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As promised in my earlier articles, I shall try to highlight just a few of the many treasures to be discovered in the delightful Cotswolds. I shall do so in no particular order, precedence or favour, as to compare one Cotswold village to another town or city, would be akin to comparing Constable to Mozart; in that each has a beauty beyond comparison. Likewise, I shall offer only ‘tasters’, which I hope may sponsor visitors to look further.
Painswick is some 6 miles south of Gloucester and lies perhaps mid-way along ‘The Cotswold Way’ footpath. Here you can walk up Painswick Beacon (height 283 metres) and take in astounding views of the Severn Estuary, the Brecon Beacons and the Malvern Hills. Painswick is home to the oldest village rugby club in England and is truly hospitable.
Northleach is a beautiful market town near Cheltenham, yet is nicely tucked away. Set upon a crossroads on the ancient Roman road – Fosse Way, this town, as with many, owes its heritage to the wool trade. One of my favourite oddities is ‘Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music’ with its amazing assembly of music boxes, barrel organs, etc.
Bath is a delightful World Heritage City, over which I have waxed lyrical on many occasions and in many articles. Roman Spa baths and much, much more. Grand, stately, yet vibrant. A true ‘not to be missed’ city.
Lechlade is an especially favourite town in Gloucestershire, where the River Leach joins with The Thames at its highest navigable point. From ‘Halfpenny Bridge’ the trading longboats and barges could (and still can) navigate downstream to London and beyond.
Witney this famed Oxfordshire town, standing on the River Windrush, had its name resoundingly built upon the eponymous woollen ‘Witney’ blankets which epitomised the wealthy heritage of The Cotswolds.
Chippenham this venerable Wiltshire market town is nowadays, to a degree, something of a commuter town, which in turn has enabled its unspoilt historical preservation. Just to sit beneath the shelter of the Buttercross and absorb the sympathetically pedestrianised ‘Shambles’ shopping area is an absolute oasis; although on Fridays and Saturdays there is a lively and vibrant market.
Woodstock (no, not that one) just north of Oxford, is not merely picturesque; follow Park Street down to Town Gate and discover a portal to the magnificent Blenheim Palace estate.
Malmesbury this Wiltshire town is viewed as sacred, with its hilltop springs, and the towering cliff sides adding drama to this, the oldest borough in England.
Winchcombe this fine town near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, is home to Sudeley Castle and sits astride six long distance footpath ‘ways’.
Lacock just three miles from Chippenham in Wiltshire and now almost entirely owned by ‘National Trust’; mentioned in the Domesday Book, this beautiful setting has featured in so many TV programmes and famous films. Truly outstanding.
Cheltenham magnificent and renowned in its own right, provides much should the visitor encounter a rainy day. The Art Gallery and Museum (Dedicated Status) houses the finest ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement items of fine furniture, metalwork, of which many were inspired by famed local craftsman William Morris. There are also many collections of English and Chinese pottery and porcelain and paintings by British and Dutch masters from the past three centuries. You may also choose to visit the birthplace and childhood home of composer Gustav Holst (‘The Planets’) and soak up the well preserved ambience of this Victorian home, packed with evocative memorabilia of gracious times. Or maybe a little retail therapy might fill the bill in the lively city centre.
There are a plenitude of glorious gardens to be found and seen throughout The Cotswolds, not least: Hidcote Manor Garden near Chipping Campden, Snowshill Manor near Broadway, Abbey House gardens near Malmesbury, the flamboyant Painswick Rococo Garden (enchanting), and Westonbirt Arboretum with its 17 miles of pathways among 600 acres of trees, magnificent in any season and which can be found near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
Whatever your preference, you will agree that there’s much to justify more than one visit to the glorious Cotswolds