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Cotswold Celebrities' Favourite Places

PUBLISHED: 09:36 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013

Cirencester Park

Cirencester Park

Take inspiration this summer with suggestions of the finest Cotswold places to visit from our high-profile residents.

Johnny Depp shopping in Chipping Campden, Hugh Grant playing golf at Stinchcombe Hill, Elizabeth Hurley dining at the Village Pub at Barnsley, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood partying at Little Faringdon, Elle Macpherson watching polo at Cirencester... Frankly, anyone who's anyone has been seen in the Cotswolds.


Some of our best-loved celebrities and high-profile locals have given Cotswold Life their top tips on how best to enjoy the Cotswolds. So if you fancy a bit of celebrity spotting this summer, try these recommendations:



Five favourite views:


Poet Pam Ayres: "The view from the road at Sheepbridge, near Eastleach, up a great, curving valley. My husband has always loved it, so it's known to us as Dad's Valley. In the winter, there's a stream all along, and it's always dotted with sheep: an exquisite Cotswold view."


The Marquess of Blandford: "They call Blenheim Palace 'the finest view in England': as you come to the gate with the lake and the house beyond. It was landscaped by 'Capability' Brown, and we now have a blueprint to take us through to 2025 that will see the park fully back as it was planted in the mid-1700s."


Gloucester rugby player James Simpson-Daniel: "From the top of Cleeve Hill, looking out over the racecourse, or from the beer garden of The Rising Sun, looking over the whole of the countryside."


Nell Gifford of Giffords Circus: "Minchinhampton Common at dusk: it's truly magical. I love the way the commons are looked after by local people, who have such a good sense of balance. Although they want to protect the area, they don't restrict it. Both the circus and the fair are welcomed onto Minchinhampton Common."


Celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen who has created his own bedroom mural with all his favourite bits of Cotswold countryside: "It's like a fantasy football league of all the best bits of our landscape. Then we went over to Cirencester Park for tea with Lady Apsley, and I thought hang on a second... There, in real life, were all the bits from my landscape."



Five pubs:


Actor/comedian Keith Allen who often works behind the bar at Laurie Lee's old haunt in Slad, the Woolpack: "It hasn't got any of the kind of illnesses of modern living, like television, jukeboxes, pool tables. It is very much about people, this pub, and it always has been; and Danny (Chadwick, the owner) doesn't want to change that."


Holby City actress Tina Hobley: "We like the Wild Duck at Ewen; and The Bell at Sapperton, which we really love, mainly because AA Gill hated it. When we were putting the offer in on our cottage, the first place we went to dinner was The Bell."


Henry Elwes, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire who owns the village of Colesbourne: "The Colesbourne Inn, which we built in 1824. Up until then, everything used to go to Gloucester, which was the county town: Cheltenham was nothing. Then they discovered the spa waters and everything changed. When the new turnpike road to Cheltenham was built through Seven Springs, my family decided there should be a pub to service it. I don't go for a pint every night, but we do go up for supper, probably once a month."


Sarah Champier-Lowe, personal florist to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales: "The Cat & Custard at Shipton Moyne because it's local; they do great food; there's a wonderful garden to sit out in in summer; and we've had some great staff get-togethers there."


Prue Leith, writer, restaurateur, caterer, cookery-school founder and businesswoman: "The Fox Inn at Lower Oddington, is my favourite pub, and also the best restaurant because I like good, simple food. Above all else, it's important to eat fresh food. I'm not an organic campaigner, though I do like the idea of putting fewer chemicals in the soil. For me, the great argument for organic food is that the farmer is likely to care more about how he treats his animals and how he grows his lettuces."



Five top shops:


Writer, Sue Limb: "Green Spirit, the organic food shop in Nailsworth is independent and eccentric! Once when I went in there was medieval choral music on in the background, and the people running the shop were arguing about whether or not it was by Dame Hildegarde of Bingen. You don't get that sort of thing in Asda."


Alex James, Blur bassist and Cotswold cheesemaker: "Butcher Trev Beadle in Chipping Norton is my man. And there's a very good butcher's in Chadlington called Slatters. I used to be vegetarian - but it's the exact opposite that happened with Paul McCartney. He moved to a farm and thought, 'I can't do this any more'. I moved and thought: 'Yes!'"


Actress-turned-property expert Fiona Fullerton: "One of my favourites is Keith's in Cirencester. It's known for its coffee, but I'm a tea drinker and you can get everything there from Lapsang Souchong to Darjeeling."


Crime fiction writer Mark Billingham: "The independent bookshop Jaffe & Neale in Chipping Norton. This is how a bookshop should be. The people who run it know their stock; they know their customers - and they love books. That sounds like an obvious thing to say, but not everyone does."


Sports star/businesswoman Sharron Davies: "Ellie-G in Regent Street, Cheltenham. It's owned by a friend of mine called Elena, who's a former Russian basketball player. She's six foot tall, like me, and goes off to Milan to source wonderful clothes that suit us both."



Favourite Cotswold building:


Writer Jilly Cooper: "I love Woodchester Mansion. You should go in November at dusk; it's really spooky and full of stories. There's a wonderful tale associated with it about a beautiful young woman in medieval times who was supposed to be getting married to a horrible man. But she ended up riding off with the man she adored while the bridegroom was eaten by wolves. It's haunted beyond belief."


Vicky Tuck, headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies' College: "I love St Mary's, Cheltenham's Parish church: it's a beautiful old church with a wonderful sense of peace inside."


MC Beaton, creator of the Agatha Raisin series of detective stories, set in the fictional Cotswolds village of Carsely: "My favourite building is the church at Blockley. It's built on Saxon foundations and has an air of peace and permanence."


Cotswold chef, Rob Rees: "The Royal Crescent in Bath, not only for its strong associations but because it's absolutely magnificent."


Rageh Omaar: "This may sound corny, but I suppose Cheltenham College Chapel is my favourite Cotswold building, for purely sentimental reasons. I am a Muslim and I went to Cheltenham College. Although I didn't go to chapel, many of my school friends did as they were Christians. Yet this was utterly unimportant. It meant nothing in our friendships. They were who they were, and I was who I was. It's a building that, when I was young, came to symbolize many important things: growing up as a Muslim in a white Christian country, as well as the real meaning of friendships, understanding and tolerance, and the dangers of being encouraged to fear the unknown and unusual - all still critical issues."


Five teashops:


Top polo player Nina Vestey: "In the summer, Cirencester Polo Club has a cute old tearoom where they do a great tea with scones and jam, cakes and sandwiches."


Charles Berkeley, heir to Berkeley Castle: "The castle tearoom. The soup is great, as are the scones and jam, though I do try to limit myself!"


Martin Graham of Longborough Festival Opera: "I don't really do tea, except when I'm visiting Cathedral cities. There's a nice one in The Close at Norwich, and a most wonderful one called Bonnett's in Ely and, of course, The Comfy Pew in Gloucester Cathedral Close."


Meurig Bowen, director of Cheltenham Music Festival: "It would be coffee - but I'd choose either Moka or Hot Pepper Jelly, both in Tivoli. Their individuality reminds me of the caf scene in Sydney and Melbourne. Britain seems to have become enthralled with Americanised franchise-culture; you can still find places with personality, but they're like rare jewels to be treasured."


Sarah Smyth, director of Cheltenham's Festival of Literature: "It's not really a tea room but, if you want to go anywhere for tea, you can't beat the Queen's (Hotel, Cheltenham) if you want a sense of occasion."


Five places to visit:


Lady Edna Healey loves the Forest of Dean, where she grew up: "The poet, Leonard Clarke, was a great friend. Once, when he came and had tea with me, I showed him my little London garden and I told him, 'Underneath that apple tree, I'm going to plant daffodils, and I've got bluebells underneath there; and there's a bank with some violets...' "And he looked at me and said, 'And where are you putting the bracken?' "He could see exactly what I'd done. I'd recreated the Forest of Dean."


TV presenter and writer Dom Joly: "When I was at prep school in Oxford and couldn't get back to Lebanon where my parents lived, I used to come back here for weekends. My early English memories are going to Birdland at Bourton-on-the-Water and the Cotswold Farm Park (near Guiting Power). I didn't move to the Cotswolds thinking 'I'm going back!'; but the moment I got here, I had loads of memories from being a kid."


Food writer Matthew Fort is a regular at farmers' markets - particularly Stroud: "Madgett's Farm chickens, Fulmay's pork and beef; Duchy vegetables; Days Cottage apple juice; cheese from Shepton Mallet; Hobbs House wild white loaf...And the fruit that comes from the Severn estuary - apples and plums - I can't remember their name. I always go in with a clear mind of exactly what I want to buy from each stall, and then I lurch away with five times the amount of food I intended."


Journalist Quentin Letts also loves Stroud - for its valleys, including Slad: "I love Stroud and Stroudies; completely different from Cirencester; much more macrobiotic with a strong streak of hippy. The valleys feel very different - much more traditional; if you trip along those paths in spring, with the wild garlic out, you could be back in the England of the 1800s."


Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is a patron of the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham: "We've got very few great composers in this country, and we ought to look after the memory of the ones we have. The house is beautifully preserved on a tiny budget, with mostly volunteers running it."


Best place to walk:


Garden designer and plant expert Roddy Llewellyn: "Through Westonbirt Arboretum: a superb tree collection. I think the noblest thing anyone could do is to plant a tree, knowing full well they'll never see it come to maturity during their lifetime; it gives future generations pleasure. It's a very good thing to have left the globe a better place than you found it."


Romantic novelist Katie Fforde: "One of my favourite walks is from Baker's Mill in Chalford up to the Daneway. If you hit the right day, when the kingcups are out, you just think: This is heaven. It's amazing to think we don't have to drive miles; we can do a walk like this whenever we like."


Lesley Archer, chief executive of Gloucestershire Rural Community Council: "From Laverton to Buckland, right up over the Cotswold Way; then down to Snowshill and back to Laverton via Stanton."


AA Gill, writer and critic (especially of the Cotswolds): "My grandfather was a bank manager in Cheltenham, who lived on Cleeve Hill, which we used to climb; I visited often when I was young. I thought it was charming - I loved it. I can remember the fox hunt coming through his garden once and wrecking all his roses. He was furious - absolutely livid - but what was so funny was that he had hunting prints all over his walls; typically English."


Cartoonist, Oliver Preston: "Around Bath, looking at the buildings, exploring the alleyways, having a bit of lunch and doing some shopping. I always think how amazing it must have been to have lived there during the Regency period."


Underrated Cotswolds:


Edward Gillespie, managing director of Cheltenham Racecourse: "Probably Gloucester. So much of the world has been reinvented by marketing people who've taken over pubs and shops, but Gloucester still has the feel of a port. If you ignore the '60s stuff - which is dreadful - it has a genuine quality. I often stop to see what tourists are looking at: makes you realize how much you never notice."


The Very Reverend Nicholas Bury, Dean of Gloucester: "Some of the churches, and especially ones in smaller villages like St John's, Elkstone. It's easy to lose sight of the great effort and struggle that building them entailed. The whole community would have been involved. That also applies to cathedrals and abbeys, which were built in the 12th, 13th and 14th century when there were only six million people in this country. And at one stage, the Black Death wiped out half of them. A village without a church would seem very odd indeed."


Top eventer, Andrew Hoy: "The beautiful gardens behind the stone walls. You ride through Minchinhampton and there are some beautiful little gardens belonging to a house or a cottage that are just gorgeous - the way that they're cared for."


Ben Nicholas, director of Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum: "So many people tell me they had no idea the choir sang in the abbey, during term time, at 5.30pm, evensong, on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday You can hear superb music without spending a dime, in a church that has been there 900 years".


Mark Cummings, BBC Radio Gloucestershire presenter: "You get counties that have one essence of beauty to them, but Gloucestershire has five, sometimes all within a 15 minute drive. From Frocester Hill you can see the Severn, the Forest of Dean, the escarpment, the valleys and the Vale - that view provides you with a sense of the whole county. Do we go over the top about Gloucestershire? I don't think we do."


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