We’ve teamed up with Danielle from The Room Alive to explore a weekend in the Cotswolds, with the little ones in tow.
Think of the perfect family weekend away spent in the Cotswolds with a relaxing stay in a charming hotel. Fun and stimulating places for the kids, colourful cafes, fine dining restaurants and gastro pubs offering an array of delicious meal options, breath taking scenery and luxury boutique hotels.
Now make it less than two hours from home… it couldn’t get any better. Whilst we love taking the kids to discover new places, we don’t enjoy spending hours in the car to get to a destination, children get restless and long journeys can most times be quite painful for the whole family. Which is why for our latest weekend break we chose a very special place close to home: a weekend break in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds covers a huge area, stretched across the counties of Gloucesteshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire you can get to it quite easily within an hour from many places in the UK. Even a trip from central London by train, is just over an hour.
Throughout the Cotswolds you can expect to see a lot of golden stone buildings and rolling hills, which define this picturesque region of the UK. It has several villages scattered around and it is very easy to drive from one to the next, making it a great place to explore and discover new quintessentially English market towns, palaces, castles and country homes, all whilst admiring the landscape. It is also a great destination for keen walkers, with more than 3,000 miles of footpaths and bridleways to explore.
We have recently tried and tested a few places that make a great family weekend break with plenty of fun for the little ones and special treats for the grown-ups, and will leave the whole family wanting to come back for more.
The Sheep on Sheep Street Hotel
Our first stop was The Sheep on Sheep Street Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel newly refurbished in 2016. Originally three buildings dating back to the 17th century, this family friendly hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds has gone through a number of renovations and it keeps its gold stone charm amongst the new soho style décor. . I admit that I select a hotel partially by its décor and The Sheep did not disappoint! The service we received was outstanding and they were very quick to answer to any requests we had. The bedroom décor was modern and elegant, with a very comfortable bed and pillows (you can always judge a hotel by its pillows!) and a large bath.
Bonus points for being also a dog friendly hotel, so if travelling with dogs it is good to reserve one of their dog-friendly rooms.
The Sheep is the perfect stop-over in this charming town. Originally a market town built to make the most of its central location and passing traffic, Stowe is beautiful and has been holding markets for over 900 years. Weather and kids allowing, the next morning would have been perfect for a stroll to the Ancient Wells which is nearby and pram-friendly. Or alternatively you can check the many walks you can do around Stow to discover more of the beautiful rolling hills.
Cotswolds Wildlife Park
The Cotswolds Wildlife Park, located in Burford, halfway between Oxford and Cheltenham, is a must-do during any family weekend break. It holds one of the UK’s largest zoological collections and it is beautifully laid out. We have visited a few zoos and wildlife parks before, and this one is my favourite by far. It has a relaxed atmosphere and the kids were able to play with some of the animals, like the sheep – which was definitely a hit with our toddler
It is set in a stunning park and we chose a beautiful autumn day to visit, so best check the weather as your visit will be even better if the sun is shining – although you will still enjoy it if not.
There is a family friendly restaurant and a huge outdoor play area with climbing frames and slides for kids of any age. Plenty of picnic areas are available if you choose to bring your own food.
We pre-booked our tickets online and it is slightly cheaper than paying at the gate, and there was parking available with easy access to the park. We spent about four hours in the Costwolds Wildlife Park, and we had a chance to see almost everything during that time. It is one place that we definitely look forward to returning to soon.
The Kings Hotel Afternoon Tea
After having spent an active afternoon outdoors we looked forward to our next stop: a very traditional English afternoon tea, as you should when you are in the Cotswolds.
Chipping Campden is the perfect place to stay with a wide choice of family-friendly hotels and plenty of shopping. This ancient wool merchants’ town has many beautiful buildings, from St James Church right through to Dover’s Hill offering stunning views and family activities. If you have plenty of time to spend there, explore the town and all the different architectural building styles or go for a walk in the surrounding areas.
We chose to have Afternoon Tea in The Kings Hotel in the centre of town. A beautiful boutique townhouse hotel, they have cottage rooms and also standard rooms available. The afternoon tea was delicious, we were warmly welcomed on arrival and the team arranged to sit us in the dining room so we wouldn’t be ‘disturbed’ by the wedding party arriving later that day. They were very accommodating with our two children, bringing biscuits and toasts with butter for our fussy toddler who turned her nose up at our delicious sandwiches and home-made scones. The cakes were delightful– there was a good variety of flavours and it was just what we needed to get cosy on a cold English afternoon.
If you fancy staying here (an admirable choice) just remember to book in advance if you visit during peak season as this is a popular area and hotel.
Daylesford Farm is a 2350-acre organic farm, though it is a lot more than just a farm. Think of a Scandinavian inspired organic farm shop with activities for the whole family and locally produced items that you simply cannot leave without. That’s Daylesford Farm.
A stunning farm shop, with a Spa, café, restaurant, butcher, garden shop, workshop studio and even a crèche on site. And on top of all that, on a sunny day you can also enjoy all the scenery around it. The farm is beautifully decorated to awaken all your senses and you may leave with a long wish list of things that you didn’t even know you needed until you walked in, but they’ll make you extremely happy. A must-visit when you are in the area.
Stay at The Wild Rabbit
An idyllic hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds, The Wild Rabbit is a stunning boutique hotel with a jaw-dropping restaurant where they support British farmers and artisan producers. They were awarded a Michelin star in 2016, by using the finest seasonal ingredients to create dishes that celebrate traditional British cooking with a contemporary twist. The bedrooms are decorated with care and attention to provide an unforgettable stay, and aside from hotel rooms they also have cottages available and they also welcome dogs in a number of rooms.
What more could we ask for? Well, there is also the pub and bar area for when you just want to have a break in a more casual environment. The Wild Rabbit is family friendly and it was the perfect spot for us to have a break before our next destination, the girls were happy with their treats and down time and we were happy with the service and relaxed atmosphere.
And there is more. They also have bikes available for their staying guests, so you can discover the Cotswolds on two wheels for a different experience. Their customers travel long distances to have the chance to spend some time there, so it is advised to book in advance if you are planning a meal or a stay at The Wild Rabbit.
The Fairy Tale Farm
It was time to get the little ones entertained, as there is only so much shopping, sight-seeing and eating kids can do in one day. The Fairy Tale Farm is located in Chipping Norton and it was the perfect place to stop for the kids to be entertained, as it was compact yet had plenty of activities for them.
The Fairy Tale Farm was designed for children with disabilities and they created a fantastic place where children of all abilities can have a blast. It is divided into zones and we visited three of them: Huff and Puff for adventure play; Enchanted Walk for a sensory experience; and Alfie and Friends, the farm animals’ area which was the most popular with our toddler.
As you enter, there is a casual café where they sell cold and warm food, followed by a seating & play area with plenty of toys to keep children entertained if they can’t sit through their meals. The Fairy Tale Farm are extending and plan to open a much bigger café with more space and entertaining, so it will be able to accommodate many more visitors soon!
The farm is laid-out so that you have to walk through all the different play areas making it a fun route to get to the most popular zone, Alfie and Friends where you can feed the animals. There are vending machines for animal food (or alternatively you can purchase the food when you arrive at the ticket desk). Great entertainment for little ones! A fun afternoon to end our family weekend break at the beautiful Cotswolds.
The best part of our weekend away, after all the places we have been and things we have done over the two days, we only had just under an hour drive to get back home. No one got too grumpy or tired, and no breaks were needed to stretch the legs. The two-year old has really enjoyed her adventures and kept saying how much she would like to go back, whilst the baby was stimulated by all the different sights. This is just a fraction of what there is to do there, therefore another family weekend break at the Cotswolds will be in order soon! And next time, we are taking our dog too.
Danielle is a proud mum and home interiors guru. Her site, The Room Alive, is a blend of practical family living and home inspiration. Stylish both home and away, she has a great eye for beautiful hotels and knows all the tips and tricks in travelling with the little ones!