Chipping Campden was one of the first Cotswold towns I came to know. I was living in Stratford upon Avon and had a customer in Chipping Campden. Every time I visited, I would walk down the high street in awe of the old golden-coloured buildings. I felt like I was in a fairytale.
Nothing much has changed since then. In fact, nothing much has changed for centuries! Many of the buildings on the high street date back as far as the 14th century! Chipping Campden was one of England’s most important market towns, especially famous for its wool trade. The Cotswolds were built from the wealth of the wool trade.
One of the most iconic buildings in the town is the Market Hall, built in the 1600s and now under the protection of the National Trust. It was built to provide shelter for merchants selling perishable goods, similar to the one you will find in Moreton in Marsh. Unlike the market hall in Moreton in Marsh though, which has now had the arches filled in, the Chipping Campden one remains in its original state, the stones have been worn away by hundreds of years of trade.
The impressive St James’ Church is another relic built with the money from the budding wool trade. It is famous across the isle for having one of the oldest tapestries and most significant brasses in England.
History aside, Chipping Campden has plenty to offer for day-trippers, hikers, and holidaymakers alike. Throughout this article, I will share the things I enjoy doing most in the area with you.
First though, is Chipping Campden worth visiting?
Chipping Campden is definitely worth visiting! Whether you’re an outdoorsy person in love with nature or an arts and history geek, there are enough things to do in Chipping Campden to keep you entertained for more than a day. Plus, it makes an ideal spot from where to explore the rest of the Northern Cotswolds and the nearby Shakespearean town of Stratford upon Avon!
Best Things To Do in and around Chipping Campden
Enjoy the Countryside on Foot
I am a huge advocate of exploring the Cotswolds on foot. It is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a reason, and whizzing past in a car will not give you the same joy as experiencing it slowly, step by step.
There are numerous National Long Trails that pass through, start, or finish in Chipping Campden. There must be a reason for that! Here are some of the routes passing through Chipping Campden. And I know I am biased, but putting on your walking boots and exploring the area on foot has to be the top of your things to do when visiting.
The Cotswolds Way is the most iconic walk in the Cotswolds. If you have the time, I thoroughly recommend it as the number 1 best thing to do! The Cotswold Way happens to start in Chipping Campden, and follows the Cotswold ridge to Bath, in the South.
I ran this 100-mile path in July 2020. Aside from it being significantly hillier than anticipated (hillier in fact than the West Highland Way in Scotland!), it was breathtaking. I got to know a side of the Cotswolds I had never even imagined before. I realised how lucky I am to call this area of the UK home. If you have the time to spend 4-7 days hiking (or running) the length of the Cotswolds, then I would certainly recommend it! Not only will you see some of my favourite towns, such as Broadway, Stanton, and Painswick, but you will also hit every deserving viewpoint along the way.
In 2021 I decided to hike the Diamond Way, wild camping along the way. The Diamond Way is one of the few circular routes in the area. Well, it is more of a diamond than a circle! This makes it ideal as you can start and finish in the same spot without worrying about onward travel. The route is 100 km, and unlike the Cotswolds way, it manages to avoid the worst of the hills, instead opting for the undulating lowlands of the Cotswolds.
I started off in Moreton in Marsh, where I live. Moreton-in-Marsh would also be an ideal spot for anyone travelling to the Cotswolds by train. However, if you are visiting Chipping Campden, why not start and finish there! The route will take you to some of the most important Cotswolds towns, including Chipping Campden, Moreton in Marsh, Bourton on the Water, Blockley and Northleach.
Heart of England Way
The Heart of England Way is yet another of the several long-distance walking trails passing through Chipping Campden. This 160 kilometre long trail links several parts of Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire. It is a beautiful walk with several remarkable sites along the way, such as Bourton on the Water, Castle Ring, Kingsbury Water Park, Cannock Chase, and Litchfield Cathedral. If you chose to walk the entire trail, Chipping Campden would be ideal for a rest day. However, if you aren’t looking for quite that size of adventure just yet, why not pick up part of it and then return along one of the many other footpaths that criss-cross this area?
The longest of these Chipping Campden walks is the Monarch’s Way, which is 1000 kilometres long! It supposedly follows King Charles II’s escape route from 1651. He crossed the Cotswolds from Chipping Campden to Moreton in Marsh, then south to Stow on the Wold, Northleach, Cirencester, and Tetbury before continuing South into Somerset. Throughout the trail are points of interest from the time, including the Royal Barn where he spent a night at Madeley or the Royal Oak near Boscobel House in Staffordshire, where the King hid to avoid being captured. Hiking a long trail like this is a long-term ambition of mine. But for the time being, and since I have a mortgage to pay, I simply enjoy following the route King Charles took through the Cotswolds.
Watch the sunset from Dover’s Hill
If you are looking for something a little more sedate, I recommend hiking up to Dover’s Hill. And if you don’t fancy walking up the hill, you can always drive there. There is a car park at the summit so it will involve zero effort.
I love this site not only because its landscapes are breathtaking, but also because it has a little bit of history behind it. Dover’s Hill is where the Cotswold Olimpick Games occur every year. A monument remembering Robert Dover – the founder of the Olimpick Games – stands at the summit of this 230 metre high peak.
If you choose to walk up Dover’s Hill from Chipping Campden, then be prepared for a moderate walk of about 5 kilometres (in total there and back). It is a steady climb from town, but fear not, it is over pretty quickly, and once at the top, you will be rewarded with grand views of the Vale of Evesham. The walk is a mix of grasslands and woods, and on a clear day you can see the Black Mountains and Long Mynd some 60 miles away! Sunsets from Dover’s Hill are simply spectacular, and I recommend you plan your walk accordingly. If you’re up to walking a bit further, the trail is a relatively flat walk to Broadway Tower.
The Walk to Broadway Tower is 10km there and back (from the centre of Chipping Campden), or 5 km there and back from Dover’s Hill car park.
What if I don’t want to walk?
I realise not everyone will be as enthusiastic about spending their holiday walking as me. But, fear not, there is plenty to do that does not involve long treks (although I still might mention a few extra walks!).
Quirky things to do in Chipping Campden!
Experience the Annual Olimpick Games
You may have spotted I mentioned the Olimpick Games above. It was not a typo. We actually have medieval Olimpick games (yes! With a K!) in Chipping Campden, and have done since 1612! Every year on the Friday after Spring Bank Holiday, Dover’s Hill comes alive. The event is the brainchild of Robert Dover – after whom Dover’s Hill is named. The Games saw a series of discontinuations and revivals until 1852, when the event was discontinued for good. It wasn’t until 1963 that it was revived again, and to date is still going strong with a huge following from locals and travellers alike! In fact, it is the one event on the calendar that you don’t want to miss.
Today, the Olimpick Games host a series of exciting events, including dwile flonking, morris dancing, and piano smashing! If you are wondering what dwile flonking is (I certainly had to google it!), it involves people dancing around while avoiding being hit by a beer-soaked cloth!
The opening ceremony consists of a person dressed as Robert Dover arriving on horseback to declare the start of the games. But if the Olimpicks must be known for one thing only, it has to be the famous shin-kicking event. This ” sport ” is often known as the English martial art. It involves two contestants attempting to kick the opponent on the shin to force them to the ground. It is quite a hilarious event to be a part of – and much less painful if you opt to remain a spectator!
Of all the things there are to do in the area, this is the most eclectic!
Moving on to less strange activities!
I never thought I would recommend visiting gardens as one of my top things to do, yet here I am, not suggesting just one but two! I started visiting gardens with my mum as it is something she enjoys doing and therefore something I can treat her to when she visits. However, it’s become my guilty pleasure now, especially if I can visit when there is nobody else there. They are such a great way to switch off, whether to go for a stroll, find a quiet bench to read a book, or simply practice some photography.
Stroll Around the Hidcote Manor Gardens
If you ever fancy pretending to have gone back in time and take a leisurely stroll through elaborately designed gardens, Hidcote Manor is the place to be! Created by Major Lawrence Johnston in 1905, the National Trust now owns the gardens. The most characteristic feature of Hidcote Manor Gardens is the series of garden rooms, all linked to each other. Some feature fountains, others ponds, but all have beds of flowers with colours popping in the otherwise primarily green maze surrounding the original manor house that dates back to the 17th century. As a result, the Hidcote Gardens are a treat to all the senses.
May to September are considered the best months to visit Hidcote Manor Gardens since it is at this time that the gardens look the most vibrant! However, even in the winter months, it is still worth a visit, and it has the added benefit of being half the price!
Hidcote Manor Gardens aren’t strictly in Chipping Campden, but they are only a short drive away, or if you would prefer, a gentle 5 km walk each way.
November – February: Only open at the weekends. 11 am to 4 pm
March and October: Open daily 11 am to 4 pm
April – September: Open daily 10 am to 5 pm
As there have been lots of changes since the pandemic, I recommend checking the National Trust website before visiting for the most accurate timetable.
Winter: £9 for adults and £4.50 for children. National Trust members can visit for free.
Summer (28th March until 31st October): Adults £15 and children £7.50. National Trust members can visit for free.
Address: Hidcote Bartrim, Chipping Campden GL55 6LR
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
In case you haven’t had enough of walking around beautiful gardens and feeling like you’re in the set of Downton Abbey, consider lining up Kiftsgate Court Gardens after you’re done visiting Hidcote Manor. The Kiftsgate Court is just an 800-yard walk down the road from Hidcote Manor and is best known for its roses and the three generations of women gardeners that have created such a beautiful space. The Kiftsgate Rose is the largest in England and was first planted in 1938. This scented, climbing plant bears cream-white flowers and is a treat to the eye.
Kiftsgate is primarily a family home with beautiful perennials blooming throughout spring and summer, such as peonies, geraniums, magnolias, and roses, amongst others. The family’s women have looked after the gardens for the last century. Heather Muir planted the first flowers in the 1920s. Her daughter Diany Binny took over sometime in the 1950s, and presently, the gardens are looked after by Binny’s daughter: Anne Chambers. Apart from the gardens, there is a tearoom and a gift shop for visitors. This attraction is definitely worth a visit and has won many awards over time. It also has the added benefit of being half the price of Hidcote Manor Gardens! Although I’d still recommend them both for your “things to do list” when you visit the area!
October – March: Closed
April and September: 2 pm- 6 pm. Closed Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
May-August; 12 pm to 6 pm. Closed Fridays and Saturdays.
Since the pandemic, I recommend checking their website before visiting for the most accurate timetable as there have been many changes.
Adults £9.50 and children under 16 £3.
Address: Mickleton, Chipping Campden GL55 6LN
Things to do in actual Chipping Campden
Although this post is about Chipping Campden, I’ve been very focused on activities that are actually outside of the town itself. So here are things you can do within the town of Chipping Campden.
Take a Walk Along High Street
I’m not sure there is a more striking high street in the Cotswolds. The high street features terraced buildings as old as the 14th century. Most of these buildings were built with the golden honey-coloured Cotswold stone – a type of quarried oolitic limestone which this area is famous for. A large area of High Street has been protected for its heritage under a special conservation status. Looking at these medieval buildings is sure to transport you back in time whether you shop for antiques or sit in age-old pubs.
While on your walk through the High Street in Chipping Campden, a good option would be to stop by the several antique shops around here. They sell various knick-knacks worn by time but of high value today. From antique copperwork art pieces to ancient books, pine furniture, and even porcelain figurines – there is a lot you can get your hands on here. Hart Gold and Silversmiths are some of the most well-known shops in Chipping Campden. They are known for their antique jewelry and domestic silverware made of silver and gold.
Another place worth checking out is the Old Silk Mill, which used to be, well, a silk mill! It is now an arts and handicrafts gallery for the local artisans around Chipping Campden. School House Antiques, located in the old Grammar School building, has a beautiful collection of antique paintings, fine art, furniture, and more. Finally, Dragon House Campden Bookshop has books dating back to the Art and Crafts Movement as well as other pieces of antique art and literature.
All these shops go way back and are an essential part of the history of Chipping Campden. So wherever you end up, you are sure to get a solid dose of history and heritage while antiquing in the village – definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Chipping Campden!
Geek Out on Historic Buildings
As has been made abundantly clear, Chipping Campden has a lot of history and heritage. The moment you enter this little town, the contrasting modern-day amenities in old buildings and narrow lanes are a sight to behold. If architecture and history fascinate you deeply, some of the most remarkable buildings around the town should definitely be on the top of your list.
Let’s start with St James’ Church and marvel at its 36 metres high tower and medieval altar frontals.
Another fascinating place to visit are the Almshouses. They were built in 1612 to house 12 poor people. They were pretty basic and shared an outdoor privy. Now, they are used as retirement homes for the elderly, with most of the original architecture still intact. I hope that they are no longer expected to use an outdoor privy though!
The Market Hall is yet another site steeped in history. This marketplace was once alive and thriving, especially during the peak of the wool trade. But the showstopper amongst all of these is the Grevel House. Built by an important wool trader, William Grevel, sometime in the late 1300s, this is the oldest standing house in Chipping Campden! Its architecture is also interesting to note since it is one of the first buildings to have proper chimneys instead of holes in the roof!
Where to eat in Chipping Campden
Unless this is the first blog of mine you are reading, you will know that no “top things to do” list could ever be complete without talking about food! The Cotswolds has earned itself an excellent reputation as a foodie destination with plenty of high-quality pubs that focus on locally sourced produce. Here are a few of my favourites!
Eight Bells Inn
This proper country pub is as rustic as dining can get! Established in the 14th century, this is probably one of Chipping Campden’s oldest places to eat (and drink). They have a menu featuring traditional, homely meals made with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. They also have a fine selection of ales, lagers, spirits, and wines to compliment your meal. The Inn also features six ensuite bedrooms for a very authentic feel!
Campden Coffee Company
If you’d rather choose a cup of freshly ground coffee, then Campden Coffee Company is the place to be. They have seating both inside and outside and benefit from being a pet-friendly establishment. Their milkshakes are very popular, as is their selection of cakes, waffles, and of course – coffee!
The Seagrave Arms
The Seagrave Arms is one of the finer eateries near Chipping Campden. They serve a set, lavish menu separately for lunch and dinner. But it is their Sunday Specials that are to die for. So if you want a roast, this is the place to come! It is just a short 3-mile drive from the centre of town. Or why not walk there and work up an appetite?
Three Ways House
Also known as the Pudding Club! It is in Mickleton, 3 miles from Chipping Campden, but I felt it was worth mentioning if you have a sweet tooth! Since 1985, the Three Ways House Hotel has been on a mission to preserve the Great British Pudding. Dinner at the Three Ways House is more than just a meal. It is an experience!
Start with a glass of buck fizz followed by a light main course. Seven traditional English puddings follow this! In the winter months, you can expect warm puddings like Spotted Dick or Sticky Toffee Pudding. In the summer, there is a selection of cold puddings, such as Eton mess and gooseberry fool!
It is quite frankly one of the most satisfying food experiences you will have in the Cotswolds!
Where to Stay in Chipping Campden
It is worth noting I live in the Cotswolds. So, naturally, I never stay away, as it wouldn’t make any sense to spend money on a hotel when I have a perfectly great home with a comfortable bed and the added bonus of a waggy-tailed dog to greet me when I return. However, I have done some research and noted below some of the accommodation options that have caught my eye.
Willersey Shepard’s Hut
Though located at Willersey, about 3 miles from Chipping Campden, this shepherd’s hut is worth mentioning here. It is halfway between Chipping Campden and Broadway, so it also features in my “How to spend a day in Broadway” post. This two-person hut has been very thoughtfully designed. It features sheepskin throws over antique French chairs, hand-carved stone for the basin, and no end of other intricate design details. What caught my attention though, were the reviews, which are all five stars!
You can read more about it here.
The Woolmarket House is a bed and breakfast tailormade to give you the charm of a typical countryside getaway. This boutique property has a very medieval charm to it. With exposed stone walls and bathtubs in bedrooms, this is as luxurious as your stay in Chipping Campden could possibly get! They also have an in-house Mediterranean restaurant which is excellent too.
Cotswold House Hotel and Spa
If you’re on the lookout for a well-balanced fusion of old-school and contemporary, look no further! The Cotswold House Hotel and Spa is located in the peace and quiet of the countryside, yet is easily accessible from the main action at Chipping Campden. Their Bistro On The Square is known for its tapas, and the newer Fig Restaurant is best for hearty meals.
But whether these catch your eye or not, you will certainly find no shortage of places to stay in Chipping Campden. The town and the surrounding area are teeming with traditional Bed and Breakfasts, hotels, and Airbnbs. And if you fancy reconnecting with nature then check out these campsites!
I do hope you make it to Chipping Campden one day. If you are planning a visit, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d be more than happy to share any knowledge I have to help make your visit as enjoyable as possible.