There’s nowhere quite like the Cotswolds. A charming, quintessentially British collection of golden-coloured villages, winding roads and lazy green grasslands, the area has now been a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for over 50 years — and for good reason.
Close to Bristol, Bath and even Bicester Village, the quaint Cotswolds are also ripe for road-tripping. So, last month, we revved up Bentley’s latest, luxurious Continental GT and headed west out of London for a tour of the area. And, from picturesque sights to delectable bites, we discovered the best boltholes and boutiques the region has to offer.
There’s no place more panoramic to start your day than the Farncombe Estate. Head up to Worcestershire the night before your day drive around the Cotswolds, and you’ll have the choice of three hotels on this manicured 400-acre hillside estate. From the homely Dormy House to the quirky Fish Hotel, there’s a stay for everyone.
But our pick of the properties — and the most fitting to host our heritage British wheels — is Foxhill Manor, a Grade II country home refreshed and revitalised for the 21st century. Wake up here and you’ll get a jump on morning traffic; a head start for your drive across the Cotswold countryside.
And what a drive it’ll be. Bentley’s latest is the ideal car with which to enjoy the B-roads of Bury End and Broadway. Perhaps the greatest Grand Tourer to ever roll off the century-old carmaker’s production line, the Continental GT boasts a driving experience responsive enough to handle the might of the commanding 6.0-litre engine, and enough boot space for a visit to Bicester Village at the end of your day.
First up, however, a leisurely morning’s drive will take you from Foxhill Manor to Daylesford Farm Shop. Sitting pretty by the village of Morton-in-Marsh, this rural farm shop is a bastion of British produce; selling everything from home-grown fruit and veg to sustainably sourced and ethically butchered meats.
Pull yourself away from the bakery, fishmonger and creamery (Daylesford has it all) and you can enjoy a coffee, botanical tea or early lunch on site. The Legbar offers nibbles including charcuterie plates and sardines on toast, while The Old Spot restaurant serves up blue cheese beefburgers, a selection of salads and a mean Virgin Mary if you’re enjoying a day behind the wheel.
After lunch, as you wend your way towards Bicester Village for an afternoon of browsing shops and pop-ups, why not follow the River Windrush into Gloucestershire for a series of picturesque pit stops in Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford?
Among the attractions in these villages, you’ll find the Cotswold Motoring Museum, many scenic long-distance walks, a handful of charming high streets — and even a model village. In Upper Slaughter, the village ford crosses the River Eye, and is guaranteed to add a frisson of excitement to your day before you steer westward once more.
And, as you drive into Oxfordshire — your third county of the day, if you’re keeping track — there’s no better market town to stop off in than Chipping Norton. Complete with castle, literary festival and even a theatre, we’d recommend wandering around its pleasant streets and rural outskirts until you reach The Wild Rabbit, a four-star hotel — and five-star pub.
Park up and, if you’re still hungry after your earlier feast at Daylesford Farm Shop, feel free to order anything from the inn’s menu: the sumptuous lamb shoulder and gamey Wootton Estate pheasant are both particularly good. We, however, would suggest you save your appetite for Café Wolseley at Bicester Village, and instead here opt for the lighter Blue Legbar Scotch Egg.
Following your hop to The Wild Rabbit, it’s time to head back behind the wheel, steer away from the B-roads and head to Bicester Village. The ideal end to a day spent among nature, Britain’s leading shopping destination is perfectly placed on the outskirts of the Cotswolds — and offers a concierge parking service that’ll make your arrival smoother than a pint of The Wild Rabbit’s prized stout.
It also pays to gain access to The Apartment, the luxurious, by-appointment-only space for VIP clients at Bicester Village. Designed by celebrated interior designer Carden Cunietti, The Apartment offers shoppers a tranquil and well-appointed space to relax — with oak herringbone flooring, roaring fireplaces and stylish, well-stocked bars.
And, while your grand tourer — Bentley or otherwise — is being carefully valet-parked, you can meet up with your dedicated personal shopper. Their unrivalled knowledge and expertise of the destination’s 160 designer brands will ensure you find every garment, accessory or homeware on your want list.
When browsing and buying, you can even take advantage of Hands Free Shopping — a service offered by boutique assistants who will pack away your purchases ready for collection at the end of the day. And, after a successful shopping session, why not head across to Café Wolseley? Inspired by the Piccadilly flagship, Corbin & King’s first venture outside of London offers an unrivalled set evening menu; with dishes including a Pea & Ricotta Ravioli and a decadent Crème Brûlée.
One final espresso later, and your day will draw to a close. But, before you make your way back to The Apartment, it pays to make a slight detour to take in Bruce Munro’s ‘Moon Blooms’ light installation.
Featuring over two thousand twisting stainless steel stems, each topped with a small glowing sphere, this interpretive artwork is powered using natural light captured during the day, and creates a radiant, ethereal entrance to Bicester Village. Or exit, as the case may be — as you pick up your keys, your shopping and head back out onto the road.
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