The Cotswolds is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England, typified by green rolling hills or ‘wolds’, honey-stone buildings and a picturesque idyll. Nestled in the many valleys are some of the world’s top-class formal and country gardens, and arboretums, which are enjoyed throughout the seasons. This driving tour combines gorgeous scenic driving on local B roads with some of the best loved gardens of the Cotswolds including Painswick Rococo Gardens; Batsford Arboretum; Sudeley Castle; and Westonbirt Arboreturm among others.
Please note, we also have two complementary short breaks visiting gardens of thenorth Cotswolds or gardens of the south Cotswolds.
By Rail: Great Western Railway operate regular connections to London with approximately hourly Cheltenham Spa to Swindon services which extend to through to Didcot Parkway, Reading & London Paddington.
By Car: Cheltenham can be easily accessed via major UK roads and motorways. Cheltenham's direct approach is via Junction 11 of the M5, follow signs for the town centre.
B&Bs, Hotels and Inns (3*) or Luxury Hotels (5*).
This grade of this tour is easy-moderate.
This tour has a variety of durations from 4 nights to 7 nights.
This tour is available from January until December. Not all gardens will be available all year round and we will choose the most appropriate gardens for the time of stay.
What is included in the tour
- Accommodation at the stated category with breakfast
- Full Tour Pack with colour coded routes on local maps
- Entrance to all attractions stated (varies according to different durations)
- Smartphone App with GPS routes
- 24-hr emergency helpline
What is NOT included in the tour
- Lunch, Dinner & Drinks
- Entrance to attractions not listed
- Buses and/or Ferries unless otherwise stated
- Tourist Taxes where applicable
- Car hire (available on request)
- Chauffeur (available on request)
Based in the iconic Regency town of Cheltenham, the Cotswold gardens driving tour uses daily routes along scenic B roads to transport you from your hotel in Cheltenham to each of the gardens. As well as enjoying the vibrant displays of these gardens and arboretums, the routes take you to some of the prettiest towns and villages in the region, with plenty of places to stop, eat, shop and explore. Clients can explore with their own car, or we can arrange for car hire when they arrive, or a chauffeur-driven experience too.
The tour is based from Cheltenham which is believed to be the most complete Regency town in the country and combines historic charm with cosmopolitan cool, fantastic foodie scene, boutique shopping and plenty of cultural events. Cheltenham is easily accessible to great local destinations including Gloucester for example. Clients will stay in Cheltenham for the duration of their trip.
Depending on the client preference and the length of their trip, the tour includes visits from Cheltenham to:
Batsford Arboretum (approximate driving time: 1 hour each way)
Exiting Cheltenham to the north east, enjoy the scenic drive via Guiting Power and Bourton-on-the-Hill before arriving at Batsford Arboretum near to Moreton-in-Marsh. Batsford Arboretum is home to the country’s largest private collection of trees and shrubs and has something on show all year round. Despite a collection that spans species of the globe, Batsford has a particularly spectacular collection of plants from the Far East, including over 1,300 different trees, shrubs and bamboos. They also have the UK’s National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries with at least 70% of the world’s known cultivars growing in the arboretum. Batsford really is a special place. On the return from the garden, many opt to detour to Chipping Campden –a gorgeous market town –and Winchcombe where you will find Sudeley Castle in a gorgeous village setting.
Bourton House Garden (approximate driving time: 45 minutes to 1 hour each way)
Enjoy the scenic drive from Cheltenham to Bourton-on-the-Water, one of The Cotswolds best known destinations –famous for its meandering, shallow river and its picturesque setting. Bourton House Garden is a stunning, award-winning three-acre garden with an 18th centry Manor House set in the grounds. The garden is known for its extensive terracing and wide herbaceous borders and the gardening team has worked hard to create displays with amazing plant, texture and colour combinations. There is also a knot garden, parterre and topiary walk, along with plenty of water features to spot on your rounds. In 2013, the gardens also opened a unique seven-acre field area which has been planted with specimen trees. On the return to Cheltenham, clients can detour via Stow-on-the-Wold and Upper Slaughter which are both Cotswold must-sees.
Birdland Park & Gardens (approximate driving time: 35 to 45 minutes)
Perhaps not what you would expect to find in the small village of Bourton-on-the-Water, but Birdland Parks & Gardens is a fantastic attraction. Nine acres of garden and woodland surrounding the River Windrush, are home to 130 bird species including many rare and unique birds. Originally built by a local Cotswold builder with a passion for birdlife, the park is now home to the only breeding group of King Penguins in the UK. The attraction is known for their extensive conservation programme and offers an interesting and unique day out. When you are done, spend some time in Bourton-on-the-Water before returning to Cheltenham.
Chavenage House (approximate driving time 45 minutes to 1 hour each way)
Virtually unchanged for 400 years, Chavenage House is located in the gorgeous market town of Tetbury, which is also famous for the Prince of Wales’ Highgrove Estate. With ownership traced back to the sister of Edward The Confessor (Princess Goda), Chavenage House is loaded with history and is now in the hands of the Lowsley-Williams as a private house. It is surrounded by 35 hectares of landscape park, along with a 19thcentury ornamental garden. It is best known for its specimen trees, many of which are ancient. Most recently, the house has provided a backdrop for filming of the hit TV series Poldark.
Hidcote Manor Gardens (approximate driving time: 1 hour to 1h15 each way)
Leaving Cheltenham to the north, travel through small, idyllic villages including Gotherington, Dumbleton and Broadway arriving at Hidcote Manor Gardens, just a short distance from Stratford-upon-Avon. The Hidcote Manor Gardens were inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement and created by American horticulturalist Major Lawrence Johnston. They are now managed by The National Trust in the UK. Two of Hidcote’s main attractions include The Pillar Garden and The Bathing Pool Garden, which are both nestled inthe formal grounds. The Pillar Garden is dominated by vast yew pillars set over three terraces, creating a natural architectural landscape, all offset by delicate, sculptural planting to soften the effect. The Bathing Pool Garden meanwhile is approached through the Fuschia garden emerging to see a burbling fountain with box hedges and topiary yew birds. Guests often elect to return to Cheltenham via a short stint in Stratford-upon-Avon, soaking up all things William Shakespeare.
Kiftsgate Court Gardens (approximate driving time: 1 hour each way)
Based just beyond the market town of Chipping Campden, a visit to Kiftsgate can be combined with a visit to Hidcote in the same day or explored by itself. Kiftsgate Court is a truly stunning garden and a gorgeous homage to the three generations of women that created the garden. The garden has now been established for over 100 years and as well as the garden itself, visitors are advised to look out for the famous Kiftsgate Rose which is truly stunning. This fabulous garden offers a fairly informal style, complete with a sunken garden, a wildflower garden, a bluebell wood and lots and lots of glorious borders.
Miserden Gardens (approximate driving time: 25-30 minutes each way)
Located just outside the market town of Stroud, The Gardens at Miserden are often noted for its timeless appeal and spectacular views across the deer park. It is a design that was established for peace and tranquillity and is noted for its yew hedgerows and topiary, combined with herbaceous borders which are a riot of colour. The pinnacle of the garden is a mulberry tree, believed to have been planted in 1620. It has been listed as one of the top 10 most romantic gardens in the world and is definitely not to be missed!
Newark Park (approximate driving time: 45-50 minutes each way)
Dominated by a Tudor hunting lodge which has since been converted into an intriguing home, Newark Park is based just outside the town of Wotton-under-Edge.Surrounding the original lodge, the gardens are laid out over three levels, designed to accentuate the building with a walled-garden and lawns. Perhaps the best-loved walks are the Glade Walk which takes visitors down behind the folly to the rockery directly beneath Newark House and the lakeside garden which feels secluded and romantic. What’s exciting about this garden is the seasonality of the planting which changes almost weekly as new seasonal flowers emerge.
Painswick Rococo Gardens (approximate driving time: 25-30 minutes each way)
Exiting Cheltenham to the South West, the small country roads take clients out to Painswick past Cooper’s Hill –site of the famous Cheeserolling every May where brave (or stupid) competitors chase a wheel of cheese down a VERY steep slope. On past Painswick Beacon, which is worth a stop for the view, clients arrive in the gorgeous village of Painswick. Look out for the church with its 99 yew trees, before proceeding to the Rococo Gardens. The Rococo Gardens combine formal garden design with grandeur and theatre, starting out as a gentleman’s experimental creation rather than a horticultural dream. Perhaps the most famous aspects of the garden are not the flowers, although the planting is stunning, but the quirky architectural features that litter the garden setting. Rococo describes the fashionable art era of the 1700s and this garden does not disappoint.
Snowshill Manor Gardens (approximate driving time: 45 minutes)
Located just south of Broadway this beautiful country drive takes you to Snowshill Manor and Garden. Bought in 1919 by Charles Wade and lovingly restored to its former glory, the house –Snowshill Manor –is home to a lifelong collection of extraordinary treasures. Set in a glorious, traditional English country garden, the gardens follow a traditional ‘room’ model, divided into individual segments, each with unique planting. It includes formal lawns, colourful borders and glorious water features and there are plenty of benches to sit and enjoy. While you are here,don’t miss “Wolf’s Cove” a model village that is being carefully restored.
Sudeley Castle (approximate driving time: 25-30 minutes)
One of the few privately-owned castles in the UK that are open to the public, Sudeley Castle is located on the outskirts ofthe village of Winchcombe. The drive to reach the village is a lovely country route, rising up Cleeve Hill which is the highest point in The Cotswolds, before descending into the village to the Castle. Sudeley Castle has an extensive royal history and in the centre of the gardens you will find St Mary’s Church, final resting place of Queen Katherine Parr’s, Henry VIII’s final wife. The grounds are divided into 10 different gardens which sweep around the Castle and the ruins, each with a unique design and influence, including of course a Secret Garden to add to the allure. Finish the day with an exploration of Winchcombe before returning to Cheltenham.
As an alternative, clients preferring to take a break from driving can opt to take the traditional heritage railway steam train from Cheltenham to Winchcombe with a short walk to the Castle and grounds.
Westonbirt Arboretum (approximate driving time: 45-50 minutes each way)
The scenic drive to Westonbirt Arboretum will take you south from Cheltenham through Painswick and Nailsworth. Arrive at the Arboretum which includes 2,500 tree species from around the globe, including five national tree collections. You can also enjoy the recently installed canopy walkway taking you to the tops of the trees, or opt for a guided door of some of the best-loved treescapes. Westonbirt Arboretum was originally created by the Holford Family in the heyday of Victorian plant hunting, creating a collection which is both internationally renowned and breathtakingly beautiful.
The number of gardens included will vary based on the duration of the tour. We work on 2 gardens being visited per active day e.g. a three night tour will include up to 6 gardens..