Alongside its rolling hills, river valleys and ancient beech woods, the thing the Cotswolds is most famous for is its beautiful Cotswolds villages with buildings built from famous honeyed Cotswold stone, which seems to capture the warmth of the sunlight in every season. I spend most of my working week criss-crossing this bucolic landscape in search of wonderful houses and am constantly taken aback by both the number and charm of these villages. It is an impossible task to pick the most idyllic, but here are ten of my favourites.
This tiny village built around the ancient church of St Nicholas is bang in the middle of the most prime part of the Cotswolds. It is walking distance from Archie Orr-Ewing’s legendary pub The King’s Head in Bledington and just a short drive to both Daylesford and Kingham (with its station for fast access into London). It is also home to my great friend Polly Oswald, founder of the deliciously scented Cotswold Candle Company.
Five miles to the west of the bustling market town of Burford is the charming Cotswold village of Sherborne. The brook on which it sits (and is named after) feeds into the river Windrush and the village is surrounded by a National Trust estate that provides fabulous walking all year round. The village shop is one of the finest in the Cotswolds, not only does it serve a mixture of essentials and luxury foodstuffs, but it also doubles as a tearoom and even sells cocktails.
Dubbed ‘the prettiest village in England’ by William Morris, Bibury is often packed with tourists during the summer months but on the outer fringes of the village you will find both peace and wonderful traditional properties. Local amenities include Bibury Trout Farm where children can catch their own fish from pools lining the River Coln and the historic Swan Hotel.
Technically Painswick, or ‘the Queen of the Cotswolds’ as it is often known, is a tiny town rather than a village but I include it here because of its serene nature and strong community feel. Famous for its yew tree-studded churchyard, it is surrounded by steep hills that provide fabulous walking. Nearby Painswick Beacon provides panoramic vistas stretching for miles over the Severn Vale, the Forest of Dean, and the Brecon Beacons mountains.
Feeling peckish? Let our foodie guide to the Cotswolds satisfy your cravings
Coln St Aldwyns
This is quite possibly my favourite village of all. ‘Coln’ is a perfectly preserved stone-built village that embodies Cotswold charm. It has a pretty church, a buzzy pub (The New Inn – which is famous for its hamburgers) and a wonderful community store run by the villagers themselves – what more do you need?
The wealth of Iron Age artefacts dug up by archaeologists around this tiny village high on the Cotswold escarpment suggest that humans have been making their homes here for thousands of years. It’s not hard to understand why – the views that it commands are literally breath-taking. It can be cold come winter though; the village takes its name from the fact that snow settles here before anywhere else in the Cotswolds.
This higgledy-piggledy, steeply built village is full of delightful houses, with equally delightful residents including the legendary Jilly Cooper. With a local store and two pubs, the village is well served and it also benefits from being just four miles from Stroud – the Cotswolds ‘alternative’ capital, which is abuzz with all manner of shops and restaurants, and, importantly, has a train station.
This village, in Worcestershire, in the very north of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is sometimes referred to as the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’. It is named after its wide high street which is fringed with beautiful Cotswold stone buildings of the most perfect colour. Tea shops abound but there is also a famously good deli and an outpost of OKA housed in a huge Georgian farmhouse. The Dormy House hotel nearby has excellent spa facilities, to boot.
High on the wish list of many of my clients hunting for houses in the Cotswolds is to be in a village with a good pub. The Bell at Sapperton is particularly excellent. The village is also surrounded by wonderful walking country, in steep sided woods and along the river Frome. Sapperton is synonymous with the Arts and Crafts movement whose influence can be seen in many of the houses in the village.
I hardly dare mention this small village hidden away in the Coln Valley as its undiscovered nature is so much part of its bucolic charm. It is centred around a tiny Norman church and dominated by the classical façade of a peerless eighteenth-century manor house. Perfectly preserved and far from the madding tourist crowds, you could be forgiven for believing that you had slipped back in time to a more peaceful era.
Kary Campbell: @katy_campbell_house_hunter