Expert-Led Group Tour

England - Rural Life in the Cotswolds

Hidden villages, stately homes and rural pursuits

8 days

from £3,395pp
  • Exclusive access to Badminton House, home to 12th Duke of Beaufort
  • A unique opportunity to play polo before watching the Warwickshire Cup Final polo match
  • Visit authentic Cotswold villages off the tourist trail and discover Bath's most captivating sites
  • Tour the beautiful gardens at Highgrove House, home to HRH the Prince of Wales

An invitation to rub shoulders with British nobility and to enjoy private and exclusive access to some of England’s most auspicious stately homes,  gardens and events.

The largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Great Britain, the Cotswolds are synonymous with bucolic and pastoral settings. Thousands of miles of drystone wall stretch across fields of wheat and barley while sheep lazily graze on impossibly green grass.  Wooded glades and lush meadows border meandering streams and rolling green hills are dotted with iconic limestone villages. Thatched cottages nestle in patchwork fields, stout Norman churches are surrounded by crumbling cemeteries, and traditional country inns serve traditional, refreshing ales and delicious meals. This picture of an idyllic England may sound like the stuff of Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy novels but still survives and thrives in the Cotswolds.  The charm and allure of the Cotswolds has attracted visitors for centuries and its perfectly preserved appearance and way of life has inspired countless artists, writers and thinkers.

The surface of the Cotswolds is picturesque. What lies beneath is fascinating. This tour goes on a journey through quintessential English villages and beautiful countryside. Our local guides will explain the incredible history of the Cotswolds and will introduce you to some of the charismatic people and characters who live here. Explore the Cotswold's hidden gems then journey to Bath with its world famous Roman Baths, majestic Abbey and museums. Try fly-fishing for trout at Heale House, stroll around the private gardens of HRH the Prince of Wales, have a go at polo, join nobility to watch England’s top Polo Trophy Cup and have a private lunch at Badminton House, the private home to the Dukes of Beaufort.

So often, the reality of a popular tourist destination does not live up to the reputation.  Here, the opposite is true; the real Cotswolds is far more alluring, more beautiful and more inspirational than you can possibly imagine. 

Why travel to the Cotswolds with Steppes Travel?

We know the Cotswolds; it is our home and we are excited about showing you our favourite bits. We are based in the capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester and everyone who works for Steppes lives locally. This means we have special connections and unique access to some of the Cotswolds most interesting sites. Every day of your trip has been specially planned to give you special experiences and encounters that other operators just don't offer.

What can I expect from the accommodation on this Cotswolds Tour?

The hotels we have chosen for you are some of the very best in the area. All would have been private family homes in the past and have been lovingly converted into five-star luxury establishments, where modern style and décor blends harmoniously with Cotswold charm and character.

Pubs, restaurants and hotels all offer high quality, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal produce, cooked to perfection by talented chefs who are typically the proprietors of their respective businesses.

what is the food like?

The days of England being synonymous with overcooked vegetables and stodgy puddings are mercifully, long behind us. At this time of the year, you can expect wonderful fresh vegetables and organically farmed meats from local Cotswold farms. Asparagus is in full season at this time of year and whether you prefer it served simply with lemon and butter or more extravagantly with hollandaise sauce, English asparagus is unbeatable. In June, carnivores in rural England are spoilt for choice with spring lamb being on the menu while other local specialities include game such as rabbit and venison. Fish and seafood is particularly good in the UK and in the Cotswolds, locally caught rainbow trout is a favourite as are scallops and fresh crab. Most of your meals have been included in the cost of the trip as we want your dining experiences to be some of the happiest memories from your holiday. Dining at the Michelin star restaurant at Lucknam Park Hotel, taking a private lunch in the Old Hall at Badminton House or enjoying a traditional English picnic while watching the polo will likely be highlights of this holiday to the Costwolds.

What is the shopping like?

We have put together a busy and fulfilling itinerary however there will be a few opportunities to explore on your own, and if the mood takes you, do some shopping. Hundreds of farmers, growers, artisans and entrepreneurs contribute to a thriving community of independent Cotswold traders producing the finest goods and services.  Artisan foods such as bread and cheese, honey and chocolate are widely available in shops, emporiums and markets.

Throughout the Cotswolds you’ll find galleries and boutiques offering fine art, handmade crafts like pottery, wood carvings, jewellery and stonework, as well as antiques and high-quality clothing brands such as Barbour and Hunter. Antique shops and markets are particulalry good in Bath and Tetbury, where you will have time to explore independently.

Is previous riding experience needed to try my hand at polo?

There is no need for you to have sat on a horse before you try your hand at polo but clearly previous experience of horse riding will help you feel more comfortable. Our experts will be on hand to gently guide you every step of the way and help you to maximise your enjoyment of this amazing, unique experience.

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Access to Heale House including lunch, drinks and fishing lesson
  • Admission to all sites
  • All breakfasts, dinners and four lunches
  • All transport and accommodation
  • Behind the scenes access to Badminton House, including lunch
  • VIP tickets to Cirencester Polo Club - Warwickshire Cup Final

what is excluded

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Drinks with meals
  • Gratuities
  • Laundry
  • Two lunches - in Bath and Tetbury


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Arrival Day
The tour starts at Lucknam Park Hotel, where access to your room will be available from 15:00. Please speak to our travel consultants should you need help with getting to the hotel. We can organise a private transfer from London or from anywhere else in the UK.

This evening, the group will meet in the bar for drinks and you will be introduced to your tour experts for the trip, Lee McCallum and Fergus Beeley. After drinks, the group will dine together at the hotel's Michelin star restaurant.

You will be staying at Lucknam Park Hotel, Half board

Day 2

Undiscovered Cotswold villages
Venture along winding lanes deep into the countryside, to discover the Cotswold's hidden gems; a 900-year-old church, long forgotten Roman roads and a village with an astounding wartime secret. In the afternoon, you have a privileged invitation to the beautiful house and grounds of a local lady to learn, first hand, about Cotswold life as well as how to make the perfect cream tea. Cream first or jam first? Scones with fruit or without fruit? What should one never do with a spoon after stirring the tea? As with most English traditions, the devil is in the detail and the delight is in the discovery.

You will be staying at Lucknam Park Hotel, Half board

Day 3

A day in Bath
Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath with a scenic walking tour through the narrow lanes of the shopping area. Pass by the Georgian Guildhall - at the heart of Bath's administrative life for over 350 years, cross historic, shop-lined Pulteney Bridge and then back along North Parade bridge. Visit the Abbey with its famous carvings and vaulted ceiling and take a private tour to the top of the tower, passing behind the fascinating clock face on route. After lunch, discover Bath's famous Roman Baths. Long renowned for its natural hot springs, the Romans built a temple and baths on the site which are, remarkably, still standing today. Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure to revisit some of your favourite sites in the city or to do some shopping. A further chance to admire Bath's famous Georgian architecture comes in the early evening with a private tour of No. 1 Royal Crescent. Decorated as it would have been in the 18th century, the house provides a fascinating insight into day to day life, both above and below stairs, in Georgian times.

Renowned for its honey-coloured stone and curative hot springs, the City of Bath graces rolling countryside in the county of Somerset, in England's south west. Once named Aquae Sulis by the Romans, who built baths and a temple here, today the thermal springs still rise and Bath's Roman Baths are one of the finest historic sites of northern Europe.

During the 18th century, Bath became a popular spa town and Richard "Beau" Nash, the self-styled king of Bath, commissioned the building of The Pump Rooms and The Assembly Rooms, which became a fashionable Georgian meeting place. These harmonise with Bath's other grandiose neo-classical monuments; Queen Square, the Circus and Bath's Royal Crescent. In the city's very centre lies another impressive monument, Bath Abbey which has a history that dates to 675 AD.

You will be staying at Barnsley House, Half board

Day 4

Short guided tour of Cirencester
En route to the polo club, you will stop over in Cirencester for a stroll around this pleasant market town. Visit the St John the Baptist church and the war memorial.

Cirencester Park Polo
Visit Cirencester Park Polo Club for the chance in a lifetime to try your hand at polo. The club was founded in 1894 and has a wealth of history having been a venue to many famous players such as Edward VIII, The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Prince Charles. Located amid 3,000 acres of parkland and woodland, it is a pleasure to simply walk in the clubs surrounding however this morning we have arranged for you to spend time visiting the club's Ewe Pens stables with an opportunity to receive a lesson in how to play. No previous riding experience is necessary and the lesson will be fun, relaxed and friendly, taking advantage of world-class facilities in a beautiful rural setting.

This afternoon we have arranged VIP tickets for you to watch the biggest fixture in polo's annual world calendar - the Warwickshire Cup Final. You will have access to the member's clubhouse and grandstand and we have arranged for the group to have a pitch-side gazebo and traditional English picnic. Relax with a glass of champagne or Pimms and watch the world-famous polo fixture of the year.

A pretty market town in Gloucestershire, notable for being known as the capital of the Cotswolds and for being the home of Steppes Travel's office. In the centre of town is the impressive St John the Baptist church which sits overlooking the market square. The church is medieval and from the outside is striking for its recently restored, perpendicular porch.

You will be staying at Barnsley House, Half board

Day 5

A morning's tour of Highgrove Gardens
Highgrove is the private residence of HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, located near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. The Prince of Wales first arrived at Highgrove in 1980 and since this time, His Royal Highness, a passionate gardner and conservationist, has devoted time and energy to transforming the gardens around the house. The gardens are now renowned as some of the most innovative in the United Kingdom. Your visit to the gardens includes a donation to the Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation, a grant-making body which supports a wide range of causes and projects.

Led by one of Highgrove's expert guides, your private two-hour tour will explore the length and breadth of the Royal Gardens, taking in the Thyme Walk and visiting the serene setting of The Stumpery. Your guide will give narrative to each distinctive space, explaining how HRH The Prince of Wales shaped the landscape into a series of eclectic and highly personal gardens, from what was once just lawn.

At the end of your tour you'll be free to enjoy refreshments in the Orchard Restaurant, as well as visit the Highgrove Estate Shop.

Afternoon at leisure in Tetbury
The afternoon is free for you to discover Tetbury. The town has a recorded history of 1,300 years and is known as an "architectural gem" as many of the wool merchants houses still look as they did 300 years ago. The town has some lovely gift shops and its 25 antique shops have all, at some stage, decorated the country homes of the Cotswolds.

You will be staying at Barnsley House, Half board

Day 6

The Badminton Estate
Badminton House dates from the 17th century and is set in a beautiful deer park which hosts the world-renowned Badminton Horse Trials (and yes, in case you were wondering, the game of badminton was invented here in 1863). The house's interior is rarely seen by the public and contains remarkable fireplaces, ornate carved ceilings, exquisite chandeliers and works of art created by artists such as Canaletto, John Wooton and Sir Godfrey Kneller. The gardens at Badminton are very impressive and in their current state, are largely the creation of the current Duke. In June, the gardens will be looking at their best.

Steppes guide, Fergus Beeley lives on the Badminton Estate and through his longstanding connections, has arranged a hugely privileged opportunity to be led by the Head Butler through the majestic Grade I listed, private home of the 11th Duke of Beaufort. Dine in the Old Hall and then take a tour of the Estate, including the gardens, park and stables before enjoying afternoon tea by the pool.

You will be staying at Bishopstrow Hotel and Spa, Half board

Day 7

Heale House
Featured in many films set about the Thomas Hardy era, this classic Elizabethan House and eight acres of beautiful gardens lie beside the river Avon. Meet with the owner, Guy Rasch for morning coffee in the summerhouse before being shown around the house and the beautiful gardens. Join Guy, nephew to the Duke of Beaufort, for lunch in the dining room and hear how King Charles II hid from Oliver Cromwell's men here in 1651. After lunch, for those who wish to try, fly-fishing will then be taught on the river Avon, one of Britain's most famous chalk stream rivers.

You will be staying at Bishopstrow Hotel and Spa, Half board


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Barnsley House

Barnsley House

Previously the private home of internationally renowned garden designer, Rosemary Verey, this golden-stone 17th century manor house sits resplendent amidst its lovingly cultivated, landscaped gardens....

View Accommodation

Bishopstrow Hotel and Spa

Bishopstrow Hotel and Spa

This award winning 18th century property sits in 27 acres of stunning grounds alongside the River Wylye and offers a warm country house feel and a Two Rosette restaurant serving up contemporary cuisine....

View Accommodation

Lucknam Park Hotel

Lucknam Park Hotel

Situated in 500 acres of parkland, Lucknam Park is the epitome of an English country stately home which effortlessly combines heritage and luxury....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Lee McCallum

Lee McCallum
Until 2011, Lee spent most of his adult life travelling the world "celebrating differences and weirdness". In 2011, having spent a couple of years living in Brazil running a guesthouse, Lee moved to the Cotswolds where he was immediately smitten by the rural setting, the pace of life and the eccentricities of the local people.

Lee is a great raconteur and has an excellent understanding of local history as well as modern day life in the UK. Recognised and respected around the Cotswolds, Lee offers a unique insight into the region through his wit and keen observations, his network of friends and local contacts and his wealth of interesting and amusing anecdotes.

Fergus Beeley

Fergus Beeley
Fergus Beeley grew up in the picturesque valley of Woodford near Salisbury. It was here that he learnt to fly fish and spent many hours on the beautiful river at the classic Elizabethan House of Heale, where King Charles II hid from Oliver Cromwell’s men in 1651.

Fergus then settled in the heart of the Cotswolds where he has lived for the past thirty years. He is well acquainted with the people, customs and traditions of life in the Cotswolds and is lucky enough to live within the private gates of Badminton House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort.

Fergus has not always been at home - he has travelled to some of the remotest corners of the planet making award-winning wildlife films with Sir David Attenborough, including famous titles for PBS, National Geographic, Discovery and the BBC such as the ‘Life Of Birds’, ‘Planet Earth – the future’ and ‘The Natural World’.

Enquire about this Expert Led tour:
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Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 10

Tour Expert:

Fergus Beeley, Lee McCallum

  • Light Activity - The tour may involve short walks, mainly around cities, but nothing very strenuous. The tour may have 1 or 2 visits to sites per day and follow a steady pace throughout with adequate free time.

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