This bucolic region two hours northwest of London is a draw for those seeking the tranquility and rural beauty of gently rolling hills and medieval villages. Dotted with cottages of honey-colored stone, the Cotswolds is a large region covering about 800 square miles. Because of its popularity, it is important to avoid weekends and public holidays, especially in the summer.
A guide and driver can be invaluable for digging deeper and avoiding the worst of the crowds. Those wishing to strike out on their own should invest in a detailed map of the area; Andrew Harper recommends Ordnance Survey Map No. 45.
After settling into one of our recommended hotels in the Cotswolds, visit the exquisite Hidcote Manor Garden, in Hidcote Bartrim. Created in 1910 and surrounding a 17th-century manor house, this garden is closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.
After experiencing Hidcote, drive about 30 miles away and ramble down the beautifully preserved High Street of Chipping Campden, then get lunch. Next, visit eccentric Snowshill Manor, filled with the quirkly collections of Charles Wade, near the unspoiled village of the same name. Have a stroll along Broadway's striking High Street, leaving enough time to unwind before dinner.
Take a cooking lesson at restorative Daylesford Organic Farm, near Kingham, which routinely wins awards for its fine produce and artisanally prepared foods.
Work off lunch by wandering the gardens of the stately 15th-century Sudeley Castle, where Andrew Harper Travel can arrange a tour of the castle's private apartments. The fashionable spa town of Cheltenham is nearby and rich in Regency architecture and inviting parks.
Finally, drive to Painswick, a particularly beautiful stone village 40 minutes away. Dating from the 14th century, this lovely town has numerous shops to explore and art is always on show. The nearby countryside is perfect for bird-watching.
If you are visiting between April and October, pre-book a visit to The Royal Gardens at Highgrove, the private gardens of their royal highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The gardens have been lovingly tended to by Prince Charles over the past 35 years and feature a variety of flora and fauna.
After a quick stroll through the adjacent small town of Tetbury, explore Cirencester, a market town formerly the center of the region's wool industry.
Learn more about the town's Roman origins in the fascinating Corinium Museum, housing fine mosaics and other artifacts found in the area. Continue on to Bibury, one of the Cotswolds' loveliest villages, and Burford, a favorite for its excellent antique shops.