10 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Cotswolds this Spring
The Cotswolds is pure gold for tourists seeking out the English idyll of old – and even more so for the coach tours and guides that routinely deliver bus-loads of visitors to the various villages. The area itself is still an astonishingly untouched glimpse of countryside life from another era, with staggeringly beautiful villages and towns dotted around rolling green hills and fields. When folks overseas imagine what ‘England’ looks like, I reckon they probably conjure up something close to the Cotswolds. With all of this in mind, it’s worth being tactical about when you visit the area, as it’s a shame not to see these glorious pockets of history at their best. All things considered, I think spring is a brilliant option for a Cotswolds visit, and hopefully this will convince you as to why.
1. Fewer tourists
As mentioned, the Cotswolds gets far more than its fair share of visitors, and there’s nothing that ruins the joy of sightseeing faster than having to contend with frantic foreigners waving selfie sticks. In summer, the area will usually be heaving with visitors, both British and international. The best way to experience the villages is to potter around the streets and lanes, stopping off for the odd coffee or pub lunch – not fighting for seats in cafes or photo ops. Fewer tourists in spring – either due to worries about weather, school term times or visitors holding out for a summer trip – mean that some of the region’s most well-known sights are surprisingly quiet. Be sure to avoid Easter and half terms, and it will be easy to both enjoy the area and snap crowd-free photos.
2. Beautiful spring sunshine
In the UK, there’s something special about the first few sunny spring days. Cool, fresh mornings often reveal cloudless skies, and on days like the one pictured below, the sky stays clear all the way through to a hazy sunset. The honeycomb-coloured stone that the area is so famous for looks particularly warm in bright sunshine, and contrasts beautifully with a deep blue sky. Head out early in the morning to spot low-lying mist over fields, particularly if you’re staying somewhere with a river or stream nearby – the photographs will be spectacular.
3. Cosy evenings in front of the fire
Whilst the weather in the day will be perfect for sightseeing and photography, the chilly spring evenings mean you’ll get to experience that other Cotswolds classic – a cosy night in front of a roaring log fire. This way you really do get the best of both worlds: whilst winter will bring plenty of fireside time, the risk of bad weather is higher, whilst during sultry summer nights, the last place you’ll want to be is near a crackling fire. Spring wins this one, hands down.
4. Flowers are blooming, lambs are leaping…
In addition to good weather (hopefully), you’ll also get to see the best of spring complementing the Cotswold’s natural beauty. Hedgerows and gardens are brimming with daffodils and tulips, while the linen-fresh whites and pinks of magnolia trees are bursting into bloom. Travelling between villages through the countryside, there will be plenty of fuzzy lambs dotted around the fields, and listen out for birdsong in the evenings and mornings.
5. Shops and tourist attractions are getting ready for the summer season
Following the lull that drags on after Christmas (January and February, I’m looking at you), shops and tourist venues will be starting to gear up for the summer season, but crucially won’t be too busy and stressful. Some traders will also be open to deals, particularly those on more traditional stalls or markets. We managed to reduce the price of an antique map we purchased at a pop-up vintage fair by a third, with little difficulty. Spring will also be a great time to shop for any local and seasonal produce, and farm shops should have plenty of delicious things on offer.
6. The days are longer
Springtime also means the start of British Summer Time, with clocks going forward an hour and the prospect of long summer nights to come. Whilst any visit in spring will be some way off the longest days of the year (usually late June), you’ll get a few more hours in the day to enjoy the
beer garden picturesque sights. Late afternoon and early evening are also wonderful times to walk around a village, after the daytrippers have left. The Cotswold stone looks particularly lovely in twilight, and with most of the traffic dispersed the villages are generally very peaceful.
7. Hotels aren’t fully booked
If you avoid peak times like Easter and half-term school holidays, there are some excellent deals to be had, and many more last-minute options. We also managed to find a hotel (the lovely Bay Tree in Burford) that didn’t enforce the widespread two-night minimum stay on weekends. Many of the small villages are easily walkable, so don’t worry too much about a hotel’s location – it’s unlikely you’ll be far from the centre of the action.
8. Restaurants aren’t rammed and cafes aren’t crowded
Likewise, you’ll find it much easier to rock up without a restaurant reservation, and to snag a super spot at that cosy cafe. It’s still always worth booking ahead for special meals or if you have a specific place in mind – after all, this place is never empty of tourists. However, if you did just want to meander and see where the day takes you, it’s less likely that you’ll have the hassle of fighting over the last table or queuing for ages for coffee. We turned up at the coffee shop below in Stow-on-the-Wold around peak lunch hours on a sun-drenched Saturday, to find a row of empty seats just waiting to be snapped up.
9. The weather is great for walking
Out for an early morning ramble through the lanes? No problem. Heading up the hilly high street in Burford? No sweat. (Literally). Even if walking isn’t your thing, it’s likely you’ll spend most of your time in the Cotswolds wandering around, either from one pub to the next if not through the countryside itself. Walking in the spring is perfect – whilst you’ll hopefully be lucky and get some sun, the overall temperature still shouldn’t be too hot, and there’s often a cooling breeze. Just remember to still pack accordingly (months like March and April are as likely to see snow and rain as sunshine) and keep things practical, and you should enjoy your surroundings rain or shine.
10. Driving is a breeze
Public transport isn’t great for this area, so it’s likely you’ll be getting around in a car if you’re travelling under your own steam. Much of the Cotswolds is covered in single carriageway, winding ‘A’ roads, which can get horribly clogged with traffic in peak summer periods, or iced up (and maybe even snowed under) in the depths of winter. Visiting in spring makes it much more likely that getting around will be (relatively) stress free, and you’ll enjoy the scenic drives much more. Parking is also a major consideration, as many of the villages either have quite restricted street parking or small car parks. That said, many of the car parks have fairly cheap charges or are sometimes free – we found free parking very easily in the middle of Stow-on-the-Wold, and paid £1 for two hours parking in Chipping Campden, again in the centre of the village. Avoid the stress of doing laps of the town searching for a space, and visit in spring when there are fewer tourists in town.
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