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We love Tetbury

Posted: Mon, 5th Jul 2021

With a history that meanders back through time for more than 1,300 years, Tetbury is a very special treasure in the Cotswold crown. Beloved by our own royal family (HRH King Charles III and the Queen Consort’s cherished home at Highgrove is close by), this is a charmingly unspoilt corner of England in the southern reaches of the Cotswolds, where honey-hued buildings, quirky pastimes and winding, cobbled streets are the order of the day.

Tetbury’s rich heritage is clearly visible in the historic landmarks dotted throughout the town and eccentric traditions which remain today, including the infamous Woolsack Races, which involves willing participants lugging 65lb woolsacks up and down the hilly streets of the town.

History and tradition

Tetbury was first mentioned in history as far back as 681, during the time of Ethelred of Mercia. The town became an important hub for the Cotswolds wool and yarn trade during the middle ages, although cloth was never manufactured in Tetbury itself as it didn’t have a source of running water, vital to power the mills. The many-pillared Grade 1 Market House was built in 1655 and has played host to the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays ever since. There’s also a fabulous farmer’s market held here on the first Friday of every month.

In addition to the old merchant’s houses that line the streets, visit the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalen. Built in 1777, its elegant spire is one of the tallest in the country. Law-abiding citizens should also peruse the collection of ‘Handcuffs and Other Restraints’ housed in The Police Museum. Take time to climb the Chipping Steps too, a centuries-old, cobbled street of steps rising from Lower Tetbury to the Market House.

Housed in the old Tetbury branch line goods shed, the heritage of the railway line which closed more than fifty years ago, is the Tetbury Goods Shed Arts Centre. The space is a regional centre of excellence for arts in the south Cotswolds, but you can still hear tales from the past including how the Maharajah of Jaipur used the railway to bring his polo ponies to Westonbirt in the 1930s and a farmer who moved his entire farm from the Scottish borders in 1946.

Royal connections

Back in 1980, the then Prince of Wales turned Highgrove Estate into a family home. Just a few minute’s drive from Tetbury, the gardens are well-documented as a particular passion of his and he has transformed them into a stunning series of interlinked spaces bursting with colour and character that visitors can explore. In the Prince’s own words, the gardens have been designed to ‘please the eye and sit in harmony with nature’. For garden lovers, the organic and sustainably managed gardens of Highgrove really should not be missed. Additionally, those who want to take a taste of royal life home with them can visit the Highgrove shop and browse a range of unique, unusual, and traditional gifts and food items.

Out and about

Tetbury’s location in the south Cotswolds makes it a great base from which to explore and we have a number of hand-picked cottages, of all shapes and sizes for you to choose from. Within a 10-minute drive of Tetbury, you’ll find Westonbirt Arboretum, this 600-acre site is quite simply spectacular and a fabulous day out for nature lovers of all ages. With more than 15,000 trees from around the world, we’d recommend picking up a copy of the Arboretum’s Tree Spotters Guide. Wander amongst the tree canopy on the treetop walkway or enjoy one of the guided walks. If you’re visiting during the autumn months, then bring your camera and be prepared for a real treat as the trees transform from vibrant green into every imaginable shade of red and gold. Or why not pay a visit to The Bathurst Estate and Cirencester Park, a magnificent 3,000-acre estate owned by the Bathurst family. The stunning parklands are open for the general public to enjoy and you can take your four-legged friends as well.

TV buffs may recognise nearby Chavenage House (just a 7-minute drive from Tetbury). This unique manor Elizabethan manor house has featured in many TV and film productions including Lark Rise to Candleford, Wolf Hall and the enduringly popular Poldark. Built in 1383, only two families have owned Chavenage since Tudor times, making this a fascinating family home to explore.

Wine lovers are in for a treat with the award-winning Woodchester Valley Vineyard & Winery just a 20-minute drive from Tetbury. This charming boutique vineyard sits in the Stroud Valley and produces white, rose and sparkling wines. Visit for guided tours and tastings and then stock up at the cellar door. Those who prefer the grain to the grape can pay a visit to the Stroud Brewery, also a 20-minute drive from Tetbury. Established by Greg Pilley, his original vision was simply to create great-tasting beers for the local community. Today, the brewery is a thriving enterprise offering a fabulous selection of organic, craft beers. Book a table in the Tap Room Bar and sample it for yourself.

When it comes to the great outdoors there is no better spot than the Cotswolds, and Tetbury has a prime setting for all sorts of wonderful outdoorsy adventures. You could plan your stay around the Badminton or Gatcombe Horse Trials, or maybe the Royal International Air Tattoo, all within a 30-minute drive of the town. If you prefer to take things at your own pace, then there are plenty of walks and cycle routes in the area to suit all ages and abilities. Take gentle meanders through the history of Tetbury and head to Westonbirt for a stroll through the trees. Discover our Tetbury Walking and Cycling Guide for more information.

Central Tetbury

Whilst Tetbury is a town almost as old as time itself, it is a brilliant blend of old and new and this is perfectly reflected in the abundance of places to eat and drink. From traditional cafes and tearooms such as Café 53, Lyndsey’s, and the Whistle Stop Cafe.

When it comes to something a little more substantial you are spoilt with even more choices. The iconic Trouble House is a few miles out of Tetbury. It’s the perfect spot for coffee, cake, delicious lunches, and afternoon tea. From Thursday to Saturday, they are also open for dinner and on Sundays for lunch. The wonderfully titled Cat and Custard Pot Inn would be worth a visit just for the name however the food is also superb. This charming pub serves English pub classics with a refined twist on a seasonally changing menu. The Royal Oak Tetbury is a classic Cotswold inn with wonderful organic food and an interesting selection of real ales. Other pubs of note would be the Snooty Fox, a Tetbury institution, The Potting Shed, The Gumstool Inn, a gastro food pub within the refined locale of Calcot Manor and the Rattle Bone Inn, where it’s not uncommon to see a member or two of the royal family.

For special occasions, to push the boat out or simply for a wonderfully indulgent treat, look to the Garden Room Restaurant at the Close Hotel, the Dining Room at Whatley Manor, a two-Michelin star experience, or the Conservatory at Calcot Manor.

…and the rest

We could write pages and pages about Tetbury but suffice to say the best piece of advice we can give is to experience it for yourself. Have a look at our Tetbury Guidebook for more information.

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