THE COTSWOLDS

 


Cotswolds landscapeN
amed for the endless rolling hills (“wolds”) that make up most of this region, Cotswolds is England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Consisting of more or less 790 miles of gorgeous countryside – including hills, valleys and meadows – the Cotswolds are a big tourist attraction for those who want to truly immerse themselves in an English ‘natural history’ holiday. It is also a huge attraction in general, for its untouched beauty that remains til now.

 

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Known locally for its delicious golden-coloured stone village houses, churches built with money from fluffy medieval sheep wool and country pubs, Cotswolds reveals an endearing beauty to almost every side of it’s lands – whether through the eyes of a tourist from afar, or to a local from one county over.

The Cotswolds range of hills is situated in central England, with its western and northern valleys meeting the edge of rivers, and its eastern side bordering the not-so-humble city of Oxford and its university pedigree. The large area covered by Cotswolds is filled with the aforementioned unique villages and country pubs, and is historically where wealthier Londoners chose to have their holiday homes – due to the gorgeous view and generally peaceful surroundings. One might believe that there is only one type of village (well, the village-y kind), but in the Cotswolds, you would  firmly be proven wrong. There are villages with central churches, ones known for their limestone houses, villages with bustling farmer’s markets – always a joy to visit - and those with a soft spot for horse racing. In other words, although the Cotswolds may not have a Disneyworld or a shopping complex the size of a small town, there is so much more to recommend itself to you than just one or two amazing things.

 

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 Points Of Interest:    1. Chipping Cambden  2. Broadway  3. Moreton-In-Marsh  4. Chipping Norton  4.  Stow-On-The-Wold  6. Winchocombe  7. Belas Knap (Burial Chamber)  8. The Slaughters  9. Bourton-On-The-Water  10. Northleach  11. Burford  12. Minster Lovell  13. Witney  14. Painswick  15. Cirencester  16. Lechdale  17 Tetbury

 



Chipping Camden

Chipping Camden thatched houseConsidered one of the most beautiful towns in England, Chipping Campden (pop. 2,210) is located at the north edge of the Cotswolds. The town is rich with architecture from a variety of times, as well as structures built from the locally quarried limestone that giving the houses its well-known ‘honey’ colour. The old English meaning of its name gives a very apt physical description – Chipping, meaning ‘market’ and Campden, meaning ‘a valley with hills’. The latter comes with being part of the Cotswolds – and provides postcard-perfect photographs, while evidence of the former can still be seen in the centre of High Street.

Wool ChurchAside from the architecture, Chipping Campden is well-placed to provide an interesting trip to any tourist. If you tire of the gorgeous historic buildings, meandering countryside walks, beautiful gardens and art exhibitions, the town is an ideal base to go county-skipping – it is nearby Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the idyllic landscape of the Cotswolds.

Hotels
Lower Brook House
[Lower Street, Blockley,
+44 1386 700286, from £100].  Situated in the village of Blockley, the Lower Brook House is an historic building that houses six comfortable rooms, all of which are en-suite and have garden views.

Taplins Bed & Breakfast [5 Aston Road,
+44 1386 840927, from £50.00].  Minutes away from the lovely High Street of Chipping Campden, Taplins provides rooms with a full breakfast and an ensuite bath for the Double rooms.


Broadway

Broadway TownhousesE
ver imagine walking down a road with rows of old-fashioned brownstone houses lining each side, their dark brown roofs in different styles, and their windows the only slash of white gleaming from this wonderful facade, as if you had just walked back in time? Take a jaunt down to Broadway (pop. 2,500) , and walk its well-paved roads to relive the cozy charm of old England villages. Sometimes called 'the Jewel of the Cotswolds' for its fine representation of true English village-hood, Broadway is a must-see, if only to soak up its laidback charm.

Spend a day doing thoroughly touristy things at the village centre. Shop for antiques and home-made crafts, visit the local art galleries, or the gold and silversmiths (the village has one of each). If historical venues are your preference, don't miss out on the awesome folly of the sixth Earl of Coventry, the Broadway Tower. From one of its crenelated towers, you can see up to 13 counties on a good day and if you face the right direction.

Hotels
Broadway Hotel
[Broadway,
+44 1386 852401, from £110].  Dating from the fifteenth century, this honey coloured building sits right in the centre of Broadway. Rooms are furnished in cosy country style, with en suite bathrooms and flat screen televisions.

Bowers Hill Farm B&B [Nr Willersey,
+44 1386 834585,  from £60].  Situated on the outskirts of Broadway, this amazingly well-kept farm offers a getaway of unparalleled tranquility – surrounded by fruit trees and flowers and humming with nature. Every room has an en suite shower, free WiFi access, and a hearty English breakfast.

Moreton-In-Marsh
Moreton-in-Marsh market hallM
oreton-in-Marsh (pop. 3,200), sitting pretty at the head of the Evenlode Valley, is a busy little town with pretty buildings, dating from the 17th and 18th century. Used mainly as an ideal base for those who wish to do a little exploring of the towns and villages in all directions of the Cotswolds, Moreton still has several of its own attractions, namely the Falconry Centre and an apparent abundance of hauntings.


Chipping Norton

A
small, bustling market town, Chipping Norton (pop. 5,980) has much to recommend it, if you look in the right places. Easily accessible by road or rail, there's an abundance of places to get lost in, from antique sellers, bookshops and markets to a wide collection of pubs, inns and restaurants. North of Chipping Norton is an ancient stone circle called the Rollright Stones, also known as The King's Men from a legend that said one of the future kings of England was turned to stone together with his faithful knights. Rivaled in age and importance only by the formations at Stonehenge and Avebury, the Rollright Stones are a must see for the myth-hunters.

Chipping Norton






Hotel

The Forge at Churchill
[Church Road, Churchill,
+44 1608 658173, from £68].  Once owned by the village blacksmith, the 200 year old Forge now provides free internet access, a hearty breakfast and en suite baths or showers to those who choose to stay there.

 



StowStow-On-Wold
A
small market town settled in since the Iron Age, Stow-on-the-Wold (pop. 2,800) has a rich history. Most of it is very much visible in its current incarnation, with burial mounds and wonderful old buildings straight off the cover of a Dicken's novel. Known as the highest of the Cotswold towns, Stow stands upon the top of an 800 foot high hill, giving an ancient, mysterious feel, especially combined with its narrow lanes between the limestone houses and eclectic mix of antique stores and craft shops.

Hotel
Grapevine Hotel
[Sheep Street,
+44 1451 830 344, from £110]..  A luxurious 17th century building housing beautiful bedrooms, english charm and sumptuous, furnishings, the Grapevine also has a bar and in-house restaurants serving an extensive menu.


Winchcombe

T
his little town (oppo. 4,380) grew from an abbey built in the 8th century. The presence of the abbey encouraged trade, and the town flourished. Many of the buildings are practically ancient and both the structures and several other locations around Winchcombe have stories or myths to tell behind their formation. At St Peter's Church, gargoyle's perch on the tower's edge, one of which was said to have been the inspiration behind Lewis Carrol's Mad Hatter of Alice fame, whilst Hailes Abbey was built after Richard, brother to Henry III, swore he would found a religious house if he managed to survive a storm at sea. Another legendary spot is St Kenelm's Well, a spring said to have gushed to life when the young martyr's coffin was laid down for the bearer's momentary rest. The area also holds Sudeley Castle, famous as the wedding location of Elizabeth Hurley, home of Henry VII widow, Catherine Parr and guesthouse of the tragic Lady Jane Grey.

 

Belas Knap burial chamberNearby at  Belas Knap you can view a fine example of 5,000 year old Neolithic long barrow burial chamber.  With a false entrance and side chambers, the site was excavated in 1863 and the remains of 31 people were found in the chambers. 


The Slaughters

Despite its rather terrifying name, the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter (combined pop. 241) have nothing to do with murder, pillage or animal abattoirs. As they sit on opposite sides of the banks of the River Eye, it is most likely the name comes from an old English word meaning ‘stream’ or ‘muddy place’. Villages of small bridges and old buildings, the Slaughters are true English villages. There’s a quiet charm ideal for those who are looking for a peaceful retreat. Old mills and manor houses are the main attractions here, and Upper Slaughter is perhaps slightly more removed from commercialization than is Lower Slaughter.

Hotels
Lords of the Manor [Upper Slaughter, +44 1451 820243, from £195 per room].  A place to escape from the noisy bustle of the often too-fast world, this hotel embodies a true country house. A former rectory, the Lords of the Manor now cater to those looking for a comfortable hideaway. Rooms come with ensuite bathrooms and a full English breakfast.

Lower Slaughter Manor [Lower Slaughter, +44 1451 820456, from £230].  Situated in a regal 17th century manor house, this hotel provides guests with contemporary furnishings and old-school charm.


Bourton-On-The-Water

A pretty Cotswold village, Bourton (pop. 3,300) possesses plenty of tourist pull within its small area. Known throughout as ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’, thanks to the River Windrush running through the centre of the town, it’s a place of many attractions. Elegant stone bridges dot the banks of the river, which provide a frame for the trees that always seem to be in bloom.

Aside from its scenery, Bourton offers several other places of interest for tourists, namely Birdland, a zoo for birds of all kinds, from pelicans and penguins; the Bourton Model Village, a miniature of Bourton created using actual building materials, and the Cotswold Perfumery and Cotswold Pottery.

Hotel
Webby’s Windrushwalk B&B
[Rissington Road,
+44 1451 810382, from £50].  Situated only a few minutes away from the town centre, Webby’s is a lovely old place with limited accommodation. Their rooms have en-suite baths, and come with a full English breakfast.


Northleach

O
nce living dustily by the side of a modern highway, now Northleach (pop. 1,930) is bypassed so effectively it remains a treasure that only those who know what they are looking for can find. Its current gentle solitude belies its former importance as a centre of wool-trade wealth in the 15th century. It is a time from which little of Northleach has changed. It is said that beneath the earth of Northleach runs a maze of tunnels, but for what reason it was built, even those who were born and bred there.

Due to its wealth in sheep and their subsequent wool, the sheep traders of olden times built a gorgeous church on Northleach – the Church of St Peter and St Paul. The statuesque beauty of the church rivals even some of the loveliest churches in England, with its lacy porches and large stained-glass windows. On a more modern and quirky tone, the village is also home to Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music. A private collection of self-playing instruments, it also sells a selection of unusual musical gifts.

Hotels
Far Peak Camping [Far Peak, +44 1285 720858, Basic Pitch from £7.50].  For those who prefer the great outdoors, Far Peak Camping offers a clean and environmentally friendly concept of accommodation. Showers and toilets are available, and there is a pub within walking distance of the campsite.

Blanche House [Turkdean Northleach, +44 1451 861176, from £70].  A farmhouse situated in Area of Outstanding Beauty, Blanche House offers nearly 500 acres of farmland for you to explore. The rooms come with a hearty breakfast.

 



Burford

A delicate medieval town that seems to be the perfect setting for an English novel, Burford (pop. 1,100) started out as a market town of some importance due to its placement at a crossroads. Merchants and traders set up their own markets, and Burford's popularity enabled its roads and lanes to be properly developed. Although owing its roots to the wool trade, Burford eventually became a flourishing centre for other trades and coaching services. The implementation of the railway line was both its downfall  and its perseverant – the coarseness of industrial towns barely touched this village, allowing it to remain as lovely as it was when first built. 

 View from Burford Church   
 

Buford Priory is an old country house standing on the grounds of a now-demolished hospital. An amazing building of 22 bedrooms and nearly 20,000 square feet, the priory in modern time was used mainly as a retreat after spending most of its life as a holiday home for nobility. It is currently once again in private possession.

Cotswold Wildlife ParkSt John the Baptist, dates from 1175, is in excellent condition and worth a look.  Cotswold Wildlife Park [+44 1993 823006] a couple of miles away. Over 150 acres of parkland surrounding a Manor, the park is a delight for both the old and the young with its wide variety of animals and country plantlife.

Hotels
The Bull at Burford [105 High Street, +44 1993 822220, from £55].  Newly renovated and upgraded, The Bull provides accommodation in the heart of Burford. It has an attached restaurant and several packages to choose from.

Burford House Hotel [99 High Street, +44 1993 823151, starts at £145].   A gorgeous hotel on the high street, this former home was lovingly restored and furnished with tasteful antique elegance. Tvs, wireless internet, bathtubs and personal touches are to be found in every room.


Minster Lovell
   
Minster Lovell HallMinster Lovell is known for it's peace and quiet, which is unsurprising for a small village by the River Windrush, where fishing and playing cricket seem to be the pastimes. A truly picturesque place with a sort of isolated peace that is hard to find, Minster Lovell also provides romantic ruins and woodland walks to truly enjoy its serene ambience. The ruins of the Minster Lovell Hall should not be missed, and while walking it's lavish remains, keep in mind the legends that say two people had gone missing and lost their lives within the manor walls.

Hotel
Old Swan & Minster Mill
[School Hill, +44 1993 774441, from £125].   A true charming old inn, Old Swan provides the look and feel of olden days village inns, while Minster Mill caters to the slightly more modern crowd. The rooms are beautifully furnished and WiFi is available.



Witney

Like many of the Cotswold villages, Witney (pop. 20,400) was built on cotton money. Most famo
St Marys, Witneyus for its blanket industry, Witney’s  last mill only closed down in 2002, much later than most of the other cotton-based townships. It retains its market-village town centre until now, and there are many historic remains from their more prosperous time.

Despite the relatively small size of the town, the parish church dedicated to St Mary’s is a gorgeous mini-cathedral with reaching spires and delicate architecture. A relic of the Norman era, the church is situated near many other lovely buildings, and provides an amazing view of Witney from its spires. A nearby historic remains is the Bishop’s Palace, and is the site of the Bishop of Winchester’s residence in Witney. There’s also the Buttercross at High Street, and the Town Hall. For those more interested in learning about history, Witney provides two museums – Cogges Manor Farm Museum and Witney and District Museum. For shoppers, the new Marriotts Walk provides a city experience in the country, playing host to leading retailers like Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Dorothy Perkins.

Hotel
Hawthorn House Bed and Breakfast
[79 Burford Road, +44 1993 772768, from £40 per night].   A comfy Victorian house within walking distance of Witney’s town, Hawthorn offers rooms with en suite facilities, WiFi and a freshly prepared English breakfast.

 


Cotswolds landscape
Painswick

Titled ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’, Painswick (pop. 1,628) is a picturesque village situated on a hill between two valleys. Sounding a little like a place out of a myth, it is the epitome of a model English village, with its narrow streets and mishmash of architecture. Differing from the majority of the Cotswold villages, the people of Painswick – rich off the wool trade –  built the houses with the fine grey limestone from Painswick Beacon, instead of the honey-coloured Cotwsold stone. This regal colouring borne by most of the house down the main streets gave Painswick its royal nickname.


Prinknash AbbeyLimestone was not the only thing Painswick Beacon provided. It also served as a hill fort in the Iron Age, the remains of which can still be seen on top of it. A little to the North sits the Prinknash Abbey, a monastery built in the 11th Century. The Abbey is opened to visitors as a place of solitude and prayer, or for feeding the local deer and wildfowl.

St Marys Church, PainswickThe most popular attraction in Painswick is its St Mary’s Church. Though St Mary’s proves to be a popular name for churches, rest assured there is none like this one. Surrounded by 99 clipped yew trees planted in 1792, the dark green ovals atop short brown necks stand in a maze around the church, seemingly protecting it from the Devil who refuses to allow the hundredth yew tree to grow. The beautiful Rococo Gardens, relic from England’s passing fancy for all things of Rococo Design, are about a mile from Painswick proper and is a lovely place for an daytime walk.

Hotels
St Anne’s
[Gloucester Street,
+44 1452 812879, from £32.50].  Located in an 18th century wool trader’s house, this B&B is within walking distance of several pubs and restaurants. All the rooms are en suite, and a hearty breakfast is provided.

St Michael’s House [Victoria Street,
+44 1452 814555, from £80].  Their three themed bedrooms are all ensuite, have internet access and come with breakfast, which is served in their restaurant that faces the famous St Mary’s Church.



Cirencester

D
uring the era of the Roman occupation of Britain, Cirencester (pop. 15,300) was an important town. Its size was second only to London, and its position at the crossroads of major travel arteries at that time - Foss Way, Ermin Way and Ackeman Street – made it a popular stop. Its fame even brought it to be mentioned in the works of Ptolemy as well as the Domesday Book! Its location near other Cotswold villages such as Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water and the like make it a convenient starting point for those who intend to go village-hopping.

A central attraction of Cirencester is the Church of St John the Baptist. The parish church, with its oldest part built in 1115, is well known for its perpendicular porch with intricate fan vaulting on the ceilings. The church itself is done in a luscious gothic style, and is well worth the visit.

Cirencester House, seat of the Bathurst family, is rich in both the physical beauty of its grounds as well as the historic wealth of the house itself. The grounds, Cirencester Park, are considered one of the most gorgeous and peaceful gardens in Cotswold.

Corinium Museum exhibitFor the history buffs, the Corinium Museum is a must-see. Displaying artefacts from the time of the Roman invasion and settlement of the town, it's the place to be to admire 2nd century Roman carvings and ancient mosaics that have preservered through time.  To the west of Cirencester is the partially excavated remains of a the Roman Amphitheatre, with fortifications dating back to the fifth century. The Amphitheatre is accessible through Cotswold Avenue by tourists.
 

Hotels
The Old Brewhouse
[7 London Road, +44 1285 656099, from £56 per night].   Situated moments away from the town centre, the Brewhouse is a convenient and charming place to stay. All their bedrooms are furnished with a homely feel, are en-suite and non-smoking.

The Talbot Inn [14 Victoria Road, +44 1285 653760, from £55 per night].   This very pretty inn offers five rooms for accomodation, assuring a private and enjoyable stay. Each room is en-suite, has its own seating area and comes with a choice of English or Continental breakfast.


Lechlade-on-Thames

Picturesque L
echlade (pop. 6,500)  sits where the Rivers Thames and Leach flow together. There's a fresh, tranquil air about the village, making it a lovely escape for those who want to avoid the crush of tourist traps and commercial malls. Even the activities for tourists is based mainly on the river. The Riverside Inn at Halfpenny Bridge acts as the starting point for the Cotswold River Cruise, and goes all the way to London. This can take hours or days, depending on whether you want to disembark and explore the points on your way, or if you just want the pleasure of a total river cruise.

For a less time-consuming but still enjoyable cruise, there is the Cotswold Canal Trust that offers half hour trips along the Thames – perfect for a small picnic tea or just to spend a balmy afternoon. The National Trail of the Thames Path can also be accessed from Lechlade. For those who prefer to walk or cycle, and this will take you through most of the lovely riverside villages. The path is about 185 miles long though, so if you'd like to chart the course, be prepared for a workout!


Tetbury

T
etbury's (pop. 4,620)  foundation as a wool and yarn market in medieval times is immortalised in its yearly, internationally renown Woolsack Races. Men and women run up and down Gumstool Hill in the town centre, with full wool sacks strapped to their backs. Lest you imagine that wool weighs as much as feathers, these bags weigh 30 to 60 pounds fully packed!

Tetbury in itself is very beautiful, and has won national awards for this. Many of the buildings are unchanged from the time of the wool merchants, providing an interesting array of architecture to admire. A prime example of Georgian Gothic architecture comes in the form of the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, built in the 18th century. Its elegant detailing and incredibly high church spire make it a sight to behold in the small village. There's a grand, many-pillared, 400-year-old Market House that dominates the town centre, and the village proper is filled with antique shops for those who love stumbling across precious ancient finds.

Hotel
The cheekily named
Snooty Fox [Market Place, +44 1666 502436, from £70.00] is situated in the centre of town. They have an in-house restaurant and bar that serves hearty meals made from local produce for lunch and dinner. The rooms are comfortably appointed and come with a full breakfast.