As a Londoner, the Cotswolds is the quickest exit from the city into the countryside for me and I tend to escape the capital twice a month to dip my toes into English country life
I love the quintessentially British villages of the Cotswolds, the country pubs and charming shops, and the unique stone architecture and rolling hills.
I have a house on an estate near the quaint village of Lechlade, which is part of a luxury development called The Lakes by yoo (www.thelakesbyyoo.com), a joint venture between my own company Yoo and The Raven Group.
My visits to the area are generally orchestrated by my involvement in this project but there is plenty to do when I am not working – walking, bike rides, relaxing in traditional pubs and sitting by open fires. Next door to my house you can go wakeboarding and there are events held regularly at the local water parks. The unspoilt landscape, the quiet country life and the abundance of local produce make this house a really enjoyable retreat from my busy city life.
Then there are the villages to visit nearby – Bibury and Lechlade are beautiful and Burford is renowned for its charm. Local fetes are held throughout the summer, when old fashioned community spirit comes alive and the atmosphere is buzzing.
Where to eat
If I am in the Cotswolds on a Sunday, I always visit The Swan at Southrop (Southrop, Cotswolds, GL7 3NU; 01367 850 205; www.theswanatsouthrop.co.uk/cgi-bin/swan.html). It is a very traditional pub in a pretty village run by a couple, Sebastian and Lana Snow, who have escaped the smog. I love the fish and chips here and would recommend them if you visit.
The Bell at Sapperton (Nr Cirencester, GL7 6LE; 01285 760298; www.foodatthebell.co.uk/home.htm) is an 18th-century village pub. You can just go in for a quick drink but the food – including Gloucestershire beef or Cotswold crayfish – is what most people visit for. Children under 14 are not allowed in the pub, so this is not a family place, but sitting in front of the log fire with a glass of wine is lovely.
If I am buying food I visit Jessie Smith’s butchers (Blackjack Street, Cirencester; 01285 653387; www.jessesmithbutchers.co.uk/c_shop.htm) as well as the Cirencester Farmers’ Market on a Saturday (cirencesterfarmersmarket.squarespace.com). There is also Made by Bob, a café/restaurant and delicatessen in the Corn Hall in Cirencester (26 Market Place, Cirencester; 01285 641 818). The delicatessen stocks seasonal locally sourced food as well as high quality food from Italy. The café and restaurant could almost be in London as they have a buzz about them and the food is of such a high standard.
What to do
I love coming off the main roads into the Cotswolds and driving down the single track country lanes. It is such a contrast to commuting in London. My favourite drive is from Chalford to Lechlade through Burford. It is a lovely rolling, hilly drive and allows me to take in the beautiful scenery.
There is also a fantastic walk from Coln St Aldwyns to Bibury. This walk is ideal for an autumn day and is only 6.1 miles long so is not too hard.
Where to stay
Barnsley House (Barnsley, Cirencester, GL7 5EE) is a small country house hotel. The hotel has a new spa and stylish rooms but the appeal for me is the Village Pub restaurant. The chef at Barnsley House’s restaurant is Graham Grafton who has previously worked at London’s Caprice.
There is also The Kingham Plough (Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YD) a Cotswold Inn with a pub and a restaurant. Again, I enjoy the food here but the seven boutique en suite bedrooms are also of a high standard.