Cotswold Villages: exploring Chipping Campden

by Jan

Chipping Campden is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds.  It is a small market town in Gloucestershire in the north of the Cotswolds.  It’s a popular destination for tourists as it has such a vast collection of historic buildings and is the start of the Cotswold Way.  We chose Chipping Campden as the base for our recent visit to the Cotswolds.  Its location is perfect for getting to nearby Cotswold villages and attractions.  However, leave some time to discover the many things to do in Chipping Campden.

Chipping Campden High Street

Chipping Campden High Street, Cotswolds, UK

Firstly, we set out on a stroll down Chipping Campden’s long, wide High Street.  Chipping Campden has an elegant High Street which is full of character and historic buildings.  Like many of the Cotswold villages, Chipping Campden has completely retained its traditional charm and remains unspoilt by modernity.

Chipping Campden owes its wealth to the lucrative wool trade in the late medieval period and the prominent wool traders who invested here.  Today, you can see lots of honey-coloured historic buildings.  You’ll also find a great choice of independent shops, cafés, and galleries.

Keep your eye out for the Fillet and Bone delicatessen, the Cotswold Cheese company and the intriguing emporium, Frankie Doodle.

The Market Hall

Chipping Campden, Market Hall, Cotswold, UK

Upon arrival at the High Street, the first building you’ll notice is the 17th Century Market Hall.  A wealthy merchant, Sir Baptist Hicks, built this building as shelter for  farmers coming to the market.  He left the arched sides open to provide light and access to the stalls.  It is a Grade-I listed building and has been owned by the National Trust, since an unsuccessful attempt by an American to buy it in the 1940s.

Luckily, the Market Hall was empty when we visited, and we could look round for free.  However, it is still regularly used as a marketplace.

The Cotswold Way

Dovers Hill, Chipping Campden, Cotswold, UK

If you are a keen hiker, look out by the Market Hall for the official stone marking the start of the Cotswold Way.  This is a National Trail that runs the length of the Cotswolds to the historic city of Bath.  It is 102 miles (164 km) in total and passes though many of the best Cotswold villages.

Obviously you could also start the Cotswold Way in Bath and walk the other way.  You’ll see this from the inscription “The Cotswold Way:  the beginning and the end“.

A walk up Dover's Hill

Dover Hill, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, UK

The Cotswold Way is one of the most popular reasons for visiting Chipping Campden.  If you don’t fancy the full long-distance hike, you can walk the first section as far as Dover’s Hill.  Take a right at St Catherine’s Church and then follow the path that leads up between some fields.

At the top of Dover’s Hill, you’ll get views for miles over the Vale of Evesham.  It’s a great point for a picnic or just rolling down the hill!

There’s a National Trust car park on Dover Hill for those who can’t do the steep ascent to the top.  The postcode is WR12 7LB.

Dover-Hill-Views, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, UK

Now, if you continue on the Cotswold Way, the trail leads to the Broadway Tower, in the nearby village of Broadway.  Broadway Tower sits atop Beacon Hill and is the second highest point in the Cotswolds.  This stretch of the walk is about 6 miles and can be quite hilly.

However, we did a circular trail, which took us over the side into Lynches Woods.  April was a great time to visit, as the as a carpet of bluebells covered the woodland floor.

Alternatively, you can retrace your steps down the hill back to Chipping Campden High Street.  We returned several times, as the kids thought it was fun!

The "Olympik" Games

As well as being the first hill on the Cotswold Way, Dover’s Hill is also host to the annual Olympik Games.  Apparently, Cotswold locals have been celebrating the alternative games here for over four hundred years.  It sounds like a whole lot of fun, with traditional events that include shin kicking, tug o’war and relay races with wheelbarrows and dustbins!

Grevel House

Grevel House, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, UK

The most remarkable house in Chipping Campden is Grevel House.  Not only is it the most beautiful (in my humble opinion!), but it’s the oldest house in town.

Built in 1380, this lovely house was originally home to wealthy wool merchant, William Grevel.

The original architecture has stood the test of time and Grevel House still looks exquisite today.  With distinctive features such as gargoyles, a sundial, and a large wooden doorway it really caught my attention, and we went back for several visits.

Another prominent house is Woolstapler’s Hall.  This 14th century stone building is where the wool merchants would grade the fleece of local Cotswold sheep.

Other historic buildings in Chipping Campden to keep a look out for are the Old Grammar School and County Police Station.

The Almshouses

Almshouses, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, UK

One of the best historic attractions in Chipping Campden is the row of almshouses in Church Street.  These are at the opposite end of the town, near St James’ Church.

They built the almshouses in 1612 to provide accommodation for twelve poor people in the village.  The benefactor was Sir Baptist Hicks, who’d provided the Market Hall for Chipping Campden.

Apparently, the houses are still occupied today, by retirees with a connection to Chipping Campden.  History-lovers will also notice the sunken carthorse wash in front of the terrace.

Old Campden House

Old Campden House, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, UK

Between the almshouses and church are some double gates.  We had to peer through to see one of an impressive pair of banqueting houses in a field.  These are all that remain of Old Campden House built by Baptist Hicks in 1613.  It was a very grand house until Royalists burnt it to the ground 30 years later in the Civil War.

If you are looking for unique holiday accommodation in Chipping Campden, you can now rent the banqueting houses.

Ernest Wilson Memorial Gardens

As we returned down the High Street, we stumbled upon the Ernest Wilson Gardens.  This hidden gem is a small, neat garden, providing a tranquil spot for some reflection time.  The gardens are a tribute to Ernest Henry “Chinese” Wilson, one of the world’s greatest plant hunters from the 19th Century.

Ernest was born in Chipping Campden and worked at some of the best botanical gardens in the UK before heading to China to collect rare plants.  This was a risky business at the time, but he later became one of the world’s most acclaimed botanists.

Today, the gardens provide a calm oasis away from the High Street.  It’s a pretty, relaxing space with a variety of plants and shrubs.  Admission is free, but there’s a donation box to help with the upkeep.

Eating in Chipping Campden

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to eating out in Chipping Campden, though not all had reopened when we were there.  The Bantam Tea Rooms is great for an afternoon tea or ploughman’s in the courtyard at the back.

The Eight Bells Inn is one of the oldest pubs in the village and is serving homemade food in the terrace area behind the pub.

Things to do near Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is in easy driving distance of most of the attractions in the north of the Cotswolds.  Some of the highlights for us were Bourton-on-the Water, Broadway, and Batsford Arboretum.  If you are travelling with children, click here for our guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.

Below are the three closest attractions:-

Broadway and Broadway Tower

Sunset at Broadway Tower, Broadway, Cotswold, UK

We drove to the nearby village of Broadway.  From here we did a circular walk, which took us to the iconic Broadway Tower.  There’s a National Trust café at the top with outside seating and impressive views of the countryside.  You’ll also see red deer behind the visitor centre.

Hidcote Manor & Gardens

Just 5 miles to the north of Chipping Campden, you’ll find the Hidcote Manor and Gardens.  This is an Arts and Crafts garden owned by the National Trust.  This is only a stone’s throw from Kifsgate Gardens.

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Snowshill Manor was the home of eccentric Charles Wade.  He bought the 16th Century manor to house his eclectic collection of possessions. Today the manor house and its gardens are owned by the National Trust and open to the public.

There is plenty to interest children, including the dovecote, a small model village and fish pond with newts.

Getting to Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is in the north of the Cotswolds. You can get there in just over 2 hours by car from London on the M40.

The nearest train station with buses to Chipping Campden is Moreton-in-Marsh.  From here take the line 2 bus to Chipping Campden.

Have you been to Chipping Campden?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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