THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS AND WHERE TO STAY IN STROUD
In this article I’m going to share some ideas of things to do in Stroud and the Cotswolds, offer a recommendation of a VERY family friendly cafe and tell you about how I met Mary Portas at the literary festival but first I’m going to give you a suggestion of where to stay in Stroud where we were hosted by 5 Valleys Aparthotel through Michael Paul Holidays.
I recently organised a trip to The Cotswolds for a group of travel blogger friends. We stayed at Five Valleys Aparthotel in Stroud which has only been open since June 2018. The building was previously a hotel but Simon Wells, the current owner, saw the value in creating something different and came up with the idea of an aparthotel. The refurbished Victorian villa now houses 15 studio apartments which are available to book for a night, a weekend or longer.
MICHAEL PAUL HOLIDAYS
Five Valleys is part of Michael Paul Holidays’ portfolio which specialises in four and five star self catering breaks across the UK, all of which are personally vetted by Michael himself. Only those which meet his exacting standards for customer service and quality will make it onto the website. (Michael’s passion for the business is so infectious that, since this trip, I’ve started working for the company!)
FIVE VALLEYS APARTHOTEL REVIEW
Stroud is just 35 miles from Portishead and about 32 from Bristol so in around 45 minutes, following an easy, mainly M5 route, I reached my home for the night. The day before I arrived, I’d received a welcome email from 5 Valleys Aparthotel which contained details of arrival and departure times, directions, the wifi code and a pin-code to let myself in, which was straightforward and eliminated the need for any keys. There’s plenty of free parking and a bike store for cyclists.There are no permanent staff on site but there’s an intercom where you can contact a duty manager should you need to.
The decor is light, modern and airy and the apartments have a bit of character – each one is different but all are decorated thoughtfully in a similar theme. The large photos on the wall feature local landmarks.
How pretty is this cushion which was hand printed locally by Sally at Block House Bath? And if you look carefully you might notice that the double socket handily positioned next to the bed also features a USB – perfect for charging your phone while you sleep!
WHAT FACILITIES DOES THE APARTHOTEL HAVE?
When we were planning our trip we decided to take advantage of the facilities and eat in. The kitchen is equipped with a fridge, microwave, small hob and dishwasher and even an ironing board concealed in a drawer but no oven.
Because we were catering for a group, we arrived laden down with provisions but a breakfast pack is provided and there was milk waiting in the fridge when we arrived so there IS the option to keep it super simple.
We chose apartment number 2 because it was big enough to accommodate the group we were hosting for dinner and drinks. It’s only a two bed, but we’ve stayed in places with a family over the years which were more compact than our studio apartment at 5 Valleys!
WHO WOULD STAY AT 5 VALLEYS?
Five Valleys is an ideal base for couples, cyclists or walkers who come for a weekend break to explore The Cotswolds and it’s likely to be a cost effective alternative to actually staying IN one of the beautiful Cotswolds villages.
Weekdays are popular with business people who can take advantage of having cooking facilities and a decent living space.
One of the apartments is accessible, boasting a huge wet-room large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
There are several dog friendly apartments and even an outdoor facility to wash your pet if you come back from a muddy walk!
Our apartment has interconnecting doors which could be handy for families and multiple apartments would work well for a large get together. We invited our friends to dinner and seven of us fit easily around this big table in our living area. (Did you spot the benches stored neatly underneath?).
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO STAY AT 5 VALLEYS?
Five Valleys serviced apartments start at £65 per night, similar in price to a budget hotel. I shared an apartment with fellow travel writer, Heather Cowper and our generous studio apartment would have cost £85 for a Saturday night, but unlike a normal hotel room where you might just expect tea and coffee making facilities and a bit of space to walk around the bed, we had a whole kitchen and a spacious home-from-home living area. Had the sofas been sofa-beds, I felt like our room for two could have easily accommodated my whole family of five!
And as you can see, there was plenty of room to host our little drinks party.
Following all that wining, dining and chatterboxing, I was ready to collapse into my bed with its feature headboard made of recycled pallets. These beds can be configured as two singles or pushed together for couples.
After a very comfy night, we consulted the guidebooks in preparation for the serious business of exploring Stroud and The Cotswolds.
WHAT TO DO IN STROUD?
We left the car behind and wandered into Stroud along the canal which is just a few moments walk from the aparthotel. Apparently the towpath is also popular with runners but we opted for a leisurely walk with plenty of stops to take photos and read the handy information signs which are dotted along the route.
This canal once formed part of the network which historically allowed goods to be transported between Bristol and London, When the railways came along, they made the canal trade redundant but you can still see the old mills next to the canal.
Once in Stroud, we pottered around the Shambles Market which is an Aladdin’s cave of unusual and crafty gifts.
Having been forewarned of the delicacies available at Stroud Farmer’s Market, we’d skimped on breakfast that morning to leave space for sampling some of the delicious pasties, cheeses, mulled wines and flavoured gins on offer. If you come for a visit, I might suggest you do the same!
STROUD BOOK FESTIVAL
Our visit coincided with Stroud book festival and I was interested in hearing Mary Portas speak simply because I’ve enjoyed programmes I’ve seen her in on television. I’d had no idea beforehand what a charismatic and inspirational speaker she was. She spoke passionately about feminism and giving women an equal chance in the workplace.
I was lucky enough to nab a front row seat and enjoyed it so much that I queued up to buy a signed copy of her new book, “Work Like a Woman”, to discuss with my bookclub group. Mary was so pleased that I’d enjoyed her talk and was here to write about Stroud that she gave me a big spontaneous hug!
We had lunch at Woodruff’s Organic Cafe which looks over the High Street. My salad was absolutely delicious but that’s not the only reason I’d recommend coming here.
Woodruff’s has dedicated a section of an upstairs room into a baby and toddler play area. This is such a lovely touch and was very popular with one of the mothers I talked to. She told me how her young son had been on his best behaviour during her hair appointment that day on the promise that she’d let him come to Woodruff’s afterwards for a treat.
And of course you can’t go to the Cotswolds without heading out into the great outdoors. We just caught the last of the daylight and enjoyed a walk on Rodborough Common. I’d like to return and spend more time exploring The Cotswolds next time and there’s no reason not to as we’re such a short drive away.
Have you been to The Cotswolds? What’s your favourite part?
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WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Follow the hashtag #StroudMPH on social media or take a look at the articles and video below for more information about Stroud, The Cotswolds, 5 Valleys Aparthotel and Michael Paul Holidays:
I WAS A GUEST OF 5 VALLEYS APARTHOTEL AND MICHAEL PAUL HOLIDAYS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN. ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS.