Stow-on-the-Wold(Last Updated On: 14th February 2020)
A visitor’s guide to Stow-on-the-Wold
(Last Updated On: January 22, 2019)
Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the prettiest towns in Gloucestershire. Full of honey-coloured buildings, cosy pubs, tiny tearooms and narrow streets, Stow-on-the-Wold truly is a delightful market town. Stow Hill, at a junction of seven major roads, including the Roman Fosse Way, is the highest point in the Cotswold, standing at 800 feet. At the height of the Cotswold wool industry the town was famous for its huge annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at one time. The vast Market Square testifies to the town’s former importance; at one end stands the ancient cross, and at the other the town stocks, shaded between an old elm tree. Around the square the visitor is tantalised with an elegant array of Cotswold town houses and shops. Stow is an important Cotswolds’ shopping centre and has many fine antique, gift and crafts shops and art galleries. It is a renowned centre for walking in the Cotswolds countryside.
Sightseeing & Activities
…For Kids (little and big)
Rated amongst the top attractions in the Cotswolds, the castle rooms and exhibits contain many fascinating treasures, from ancient Roman times to the present day. The castle is surrounded by a breathtaking 1,200-acre estate and ten award-winning gardens. The centrepiece is the Queens Garden, so named because four of England’s queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I – once walked upon the original Tudor Parterre. The Pheasantry at Sudeley houses a collection of 16 rare and endangered species of birds from around the world as part of Sudeley’s programme of breeding and conservation. (Note: Sudeley is open from early March to the end of December. Please check website for the current year’s dates.)
The brainchild of the 18th Century landscape designer Capability Brown and designed by the architect James Wyatt, Folly Tower is a great attraction for Cotswold visitors wanting to experience great English heritage in an inspiring location. See examples of the work of William Morris and understand the link between the Tower and the Arts and Crafts. At 1024 feet (312m) above sea level it is the second highest point on the Cotswold escarpment (Cleeve Hill is the highest at 330m). From the viewing platform you can see all around along a 62-mile radius, taking in 16 counties on a clear day. Conveniently located on the Cotswold Way, Broadway Tower is the perfect place to start a walk, with ample car parking for visitors.
Located in Bourton-on-the-Water, the Cotswold Motoring Museum’s collection is full of travel- and motoring-related vehicles, toys and memorabilia. There are seven galleries packed with classic cars and memorabilia from the 1920s, 1930s and 40s, vintage motorbikes, retro collections from the 50s, 60s and 70s, and the children’s TV star Brum (photo) who was based at the museum.
Bourton-on-the-Water has been described as the ‘Little Venice’ of the Cotswolds because of all the ancient bridges that criss-cross the River Windrush. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region being serviced by many shops, cafes and attractions.
Chastleton is a hidden gem located in the beautiful Cotswold countryside near Moreton-in-the-Marsh. A Jacobean house built between 1607 and 1612 by a prosperous wool merchant and owned by the same family until 1991, with very little changing in the house over the course of 400 years. Truly an opportunity to step back in Cotswold time!
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), which runs between Cheltenham Race Course and Broadway, is a steam and diesel heritage railway. Since 1981, the volunteers have restored over 10 miles of line, together with platforms, buildings, steam and diesel locomotives and rolling stock. In addition to a scheduled service, GWR hosts a number of galas and enthusiasts’ events throughout the year, including the ever-popular Santa Specials.
Cotswolds Walks: this area is famed for its walking. Smack bang in the middle of the glorious rolling Cotswold hills, keen walkers have plenty of choice when it comes to walks that lead straight from the village centre. A wonderful circular village walk, leading from the village’s centre is highly recommended and allows you to really appreciate Stow-on-the-Water’s rich heritage, taking you past key sites, buildings and monuments as you stroll. The walk is an easy 5.5km/3.75-mile circular miles-without-styles walk (opens pdf) around the town, taking in St Edwards well, Maugersbury and the Fosse Way.
Or walk a bit of the Cotswold Way which runs 100 miles from Chipping Campden via some wonderful Cotswold sites like Broadway Tower, Hailes Abbey, Sudeley Castle and Iron Age Hill Forts on Cleeve Hill above Cheltenham all the way down to Bath.
We encourage you to visit the Bolthole Retreats website where you will find links to walks with each of the properties in the Stow-in-the-Wold area. Or visit the Cotswold AONB website.
Time to Relax….
Cowley Manor is a secluded and tranquil venue to escape and relieve yourself from the stresses of everyday life. The award-winning spa has two swimming pools, a steam room, sauna and relaxation area. In the summertime, recline on the sun loungers by the outdoor heated pool and enjoy the bar and full waiter service on offer. There’s also a full range of treatments available using Cowley Manor’s very own nurturing Green & Spring products.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway for two or just some ‘me time’, head to The Greenway Spa for some preening, pampering, and polishing. The spa has a selection of treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room, samarium and alfresco hot tub – providing a little slice of quiescent heaven within the Cotswolds. After a hard day’s rejuvenation, enjoy a glass of fizz and a tasty supper at the Orchard Brassiere overlooking the spa gardens.
A beautiful wellness retreat at the acclaimed Daylesford Farm Shop, offering a range of pampering massage, facial and stress reduction treatments with an emphasis on the use of a holistic approach to wellbeing. Pick up some luxurious Bamford Bath & Body products whilst you’re there, all made in England using natural, responsibly sourced, organic ingredients.
A members- and guests-only paradise at the famed Soho Farmhouse. Relax with a pampering massage, manicure or pedicure, unwind in the steam room, sauna and hot tubs or take a refreshing dip in the indoor pool; with all treatments undertaken with the famed Cowshed Spa toiletry range.
For the ultimate in luxury, look no further than Barnsley House – an iconic hotel tucked away in the picturesque Cotswold village of Barnsley – where a dedicated spa hidden in the gardens offers all visitors a truly memorable day of R&R. The glass-walled spa really is the ultimate in luxury retreats, boasting an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, herbaceous sauna and indoor/outdoor lounge relaxation areas.
Cheltenham racecourse, the jewel in Jump racing’s crown, plays host to the best horse jumping action in the world from 350 spectacular acres in the lee of the beautiful Cotswold hills. Whether you’re here on a crisp bright October day or a balmy evening in May, you’ll feel that unmistakable Cheltenham magic. There are 16 days of top-class Jump racing in the Cheltenham race calendar, with hundreds of thousands of racing fans visiting every year. Spectators can enjoy a wide variety of race experiences from the relaxed meetings in October and April to the exciting November Meeting and family fun on New Year’s Day. But the real focus of the Jump season, is of course, The Festival™ presented by Magners, taking place over four days in March with the backdrop of the magnificent Cotswolds.
Cheltenham Festivals is a charity running outreach programmes throughout the year, culminating with the town’s internationally acclaimed Jazz (May), Science (June), Music (July), and Literature (October) Festivals over a total of 36 days. The four festivals feature nearly 1,000 events, with 25% of their programme free to enter. Bringing in world-famous acts, performers, experts and authors year on year, the town well and truly comes to life during the Festivals. Head to the website to see if your stay coincides with one of the above but, be warned, tickets can be snapped up months in advance for the most popular events.
Parks & Nature
Stroll around the Park and get eye-to-eye with giraffes, watch rhinos graze on the Manor House lawns, walk with lemurs, ride on the train, explore the adventure playground and meet the farm animals up close. The park also has a thriving education programme, numerous endangered species breeding programmes and several vital conservation projects in the wild.
Sitting in the heart of the Cotswolds, Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park has a long-standing reputation for a fun-filled day out. Visitors of all ages can interact closely with the animals and learn about farming, past and present. As the home of rare breed conservation, visitors can meet over 50 flocks and herds of farm animals, including Gloucestershire Old Spot Pigs and Highland cattle. There is plenty to do all year round, whatever the weather, with an adventure playground, Farm Safari, Maze, Tractor School, Sand pits and Jumping pillows, providing entertainment for children of all ages. Adam’s Kitchen cafe/restaurant and the Farm Park shop are both open to the public, so you don’t even need to buy a ticket to the Farm Park.
The 56-acre arboretum at Batsford is situated just one mile west of the historic market town of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the heart of the Cotswolds. A former home to the famous Mitford family, interest in the arboretum begins in late winter when the snowdrops, aconites and early flowering daffodils spring into life, followed by magnolias, hellebores, fritillaries and the beautiful Japanese ornamental cherries – stars of the show from late March until mid-April. The handkerchief tree is another show-stopper in May, as are the beautiful wildflower meadows which bloom in high summer.
Birdland is a 9-acre site (on a former Bryant & May Poplar Tree plantation – famous for its matchstick crop!) in a natural setting of woodland, river and gardens. It is home to over 500 birds (swans, pelicans, penguins, flamingos, hornbills, cranes, storks, cassowary, pigeons, owls and many more) in more than 50 aviaries, with open enclosures, a Desert House (home to the mocarre delicate species), and a display of fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects in the Discovery Zone. Birdland is also the home of Marshmouth Nature Reserve, which has developed into a small ecosystem of the Cotswolds where over 60 species of bird have been recorded, including the kingfisher. And within Birdland is ‘Jurassic Journey’, a trail for dinosaur enthusiasts with more than 30 different dinosaurs ranging from a metre-long baby stegosaurus to a 5-metre tall brachiosaurus.
Arts & Culture
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, just 30 minutes’ drive from Boradway. As well as major productions, there are events and activities suitable for adults and children.
Stanway is an outstandingly beautiful example of a Jacobean manor house, owned by Tewkesbury Abbey for 800 years then for 500 years by the Tracy family and their descendants, the Earls of Wemyss who still live there. The house, its fascinating furniture, the jewel-like Gatehouse, the church and 14th-century Tithe Barn, the 18th-century water-garden, the specimen trees and avenues, the surrounding villages, farms, parkland and woodland all subtly combine to create an enclave of very English and almost magical harmony. Recently it has seen the gradual restoration of the 18th century watergarden, probably designed by the greatest of British landscape gardeners, Charles Bridgeman.
Longborough Festival Opera is one of the UK’s finest country opera houses, with its 500-seat theatre overlooking the glorious rolling hills of the Cotswolds. Each performance is created especially for the Festival: talented designers, directors, conductors and the best up-and-coming artists coming together to bring you something you won’t have seen anywhere else. The 2019 Festival runs from 5 June to 3 August, and includes Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Cavalli’s La Calisto. Bring your own picnic hamper or eat in one of Longborough’s many dining options. (Note: dogs are not permitted, except guide dogs by prior arrangement.)
Still in its original Cotswold location in the Manor House on The Square in Stow on the Wold. Fosse Gallery is often described as “one of the most important UK art galleries outside London”. Founded in 1980, it has handled some of the most prestigious contemporary British art, with artists of investment quality and international standing.
The Food Scene
This stylish, multi-award-winning boutique inn with restaurant is located in the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold. The Porch House is in a handsome, Grade II listed, Cotswold stone building and lays claim to the title of ‘England’s oldest Inn’, with parts of the building dating back to 947 AD. Packed with historical, architectural and decorative features, The Porch House has wood-burning stoves and a conservatory dining space.
The restaurant at The Slaughters Manor House is one of the most acclaimed in the Cotswolds, and the proud holder of three AA rosettes by the AA Restaurant Guide. Nik Chappell, executive chef, focuses his menus on celebrating the Cotswolds’ excellent regional produce.
A former butcher’s shop now one of the most popular restaurants in Stow-on-the-Wold. Casual dining, with an extensive menu to suit all tastes, The Old Butchers also caters for private functions on and off-site, and they are the exclusive caterers for the annual Longborough Festival Opera. (See ‘Art & Culture’ above.)
The Sheep on Sheep Street serves a wide range of dishes from a seasonal menu, featuring pizzas from their wood-fired oven. Private parties are also catered for in their 32-seat Pen.
Dining in Cutler’s Restaurant is an important part of your visit to Number Four. At this stylish eatery, Executive Chef Patron, Brian Cutler and his team serve up a combination of classic English and continental dishes, incorporating many locally, supplied products, with the emphasis on seasonality and flavour. We take pride in offering food of a consistently high quality and warm and friendly service. Relax and enjoy an aperitif or glass of champagne in our comfortable lounge bar prior to dining. The Bar is open all day and we welcome non-residents for a drink, snack or to dine with us.
In the picturesque village of Nether Westcote, just 5 miles from Stow-on-the-Wold, the Feathered Nest offers a cosy, warm and welcoming atmosphere. Award-winning modern British dining in the pub, restaurant and patio areas.
Breakfast, brunch, light-bites, cream teas, coffee, wine and gins all served in Hives’ welcoming and relaxed surroundings.
Head to Huffkins for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea in their characterful grade II listed Cotswold stone building overlooking the bustling market square. A great place to pick up bread and cakes for your stay.
Traditional, English, family-run tearoom in Stow-on-the-Wold. Specialities include home-baked cream teas, cakes, homemade soups and light lunches.
Serving real ales, beers, ciders and traditional food, this is Stow’s ‘old style’ beer pub.
The Bell is open all day every day, serving everything from a pint of real ale through to a three-course supper in the dining room or bar snacks at the bar!
Useful Addresses & Contacts
Dial 999 (toll free/freephone – police, ambulance & firefighters)
- Tesco Superstore: Fosse Way, Stow-on-the-Wold GL54 1BX
- Marks and Spencer (Service Station): Station Road, Stow-on-the-Wold GL54 1JU
- Co-Operative Food – Station Rd, Bourton-on-the-Water GL54 2EP
- Londis – Cotswold Court, High St, Bourton-on-the-Water GL54 2AQ
- Stow-on-the-Wold Taxi Service – 07887 714 047
- Ambassador Taxis – 01608 644 015
- Jay Taxis – 07554424793
Private day tours of the North, South or Central Cotswolds (or designed to your own itinerary) with experienced driver-guide Ian Henry.
Discover the hidden treasures of the real Cotswolds on an exciting day tour with an expert guide on powerful 36-volt electric motor e-bikes which flatten the hills so you can enjoy the ride! A local guide leads the ride at a relaxed pace to help you appreciate the history and natural history of the area.