The Loaded Trunk was founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.
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We stepped into a fairytale at Christmastime in the Cotswolds. Like a steaming cup of English tea, this idyllic region is steeped in everything your imagination can conjure, capturing the essence of slow living wrapped in English coziness. Time here demands to be savored. Mornings dawn quietly, shrouded in a fog as thick as a blanket on fields where woolly clouds of grazing sheep roam. Charming villages, adorned with more thatched 17th-century cottages than one can fathom, sprinkle the countryside, each decorated in garlands and twinkling lights. The silence is punctuated by the rhythmic clopping of horse hooves, and the air carries the earthy scent of woodsmoke during woodland walks. Evenings unfold in snug pubs with roaring fires, where tasty dinners culminate in mouthfuls of decadent sticky toffee pudding. Carolers gather on chilly evenings, their voices blending with the crisp air, sharing mince pies and music. Christmas in the Cotswolds is a magical experience etched in memory.
Just two hours west of London, this picturesque stretch of rolling hills unfolds from the historic charm of Stratford-Upon-Avon to the Roman elegance of Bath, known as the Cotswolds. Encompassing nearly 800 square miles, the Cotswolds is designated as one of England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The villages, adorned with Cotswolds stone—a honey-colored limestone unique to the region—resemble scenes straight out of a storybook, their cottages topped with thatched roofs. From the bustling markets of Stow-on-the-Wold to the idyllic tranquility of Bibury, each village contributes to the Cotswolds’ timeless charm. This beautiful countryside invites exploration on foot or by saddle, with over 3,000 miles of footpaths and bridleways crisscrossing the verdant landscape.
Opting for a Christmas sojourn in the northern reaches of the Cotswolds, we found ourselves nestled in the heart of the historic market town of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. The cobblestone High Street, adorned with buildings that whisper tales from the 14th to the 17th centuries, welcomed us into its quaint embrace. Each step along the High Street unveiled a charming tapestry of history, with timber-framed structures and cozy boutiques contributing to the town’s timeless allure. Having explored various corners of the Cotswolds on previous occasions, our choice of Chipping Campden was deliberate, drawn by the town’s picturesque ambience and its proximity to heaps of other enchanting villages, each boasting its own story. Beyond the charming exterior, the village revealed itself as a hub of culinary delights, offering a palate of wonderful places to eat. As we navigated the narrow lanes and discovered historic landmarks, the town unfolded as a perfect base for our Christmas festivities.
One enchanting evening, as my daughter and I lost ourselves in the magic of a Christmas performance, my husband, caught in the spell of the season, heard the distant melody of carolers in the street. Without a second thought, he joined the festive troupe in their merry procession through the charming streets of Chipping Campden. As they strolled, the carolers shared their joy with every step, weaving through cobblestone lanes and echoing off the facades of centuries-old buildings. For my husband, this impromptu celebration became an indelible memory that lingers as one of his favorite moments from our trip.
For enthusiasts of scenic walks, the Cotswold Way, a beloved trail, embarks from Chipping Campden. Winding its way over 102 miles, this iconic path invites walkers to traverse picturesque landscapes, from rolling hills to quaint villages, all the way to the historic city of Bath. Immerse yourself in the ever-changing scenery, where each step reveals the natural beauty and historical richness that define the Cotswold Way. Whether you seek a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, this trail promises an unforgettable journey through hill and dale, capturing the essence of the Cotswolds with every stride.
Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, the town of Broadway beckons with its delightful blend of galleries, boutiques, and inviting restaurants, creating an atmosphere that’s especially festive during Christmas. As you wander down the charming High Street, make sure to nip into the fabulous Broadway Deli. A treasure trove of culinary delights, this welcoming spot is loaded with specialty food products from the region and beyond. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in their delicious mince pies, a seasonal treat that captures the essence of Christmas.
For those craving a dose of history, consider booking a stay or a meal at the renowned Lygon Arms. Oozing with coziness, this historic inn has stood the test of time, hosting esteemed guests such as Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of the past as you enjoy the warm hospitality and timeless charm that Lygon Arms continues to offer to this day.
For those seeking the epitome of a tiny, quaint village, Snowshill beckons among rolling hills that seem to cradle the village. Snowshill is a haven for leisurely walks, offering sweeping views that stretch to the horizon. In this idyllic setting, the absence of bustling crowds leaves the village in a state of pure peace and quiet.
Amidst this serene landscape stands the 15th-century Snowshill Arms, the sole pub in the village where time seems to stand still. Here, you can dine in an atmosphere steeped in history, enjoying both the timeless architecture of the pub and the picturesque views that surround it. In Snowshill, every step is a journey back in time, and every moment is an opportunity to savor the simple beauty of this hidden gem.
In the heart of this attractive town lies a gateway to London, just a leisurely 90-minute train ride away. For those seeking a delightful stay, The Wild Rabbit is a splendid inn with an award-winning restaurant that promises a culinary experience to savor. Our memories still dance with the flavors of the seasonally sourced cuisine, enjoyed in the warm embrace of the cozy pub atmosphere.
Down the road, Daylesford Organic reigns supreme as the king of farm shops. Set against the backdrop of an organic farm, this expansive emporium transcends the ordinary. Beyond the bountiful fresh produce, the shop unveils a treasure trove of delights—baked goods, artisanal cheeses from their creamery, an extensive selection of wines, deli products, and even the in-house Bamford brand of body products. The experience extends beyond shopping; indulge in a culinary journey at their café, restaurant, and bar, or unleash your inner chef at their cooking school. It’s a captivating setup that seamlessly blends organic goodness with a touch of elegance.
Resting atop a hill on the historic Market Square, this enchanting village unfolds along the ancient Roman Fosse Way. At the heart of its timeless allure stands St Edward’s Church, a Middle Ages gem celebrated for its Yew Tree Door, flanked by ancient gnarled oak trees that have stood for centuries. From this charming village are several circular walking routes, promising picturesque views and a journey through both history and nature.
Among the cobblestone streets, antique shops and boutiques, Cutter Brooks emerges as a standout treasure. Helmed by the visionary Amanda Brooks, a former fashion director of Barneys New York, this shop reflects her transatlantic charm. Married to an Englishman, Amanda resides on a nearby farm with her family and cherished animals. Cutter Brooks is not just a shop; it’s a curated haven of delights—elegant clothing, captivating homewares, and artisan-made objets d’art. Stepping into this emporium is like stepping into Amanda’s own home, especially enchanting during the festive Christmas season. It’s a delightful intersection of style, history, and warmth, inviting visitors to linger and immerse themselves in the unique charm of this pretty village.
In the heart of the Cotswolds lie the idyllic villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter, each adorned with a dreamy, slow-moving stream that meanders through their gorgeous picturesque landscapes. Picture-perfect scenes unfold as you embark on an easy 1-mile walk from Lower to Upper Slaughter. The meandering stream adds a soothing soundtrack to your stroll, enhancing the tranquility of the surroundings.
As you explore, consider a festive meal at The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter. This charming inn not only graces guests with the warmth of its hospitality but also hosts a delightful three-course festive dinner menu during the holidays. Complete with the quintessential Christmas pudding, the menu invites you to savor the season’s flavors in an enchanting setting. The inn comes alive with the spirit of the holidays, creating a magical atmosphere. It’s a perfect blend of timeless beauty and holiday cheer, making Lower and Upper Slaughter a haven for those seeking the essence of a Cotswold Christmas.
Sitting alongside a babbling brook with a charming bridge, Castlecombe stands as one of the most captivating postcard villages in the Cotswolds. Rich in history, this former market town exudes an air of timeless elegance, seemingly frozen in a bygone era. Once a bustling center of the wool industry, Castlecombe was renowned for its production of the distinctive red and white fabric that proudly bore its name.
Wandering through Castlecombe is like wandering through a living storybook. Cottages with thatched roofs line the narrow lanes, their charm only matched by the scenic beauty of the brook that gently flows through the heart of the village. The historic bridge adds to the village’s enchantment, inviting visitors to stroll across and embrace the tranquility that defines Castlecombe. Imagine a time when the bustling market fueled the village’s vitality, and the wool industry brought prosperity to its residents. Although the market has faded, the spirit of Castlecombe remains, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in a place where history and beauty converge.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a picturesque village that gracefully straddles the River Windrush. Handsome low bridges, adorned with architectural charm, crisscross the river, inviting visitors to wander through this enchanting setting. As you meander through the bustling village, the lovely setting unfolds, creating a perfect canvas for a leisurely day of exploration.
From unique boutiques to cozy cafes, Bourton-on-the-Water offers a tapestry of sights and sounds that captivate the imagination. Picture yourself strolling along the riverbanks, crossing the charming bridges, and savoring the atmosphere of a village that epitomizes the peaceful allure of the Cotswolds.
Perched on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, Burford stands proudly as the gateway to this enchanting region. As you enter this historic town, a picturesque sloped main street welcomes you, a charming prelude to the timeless beauty that lies within. Beyond being a mere gateway, Burford is a destination in its own right, boasting not just a beautiful landscape but a rich history that unfolds with every step.
The sloped main street invites exploration, lined with delightful shops that beckon passersby to linger a little longer. Antiquarian bookstores whisper tales of forgotten stories, culinary emporiums offer a feast for the senses, and gift shops present treasures to carry home.
Bibury, a village that seems plucked from a fairytale, takes pride in the exquisite charm of Arlington Row. This collection of old slate-roofed weavers’ cottages stands as a testament to the timeless beauty that defines Bibury. As you stroll along the cobbled streets, each cottage in Arlington Row adds a layer of history to the peaceful surroundings.
Our visit to Bibury was a sensorial delight, culminating in a scrumptious lunch at the lovely inn, The Swan. Nestled in the heart of this enchanting village, The Swan offered not just a meal but an experience. The ambience was as delightful as the flavors.
Yet, the beauty of Bibury extends beyond its architectural wonders and culinary delights. In every direction, scenic beauty unfolds, inviting visitors to wander and discover. Whether it’s the meandering River Coln, the lush greenery, or the charming details of village life, Bibury presents beauty at every turn.
Venturing further, a treasure trove of delightful places awaits. The historic wool town of Painswick, affectionately known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds,’ captivates with its medieval half-timbered structures nestled amongst iconic limestone buildings. Immerse yourself in the rich history of this charming town, where each corner reveals a tale of centuries gone by.
Further afield, Gloucester Cathedral, stands as a magnificent testament to medieval architecture, while Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, offers not only grandeur but also hosts a festive Christmas market. Sudeley Castle, Lady Ashcombe’s private home, beckons with its Tudor charm and exquisite gardens. Remarkably, Sudeley Castle holds the distinction of being the only private castle in England with a queen buried within its grounds. Queen Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, lived and found her final rest within the castle walls.
If your travels lead you to Bath, a city that merits a couple of days alone, step into the enchanting world of Persephone Books. A haven for aesthetics, this gorgeous bookshop boasts a collection of works by 20th-century female authors. The uniform pale gray book covers, each lined with a unique floral paper, create a stunning visual. For those seeking the perfect gift, the staff at Persephone Books ensures a delightful touch by wrapping each book in paper that matches the book liners—a testament to the artistry found in even the smallest details.
Embrace the magic of Christmas by nestling into an idyllic cottage straight out of ‘The Holiday.’ Bolthole Retreats and Unique Home Stays open the door to a wonderful collection of charming cottages scattered throughout the Cotswolds. Imagine the scene: a picturesque cottage with a thatched roof, nestled in the heart of the countryside, where every detail exudes warmth and charm.
Whether you’re seeking a peaceful escape for two or a larger retreat for the whole family, these charming cottages offer a slice of holiday perfection. From the quaint architecture to the thoughtful interiors, each cottage beckons you to step into a Christmas card setting, where the magic of the season comes alive in every nook and cranny.
December 10, 2023
The Loaded Trunk is a travel and lifestyle magazine founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.