The Tea Experience: Afternoon Tea in the Cotswolds

The Tea Experience: Afternoon Tea in the Cotswolds

Text by Jane Pettigrew
Village of Taunton (pictured above) • Photograph by Nick Turner  Courtesy of Cotswold Tourism Partnership

Set in southern central England, the Cotswolds are an expanse of gently rolling hills and meadows that cover a 787-square-mile area and stretch from Warwickshire and Worcestershire through Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire to Bath and Somerset. The name is said to refer to the “sheep enclosures in rolling hillsides” of the past. (In medieval times, Cotswold sheep were famous throughout Europe for their thick, heavy fleeces and high-quality wool.) Designated an Area of Outstanding Beauty in 1966, the gentle landscape stretches out in all directions, lyrical and welcoming. The vast acres of undulating farmland are separated only by ancient dry stone walls and clumps of woodland where tall trees form dappled leafy tunnels over winding country roads. Nestling amongst the tranquil countryside, picturesque villages and small towns—made rich by the wool trade of the past—boast grand churches with tall steeples, old coaching inns where weary travelers and exhausted horses once rested, thatched cottages, and gracious manor houses with exquisite gardens and walls of yellow Jurassic limestone that gleams honey gold in the summer sun. The region is dotted with neighborhood tea shops and grand hotels that were once stately homes, castles, or ancient priories. And so, after wandering through the little villages or hiking the Cotswold Way footpath, head for one of the following five venues for a very English afternoon tea. 

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