Well-manicured yew trees sit side by side, populating the expansive churchyard of Painswick. In total, there are 99 of them. It’s said that as soon as the 100th yew is planted, it will die. This is just one of the many myths and legends which blend beautifully with local history to make this market town one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds. Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Painswick!
A Brief History of Painswick
Attested as early as 1086 (though the entirety of the Cotswolds has been inhabited since time immemorial and Iron Age works have been found near to Painswick), the village appeared as a ‘dairy-farm’ in the Domesday Book. And it wasn’t until 1237 that the name ‘Painswick’ first appeared.
The word ‘Pain’ doesn’t have anything to do with suffering but instead derives from the Anglo-Norman word meaning ‘heathen’. During the Middle Ages, the town, like many other Cotswolds villages, became prosperous thanks to a thriving wool trade. This led to an abundance of beautiful local architecture, much of which has survived to this day.
Painswick is often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’ thanks to how breathtakingly beautiful this small settlement is. Today, highlights of this sleepy market town include a Victorian Square, lots of traditional pubs and eateries, and plenty of tiny streets to explore.
In more recent times, the village has been used as the backdrop for many a film, including JK Rowling’s ‘A Casual Vacancy’. Stroll around the town and you’ll spot many of the buildings used within the production. For more information on things to do in Painswick (as well as maps of the local area), I highly suggest paying a visit to the knowledgeable people a the Tourist Information Centre.
Church of St Mary
With its yew tree filled graveyard and beautiful stained glass windows, no visit to Painswick would be complete without a wander through the churchyard and ecclesiastical building of St Mary’s. Now a Grade I listed building, no one quite knows when construction of the structure first began.
However, as a priest is listed as living in Painswick within the Domesday Book, it can only be assumed that there must have been a village church as early as the 11th-century. It’s thought that the oldest part of the current church now on site was built in the 14th-century.
But, of course, the most unique part of St Mary’s is not the church itself but instead the beautifully trimmed yew trees which sit in the churchyard. Wander through at any given moment and you’ll find the huge trees sitting in amongst the gravestones and mausoleums which surround the church.
Should you exit the church onto St Mary’s Street and not allow yourself to become too distracted by the beautiful thatched cottages which lie directly opposite, you’ll spot a rather unusual piece of history. For, in the very heart of the square, there’s a set of perfectly preserved stocks. Known as ‘spectacle stocks’ as they look like a pair of glasses, there’s a little noticeboard nearby with further history about them.
The Bowling Green
The Green at the Falcon Inn is self-proclaimed to be the oldest bowling green in Britain. Allegedly in use for well over four hundred years, the Green was first created in the 16th-century behind the newly built pub. In other sporting news from the village, it’s said that the rugby club is the oldest village rugby club in England (it was first formed in 1872!)
Patchwork Mouse Art Cafe
For the best eats in town, you simply must head to the beautifully appointed tea rooms of the Patchwork Mouse. This coffee house serves cake, hot drinks, and cool beverages throughout the week and has become a go-to meeting place for locals over the years.
Painswick Rococo Garden
If you’re a fan of all things 18th-century, then you simply must head to the fringes of the village. Open on a daily basis throughout the year (with the exception of November and December), the Painswick Rococo Garden was first designed in the 18th-century.
For those unfamiliar with the style, Rococo began a break from tradition. Instead, it was a delve into the mysterious, unusual. A style which celebrated ‘joie de vivre’, the gardens at Painswick are filled with little winding pathways, quirky follies and are an unexpected break from the traditional English garden.
When to visit Painswick
If you’re looking for the best weather without the crowds, then I highly recommend visiting this traditional Cotswolds settlement during the European shoulder season (that is to say May, June, September, and October!) This way, you’ll avoid all the school holidays but still make the most of longer days and British Summer Time.
While visiting in either early or late summer will mean less of a chance of rain, Painswick is still located in England and so it’s best to be prepared with an umbrella, some good waterproof shoes and the like in the event of an unexpected downpour!
Where to stay in Painswick
If you’re looking for an ideal base from which to explore the Cotswolds, then I highly recommend a stay in this quaint town. Filled with pretty coffee shops and lots of history, the roads going in and out of this historic market town means that it easy to explore the rest of the region from Painswick.
Court House Manor: Located on the fringes of the village, this former manor house is now a luxury B&B. Equipped with all the latest luxuries you’d expect from a boutique hotel, as well as several historical features in each room, it’s the perfect place to experience the Cotswolds.
The Painswick Hotel: This hotel has 16 well appointed (and well reviewed) rooms in the heart of the Cotswolds. On-site, there’s also a restaurant and spa facilities, making it the perfect weekend getaway.
The Falcon Inn: If you like your accommodation served with a slice of history, then you may well want to book a room at the Falcon Inn. Dating back all the way to the mid-1550s, it’s here where you’ll find a restaurant serving traditional local fare.