With a river that runs by half a dozen idyllic hamlets of old Cotswold stone houses before cutting through Bibury — considered England’s most beautiful village by Arts and Crafts founder William Morris — the Coln Valley in Gloucestershire is magical.
Unspoilt and utterly English, its unchanging landscape is crisscrossed by bridleways and footpaths. It has its own cricket club, tennis tournament, a community-run village hall and summer church fêtes aplenty.
Cotswolds celebrity residents
Before Carole Bamford’s Daylesford and Nick Jones’s Soho Farmhouse entered the fray in the posh north Cotswolds, the Coln Valley was “the Chelsea of Gloucestershire”.
Early in the Millennium it gained a reputation for attracting celebrities and supermodels. Liz Hurley owned an estate outside Barnsley from 2002 until 2015 and Kate Moss owns a house just beyond the valley in Little Faringdon.
Novelist Joanna Trollope lived in Coln St Aldwyns village for 20 years and set many of her Aga sagas in the valley.
Down the road is Cirencester, where players from Argentina will arrive en masse for the summer season at the market town’s historic polo club.
Today the Coln Valley draws buyers who want “a traditional home for the family that’s discreetly off the beaten track and without paying the value added by being in the Soho Farmhouse or Daylesford catchments”, says Sam Butler of local estate agents Butler Sherborn.
Prices range from £500,000 for a two-bedroom cottage to £2.5 million for a country house.
Where to buy a weekend house in the Coln Valley
Bibury is a summer tourist trap but if you don’t mind that, Jackson-Stops is selling a four-bedroom cottage with an open-plan kitchen for £595,000 in nearby Arlington, a short drive from Bibury’s much-loved Catherine Wheel pub. Call 01285 653334.
In the busier village of Northleach is The Wheatsheaf, a trendy pub with good food and lots of great walks from the front door. Knight Frank is selling a five-bedroom Cotswold stone house in Northleach for £855,000. Call 01789 869197.
Quenington on the southern edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boasts The Keepers Arms, an award-winning pub with rooms.
From here, it’s a four-mile walk along the river to the market town of Fairford which has lots of shops and restaurants. Jackson-Stops is selling a four-bedroom cottage in the heart of Quenington village for £800,000. Call 01285 653334.
Southrop — south Cotswolds cocktail territory
Tania Thompson, of Jackson-Stops, believes the area has the scenery, walks and great pubs to give the trendy north Cotswolds a run for their money, but in a less polished way.
“And it’s that much further from London so the two combined offer better value for money,” she adds.
The south Cotswolds rival to the cocktail territory further north is Thyme in the village of Southrop, near Lechlade.
What started as a cooking school has evolved to a chic country house hotel with a spa and The Swan Inn gastropub, all under the watchful eye of local entrepreneur Caryn Hibbert.
In truth, this area has always been “hot” but it lacked amenities beyond traditional country walks and great pubs. Now, with the evolving offer at Thyme, it’s about as swanky as things get in the Cotswolds.
Commuting: trains to London Paddington from Kemble station — which recently expanded the size of its car park — take an hour and a quarter. More frequent 51-minute services run from Swindon. The drive to London takes about two hours, depending on traffic.
Commuting from the Cotswolds
At the southern end of the Coln Valley is the pretty village of Coln St Aldwyns, which has a community-run shop, a café and the recently reopened New Inn.
Harry Moore-Gwynn and his wife Sarah like the Coln Valley for its unspoilt appearance
The pub is a favourite of art dealer Harry Moore-Gwynn and his wife Sarah, a speech therapist, who use it as a starting point for their walk following the River Coln to Bibury.
Moore-Gwynn, who specialises in British art, commutes three days a week from home in the nearby village of Filkins to his gallery in Mason’s Yard, St James’s: “On a very good run it’s a 90-minute drive down the M4.”
The couple bought their cottage in 2013 as a weekend escape but after restoring it, they recently moved out of London with their toddler Clara and baby Laurie.
“I knew the area well before buying, having been to school and university in Oxford, and liked the fact that it’s reasonably near London while remaining relatively unspoilt,” says Moore-Gwynn. “We absolutely love it here.”