Local Area & Attractions
If it’s chocolate-box charm you’re after, your cup will overflow when you visit The Cotswolds. The unique Area of Natural Beauty nestling among gently rolling hills is packed with quaint villages, honey-coloured stone cottages, historic market towns, spectacular views and so much to see and do that you’ll need more than one visit.
The Painswick Valley
The most enchanting part of the green and pleasant land of The Cotswolds is the peaceful, bucolic Painswick Valley, a few miles north of the Gloucestershire town of Stroud.
This is an idyllic place to immerse yourself in the countryside that was immortalised by the poet and author Laurie Lee in the chronicle of his childhood, “Cider with Rosie”. The late Laurie Lee now lies in the churchyard in the village of Slad, but his presence is very much still felt in and around the rural hamlets and valleys that he so loved. He was a wise man in many respects because he was known to enjoy a drink and a home-cooked dinner at the Edgemoor Inn with its magnificent views across the Painswick Valley.
Today visitors drop in to the very same Inn to fuel up on local brews and delicious meals before exploring the historic wool town of Painswick, known as “Queen of the Cotswolds” because of its regal hilltop situation. From the Painswick Beacon you can see right across the Severn Valley to the Welsh mountains.
Painswick is a delight for walkers, sitting as it does halfway along the Cotswolds Way National Trail, and surrounded by some fabulous walking country. If you prefer wheels, there are plenty of cycle routes to follow. It also boasts an 18-hole golf course, and the country’s oldest bowling green. For the less sporty there is plenty of interest to discover in the town itself, including some great galleries and shops in its narrow streets.
Seek out solitude in the intimate and fantastic Painswick Rococo Garden, designed for gentlemanly leisure and pleasure, hidden in its own valley setting.
Laurie Lee is remembered too in the ancient woodland which has been named for him in the Slad Valley. Take a ramble through the three-hectare wood which teems with native flora and fauna. The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust opened the wood next to its Swift’s Hill nature reserve in 2014, to mark the centenary of Lee’s birth.
If you want to learn more about the wonders of Painswick and the nearby villages of Slad, Sheepscombe and Pitcombe, pop into the Tourist Information Centre in Painswick – which bizarrely happens to be located in the Gravedigger’s Hut in the marvellous churchyard of St Mary’s.
If you want a touch of urban life during your visit to The Cotswolds, call in to the market town of Stroud, tucked below the western escarpment of the Cotswold Hills, where Five “Golden” Valleys – including the Painswick Valley – meet.
Although it’s a sizable town, Stroud has a country character, having famously been described by the London Evening Standard as “Notting Hill with wellies”. Wellies might not be the best footwear to choose for exploring the town, however, because its situation means it has very steep streets to navigate. It’s well worth exploring on foot though, to soak up the creative atmosphere of this hub of arts and crafts.
There are dozens of fascinating, often quirky, little shops and cafes, and if you’re there on a Saturday you’ll be able to experience the town’s wonderful award-winning Farmers’ Market, rated as one of the top markets in the country. The town is proud of its “green” status, and you’ll find a plethora of organic food on offer.
Historically Stroud boasts an industrial heritage, based on a number of textile mills strung along the valleys. You can still visit some of the old mills, and two of the mills continue to make cloth – felt that is used for Wimbledon tennis balls. In days of yore the mills churned out the bright “Stroudwater Scarlet” used for military uniforms.
The best way to find out about the town’s past is to visit the Museum in the Park, set in the beautiful grounds of Stratford Park. While you’re there you can also see the amazing “secret” walled garden, and stroll around the adjacent modern art gallery.
The town’s Tourist Information Office is situated in the Stroud Subscription Rooms, George Street – a venue that was built in 1833 by public subscription and still serves as an artistic, entertainment and civic town centre hub, with a coffee house and bar thrown in.
Stroud has a packed programme of festivals, exhibitions and special events taking place throughout the year. The biggest and best of these is the very vibrant Stroud Fringe Festival, held over the August Bank Holiday weekend each year, with an eclectic mix of entertainment including music, comedy, creative workshops, food stalls and more spread across the town.