25/10/2013 10:58 BST | Updated 24/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Escape to the country: Painswick, The Cotswolds


If you follow the Cotswolds Way that winds from Chipping Campden to Bath, six miles from Cheltenham, surrounded by National Trust woodland and perched on an undulating patchwork of Cotswold farmland, you'll find Painswick village - The Queen of the Cotswolds.

2013-10-24-72263318.jpgGlenn Beanland/Getty Images

Made rich by 300 years of trading in the profitable cloth and wool industries, Painswick's wealthy heritage is on architectural display along its winding cobbled streets. The honey-coloured Cotswold stone houses with their knotted, wooden doors and miniscule cottage gardens are almost impossibly pretty and look like they should be inhabited by elves and hobbits from Middle-Earth rather than the residents of the South West Midlands.

This relatively sleepy village has, thus far, managed to avoid becoming a second home to the London glam set and while Painswick overlooks Slad, the home of Lily Allen, and you're only half an hour away from Hugh Grant's pad in Stinchcombe and Damien Hirst's restoration job in Toddington, Painswick remains the perfect country retreat for a day trip or a weekend escape.

2013-10-24-7226332611.jpgGlenn Beanland/Getty Images


Painswick is dominated by its impressive parish church and ornamental churchyard. St Mary's is a mishmash of styles - the history of a church at Painswick can be traced back to the Doomsday book but the current building is a mixture of 15th, 16th and 17th century architecture - and the tower still bears the scars of cannon fire from the civil war when Roundheads sought refuge inside the church walls.

2013-10-24-16997812811.jpgfotoVoyager/Getty Images

The churchyard is full of elaborately sculpted headstones and lined by 99 yew trees. Legend has it that there's evidence of the devil's work in the churchyard as every time the hundredth tree is planted it mysteriously dies.

Tackle the steep walk up Gloucester Road to the Rococo Gardens and wander around the theatrical 18th century pleasure gardens that were built to amuse holidaying Georgians with parties among the landscaped borders and beds. Visit in October to see the last of the turning leaves and the pumpkin harvest or come back in February when the garden is carpeted in snowdrops.

Follow the signs for the Cotswold way in the village and climb up to Painswick Beacon, the highest point of the village, for breath-taking views that stretch across the Severn Valley.

The Beacon is also home the preserved rampart remains of an Iron Age hill fort called Kimsbury that supposedly flourished between 100 and 500 BC.


Head to one of the pubs that line New Street in the centre of Painswick and look out onto the churchyard. The Falcon Inn is a quintessentially traditional pub that has the oldest bowling club and green in Britain and serves huge plates of seasonal food alongside an impressive selection of ales in its historic, 16th century surroundings.

If you're craving afternoon tea then try The Patchwork Mouse, a bijoux tea shop with every cake from carrot to cardamom, mismatched china and an onsite gallery full of local artwork.



If you fancy a taste of life as a wealthy Stuart then spend the night at the beautifully restored Painswick Court. What was once the old courthouse where the soon to be beheaded Charles I held court during the 1643 siege of Gloucester has now been turned into a luxurious bed and breakfast.

This sprawling, golden brick hotel is all quiet elegance and grandeur, from the lavender-lined croquet lawns to the roaring log fires, beamed bedrooms and dark wood panelled interior. The gardens are even said to be home to one of England's most famous ghosts as King Charles himself is said to clank through the grounds with a couple of Cavaliers in armour late at night. Whether he's missing his head or not is yet to be confirmed.

Double rooms start from £145 per night and the whole residence can be booked for groups and special occasions. Contact Abercrombie & Kent for full details.