The Grass is Greener: An Under-Radar Romantic Road Trip Through the Cotswolds

Castle Combe? Been there. Broadway? Done that. We’re embracing the great outdoors on a countryside road trip in a low-emission Volvo Recharge plug-in hybrid SUV, skipping tourist hotspots in favour of the Cotswolds’ best under-radar villages, wildlife-rich walks and rustic-luxe boltholes guaranteed to make you swoon.

In partnership with

Cotswolds is perhaps as close as we’ll get to an English
Eden. Two hours from London by car, it’s prime territory for a
meandering, long-weekend itinerary that veers away from tourist
hotspots in favour of off-grid, rustic-luxe boltholes that tick the
boxes for romanticism.

Our curated route is filled with woodland walks, rosy-cheeked
bicycle rides and back-to-nature escapism that doesn’t forgo modern
luxuries. The perfect travelling partner? The Volvo XC40 Recharge,
a plug-in hybrid SUV with thoughtful features that echo the
dynamism of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Driver-assist
technology, low emissions and integrated entertainment let you
navigate rippling hills and narrow lanes with ease, enjoyment and a
clean eco conscience.

If the Cotswolds is characterised by its chocolate-box villages,
then consider this less of a fixed route than a five-star selection
box – no strawberry cream fondants in here – simply pick and choose
to suit your travelling palate. Navigating a tangle of lanes (thank
goodness for sat nav), you’ll journey between Roman remains and
sustainable farms, stopping in great country piles and boutique
treehouses en route. Ready? Set. Explore.

Day One: North

The northern reaches of the Cotswolds are perhaps the most
visited, with tourist magnets including Broadway, Chipping Norton,
Burton-on-the-Water and Blenheim Palace. But we’re setting your
compass towards the hidden gems.

Start your trip with a few deep breaths of lavender, a relaxing
antidote that eases you away from city stresses and into country
life. Stay-on-the-road technology helps you feel confident in the
driver’s seat as you make the short but steep drive along the
tree-canopied Buckle Street to Cotswold Lavender – tilt the panoramic sunroof and
you’ll smell it before you see it.

A short drive away is olde-worlde Chipping Campden, shaped by
its once-thriving wool trade and now the host of the Olimpick
, which involves shin-kicking and dwile flonking (we’ll
let you Google that). From here, pick up the Cotswold
, a railway turned cycle route – make sure to throw your
bikes on the towbar-mounted rack.

Rest aching legs on the out-of-the-way Farncombe Estate where
the 17th-century Dormy House has traded country-bumpkin vibes for
Scandi suave – the luxe Inscription design of the Volvo XC40 really
looks the part here. Dip between the infinity pool and
state-of-the-art spa before a slow-food dinner in The Back Garden. Alternatively, branch out in a
Treehouse at The Fish, where a child-like enthusiasm
for adventure and simple pleasures has been upgraded for discerning

Day Two: East

Depart early, flicking on all-wheel drive for the smooth,
snaking ride to Stow-on-the-Wold. Seven roads coalesce on this gem
of a village – we like to head east to epicurean Kingham for a
feel-good brunch at Daylesford which nails the balance between
bucolic and bougie. There’s a handful of charging points here, so
plug in the XC40 while you pootle around Daylesford’s 2,000-acre
farm, take part in countrified classes – seasonal cookery,
gardening, wellness workshops – or pick up organic picnic fare
before continuing on your journey. The XC40 has a warren of cubby
holes for keeping snacks safe.

From Stow-on-the-Wold, other options include following the A424
to Burford, the Cotswolds’ “southern gateway”, or parking at Upper
Slaughter for a riverside amble along the Eye to Lower Slaughter.
No sweat if you get snap happy on Copse Hill Road; the XC40 has a
nifty compartment that wirelessly charges and protects your
smartphone – its motto isn’t “unplug and play” for nothing.

It’s an undulating drive towards The Stump, a
restaurant with rooms in the sticks north of Cirencester; avail of
Volvo’s Power mode for maximum performance and check real-time
traffic information to choose the best route. Once checked in,
order a top-notch pizza – a welcome change if you’ve had your fill
of locavore fare.

For a more isolated, off-grid stay, head east to Southrop’s
Thyme, a
restored manor and farm where “countryside” is a lifestyle as much
as it is a destination. Browse sustainable homewares, unwind in the
Meadow Spa or throw on wellies to explore the kitchen gardens
before dinner in The Ox Barn. If you like the sustainable ethos here,
you’ll love that the XC40 has an interior carpet crafted from
recycled plastic.

Day Three: West

Driving west, you’ll pass through the Cotswold Commons and
Beechwoods National Nature Reserve – shift into electric for low
emissions and turn up the volume on your road-trip playlist, the
Harman Kardon surround sound makes the experience all the more

Continue south through pocket-sized Painswick and the pastoral
Slad Valley. Stop by the late author Laurie Lee’s former watering
hole (and local treasure) The Woolpack Inn, before chugging lungfuls of
Cotswolds air on the circular Laurie Lee Wildlife Way that passes
through grassland decorated with rare, wild orchids.

For a real taste of the area, tuck in to local produce at nearby
Stroud Farmers’ Market (Saturdays only) or skip the
town in favour of stocking up on sustainably made, organic craft
beer at Stroud Brewery. Continuing south, you can stop in the
market town of Tetbury (the XC40’s bag hooks were made for holding
totes choc-full with souvenirs), though you’ll experience natural
immersion at its most intense in Westonbirt, The National Arboretum where 30km
of walkways thread among towering redwoods and acers – don’t miss
the treetop walkway.

For a stand-out romantic evening, opt for the surprise set menu
at Wild
or nose-to-tail fare at The Methuen Arms before bedding down in the
13th-century, Grade II-listed The Rectory in
off-the-beaten-track Crudwell. Too conventional for your tastes?
Fire up the barbecue at The Glamping Orchard and climb to the roof
terrace of a revamped 50s caravan for a spot of stargazing. If that
doesn’t make you swoon, we don’t know what will.

The Lowdown

Discover responsible luxury with a car that makes safety and
sustainability stylish. Get in the driver’s seat at

Discover More
The Coast is Clear: A Road Trip Through the Lesser-Known Kentish Riviera