The South West of England is a truly magical place to visit, with quaint country roads, charming riverside pubs, and friendly locals galore – the Cotswolds and surrounding areas have been one of our most memorable vanlife trips in the UK thus far.
If you’re planning on visiting this lusciously green area either for a quick road trip, or for an extended vanlife stint, then this blog will cover where to go, what to do, and how to deal with the logistics of daily vanlife!
The Pilot Inn in Hardwicke allows campers to park in their car park overnight as long as you buy a meal there, but be sure to be polite and ask the manager as soon as you arrive!
The car park is surrounded by fields of sheep and is pretty sizeable so it could work for longer vehicles, The Pilot Inn sits right on the edge of the Gloucester and Sharpness canal and makes for a lovely walk on an evening!
Welcome Break in Dursley, Gloucestershire is a 24hr service station with free showers available to their customers.
The gym chain Pure Gym offers a nationwide 24/7 access membership for only £17.99 per month, and they happen to have a location in Gloucester, which, as you may know, is located right beside the Cotswolds!
Our top pick for downright gorgeous work spots, the Patchwork Mouse has free WIFI, is open seven days a week, and offers scrumptious food as well.
However, this is no hidden gem and can become very very busy, so get there early to find a seat, and be prepared for a bit of noise!
Only a stone’s throw from the enchanting Gloucester Cathedral (where they filmed some of Harry Potter!), this coffee shop has buckets of charm, a vast menu of both savoury and sweet items, and non-dairy kinds of milk.
The perfect location to get some work done, and spend some time exploring. They also offer free WIFI, although it wasn’t working very well when we were there, so we ended up leaving early and having an exploration day!
An accidental find, we spotted the recognisable Starbucks sign as we were approaching a roundabout that felt pretty much in the middle of nowhere – of course, we had to stop to get our caffeine kick, and we were incredibly surprised to find a mahoosive Starbucks located in a large restored barn.
This Starbucks had so much more charm than any we’ve been to, and I assume it must be relatively new as it was almost empty when we arrived, granted – it was early in the morning.
With dozens of seats, electrical sockets galore, and delightfully friendly staff – this is likely the quietest and most convenient digital nomad zone in the area!
Not to mention, upon Googling, it looks as though the local town; although small – has plenty to offer!
The Pure Gym chain is a nationwide chain of gyms that offer membership for less than £20 per month; this is an excellent option if you’re planning on staying in the UK for at least one month as it gives you access to any of their centres for showers and working out!
One of my favourite gym chains, the David Lloyd gyms feel more like you’re at a private country club with luxurious facilities than a run of the mill gym. Most of their centres have fully kitted out gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, and cafes.
We were lucky that our friends happen to be members of the Gloucester location so that we could enter as guests of hers, but we asked at the counter, and they confirmed that it is possible to get temporary or trial membership for visitors!
One of the significant benefits of joining David Lloyd is that you can also use their cafe to work from.
A chain of laundromats across the UK, Soap N Suds, have very well kept facilities with plenty of washing machines and dryers available.
They are open six days per week, Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 8 pm. The Stroud, Gloucester and Cheltenham locations don’t have much parking, unfortunately.
However – their position in Gloucester is conveniently located a very short walk from a large ASDA supermarket, so you can feasibly park there, throw your washing in – and do your shopping while you wait!
This little local pub definitely got in our good books with not one, not two, but three vegan options on their permanent menu, AND a vegan option on their Monday curry club menu too!
The food was hearty, well seasoned, and came in generous portions, in fact, in the week that we were in this area – we ate there twice.
Last year, we discovered that Zizzi started offering several vegan options, from bruschetta and pizzas to spaghetti and chocolate tortes.
We ordered the Peperonata (Spicy chilli) and Zucca (butternut squash and caramelised onion) pizzas, as well as the praline chocolate torte, and boy oh boy were we pleasantly surprised.
Most “chains” tend to offer the token vegan option, and they’re lacklustre, to say the least, but not Zizzi – everything we ordered was out of this world, and this will be our guilty pleasure every time that we’re back in the UK.
Life shouldn’t always be spent rushing around, so for one day of your Cotswolds visit, you really should book into the Cowley Manor Spa for some ultimate pampering and relaxation.
Inspired by the nature and beauty of the Cotswolds, C-side spa offers numerous treatments for women and men alike.
Cowley Manor boasts natural springs and numerous lakes within the grounds, and it is the abundance of water that inspires the spa with their 15-metre outdoor pool, and most impressively 17-metre indoor slate lined indoor pool with glass walls so that you can feel at one with the breathtaking nature.
This large city, right on the edge of the Cotswolds, offers masses of entertainment and convenience!
Did you know that many Hogwarts scenes from Harry Potter were filmed in the Cathedral at Gloucester? Well, you will as soon as you walk through those big entrance doors and are hit by the wizarding vibes!
Entrance to the Cathedral is free of charge, and while they recommend that you give yourselves 1.5 – 2 hours to explore, I’d say you only really need one hour – but that’s down to personal preference. They open bright and early at 7.30 am and close at 6 pm – although it’s best to check in advance.
A buzzing area within the city, there’s something about the water that brings together artisanal producers and mom and pop business’, but if you’re not content to just sit on the dock of the quay, fear not – for there’s adventure to be had!
Narrowboats are available for daily rental from Gloucester Narrowboats, and with room for up to ten people – let me tell you, getting a group of friends together for a day of picnicking and laughs on the water is an absolute hoot!
From £140 to £160 for a full eight hour day, it’s well worth the money, but I’d recommend booking in advance, unsurprisingly – other people know how much fun these Rosie and Jim-esque water vessels are too!
The largest town sat directly within the Cotswolds, Cirencester is a market town that lies only eighty miles from London.
This is one of those towns that I would recommend truly exploring rather than planning absolutely everything. Meander along the rambling streets of the town, and stumble upon a local eatery, pop into an art gallery just because, but do make sure to check out the Corinium museum!
Take a dip in the UK’s oldest public outdoor swimming pool and enjoy views of the nearby park, and historical buildings.
Sat on Cecily Hill, the Cirencester Open Air swimming pool is open to the public from the 24th of May until the 9th of September (2018 dates), and costs between £3 – £4.80 for an adult, and £1 – £2.80 for a child.
The lower prices are in effect on an evening only but don’t worry, with the pool heated to 27 degrees, you won’t be getting chilly even when the sun is going down.
Opening at 7 am and closing at 6.45 pm I recommend getting there first thing for an almost private pool!
Have a go at golf at the Cirencester Golf Club, well known for their open-door policy to all, whether you’re a member or not, and even if you’ve never touched a golf club in your life, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
It costs from £2.50 to £20 to have a go on the driving range, which includes 30 balls, and free rental of a golf club.
If you’ve ever fancied yourself a farmer, or just wished that you had the skills to start your own small-holding, an excellent introduction could be a short course or workshop at the Royal Agricultural University!
The oldest agricultural college in the English speaking world, the college first came to be in 1845. Attending a course at this establishment is something that I’ve yet to do, but their Blacksmithing and Ornamental Ironwork Workshop could tempt me!
Fancy a bit of a luxury cinematic experience? Well, at the Screening Rooms in Cheltenham, you can not only look forward to lazy boy style seating but table service with an extensive menu of tasty treats on offer!
There were even one or two vegan options which we, of course, had to try! We ordered the artisanal bread and hummus platter along with a side of olives which were both super yummy, it was a pity that there wasn’t a vegan hot dog, but hey ho, you can’t win em all.
On the second to last evening of our vanlife visit to the Cotswolds, we had an incredibly fun evening with our friends at the local miniature golf course, because – even though we’re all officially “grown-ups” we’ll never act like it. Never.
Located right opposite the screening rooms based in the heart of the Brewery Quarter, Mr Mulligan’s Lost Golf world costs £8.75 for 18 holes if you buy it there, or you can save £1 Per person if you book it online first (you can also do this on your phone inside!).
There were two eighteen hole courses on offer with the overarching theme of a Lost World, the first course was all about “Under The Sea” and the second focused on “Dinosaur Jungle” so, of course, we opted for the latter!
We visited on a weekday evening and ended up being the only people there, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the quirky and vibrant golf course, we especially enjoyed the funky UV room that challenges your aim and concentration… it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that your shoes are glowing!
An adorable little village that is so quintessentially British, you’ll almost feel as though you have to pull on your best tea dress, and order afternoon tea as soon as you get there!
Painswick became a thriving village way back when thanks to the booming wool trade, and you’ll still see fluffy sheep gracing the surrounding fields; doing their bit to represent the history of this ornate piece of English countryside.
Arriving in Painswick, what better way to plan your schedule for the day than by sitting down in the tiny tea room with massive charm, the Patchwork Mouse?!
Not content with being the best spot for tea, coffee, and locally made artisan treats (some of which are vegan or gluten-free) – the Patchwork Mouse also hosts art exhibitions that are sure to entice even the least artsy. Stare into the painting and drawings of the local area, and it won’t be long before you’re daydreaming of owning the chocolate box cottage that sits on the canvas!
But if your budget doesn’t stretch quite far enough for a large framed piece, you can pick up one of their charming greetings cards, either as a souvenir to your trip or send it to a loved one.
Open seven days per week, and with free WIFI, if you’re a digital nomad, working your way through this part of Britain, I strongly suggest working from this cafe for at least one day; there’s nowhere quite like it, and if the Patchwork Mouse does anything, it gets your creative juices flowing!
Once you have been re-energised by your tea and cake, you’ll likely want to walk it off – and what better setting to burn a few calories than the theatrical gardens of Rococo House?!
Created way back in the 1700’s, Benjamin Hyett designed a garden in a hidden valley behind the grand home that his father had built. He hoped that this garden would not only impress but intrigue and entertain his guests and that it did – and still does today.
Open between January 10th and October 31st from 10.30 – 5 pm (last entry 4.30 pm. I’d also recommend popping into the shop to buy some local pottery, or perhaps some jam.
England is a truly magical land, with so much to offer, notably breathtaking scenery, friendly locals, and hearty farmhouse fayres – but there’s something about the Cotswolds that sets itself apart from all other areas, and I’m not sure whether I can adequately put into words just how peaceful it is here.
As a sit here writing this, on what is to be our last day here – I’m sat outside at a picnic table making the most of a gloriously sunny day. To my left, there is a field of cows happily munching away at the green grass, and above me, I can hear the birds singing in the trees – yep, there’s something magical about the Cotswolds, and if I can say one thing for sure about this area – I’ll be back!