall, but it’s worth noting that most of the shops don’t open until 11am!
11:00 – 15:00:
Moving on from Chipping Campden, I headed to Moreton-in-Marsh where the heavens opened and washed away the summer holiday vibes. Reluctantly opting for a pot of tea instead of my standard ice cream treat, I decided to hide from the elements in one of the many cafes that can be found in the small market town. Victoria’s Coffee House, a cosy independent lounge, provided shelter and with free WiFi and plug sockets, I set up my laptop and settled in for the afternoon.
It wasn’t the day I had originally planned, but it was great to have some time to work on a few projects whilst people watching through the drizzle-covered window.
15:00 – 16:00:
Determined not to spend the entire afternoon hauled up staring at my laptop screen – something that’s easily done – I drove to a few more places on my wish list, including Stow-on-the-Wold and Lower Slaughter.
Stow-on-the-Wold is another well-known market town in the Cotswolds, which was once famous for its sheep markets. Sitting on top of an 800-foot hill, the slow and steady tourist hotspot makes for a great afternoon in the Gloucestershire countryside. Given the pouring rain, I wasn’t keen to spend too long walking from shop door to shop door, so I did a lap round the square and up through the church grounds before rescuing my car from a flash flood that was filling the car park!
Lower Slaughter is a much smaller destination and one mainly frequented for just one street… Copse Hill Road is narrow and runs along the River Eye and was voted as Britain’s most romantic street. The sleepy village vibes and peaceful green spaces along the river certainly provide the backdrop for a romance novel – even in heavy rain, it painted quite the picture.
Thoroughly soaked through, I called it a day and headed back to the campsite for an evening of reading and writing in my tent.
There are several places I would have liked to visit if I had more time and more luck with the weather, such as Cirencester. A fellow camper had no qualms about calling me a ‘silly willy’ for not visiting the ‘capital’ of the Cotswolds, so I’ll have to add it to my ‘next time’ list.
Do you have a recommendation of where I should head next? Let me know.