My heart belongs to Painswick. No, it’s not a tubby waistcoated Dickens character, it’s an adorable tiny town in the South Cotswolds. I’m a shallow soul really. A gorgeous boutique hotel, a sprinkling of couldn’t-be-cuter shops (Ha’Penny Antiques, left), an excellent deli and a country pub and I’m smitten. Throw in your chocolate-box Cotswold-stone village setting and some gorgeous gardens to while away an afternoon in and I’m head over heels. And my reason to share this is to urge you to go this month: they’re having an Painswick Summer Art Festival throughout August.
I couldn’t believe my luck when we managed to get a last-minute weekend deal at Cotswolds88 during summer. We spent half our time trying to guesstimate how much of Britain would jump at the chance to experience a staycation weekend that went a little like ours and the other half plotting how and when we could get there again. In a nutshell, and to whet your appetite to follow in our footsteps, our two-night stay went a little like this…
Friday night: After wending our way through Gloucestershire’s gorgeous country lanes, we rock up at postcard-perfect grey-stone country mansion which conceals super-stylish boutique hotel, Cotswolds88. Wander out into peaceful village, find award-winning deli, Olivas (left), for afternoon tea. Caper about in graveyard of St Mary’s taking pictures amid those bonkers yew trees and shouting puns such as ‘Suits yew, sir’ all the while. (Trip on gravestone while running for self-timer picture, below left, and end up with leg graze that raises eyebrows later on back at hotel – but I digress.) Return to hip hideaway, drink some champagne-based aperitifs (sidestepping the pre-supper cocktail suggestion from young waiter of a White Russian; eek), eat like kings (delicious steak, guys); hit the sack.
Saturday: Wake up, wolf a carb-load for breakfast, ditch newspaper banging on about credit crunch and swine flu in favour of more village wandering. Better for the soul. Discover bookshop in 14th-century National Trust cottage, stroke resident basset hound, buy decades-old children’s book as gifts for only a few pounds. Wander ‘high street’ browsing the sprinkling of shops, including a Tudor post office, buy a cute hand-printed card in the Chairman (left) to send to friend stuck in bed with aforementioned porcine affliction. See a leaflet and make note to self to mention Painswick Summer Art Festival on Blog…
For the full technicolour and we-did-this-we-did-that hotel write-up, see my proper Costwolds88 review online.
What to see and do in postcard-pretty Painswick?
Here are my eating, strolling and shopping recommendations…
Rococo Gardens Painswick GL6 6TH (+44 (0)1452 813 204)
It’s fairly small, but perfectly formed. Pretty follies pop up in green flower-filled grounds, with a good old fashioned not-as-easy-as-it-looks maze to tackle. The tea shop isn’t to be sniffed at – a decent Ploughman’s and carrot cake provided a heartier lunch than we’d expected.
Little Fleece Bookshop on Bisley Street, Painswick GL6 6QQ (+44 (0)1452 812 264)
Collectors of quality secondhand and antiquarian books will thrill at the copies stacked from floor to ceiling, while browsers will find this 16th-century National Trust building worth earmarking alone for a visit.
The Chairman on New Street, Painswick (+44 (0)1452 810 8200)
The antique rocking horse should grab your attention, and then once you’re lured inside it’s hard to resist one of the many handicrafts or antique furnishings. Even the greetings cards are irresistible.
Ha’penny Antiques on Tibbiwell, Painswick GL6 6XX (+44 (0)1452 813 712)
This tiny gift shop opened three decades ago and is now run by the original owners’ daughter, Kate. Floral teapots, pretty pottery and ribbonned cushions are just some of the curiosities to bring out the Magpie in browsers.
Olivas Delicatessen on Friday Street, Painswick GL6 6QJ (+44 (0)1452 814 774)
Far from your typical Cotswolds tea shop, Brian and Ximena Nunez have not only brought a taste of their native Colombia courtesy of the coffee that is served at this tiny hidden-away cafe and deli, but there are heartier home-cooked delights on offer for lunch and dinner as well as traditional cream teatime treats.
St Mary’s Church
Grade I-listed church celebrated particularly for its 100 – or thereabouts – yew trees which are the stuff of Painswick’s best-known folklore. Sorry about the posers in the pic – it didn’t look as glam when I fell backwards onto aforementioned tombstone.
The Woolpack Inn (+44 (0)1452 813 429)
This timeless little country pub overlooking a valley one side, and a church the other, is especially popular for Sunday lunch (definitely call in advance). Beloved by Alex James and the hip Cotswoldian brigade, it can fill up quickly, so they split lunch into two sittings, 12pm and 2.30pm. We recommend the Eton Mess, pictured.