From the Cotswolds and Salisbury Plain to the Bristol Channel and the North Wessex Downs, the west of England is a land of magical myths and legends, rich in history and proud heritage.
It’s also the perfect place for a holiday, once lockdown restrictions are lifted and we’re free to travel again. The West Country is extraordinarily beautiful, filled with those classic dreamy English landscapes. Stroll around chocolate box villages of pretty thatched cottages and grand stately homes surrounded by glorious gardens. Find clear streams that flow through wildflower meadows and giant white horses that magically appear on rolling green hillsides.
It’s packed with proper English holidays: a chance to escape the everyday and create loads of new holiday memories. Look for the We’re Good to Go mark, showing attractions, hotels, pubs and restaurants that comply with Covid safety requirements. And to help find your perfect English escape, Uncover the Cotswolds offers an inspired range of authentic experiences, guided adventures and hidden Cotswolds’ gems. And the Great West Way is a collection of hands-on activities, heritage attractions and tasty tours through the best of the West. All the ingredients for a blissful break.
If you’re a sucker for TV survival shows, check out Fat Squirrel Outdoor Co in Oxfordshire, an Uncover the Cotswolds gem. It offers a range of woodland activities to help people reconnect with nature, learn new skills and get the whole family stuck into some active fun together. Even the grandparents will love it.
Discover how to build the perfect shelter, have a go at axe throwing or master the art of making a campfire.
Then just kick back with the family and toast marshmallows as you bask in the campfire glow.
Just outside Tetbury in Gloucestershire is one of the world’s finest plant collections: Westonbirt, the National Arboretum.
Founded in the early 19th century by a wealthy Victorian landowner, Westonbirt – part of the Uncover the Cotswolds collection – is now home to more than 15,000 trees gathered from all corners of the globe.
Running routes, cycling and walking trails wind around the grounds, there are Gruffalo sculptures hiding in the woods for the little ones, and high up in the canopy you can follow a fully accessible walkway through the treetops.
Raise a glass to the best holiday ever with a trip to the Cotswolds Distillery in Stourton, Warwickshire.
On a behind-the-scenes guided tour, in the Uncover the Cotswolds collection, you’ll discover the traditional production methods that go into creating award-winning whiskies, gins and liqueurs – and get the chance to enjoy a tipple at the end.
Or you could join one of the distillery’s regular masterclasses, where you get to blend your own gin or whisky and learn how to make the perfect cocktail. Cheers!
The image of a steam train chugging through rolling countryside conjures up instant nostalgia for the England of yesteryear.
Bring the retro vision to life at the pretty Victorian station of Bitton, on the eastern outskirts of Bristol, where kids and grandparents alike will love stepping aboard a vintage train for a ride along the Avon Valley Railway, part of the Great West Way.
You can also indulge your inner Agatha Christie on a Murder Mystery evening, or realise childhood dreams and drive a locomotive yourself.
King of the castles
You never know who you might spot at Berkeley Castle. This medieval Gloucestershire fortress – another Great West Way gem – has played host to countless silver-screen celebs, and has appeared in major TV and film productions such as Poldark, Wolf Hall and Johnny English Strikes Again.
As well as housing a host of historic treasures, its attractions include a tropical butterfly house, scented rose gardens and a dragon trail around the grounds, plus an unusual yurt tearoom.
Bubbles and balloons
Planning to pop the question? Rather than buy champagne and balloons, why not combine the two on an unforgettable champagne and hot-air balloon flight for two? Bailey Balloons organises summer flights over the picturesque southwest countryside and landmarks. Part of the Great West Way, take off from Bristol or Bath and say I Do to romantic views over historic Bristol Harbour, Temple Meads, Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bath Abbey and the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury.
The Wiltshire estate of Longleat is an ideal outing for the whole family.
Kids young and old get to run wild in the adventure playground, complete with zipwires, climbing frames and tube slides.
It's also packed with heritage: the same family has lived in the grand manor house, surrounded by gorgeous parklands landscaped by Capability Brown, since the 16th century. Visit as part of a Great West Way guided experience, and hear the fascinating stories of life here across the centuries.
Tackle England’s largest hedge maze or take a drive through the safari park, spotting lions, tigers, giraffes and other resident wildlife.
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