The neurotic nature of England’s spring weather means Easter is often a washout – but not this year. While fishermen with bulging tackle boxes caught trains out to the coast, I hightailed it out to the ‘burbs. I was joining Girls on Travel – a tour group that connects solo ladies on guided trips, and this one was out to the Cotswolds. Also known as the epicentre of all things twee; where rolling meadows meet “chocolate box” cottages, and cutesy beer gardens roar with the chatter of thirsty hikers, under unexpected spring sunshine.
We set out from Harlesden tube in West London – 7 of us – cosily packed into a large hire car. We are an assortment of nationalities, industries, boroughs and ages. Two Americans, one Canadian, one Brit, two Aussies and our Belgian-born group leader, and owner of Girls on Travel, Gaelle. It’s a short drive from London’s western suburbs to Cheltenham, one of the main towns of the Cotswolds area. The car is a hub of with excitement as stories and laughs are exchanged, and it isn’t long until the ominous grey motorway has given way to glowing fields of rapeseed and twisting country lanes.
In Cheltenham, we park up and take a stroll around the historic town. Although not without modern conveniences, Cheltenham retains plenty of old-world charm; peppered with gardens, churches and traditional cobbled streets. We’re off for afternoon tea at Cheltenham’s oldest shop – Well Walk Tea Room. Stepping through the darkened oak beams of the exterior, Well Walk opens up into a collection of quirky rooms filled with endless knick-knacks, that lead off from a wonky, spiralling staircase. An Easter-themed spread has been set, and we gorge on finger sandwiches, delicious slathered scones and a selection of freshly baked cake slices, all washed down with strong Yorkshire tea. While Well Walk doesn’t serve alcohol, they are happy for customers to bring their own, so being that we were technically “on holiday,” it seemed only right to share a few bottles of fizz which was served to us in beautiful hand-painted glasses at no extra cost.
Riding our sugar high, we take a leisurely walk around town, before jumping back into the car to head out for our first walk of the weekend. Our tour leader Gaelle has plotted a few routes for us to try during the weekend; the first being a leisurely stroll atop hills overlooking Cheltenham with an epic view out over the valley. The green fields stretch out to the horizon, and the warm spring weather is perfectly complemented by a serene hill-top breeze. We pause at the top for a well-earned rest and drink in the countryside below.
A short 20 min drive through the hillside brings us to a luxurious estate, where we will be staying for the night – Withington Estate. The vast stone manor house has a multitude of rooms, all decorated with an antiquated charm, as well as manicured gardens, two sitting rooms – and apparently a swimming pool, although I never did quite see that.
As the sun sets we sip champagne cocktails on the patio; the perfect way to unwind after a full day of exploring. Glasses clink as peach hues ripple through the sky, and we “cheers” to new friends, before being ushered inside for dinner. A fancy spread of venison is served in silverware, along with all the trimmings – and lasagne for the veggies. I’d never tried venison before, but it was really quite delish as a casserole. The lady of the manor (which may or may not be what she calls herself) noted the meat was freshly shot in the local area – yikes. But it tasted good! We managed to stretch dinner out till almost midnight sharing wine and rousing conversation.
Having woken slightly a blur after last nights dinner-wine antics, it’s time for breakfast. English breakfast, of course. Served with more local knowledge on honey, jam and milk from our host, with just enough time left to bid farewell and take any final pics before we set off on today’s circular walk.
Walking out past Withington village church, the landscape starts to change; down pebbled paths, past houses, up grassy mounds and over plenty of wooden styles. Down through meadows and up the other side. The changing landscape keeps enthusiasm high, and it’s hard to believe this a bank holiday weekend with not a soul to be seen. We hike to Chedworth and are greeted with a Sunday roast at Seven Tuns Inn, under a cloudless sky.
Evidently, every hiker in the area has the same idea, as the courtyard filled merrily with residents and tourists, all making the most of the fantastic weather. After a few strong English ciders and a short rendition of “happy birthday” to one of our guests, we headed back out from Chedworth village and back into the wild.
The walk back took us through even more alternating landscape; over a disused airfield, country lanes, woods and culminated in green fields of sheep grazing with this year’s lambs alongside. Finally, back at Withington, it’s time to head back to London before the bank holiday traffic brings roads to a standstill. It feels as though fate smiled down on us, as we near the city, still with beaming sunshine and sleepy smiles all-round. 48 hours seems to have whizzed past, and suddenly it’s time to say goodbye as we pile back onto the clammy tube and into reality.
The Cotswolds is an ideal weekend break from London. Girls on Travel run a selection of tours from London to places of natural beauty in the UK, as well as further-flung trips to places such as Sri Lanka, Portugal, Morocco and more. Ideal for solo girls, Girls on Travel tours, are a fun way to escape city life for a few days and meet like-minded friends at the same time. All you need is a weekend bag -and hopefully- some sunshine.
To see more tour options or book visit
*Please note: I was gifted a spot on this tour, however, all opinions stated are my own