Stow-on-the-Wold is classic Cotswolds and is a regular stop whenever we have visitors staying with us, but it’s not often we’re invited to stay in the town to review one of the cosy, honey-coloured cottages which the area is famous for. We enjoyed two nights courtesy of Cotswold Cottage Gems at The Crook. Here’s our guide to the ultimate long weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold.
A spot of history
The Lonely Planet sums up Stow:
The highest town in the Cotswolds (244m), Stow-on-the-Wold centres on a large square surrounded by handsome buildings. The high-walled alleyways that lead into it originally served to funnel sheep into the fair, and it also witnessed a bloody massacre at the end of the English Civil War, when Roundhead soldiers dispatched defeated Royalists in 1646.
Standing on the Roman Fosse Way (now the A429), at the junction of six roads 4.5 miles south of Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow is still an important market town. It’s also a major tourist destination, crowded with visitors in summer, and famous for hosting the twice-yearly Stow Horse Fair.Lonely Planet.
We arrived just a day after the Stow Horse Fair which is usually held in May and October.
Where we stayed – long weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold
Cotswold Cottage Gems is no ordinary holiday cottage company, but its manager, Gemma Elizabeth Conway, offers a personalised concierge service. Gemma will apply her encyclopedic knowledge of the area to any request:
“Our bespoke concierge service has included arranging personal chefs to cook meals at the cottages; make local bookings; and I have even been known to drive guests to local pubs and collect them at the end of the evening. Perhaps the oddest request was for me to look after a guest’s dog at my home for the duration of her stay, and ensure it only drank bottled water. All part of the service!”Gemma Elizabeth Conway
Over the pandemic, Gemma saw staycations soar with bookings up by 64% for mid and high seasons and a 100% occupancy rate across all its locations.
No wonder that the holiday company expanded its portfolio to included 12 cottages across Cotswolds including Moreton-on-the-Marsh, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cold Aston, Lechlade-on-Thames and of course Stow, plus the boutique hotel, The Lansdowne, in Bourton-on-the-Water.
The Crook was a recent addition and is filled with Gemma’s unique style. She sources local art and unique furniture from local suppliers. The Crook sleeps 6 adults comfortably, there is an extra set of twin beds for children, and it makes a great base for a long weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold.
The kitchen has ample room for all guests and makes for a great sociable hub, whilst the living room features a cosy log burner (plus enough seats for everyone, which is a real bugbear of mine when you go to a property that sleeps 6 or more and then there’s only a 3 seater sofa!) There’s good sized bedrooms with double beds and one shared bathroom (plus a WC on ground floor).
Spread over three floors, The Crook is a Grade II listed building and is packed with historical features – exposed beams, winding staircase and flagstone floor.
The name is inspired by Stow’s heritage in the wool trade and the shepherd’s crook which they would have used to guide their flocks.
The other benefit to Cotswold Cottage Gems is that you can book with confidence – they offered flexible bookings from the get-go.
You can book here: https://www.cotswoldcottagegems.co.uk/
What we ate
We were staying at The Crook in May just before the second wave of restrictions came into place i.e. allowing you to eat inside instead of relying on outdoor eating areas and the unpredictable British weather. We had quite a wet weekend, so we didn’t actually eat out that much.
Having said that we did visit Coach House Coffee twice in one day – first for the obligatory morning brew and to stock up on pastries for the following morning (which are the size of your face!). Secondly, at lunch time, for two delicious smoothies. Under ‘normal’ circumstances the coffee shop has tables upstairs and serves a variety of pastries and light lunches. Donuts are worth it alone.
We bought our lunch from Cotswold Baguettes which offers a huge range of filling choices for their sandwiches as well as a range of tasty scotch eggs, homemade sausage rolls and cakes. My personal favourite is Coronation chicken – not to saucy, but just enough sauce, whilst Tom opted for a baguette packed with falafel and avocado. We picked up our feast which is just 5 minutes from The Crook.
When we stay away we don’t often get a takeaway, so it was nice to try Stow’s Indian – Prince of India which has quite a comprehensive menu of British Indian favourites. Naan breads were packed with filling.
On previous visits, Tom and I have eaten at The Sheep on Sheep Street – which has a contemporary relaxed vibe, cool decor and a menu that offers breakfast, lunch and dinners. The sourdough pizzas are particularly notable as are their tasty burgers.
What we did
Shopping in Stow
On this trip, we spent the morning having a good stroll around Stow-on-the-Wold and its main market square. You can easily spend two or three hours visiting the shops – an essential part to any long weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold.
As well as visiting the antique stores which are always worth a browse for treasure and vintage finds, some of our favourites include:
- Cabinet of Colours – my new favourite shop. Owner makes handmade pottery in store whilst also selling prints, cards and tea towels from other local artists.
- Scotts of Stow – is an icon and sells all manner of homewares. Pineapple corer, self watering container or a jumbo photo storage set, it’s all here in this Aladdin’s cave!
- Sam Wilson – lush fabrics and interiors. I’ve bought so many of these fabric pots for all kinds of tidying needs.
- The Cotswold Cheese Co – what can I say, for all your cheese needs!
- The Crock Shop – Kitchen supplies, again worth a browse for the Emma Bridgewater seconds.
St Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-Wold
This is probably the most Instagrammed scene in Stow. St Edward’s Church is a medieval built church and is Grade I listed. It features a number of architectural styles due to the renovations and additions it received over the centuries, you’ll find parts from the 1000s through to 1600s. It follows the cruciform, that is laid out in the shape of Christ’s cross.
It’s the north facing door, constructed in 13th century, that attracts visitors. Flanked by two ancient two yew trees, the door looks like it marks the entrance to a fairy realm rather than a church entrance. The arched wooden opening is capped with stained glass windows and local lore says that J.R.R Tolkien was inspired by the entrance to create the Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings world. But there’s no real proof of this, they are both flanked by yew trees though!
Burford Garden Company
It was a very wet weekend, so after lunch, we went to Burford Garden Company which is just a short drive from Stow-on-the-Wold. Burford Garden Company is a Aladdin’s cave of gardening, homewares, health and beauty, local food and you can easily pass several hours wondering through its many departments. Read my blog about it here: https://www.weekendtourist.co.uk/nells-dairy-at-burford-garden-company/