When I think of Cotswolds I think about picturesque villages, charming cottages, cosy tearooms and inviting country pubs. Beautiful and perfect for a relaxing, quiet holiday. On a recent blogger trip I stayed at the award winning Lower Mill Estate and discovered that there is more to eating and walking in the Cotswolds, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to do surrounded by the gorgeous English countryside.
Lower Mill Estate is a community of luxury and sustainable vacation homes set in 550-acres of private nature reserve just outside the city of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. The Estate is very easy to reach by car or by train (plus a short taxi ride) from London’s Paddington Station.
It was established by the Paxton family in the mid-1990s and the idea was to create a community of homes to live surrounded by nature. The estate feels like a small village in itself, with a restaurant, a small shop, a fitness centre with indoor and outdoor pools and a spa. It is a place to unwind, immerse yourself in the natural environment and live in complete safety.
When I received the invitation to stay on the estate for three days, sharing a home with three fellow bloggers, I initially worried that it would be boring to be confined within the estate. On the contrary, the destination has a lot to offer if you love an active holiday and the outdoors.
Around the estate there is a nature reserve, seven lakes, meadows, woodland and three meandering rivers. It’s absolutely gorgeous to explore the wild surroundings by bicycle and on foot. There is an Eco team that works hard throughout the year to maintain the estate, encourage wildlife habitats and educate its residents.
Where to Stay
Lower Mill’s waterside properties are all individually designed with a choice of apartments and villas with up to 6 beds. The interiors are elegant and bright, with modern kitchens, stylishly-fitted en suite bedrooms and large living rooms.
We stayed in a luxury 4-bedroom apartment spread over two floors with private garden and direct views to Clearwater Lake.
We also had the chance to visit the new Habitat Houses, designed by award-winning architects Featherstone Young, with a distinctive wildflower sloping roof that blends in beautifully with the natural environment.
As you can imagine, Lower Mill Estate is a fantastic place for families to go on holiday as there are many activities for kids to do in complete safety (the estate is gated with 24 hour security) as well as an enclosed children’s play area.
The villas are also great for a group of friends to share, spend time together during the day at the Spa or in the nature reserve or exploring the nearby Cotswolds towns. Then in the evening have barbecues in the garden in summer or chat in front of the fireplace in winter months. It’s idyllic!
Where to Eat
Ballihoo restaurant is located on site on the Estate and provides food and drinks to residents and guests. They offer a breakfast/brunch menu as well as a la carte lunch and dinner. The cocktails are great and the cakes are scrumptious!
If you feel like staying at home and make the most of your villa, you can book a private Chef to come and cook for you. We did one night and it was fantastic! We sat back and relaxed, chatting away and drinking wine, while the Chef prepared three delicious course for us.
There is also a small shop on the estate which offers a selection of locally sourced, organic goods and produce (open in main season).
What to Do
This is my favourite part: the outdoor activities. I have never been so active on a holiday as I did on this trip and I enjoyed every moment of it. After three days at Lower Mill Estate I felt energised, happy, de-stressed and relaxed. Seriously, this is better than a detox camp or yoga retreat! ;)
Among the outdoor activities accessible to Lower Mill Estate guests there is tennis, biking, kayaking and paddle-boarding. On the first day we hired bicycles (you can rent for 24 hours or 3 days or a week) and explored the nature reserve surrounding the Estate.
On the second day I did half an hour of swimming in the indoor pool, followed by a deep tissue massage at the spa and a steam. In the afternoon we went to the lake to try kayaking and paddle-boarding which were both a lot of fun.
And on the third day I woke up early to go for a run on the 5k trail with one of the other bloggers, Charlie. I couldn’t miss the chance to run in such a gorgeous setting (makes a difference from my usual London runs)!
Where to Relax
The award-winning on-site spa features Europe’s first outdoor eco-pool as well as two 20-metre heated pools – indoor and outdoor – steam room, sauna, gym, a reading lounge and treatment rooms.
Staying in one of the villas at Lower Mill Estate is a fantastic way to explore the Cotswolds countryside. Visit the website Habitat Escapes to rent a lakeside property for three nights plus, on a self-catering basis.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Lower Mill Estate. All opinions are my own.