I had not heard of Tewkesbury before stumbling across it when looking for a house to rent to spend the Christmas holidays. As it turns out, it was an idyllic place to be at Christmas with my family; the perfect getaway from London life. The medieval market town, nestled between the River Avon and Severn River, has a surprising amount to see and do and was larger than I expected.
From its historic Abbey, cute independent cafes and shops, to the great walks in the countryside, these are my top recommendations for how to spend a weekend in this Gloucestershire town.
Visit Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey (aka The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin) is an impressive site, dominating the little town’s skyline. The Abbey has been the centre of the town’s history for centuries, and continues to play an important role today.
Built in the 11th century, it was a former Benedictine monastery before being converted in 1539 by Henry VIII. Inside, it’s hard not to be impressed by its vaulted ceilings and gorgeous stained glass windows.
Outside, the church is notable as a fine example of Norman architecture, and is famed for having what is said to be the largest Norman church tower in existence. Whether the history is something that interests you or not, it is a stunning site to visit, and well worth strolling around, even on a cold December day.
Help Yourself to Tea and Sweets
I loved the selection of locally owned cafes, sandwich shops, and tea rooms dotted throughout the town, rivalling the usual high street chains.
On Christmas Eve, we stepped into The Carousel, a local sweet shop and cafe, shelves brimming with old-fashioned jars. We were served warming drinks and delicious almond slices, made fresh by our friendly patron’s wife we were told. And it certainly tasted like something whipped up by a skilled grandmother!
My only disappointment was the cold weather outside; the ice cream milkshakes sounded amazing!
Take a Walk Along the River
Just behind the High Street runs the River Avon, and there’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than strolling alongside it (furry friend in tow optional).
Start at the old brewery, watching ducks and swans sailing past, and make your way towards the Abbey and the Abbey Mills.
Shop Vintage on Tewkesbury High Street
While Tewkesbury has all the usual conveniences (Boots, Tesco, Poundland), the majority of shops and cafes remain independent and locally owned. This means it’s perfect for a day exploring. One thing it has in abundance is antique and vintage shops to browse. Pop into Replay on your way to the Abbey, or check out Tewkesbury Antiques Centre, located just off the High Street.
Have a Pub Lunch
The town features a number of notable pubs, many featuring the Tudor architecture found across the town. The Royal Hop Pole, for example, was featured in Dicken’s Pickwick Papers. Although we skipped this one, as it is now Wetherspoons-owned.
On the High Street, Britannia Inn serves up homemade pies. Nearby, The Nottingham Arms does traditional pub food and is very dog-friendly. I’d also recommend The Bell Hotel next to the Abbey, which features a good menu. Alternatively, pop into The Fishnet for some of the best fish and chips I’ve had in some time.
Visit a Museum
Given it was the holidays when we visited, we didn’t have time to check out any of Tewkesbury’s museums. But the town does have a few to choose from including John Moore Museum (a natural history museum in memory of writer and naturalist John Moore) and the Tewkesbury Museum (dedicated to the town’s history). Hours for the museums vary, so do check ahead.
So that’s Tewkesbury in a nutshell, and I enjoyed spending Christmas in the town. One thing I would recommend to anyone visiting is to come by car. While the town is very easy to get around on foot, the nearest train station is a few miles away, and cabs seem to be scarce.
The question is, where in the UK should I feature next? Let me know in the comments! Or, if you are looking for more weekend and day trips guides, check out my guides on Derry, the Gower, and Shanklin.