13 things which make Gloucestershire so gorgeous, from ice cream to cathedrals

Rupert Uloth picks out his favourite things about a place which he calls 'a county of perfection and fantasy'.

The villages

Prince Charles, a resident of Gloucestershire (when at Highgrove), was asked during Country Life’s recent 120th anniversary party what makes it so special ‘The villages’ was his unequivocal reply.

Anyone who has gazed on the rounded yew trees in the churchyard at Painswick, been beguiled by the twisting streets of Naunton (above) winding up from the bowl beside the River Windrush, or walked along Bibury’s famous Arlington Row, would find it hard to disagree.

The ice creams at the Old Mill in Lower Slaughter


The Royal connection

Highgrove is home to The Prince of Wales, Gatcombe is The Princess Royal’s home, and many more of the great and the good make Gloucestershire their home. Indeed, so keen are they to get back there that they have sometimes been caught speeding on the M4 in their haste to return.

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Not all the royals have had such good times in Gloucestershire, however. Edward II’s death – believed to be a most unpleasant murder – took place at Berkeley Castle in 1327.

Bargain-hunting at Tetbury

From the colonnaded marketplace to the lovely antique shops, it’s a lovely place to shop.

The Literature Festival

Founded in the late 1940s, the Cheltenham Literature Festival was the first of its kind – its model has been copied everywhere.


The Badminton Horse Trials, held on the Duke of Beaufort’s estate since it was started in 1949, is the world’s foremost such event and regularly draws crowds in excess of 200,000.

Local families jealously guard their almost inherited right to judge one of the awesome cross-country obstacles, rustic works of art that have set the template for Olympic courses the world over. It’s always been the one to win.


The Rosemary Verey Suite at the Barnsley House hotel

This hotel near Cirencester was once the home of genius garden-designer Rosemary Verey, who designed gardens for Sir Elton John and The Prince of Wales before she died in 2001. Barnsley House, near Cirencester, is now one of the country’s most delightful hotels.

Verey’s influence is everywhere at the stone-built 17th-century country house – there is even a Rosemary Verey Suite, with its own entrance in the corner of the garden, a delightful wrought-iron four-poster bed of twisting tendrils and delicate flowers, and even its own private conservatory. www.barnsleyhouse.com; 01285 740000

The Cheltenham Festival

I was at the Cheltenham Festival race meeting in 1986, the year Dawn Run won the Gold Cup, and I can still remember the tingle down my spine as I watched the sea of hats thrown into the air like a startled flock of pigeons taking flight. It’s a favourite meeting with the Irish and much Guinness was drunk that day.

Country houses

Indian-inspired Sezincote (below) must be one of the loveliest settings in the country, while Eyford was the winner of Country Life’s Favourite House competition.

New houses are springing up in the same style: the newest big house to adorn the landscape is Farmcote, a homage to 18th-century Classicism, with every modern convenience. Even the painted estate gates are immaculately designed, topped with substantial finials.


Fig 6: The house with its bow. The radiating conservatory or ‘harlequinade’ terminates in an octagonal pavilion

Dry stone walls

There are 4,000 miles of them in the Cotswolds AONB.

The Slad Valley

Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie was inspired by his upbringing in the Slad valley. Lee was born in 1914; over a century later Gloucestershire is still weaving its spell.

Cheese rolling

The annual cheese-rolling contest that takes place at Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, near Gloucester, has its origins in the mists of time. Some claim it’s to do with grazing rights and others that it was a pagan ritual.

Health-and-safety officials threatened its existence, but a foam version used in 2013 never caught on. This year, a 9lb Double Gloucester was the quarry once more.


Gloucester Cathedral

Site of the coronation of Henry III, and with cloisters that boast Britain’s oldest fan-vaulted ceiling.

Gloucester Cathedral (©Paul Highnam/Country Life)


Compiled by Rupert Uloth