When I picture the Cotswolds, Broadway always comes to mind. It might not be the most famous town in the area; that accolade goes to Bibury and Bourton on the Water. And it isn’t the prettiest either, although it puts up a good fight! But somehow, to me, Broadway is the most Cotswoldian (yes, I made that word up!) of all the Cotswold towns.
Walking up the wide chestnut tree avenue is like stepping back in time into a fairy-tale village with gingerbread houses. Yes, it really is that pretty! In my mind, the independent shops lining the honey coloured high street haven’t changed with time. In fact, many of the buildings in Broadway date back to the 17th century, some even earlier! Broadway was born during the Norman Conquest (1066-1075) as a critical market town. At the same time, five other market towns were founded: Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold, Burford, and Northleach. All worth a visit in their own right.
Whether you have come to Broadway on a day trip, or use it as your base to explore the Cotswolds, you are guaranteed to have a lovely time. In this blog I share with you the best ways to explore Broadway. From what to do to where to eat. And without forgetting, of course, to include slightly more adventurous activities than simply having afternoon tea and doing a spot of shopping!
What to do in Broadway
I’m sure it will come as no surprise that my first recommendation is to get your walking boots out and head for a hike! Broadway is an excellent base for hiking thanks to the several National Trails that pass through, including the Cotswold Way, Wychavon Way, and Winchcombe Way. Depending on how energetic you feel you could walk to the pretty villages of Snowshill (7 miles) or Stanton (6 miles). However, my top recommendation would undoubtedly be a walk up to Broadway Tower.
Broadway Tower stands proudly on top of Beacon’s Hill, from where you can see up to 16 counties on a clear day. You might also be able to see the Malvern and Black Mountain hills. Although you might think the tower was some form of defence building from the Saxon era, it is just a folly, erected as a show of love. Regardless of its lack of historical meaning, it offers one of the best views in the Cotswolds and is the perfect location from where to watch the sunset.
In my Broadway Tower specific post I discuss the various routes you can choose for walking to the tower from Broadway.
Explore the Cotswolds on Horseback
An alternative way to see the views of all 16 counties is to join a ride from Jill Carenza’s yard in Stanton. Located at the foot of Shenberrow Hill, Jill offers rides up the hill to all levels of riders. If you have never sat on a horse before, you can enjoy a nice sedate walk to the top of the hill, where you will be able to enjoy the beautiful vistas. However, if you know what you are doing, then join one of the faster rides and whizz up the gallops, or join one of the longer hacks that will take you further afield into the Cotswolds wilderness. Of course, I am biased when I recommend this activity. After all, I love riding horses and have ridden since a young girl, but I do believe there is no better way to explore the area than on horseback!
Try your hand at Clay Pigeon Shooting at the Cotswold Shooting Ground
Firstly, I am rubbish at clay pigeon shooting! I can’t help but close my eyes when I pull the trigger, so it is somewhat miraculous that I have ever hit a clay! My inability to keep my eyes open aside though, shooting clays is a rather enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
The concept is simple: clay pigeons (which, by the way, don’t resemble pigeons) are stacked in a trap that shoots them out in front of you like frisbees upon request. The idea? Shoot at them and hit them! All of this, of course, happens under the tutelage of an experienced instructor, who is not only there to ensure you remain safe, but also that you have a good time and keep your eyes open so, unlike me, you can hit some clays!
Enjoy a ride on the Cotswolds Steam Railway
Since a visit to Broadway, or any Cotswolds town, is like stepping back in time, it only seems fitting that you take advantage of the recently reopened GWSR steam train. This heritage railway runs 14 miles from Cheltenham to Broadway, taking in some of the most spectacular views in the Cotswolds as it passes through small hamlets and villages with far reaching views across to the Malverns. It could easily pass as the Hogwarts Express and would provide a great mode of transport if you are thinking of visiting the Cheltenham races!
Whether you plan to ride the train or photograph it, you can find the timetable here. It runs on select days between March and October, with a couple of days in November and weekends in December.
Last but not least, if you are a true enthusiast, you might be interested in the conductor experience!
Make your own soap!
Nestled in the heart of Broadway is the Little Soap Company which makes 100% natural, plastic-free, and environmentally friendly soaps, and you can learn how to make them too! Pre-pandemic you were able to spend a few hours with them learning in person. However, due to social distancing restrictions, they are now setting up an online course which means you will be able to learn from anywhere in the world! Once I hear that their classes are up and running again, I’ll update this post.
Not strictly in Broadway, but close enough to feature in this “what to do in Broadway” guide, are the Cotswolds Lavender fields. Cotswold Lavender sits high on the hill overlooking Broadway and the Evesham valley. This family-run farm opens its doors to tourists and Instagrammers from mid-June through until the end of the summer. Aside from existing as an excellent backdrop for floaty dress photos, it is also a working farm from which they harvest lavender to produce many great products, including lavender oils, candles, scent diffusers, soaps, lotions, and several other great gifts.
Since starting my carbon offset project, I have been buying their solid soaps to support the local economy and reduce plastic, and I can tell you, I have never smelt better!
Just 5 miles from Broadway live the Cussack’s, owners of Honeybourne Pottery. When not busy making their own designs, they open their doors to teach individuals, families, and groups. So whether you are planning a hen do or a family outing, this is a great activity, particularly for a rainy day! A 90-minute taster session costs £55pp. You will have your own potters-wheel for the duration of the workshop. You will learn the five basic steps of making a pot and will have the opportunity to make as many pots as you like throughout the duration of the experience.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea
I’m not sure if there is anything more traditional than afternoon tea, and since you find yourself in a quintessentially English town, then it only seems fitting to follow tradition and enjoy an elaborate afternoon snack.
Afternoon tea was introduced in the 1800s when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of being hungry mid afternoon. At the time it was customary to have only two meals a day: breakfast and dinner at around 8 pm. So Anna started enjoying a pot of tea and a light snack at 4 pm. Initially in private, but she soon began inviting friends to join her until it became a common occurrence among the upper classes.
Best place to have tea?
At this point I should come clean and admit that I am not a tea drinker, but I am a cake eater, and therefore I can certainly recommend where to eat delicious cakes (where I assume the tea is also good!).
The Lygon Arms
Since afternoon tea is all about tradition, it makes sense to enjoy it within an establishment that is steeped in history. The Lygon Arms, formerly known as The White Heart Inn, has served weary travellers since 1377. However, its claim to fame came as a result of housing not only King Charles I, but also his opposer, Cromwell, during the English Civil War.
For £29 you can enjoy your tea like a Royal. Expect freshly baked scones, exquisite finger sandwiches, and irresistible sweet cakes. However, the main conundrum is whether you will spread the clotted cream first or the jam first! For £10 more you can upgrade your experience to Champagne.
Enjoy some locally distilled gin
If you are a gin lover, why not pop into the Cotswold Distillery shop in Broadway for your own private tasting? Your host will give you an introduction to the distillery and talk you through their range of Outstanding Natural Spirits in depth before you then get to enjoy one of them. Tastings cost £15 a person and the driver goes free! As a non-drinker, I haven’t ever been to the Cotswold Distillery shop, and I don’t plan to either, as it would be lost on me, but I have bought many bottles as gifts, and I have always had excellent feedback from the recipients!
Where to eat in Broadway?
Inn & Brasserie at Childswickham
One of our favourite pubs in the whole of North Cotswolds happens to be only 2 miles from Broadway, and therefore I could hardly leave them off this list! The Inn and Brasserie at Childswickham has all the charm you’d expect of a rural pub whilst also serving delicious, locally sourced food. We’ve never had a bad meal there and it is often our go-to choice when meeting up with friends. The bar area is dog friendly and is, therefore, a great choice if you plan on enjoying any of the many footpaths that cross the village.
We haven’t had the pleasure of eating here yet, but we have heard great things from locals and tourists alike. According to Tripadvisor, it is the number 1 spot in Broadway to enjoy brunch or lunch, and the reviews all rave about pizza, pasties, samosas, sausage rolls, and quiche. However, what has always caught my eye has been the rocky road, muffins, flapjacks, and brownies. But that probably says a lot about my sweet tooth! My goal for 2022? To enjoy lunch and a cake at the Market Pantry!
Russell’s of Broadway
Featured in the Michelin Restaurant Guide (not to be confused with a Michelin Star), Russell’s of Broadway is an award-winning restaurant focused on serving locally sourced produce. The elegant and contemporary restaurant is nestled in an old 16th-century building. Formerly a private home before it then became Gordon Russell’s furniture-making business headquarters.
The menu changes daily and you can always guarantee a delicious meal. They also offer a great value fixed-priced roast on Sundays. Make sure to book in advance though, as it is a favourite!
Where to Stay in Broadway
Since I live a mere 10 miles away, I must admit that I have never stayed in Broadway and probably will never need to. I have, however, had a look online and made a note below of the places that have caught my eye.
Well, of course I was going to choose something different! It’s in my nature! They are situated on the hill, near Broadway Tower, overlooking the town. Seeing as Broadway Tower is one of the best spots to watch the sunset, I would imagine it would be pretty special from Rookery Farm too.
You have the option of a Shephard Hut or a Glamping Pod, both starting at £40 a night which is really good considering what the prices can be like in the area. The huts feature a double bed, ensuite bathroom, kitchen, and heating. The pods are a little more basic but still include an ensuite bathroom, a small kitchen area, and a pull-out chair bed. Please note that you will need to bring your sleeping bags and pillows for the glamping pod!
Another hut that caught my eye was “Luxurious and cosy Shepard’s Hut for Rural Retreats” on Airbnb. The photos and description of it on Airbnb (as well as all the reviews) really make me want to stay! It features a king size bed and a stylish bathroom, as well as WiFi, TV, and a mini-fridge. It is 1.7 miles out of Broadway, and rates appear to start at £120 per night.
If you are looking for something extraordinary, you may want to consider Buckland Manor, one of the most elegant country houses in the Cotswolds. Set within 10 acres of grounds and tucked away next to the old medieval village church, it is a mere 2.5 miles from the centre of Broadway.
The Manor has 15 luxurious bedrooms providing the highest standards of comfort. All are individually furnished with period furniture and fine fabrics. When not relaxing in your room, you can take a stroll through the beautiful garden, play a game of croquet on the lawn, delight in an alfresco afternoon tea, or enjoy a good book in the drawing room. A stay at Buckland Manor will undoubtedly complete your Cotswolds experience. Rooms start at £280 a night.
There are many other options you could choose from, including the aforementioned Lygon Arms and Russell’s of Broadway, both of which have the added bonus of being located in the centre of town. Wherever you choose to stay, I hope you have a wonderful time in Broadway. It truly is a great town which I am sure you will fall in love with just like I did!
If you are looking for additional towns to explore in the Cotwolds, I recommend you read “Top 10 Places to Visit in North Cotswolds” and “Moreton in Marsh – gateway to the Cotswolds by Train.”