The Cotswolds – Forever England
I always get a positive reaction whenever I mention the word ‘Cotswolds’ at trade shows. That said, many travel agents are unaware that this iconic destination stretches from Stratford upon Avon in the north to Bath in the south and across to Oxford in the east. It is a region of sleepy, honey colored limestone villages, sheep-clad hillsides, privately owned and internationally renowned gardens, 16th century pubs, quintessentially English tea rooms, the Arts and Crafts Movement, jaw dropping history, treasure filled castles and a close encounter with Tudor England. Welcome to the Cotswolds, a corner of England that has just become more accessible thanks to the new American Airlines daily non-stop service from JFK to Birmingham in the heart of England.
Lift Off into the Heart of England
Business and leisure travelers using the Birmingham Airport gateway start their UK visit with a smile on their faces as they discover they speed through Immigration and Customs and reach the curbside in just over 30 minutes. It also means that by 8:30am they can be tucking into a traditional English breakfast in a country house hotel in Broadway, Chipping Campden, or Stow on the Wold. Fortified, they can then take a leisurely stroll around the fragrant and internationally renowned Arts and Crafts garden at nearby Hidcote Manor Garden or the award-winning Kiftsgate Court. With a brief rest in the afternoon, take a leisurely wander through the picturesque market town you’re based in before sinking your first pint of Old Speckled Hen in a ‘pinch me is this for real?’ traditional coaching inn, which I can personally vouch for!
Putting the T in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is home to a wide variety of interesting places for English Afternoon Tea, and with the 4pm slot booked at an award winning tearoom or in beautiful, privately owned gardens, we can then build each day around this focal point. We can add a pub lunch or two, a talk on how a traditional English Afternoon Tea should be correctly served, and finish with an entertaining evening at the Pudding Club. The itinerary can then head for Blenheim Palace and the university city of Oxford before finishing with a few days in London. I’m sure you can find 6-8 clients who’d love to do something like this in October…
Cotswolds Pub Tour
Not many people know this, but there are over 20 breweries and micro breweries in Gloucestershire, aka the Cotswolds. There are also 38 highly rated Gloucestershire pubs in the Main Entries part of the Good Pub Guide with another 134 in the ‘Also Worth a Visit’ section. This means that there’s enough here for an outstanding London and the Cotswolds tour for clients who are into Real Ales in a big way. For other itineraries you can blend together value added visits to stately homes and gardens with lunches each day in traditional coaching inns, with dinners in different award winning gastro pubs famous for their food, wine lists, and real ales.
Year of the English Garden 2016
England (and the Cotswolds in particular) has some of the finest gardens in the world, from dramatic historic landscapes designed by ‘Capability’ Brown to fragrant English rose gardens and hundreds of privately owned gardening ‘works of art’ that rarely open to the general public.
As 2016 has been designated as the Year of the English Garden, let’s talk about a customized tour that’s packed with value added visits to some of England’s finest castles and stately homes timed to coincide with the Chelsea or Hampton Court Flower Shows.
To point you in the right direction, start building a list of where you might find potential interest. So far mine includes Orchid, Herb, Rose and other specialist societies, your local garden club, Master Gardeners and Friends of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta, flower arranging societies, garden centers, and the gardening correspondent on your local TV/radio station and newspaper. Among potential co-sponsors for a tailor made tour, talk to your local nursery or garden center and explore opportunities with manufacturers of garden equipment, statuary, and greenhouses. What have I missed?
For examples of some imaginative UK garden tours go to www.customgb.co.uk and click on Stately Homes and Gardens.
Paull Tickner, creator of Special Interest Britain, is an expert in developing customized niche travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Check out his website at www.customgb.co.uk and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org