Packed with rugged, rolling valleys, small towns with unique country culture and a serious focus on local produce, the Cotswolds are so much more than just a chocolate box of quintessential British countryside. 

Here are three must-see destinations for days out in the most beautiful part of the not-so-wild west country.

Kingham

Head here for a rural retreat on the northeastern edge of the Cotswolds, about 40 minutes by car on the London side of Cheltenham. Even though the village’s population is less than 1,000, there’s more than enough to keep foodies entertained for a long weekend.

Try Daylesford’s organic farm, which has just launched a garden shop and floristry courses to go with the local produce, restaurant and cookery school that made it famous.

Kingham is also home to two great pubs with rooms: The Wild Rabbit, where food is locally sourced and Michelin-starred, and the always-impressive Kingham Plough, which is fantastic for both fine dining and top-class bar grub.

Alternatively, head across to Soho Farmhouse, which is a 15-minute drive the other side of Chipping Norton, where you can easily lose a weekend spa-ing, pony hacking, boating and all-out chilling at the Soho House group’s country retreat.

For a day out, head up to Hook Norton Brewery and take the tour, which ranges from quick walks and tastings to full-on brew-your-own-to-take-home masterclasses.

Cirencester

As well as being jam-packed with Cotswold stone goodness and Roman heritage, Cirencester – about half-an-hour’s drive southeast of Cheltenham – is the perfect stopping-off point for when you’re working your way around Cotswold villages.

In town, there's plenty of history, including the remains of a Roman amphitheatre and an old Roman town wall. You can learn more about this ancient heritage at the Corinium Museum, which sits at the end of the quaint Blackjack Street. This quaint, narrow road is also home to a number of cafés, independent shops including a stellar kid's bookshop and a butchers where you can pick up burgers, sausage baps and bacon sarnies to chew while exploring the rest of the town centre (and its lively farmers' market) on a Saturday morning.

Stay at refurbed coaching inn The Kings Head and grab food at Made By Bob, before checking out the picture-perfect villages of Ablington, Bibury and Barnsley – the last of which is home to the Barnsley House hotel, which has gardens that were made famous by English horticultural royalty Rosemary Verey. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a charming Cotswolds boozer with rooms, try The Village Pub (which is just over the road) for low-ceilinged charm and good pub grub.

Also stop off at Northleach – a tiny town about halfway between Cheltenham and Cirencester – for a flying visit to The Wheatsheaf. Whether it’s as a starter or a light lunch, make sure you try the devilled kidneys on toast – they’re offally good. Also worth a visit is Ox House Wine Bar, a vintners with a great local vibe, and a good selection of wines.

Nailsworth and Minchinhampton

For a more rugged, but no less stunning view of the Cotswolds, wind your way through the Stroud valleys to the quaint town of Nailsworth. Hobbs House Bakery has a cosy little café for a coffee once you’re done in the town’s antique shops, while William’s Food Hall has been serving up top-notch fish at its deli and restaurant for over 30 years.

Next, head up to Minchinhampton Common, stopping for a two-in-one pie at The Weighbridge Inn on the way. The old-school-interiored boozer specialises in super-rustic half cauli-cheese, half steak and kidney pies with the meltiest pastry imaginable. Boots filled, head up to the Common, or stop-off at one of the many village pubs on the way up for some blockbuster valley views.

A car is useful to see the best of the Cotswolds, but you can explore with direct trains to Cheltenham, Kingham, Kemble (for Cirencester) and Stroud (for Nailsworth) from Great Western Railway. From £52.50 return to Cheltenham Spa. For more information visit gwr.com

To extend your Cotswold stay, take a trip to Cheltenham. Read our guide here