There is more to England than the bright city lights, museums, shopping, and tourist areas of London. When you travel in any direction away from London, you will find yourself easily in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). England has one of the largest Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty of the United Kingdom located in the Cotswolds and covered in gentle rolling hills, beautiful hiking areas, breathtaking viewpoints, and charming quintessentially English villages and market towns.
The Cotswolds are perfect for hillwalking, cycling, backpacking, exploring, and even simple, low-key staycations with their dog-friendly eateries, dog-friendly hotels, and dog-friendly rentals. It’s a perfect area for you and your family to visit for a weekend getaway or even a last minute day trip.
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The Cotswolds were deemed an AONB since 1966, making it the largest AONB in England. England designated AONBs to 18% of the country to provide it with a status where nature is strictly conserved. The Cotswolds AONB runs from Chippen Camden (north) down to Bath (south) and covers an area of 790 sq. miles (2,038 sq. km).
Besides the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are so many unique places to visit in the Cotswolds with its picturesque viewpoints, beautiful hikes, adorable English towns, lavender farms, and more.
When To Go
The Cotswolds are beautiful all year round. When there's a dusting of snow, it looks like a page out of a fairytale. Visiting in the summer or early fall (June through September) is the most ideal with the sunny weather and all of the flowers and foliage in full bloom, which brings so much color and vibrancy to the rolling hills and picturesque English towns.
Plan ahead and try to go when it's not raining your entire stay. But even if there are bouts of showers, there is bound to be sunshine breaking through in between. Personally, my trip was during the rainy end of summer (end of August) and it rained about half of the time, but there were bursts of sun here and there.
What to Bring
Waterproof Hiking Boots - You can find terrain that is moderately difficult to hike as well as easy hikes. Irregardless, if there is a chance of rain, be prepared with waterproof hiking boos so there is no slipping and sliding in the muddy trails while hillwalking.
Raincoat - Since it is England, there is always a chance of rain. Be sure to pack a raincoat wherever you go so you never have to slow down by hiding away indoors to wait for the rain to stop.
How to Get There
Take the Great Western Railway (GWR) from the Paddington Station to Moreton-in-Marsh and then take bus 801 towards Cheltenham.
Another route is taking the GWR to Oxford and from there, you can take the Stagecoach bus from there.
Where to Stay
Airbnb was the best way for me to find an affordable place that was unique and dog-friendly. Airbnb has options for filtering searches for “entire homes” where you can have an entire property to yourself or “unique stays” where the places you rent are more than just for sleep.
Use my Airbnb referral code to get up to $65 off your first stay or experience. Airbnb also goes beyond finding a place to sleep. Now, you can even search for “experiences” which include tours, cooking classes, and much more so you can fill up your vacation at the click of a button.
Using the "unique stays" option, I've recently stayed in some amazing places such a lodges in the woods and ecopods. For more information on my experiences, feel free to as me questions in the comment section below.
Coaley Peak is a viewpoint and picnic site located next to the Woodchester Park National Trust. It's a beautiful summit in Gloucestershire overlooking the village of Coaley, which includes Severn Vale and the Forest of Dean.
If you plan on walking through the Cotswolds Way footpath, you will pass through this site.
The Selsley, Rodborough & Minchinhampton Commons are beautiful areas filled with rolling hills and grazing farm animals. It overlooks the river Severn and Malvern Hills into Wales.
There is plenty of parking space and these are popular areas to bring your dog for off-lead hillwalking. With cows and sheep grazing in fields and horseback riders riding through the greenery, it's a break taking and refreshing view of nature.
These commons are also along the Cotswolds Way footpath.
Must Try Experiences
Take a stroll along the iconic foot bridge over the River Coln and follow the 5-mile (8 km) circular walk next to honey-coloured stone homes starting from the crossroads in Cold St Aldwyns. There are signs pointing you the right direction. Find the detailed Bibury footpath here.
There are plenty of places to park including at the public car park or along the canal (you will see other cars parked there as well).
Castle Combe is one of the quintessentially English towns located 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Chippenham in Wiltshire. The northern part of the village is called the Upper Castle Combe with quaint neighborhoods filled with honey-coloured stone homes. The southern part of the village holds the motor racing circuit.
Castle Combe is the famous town known for the filming of several popular films including Stardust, The Wolfman, and War Horse to name just a few.
Don't miss out on taking pictures in front of the iconic walking bridge, grab a drink al fresco at the local pub, and even order a picnic or have afternoon tea at The Picnic Shop.
If you need more ideas, check out Time Out's 15 Things To Do In Castle Combe so you don't miss a beat.
Don't forget to stop by the Cotswold Distillery for a gin tasting and tour or a gin-making masterclass. Make sure you book the experience in advance. Otherwise. just stop by the dog-friendly cafe and enjoy a cocktail and snacks. Then, buy a few bottle of gin to take back home with you and reminisce about your visit to the Cotswolds.
Bonus! Bonus! Bonus!
The Cotswold Way - 100 miles (161 km) extends from the northern end of the Cotswolds (Chipping Camden) to the southern end of the Cotswolds (Bath).
The Windrush Way - This 14-mile (23 km) walk is for those who want a challenging hike to complete in one day. It intersects with the Cotswold Way at Winchcombe and has a circular path through the quaint town of Burton-On-The-Water.
The Cleeve Hill Ring - This shorter walk provides you with a 6.5-mile (10 km) hike where you arrive at the highest common in the Cotswolds with an amazing view overlooking the Malverns and Wales.
The Diamond Way - A 65-mile (105 km) walk meant for those who want to take on this challenge for a week. There are smaller hikes within The Diamond Way if you prefer a hike that's a bit less challenging.
There are more circular walks along the Cotswold Way so there is no need to feel intimidated by the 100-mile trek. There is always the option to opt for a hike that's easier and still very scenic.
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There's much more to England than even locals realise. It's not merely the location of one of the most popular and densely populated cities, but the majority of England is filled with nature and picturesque English towns. Now is the time to take advantage of staycations, weekend getaway nearby, or even working-from-home in a beautiful location such as the Cotswolds. There are plenty of dog-friendly hotels and eateries and its affordable to find a last minute vacation any time and during any season in England's largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.