The Cotswolds is designated as England's largest 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' with spectacular with breath-taking scenery - as an area it's 100 miles north to south, with gently rolling countryside of hills and steep valleys, picturesque stone villages that are often referred to as the 'Undiscovered Cotswolds'.
Villages such as Painswick cling to steep-sided valleys, old woollen mills can be found alongside the streams, and commons stretch across the hilltops at Minchinhampton and Selsley. Nearby Slad was the setting for the author and poet Laurie Lee's book 'Cider with Rosie'.
The Cotswold Way passes through Painswick and you can explore many other wonderful walks that link Painswick with the neighbouring villages; Sheepscombe, Edge and Slad to name a few. Painswick Rococo Garden and Misarden Park Gardens are all within easy reach of Painswick. Trains serve the town from London Paddington.
Here in the South West Cotswolds the area has denser woodland and a wilder nature, especially in the five valleys around Stroud, which Painswick is considered to be the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’. Undulating areas of pastureland and ancient woodland make this unspoilt valley unique. Boasting 140 designated footpaths, from leisurely strolls through the woods, to steep climbs and wonderful views, these are a wonder not to be missed. You will be away from the crowds of tourists you find in the north Cotswolds and you will feel like you have discovered something special.
There are endless great walks, picnic sites and views. Here are just a few:
Snows Farm Nature reserve – Just across the Slad Valley you'll find a mixture of meadow, woodland and utter tranquility. Stunning.
Swift’s Nature Reserve – a steep climb brings you breath-taking views and 13 species of wild orchid, overlooking Slad Valley and across the Severn to Wales. Adjacent to Laurie Lee Wood, another beautiful ancient woodland, named after the valley's most famous former resident.
Frith Wood Nature Reserve - this lovely ancient beech wood is brimming with wildlife including deer, and provides a 60 minute walk from Painswick, a great walk to The Woolpack in Slad.
Rodborough Common - a favourite picnic site, overlooking the next valley. See pic on right. And a good pub - The Bear.
Selsley Common (4 miles) - fantastic hill-top views and wonderful wildlife.
Roman Villa (6 miles) - the remains of a large and luxurious Roman villa built around AD250, with bathhouse complex.
Castles and gardens
Here are some of the most popular local places to visit:
Painswick Rococo Garden – the last remaining Rococo garden, carefully restored using an original painting as a blueprint, and boasting a brand new Anniversary Maze.
Woodchester Mansion (6 miles) – an unfinished Gothic masterpiece – suspended in time but revealing many of its structural secrets. Check the website for open days.
Prinknash Abbey, and the adjoining Prinknash Bird Park (2 miles) – the serene promontory setting of a modern abbey, pottery and tearooms, combined with a perfect venue for children who will enjoy the pygmy goats, baby deer and feeding trout.
Westonbirt Arboretum (17 miles) – stunning landscaped grounds, which are home to some of the world’s tallest, oldest and rarest trees.
Delight the children with a visit to Cattle Country (17 miles) – an outdoor Adventure Playground and indoor chutes, slides, and scramble nets.
Ornothologists should visit Slimbridge Wetland Centre (13 miles), the only place in Britain to see all six varieties of flamingo!
And there's more…Selsley Herb Nursery at Bisley, the Jenner Museum and, set amidst a splendid tree collection overlooking the lake in Stroud's Stratford Park, Stroud’s Museum In The Park displays elements of the District’s local history never before on view.
Towns and villages
You could spend a week just driving around the honey-coloured market towns and villages of the Cotswolds admiring the timeless beauty of this unspoilt part of England.
The official Cotswolds tourist site lists most of the best places.
We also love Bisley, Miserden, Sheepscombe and Minchinhampton all very close by. A little further will find Cirencester (Roman capital of Britain), Tetbury, where Prince Charles has a food shop, and Highgrove's gardens are now open to explore, Bibury (very picturesque and with a great trout farm), Winchcombe and (when it's less crowded, out of season) the incredibly twee Bourton-on-the-Water with its bird park and miniature village.
Local area used in films and TV production
'Poldark' is the latest BBC drama to use the Cotswolds as a location. Chavenage House, between Nailsworth and Tetbury, is the setting for the Poldark family's Cornish home.
Chavenage House was also used in the recent adaptation of 'Wolf Hall.' The success of this historical drama also shone a light on other south Cotswolds' locations such as Berkeley Castle. Its inner bailey and Great Hall can be spotted in various scenes.
Viewers of BBC1’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ may have spotted the beautiful locations used in the Stroud District. The fictitious village of Pagford is not just one village, but a mix of Painswick, Minchinhampton and Bisley (as well as Northleach and Burford).
While the buildings housing Samantha’s Boudoir and Pagford Library can be found in Painswick, Barry Fairbrother’s house was in Bisley. The Mollison family party was held in Minchinhampton's Market House. Pagford Church is actually a combination of Painswick and Bisley churches.
Gloucester?s historic cathedral cloisters were transformed into the corridors of Hogwart?s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the films of JK Rowling?s first two books ?Harry Potter and the Philosopher?s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Looking to book a Gloucestershire self catering holiday rental? The Coach House Painswick offers self catering Cotswolds holiday accommodation. Available for holiday rentals and short breaks all year. Sleeps 8 (+2 adults & +2 children).
The Coach House self catering home Painswick, Gloucestershire.