Sightseeing

TRAVEL GUIDE

Having travelled all this way to get to Owlpen, you may already have a clear idea of what you plan to do in the area. If you have not, then read on and we shall try to direct you to some of our favourite spots, many of which are not necessarily mentioned in all of the guide books.  If that causes problems as you thought you knew where you were going, but now foresee a change of plan, then we apologise for complicating matters. 

 

GENERAL LOCATION

We think Owlpen is perfectly situation as a base from which to explore the West Country.  The estate sits nestled in a folded valley on the Cotswold Edge, in the most beautiful corner of the Cotswolds.  You can reach the towns and villages that are mentioned in all of the guidebooks very easily, but there are also many other places to explore. 

You can just as easily head west to the Welsh Borders, and explore the Wye Valley, with its majestic Norman castle at Chepstow and the romantic ruin of Tintern Abbey, immortalized in Wordsworth’s classic poem and Turner’s iconic paintings. 

You can also visit immortal Bath, one of Britain’s finest towns and full of some of the finest Georgian neo-classical architecture in the country.  It is also great for shopping, eating out, and of course Roman history: the Roman Baths at the centre of the town are unmissable.  If you are planning to visit Bath, we recommend parking at the park-and-ride, near the racecourse at Lansdown, rather than fighting to find a space in the crowded city centre.

The local area has so many interesting places to explore, that you could spend a week here without traveling more than ten miles from your holiday cottage.  The nearby town of Stroud boasts one of the finest and first farmers’ markets in the country, with lots of interesting independent shops and cafes to boot.  Berkely Castle is one of the most interesting historic sites to visit in the west country, with its hall, oubliettes, crenellations and pretty walled gardens.  And the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is one of the best places in the country for birdlife.

Of course, to travel further into the Cotswolds is a must if you are visiting this area.  There are countless pretty villages with their honey-coloured stone, and market towns with their broad streets, tea shops and marketplaces.  The list is endless, but we like Tetbury and Cirensecter, with a stop-off at Rodmarton to enjoy the fine Arts and Crafts manor house there.  Further afield, Bibury, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Camden, Snowshill and Bourton-on-the-Water are all charming, if slightly overrun but visitors in places.

And did we mention Bristol?  It’s a buzzing city full of things to do for adults and children alike, with an interesting food scene, rich history, and beautiful surroundings. 

In the information below, we shall set out some of our favourite places, grouped by proximity and type of recreation.  If you would like a bespoke itinerary that suit you specific needs, please ask at the estate office.

LOCAL AREA: The Owlpen Guide

EATING AND DRINKING

The Gumstool Inn, Calcot Manor and Spa: www.calcot.co/dining/the-gumstool

Distance: 4 miles

Chic pub-restaurant with its fair share of sports cars in the car park.  Great local food and a fab wine list.  Perfect for a treat!

The Woolpack, Slad: www.thewoolpackslad.com

Distance: 8 miles

One of the finest pubs in the west country, and once the hostelry of local writer-poet Laurie Lee.  Amazing views, great food, dog-friendly, and Uley Ales on tap.

The Old Crown, Uley: www.theoldcrownuley.co.ukDistance: 1 mile. 

Our local pub. Brilliant beer, lovely fire and dog friendly.  Within walking distance as well!

The Vestry Café, Uley: www.prema.org.uk/cafe

Distance: 1 mile.  

The perfect little spot for brunch or tea and home made cakes, and just a short walk away over the fields.

Woodruffs Organic Café, Stroud: www.woodruffsorganiccafe.co.uk

Distance: 5 miles

Famous organic vegetarian café with great coffee, and a Stroud institution.  Not to be missed if you’re visiting the town. 

The Olive Tree, Nailsworth: www.theolivetree-nailsworth.com

Distance: 5 miles

Award-winning restaurant in the beautiful town of Nailsworth.  Great for long, spoiling lunches.

The Falcon Steakhouse, Wotton-under-Edge: www.falconsteakhouse.comDistance: 5 miles. 

Delicious local steaks in the pretty market town of Wotton-under-Edge

Wotton Farm Shop: www.wottonfarmshop.co.uk

Distance: 5.5 miles

Recently opened, this is the best place in the area for local produce.  Great food, friendly faces.

DAYS OUT

Berkeley Castle: www.berkeley-castle.com

Distance: 9 miles

Visit the dungeon where King Edward II was brutally murdered; marvel at the vaulted Great Hall; don’t miss the fine Romanesque chapel hidden in the walls. 

Woodchester Mansion: www.woodchestermansion.org.uk

Distance: 3 miles

Explore this abandoned Gothic mansion, just a few miles from Owlpen.  Set in a steep wooded coombe, with walks down the valley to a network of enchanted lakes.

Newark Park: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/newark-park

Distance: 4 miles

Once a grand hunting lodge, now owned by the National Trust.  Set in the secluded Ozleworth valley, this little gem is not to be missed. 

Highgrove: www.highgrovegardens.com

Distance: 8 miles

The country home of Prince Charles with charming extensive gardens. Expensive entry, but fascinating to se what you can do with a garden – if you are a prince!

Gloucester Cathedral: www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk

Distance: 16 miles

One of the finest buildings in the west of England, dating to the 11th century in parts, and a filming location for Harry Potter in recent year, which interests the children!  This is a majestic place of worship which makes any visit to Gloucester worthwhile, especially when combined with a visit to the re-vamped Gloucester Docks for lunch or a snack. 

 

FAMILY FRIENDLY

Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust: www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge

Distance: 8 miles

A mecca for birdwatchers and lovers of natural beauty, and great for children.

Cattle Country: www.cattlecountry.co.uk

Distance: 8 miles

You would never go without kids in tow, but if they want a fun day of adventure, exercise and soft play on a rainy day, this is the place to go.

S.S. Great Britain, Bristol: www.ssgreatbritain.org

Distance: 25 miles

A little further afield, but this is one of our favourite things to do with children. Explore this perfectly restored clipper ship, which once used to transport cargo, then passengers, all over the world.  Bristol is full of things for little explorers to do, with different events on all year-round, and permanent installations like We The Curious by the Harbourside.  

Giffords Circus: www.giffordscircus.com

Quirky family circus run by local people, they come to local towns in the summer time.  A memorable day out, if you can get tickets!

 

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Uley Bury and Hetty Pegler’s Tump

Distance: 3 miles

Our favourite local place to visit, apart from the Owlpen valley itself. Explore the earthworks of the neolithic hill fort, and watch the sun set over the Welsh hills to the west.Duck down into the ancient long barrow further along the escarpment, known locally as Hetty Pegler’s Tump after the woman who owned the field in the 18th century.

Coaley Peak

Distance: 2 ½ miles

Great views, a long barrow, and on summer days the ice cream van stations itself in the car park, drawing big queues!

The Severn Bore

Distance: 10 miles

This strange natural phenomenon sees the level of the River Severn rising in an almighty bow wave and surging upriver, at regular times during the year.The Severn is the only British river to have a bore, and one of a handful in Europe.If you head down to see it, don’t be surprised to spot some surfers trying their luck on a big wave!

Best places to see it: Sharpness Docks and The Anchor Pub, Epney.​​

Tyndale Monument

Distance: 5 miles

A majestic neo-Gothic tower set on a hill above the town of Wotton-under-Edge, on the Cotswold Way.Great views over the river Severn, and into Wales.Bring a flask of tea and sandwiches.

 

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

Stroud

Distance: 5 miles

An alternative west Country town, said to be the home of Extinction Rebellion.  Great farmer’s market on Saturday and interesting local shops.  Well worth a visit.

Highlights: Don’t miss Woodruffs Organic Café, Britain’s first Organic café where everything on the menu takes delicious!

Tetbury

Distance: 5 miles

A mecca for antique lovers, every other shop in this pretty Cotswold town is an antique shop.   Good cafes, little restaurants and lovely Cotswold buildings.

Highlights: Get lost in the back rooms of Artique, an Aladdin’s cave full of genuine Indian handicrafts and antiques

Eat Pizza at The Priory Inn

Enjoy fine gastro-pub dining at The Snooty Fox Hotel

Treat yourself to a bottle of fine wine and a chat with friendly, knowledgeable staff at Vinotopia.

Nailsworth

Distance: 4 miles

Just over the hill and down the other side, this is a pretty small town in a little Cotswold valley.  It has a plethora of shops, cafes, and restaurants, including a Morrison’s supermarket. All the practical things you need for a stay away, and beautiful to boot.

Dursley

Distance: 3 miles

This is where we go to visit the supermarket (Sainsbury’s), the chemist (Boots) or butchers (Broomhall’s) etc.  Dursley has been in decline since unemployment hit the town hard after the local factories closed in the 1980’s, but it’s an honest working town in a pretty setting, with some little cafés (Bank, Belle’s Kitchen) and a sweetshop which the children love (Hewitts). Always good to buy local!

 

EXPLORING THE COTSWOLDS: The Owlpen Guide

You are entering the land of sand-blasted Cotswold buildings, tea rooms and ‘quaint’ villages which can be a little quiet during the week, and a little busy in summer.  Prepare for some of the prettiest, most quintessentially English countryside around, where every turn of the head reveals a new picture post-card view.

As you’ll see below, our recommended day out in this area would be to head to Winchcombe.  It is a lovely Cotswold town, less busy than some of the better known places like Bourton-on-the-Water or Bibury.  From there you can also visit Sudeley Castle, Snowshill Manor or Broadway Tower, so a trip to the north Cotswolds makes for a great day out.

 

EATING AND DRINKING

The Bell, Sapperton: www.bellsapperton.co.uk

Distance: 14 miles

Set within a sleepy, quintessential Cotswold village, this pub is the perfect place to stop for lunch or a sundowner in peaceful, surroundings.  Perfect for Sunday lunch if you’re driving back west along the M4: join at Junction 15.

The Holford Arms, Knockdown: www.theholfordarms.co.uk

Distance: 9 miles

Muddy wellies, wet dogs and hunting clothes are de rigeur at this genuinely country pub with good food.  Cosy up by the huge fireplace on a cold winter’s afternoon.

Barnsley House, Barnsley: www.barnsleyhouse.com

Distance: 23 miles

Delightful boutique hotel in the former house of famous garden designer Rosemary Verey, who was a friend of Owlpen.  Delicious food in the restaurant, well worth a visit. 

Jolly Nice Farm Shop, Frampton Mansell: www.jollynicefarmshop.com

Set up by two bright young things in an old petrol station, this farm shop has taken the Cotswolds by storm in recent years.   Drop in for some yummy local food if you’re passing!

Huffkins, Stow-on-the-Wold: www.huffkins.com

Distance: 38 miles

The perfect place for afternoon tea in Stow, on of Gloucestershire’s finest honey-coloured market towns

The Plough, Kingham: www.thekinghamplough.co.uk

Distance: 43 miles

Well-known gastropub beloved of the Chipping Norton set, and owned by the grulous Lampson family.  The Wild Rabbit is also in this popular village.

 

DAYS OUT

There are some fine historic buildings up on the Cotswolds, the closest being Chavenage House and Rodmarton Manor. The latter was built by Ernest Barnsley in the 20th century, and has a treasure trove of Arts and Crafts furniture much like Owlpen.  Further afield, Sudeley Castle (near Winchcombe) is a fine castle, famous for visits of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  Snowshill Manor is also well worth a visit, with its classic Cotswold architecture and collection of curiosities amassed by Charles Wade

 

FAMILY FRIENDLY

Cotswold Farm Park: www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk

Distance: 35 miles

The home of Adam Henson, of BBC Countryfile fame.  This is perhaps the best place in the Cotswolds to visit with family.

Cotswold Water Park, South Cerney: www.waterpark.org

Distance: 35 miles

If water sports are your thing, then look no further. Great fun on the lakes, including inflatable assault courses, sailing and windsurfing. 

Model Village, Bourton-on-the-Water: www.themodelvillage.com

Distance: 34 miles

This is a rather touristy town, but there is lots to do here and the model village is fascinating for young, inquisitive minds. Can be combined with a visit to Birdland for a great day out. 

 

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Westonbirt Arboretum: www.forestryengland.uk/westonbirt-the-national-arboretum

Distance: 8 miles

This is “the national arboretum”, and one of the finest collections of trees in the world.  Any time of year is a fine time for Westonbirt, but to see Silk Wood in spring, or the acer glades in Autumn, is truly special.

Broadway Tower: www.broadwaytower.co.uk

Distance: 39 miles

A fine folly with great views over the Malvern hills and the Cotswolds, can be combined with a visit to Snowshill, Sudeley Castle or Winchcombe.

 

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

There are so many to choose from, that it is hard to whittle them down here.  A highlight is Cirencester, known as the “Capital of the Cotswolds”.  It is a beautiful market town with  history dating back to Roman times, which makes it all the more interesting to visit.  Many people like to visit Bourton-on-the-Water, with its model village and pretty sequence of bridges as the Windrush meanders through it, but it gets very busy in high season and you end up queuing to get in and out.  We advise against a visit for that reason alone. 

Other pretty towns include Stow-on-the-Wold: make sure you visit the famous north door of St Edward’s Church which is flanked by ancient yews.  Again, beware the coach tours, and Winchcombe is less busy, and just as pretty.  A visit to Winchcombe can be combined with an excursion to Sudeley Castle, making for a good day out in the north Cotswolds.

Stumble upon any village and you’ll be charmed by its outlook. William Morris put Bibury on the map when he called it “the most beautiful village in England” and he set the flame alight. The lovely Arlington Row is worth a photograph, and the food in The Swan is memorable.  We also love Lower Slaughter and Snowshill, with its lovely manor house – a sister house of Owlpen, in a sense.  Closer to home, Painswick, Bisley and Minchinhampton are well-preserved and charming.  Local legend has it that it is impossible to count all of the yews in the Painswick churchyard, as they keep moving. Try your luck!

 

THE WELSH MARCHES

Welcome to border country.  This is the land of ancient castles, dramatic cliffs, hidden caves, deep forests, myths and legends.  To the west beyond the River Severn, this land has been the frontier between England and Wales, and hotly contested by both sides for centuries.  When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, his reach extended no further west than here, so fierce was the opposition from the Welsh chieftains.  Instead of advancing, he built a spine of castles northwards, scattered throughout the countryside to protect his western flank.  Many magnificent fortresses like the Norman keep at Chepstow, built with stones moved from a nearby Roman fortress, still stand proud today.  This area is acutely different in character, history and atmosphere from the Cotswolds: it is much larger, more wild and dramatic. The area is loaded with beautiful natural scenery like the Wye Valley, with the haunting ruins of Tintern Abbey, the Forest of Dean, and The Black Mountains, which lead you to the delightful border town of Hay-on-Wye. 

You could do a satisfying whole-day trip into the area via the Severn Bridge and back via Gloucester, taking in Chepstow, Tintern and Symonds Yat comfortably (and Gloucester Cathedral if you’re still thirsty fore more!).

 

EATING AND DRINKING

The Anchor Inn, Tintern: www.theanchortintern.co.uk

Distance: 30 miles

With the River Wye on one side and Tintern Abbey on the other, there is no finer place to stop for lunch in a pub garden on a sunny day.  Lots of space for children to run around.

Hanley Farm Shop, Chepstow: www.hanleyfarmshop.co.uk

Distance: 30 miles

Much-loved farm shop just outside the town, and a good place to eat before exploring the ruined towers of Chepstow castle.

The Bell, Skenfrith: www.skenfrith.co.uk

Award-winning restaurant in a stunning village, with a fine castle right next to it.  It’s further than most places, but worth the visit. 

The Swan, Hay-on-Wye: www.swanathay.com

Distance: 60 miles

Renowned restaurant in this now chic town which is famous for its annual literature and arts festival, held in May each year.  Hay is nestled beneath the Black Mountains, with many great hill walks and deep valleys.

Tudor Farmhouse, Clearwell: www.tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk

Distance: 35 miles

Great Sunday lunch not far from Clearwell Caves.

 

DAYS OUT

Chepstow Castle: https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/chepstow-castle

                Distance: 30 miles

One of the finest castles in Britain, and perfect for explorers both young and old. Just across the Severn Bridge, it is much closer to Owlpen than you would think!

Tintern Abbey: www.cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/tintern-abbey

Distance: 30 miles

Cistercian Abbey which fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.   It became an famous Romantic symbol, and  inspired paintings by Turner and a famous poem by William Wordsworth.  It is enclosed by the dramatic Wye Valley, with the banks of the river itself at its feet.  Well worth a visit, and can be combined with a trip to Chepstow as a great day out.

Usk Castle: www.uskcastle.com

Distance: 40 miles

This is a lesser known place, but one full of magic and peace It’s perfect if you are looking for somewhere of the beaten track.  Usk Castle is privately owned and has an atmosphere similar to Owlpen.  Only a handful of visitors come each day, and put their money into a little honesty box to admire its fine gardens, crumbling walls and menacing gatehouse.  Good places to eat in the town as well.  This is further than most places, but one that will stay with you long after you leave. 

Llanthony Priory

Distance: 60 miles

Ruined Augustinian Priory dating to Norman times and  hidden in the Black Mountains, on the old road to Hay-on Wye.  Magical.  Good food at the hotel nearby.

 

FAMILY FRIENDLY

Canoeing on the River Wye: www.wyecanoes.com

A great day out on this stunning river, with its dramatic cliffs and hanging beech woods.  Suitable for all ages and abilities.

Clearwell Caves: www.clearwellcaves.com

Distance: 35 miles

Explore underground in this vast natural cave system, which has also been mined by man for centuries

Go Ape, The Forest of Dean : www.goape.co.uk

Distance: 35 miles

Dare to venture across dramatic aerial walk-ways and zoom down zip wires, in the huge and un-spoilt Forest of Dean.

Chepstow Castle

Distance: 30 miles

As above.  Not to be missed and great fun for all the family.

 

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Symonds Yat

Distance: 40 miles

This is a spectacular viewpoint above the River Wye just a few miles north of Tintern, and is a must-see place for any traveler to the Wye Valley.

Forest of Dean

Distance: 30 miles

One of the great forests of England, and just an hour’s drive from Owlpen.  Ancient woodland, lots of activities for families, and if you look closely, you may see some of Britain’s rarest creatures like pine marten, goshawks and beavers. 

The Black Mountains and Pen y Fan

Distance: 50 miles

Wild, desolate and seldom explored mountain scenery on the borders.  If you head slightly further into Wales, make a dramatic ascent of Pen y Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons.

 

A VISIT TO BATH

This is Britain’s Eternal City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Georgian masterpiece of urban planning.  Everywhere you look in Bath, there is a beautiful vista to behold, and everywhere the magnificent Georgian architecture, made all the finer by the beautiful ​honey-coloured limestone out of which the city is fashioned, is framed by he splendour of the Cotswold hills which surround the city, hemming it in and adding drama to the setting. 

Bath was founded by the Romans in fir first century AD. It was they who discovered that the hot sulfurous water which bubbled out of the ground could be harnessed, and used for pleasure and as a cure for  a plethora of ailments.  They set about building the Roman baths which still stand today, and no trip to Bath is complete without a visit to the site.   If  you would like to feel the warmth of the water for yourself, the recently built “Thermae Bath Spa” is a pleasure dome of rest and relaxation, with a toasty roof-top swimming pool which offers views over the city.

The restorative powers of Bath’s hot springs were rediscovered in the eighteenth century, and the town became a spa resort for the middle classes, who came to ‘take the waters’ at the pump room (around eight pints a day was thought to do the trick) and bathe in the hot springs.  Up sprang hospitals, pleasure gardens, hotels and fine town houses to meet the demands of this influx of visitors, and thus today’s Bath was born.  The modern city of the 21st century boasts many fine examples of the neoclassical “Georgian” architecture from this period of building, which can be explored and admired on foot without dipping into your pockets. 

We feel that no trip to this part of England is complete without a visit to Bath, and it makes a change from Cotswold villages and Welsh castles.  Bath is also well known for shopping, restaurants and traditional English pubs, so there is something for everyone in this pocket-sized city.  When you visit, we recommend parking at the park and ride – next to Bath racecourse on the north side of town – and taking the bus down into the city.  Parking in the centre is difficult and expensive, so save yourself the hassle. The park and ride post code is BA19BJ.

Bath is best enjoyed on foot.  Starting at the top of the town, wander along Royal Crescent, taking in the Royal Circus as well.  You can head down Gay Street to Queen Square, then walking to Milsom Street, which is Bath’s main shopping street.  This takes you down to the Roman Baths and the pump room.  After that, the street turns into a modern development which is great for shopping but offers nothing in the way of sightseeing.  Turn right at the baths to the abbey, and from there you can cross the River Avon via Pulteney Bridge, with lovely views of the Avon.  A walk down Pultneney Street takes you to the Holburne Museum, then you can head back to the centre again, having taken in many a fine Georgian vista.

 

EATING AND DRINKING

Beckford Bottle Shop, 5-8 Saville Row, BA1 2QP

New, trendy restaurant with sharing plates and good wines. Try the famous, traditional bath chaps.

The Ivy Brasserie, 39 Milsom Street BA1 2DS

An offshoot of the London branch with an opulent interior and reasonably priced, unfussy food.

Woods, 9-13 Alfred Street, BA1 2QX

Family run restrauant, this is a Bath institution. Perfect for a long lunch or spoiling dinner. 

The Scallop Shell, 22 Monmouth Place BA1 2AY

Exceptional fish and chips in this stylish, family-friendly restaurant.

Dough Pizza Restaurant, 14-16 The Corridor, BA1 5AP

Pizza in the city centre, need we say more!

Sally Lunn’s Eating House, 4 North Parade Passage

A must-see places if you are after an indulgent cream tea, and famous for its Bath buns.

 

PLACES TO VISIT

Roman Baths: www.romanbaths.co.uk

Beautifully preserved Baths and informative museum, with a chance to drink the famous water as well.  Highly recommended.

Bath Abbey: www.bathabbey.org

Founded in the 8th century AD, this medieval masterpiece is well wort a visit. Don’t miss the fine fan-vaulted ceiling, take a tower tour if you’re fond of heights, and catch an organ or choral recital if you time your visit. 

Number One Georgian House: www.no1royalcrescent.org.uk

Georgian Museum on the Royal Crescent, which is said to be one of the finest streets in Britain with superb views over the city.  This is a Georgian town house which has been beautifully restored, and serves as a time capsule to show what life was like in urban Bath in the time of Jane Austen.

Bath Assembly Rooms: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bath-assembly-rooms

A Georgian pleasure dome which once hosted balls, concerts and soirees, this opulent building is a fascinating step back in time.  You can even have tea while you’re there.

The Holburne Museum: www.holburne.org

With a notable collection of decorative and fine arts, and a new extension at the back, this is a peaceful place to visit at the bottom of town, surrounded by the pretty Sydney Gardens.

The Jane Austen Centre: www.janeausten.co.uk

Perfect for Jane Austen nuts, this museum is made all the more memorable by the gregarious gate-keeper, in full Regency garb, by the door.  Cream Tea served inside by staff in full Georgian regalia.  Great fun!

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We hope that you have found this information pack useful.  As you may already have gathered, we are all happy to help if you need additional information, but in the meantime we sincerely hope that you have an enjoyable stay here in the Owlpen valley, and that you go away with fond memories of this little corner of Gloucestershire, which we call our home.