Stow on the Wold is a well-known location, possibly the most well-known, in the Cotswolds that has a lot to offer to visitors. It is a market town and it has plenty of shops to browse round, not to mention delightful views of the surrounding hills and the Cotswold stone houses that around 2,000 people call home.
You might be surprised to learn that Stow has been a settlement for hundreds of years, ever since the Iron Age. It is also the site of many events throughout the calendar year, so whenever you decide to visit the Cotswolds it is worth coming here to see what is going on.
Certainly, if you’re nearby on Thursday 10th May 2012 you should pay a visit to see the Stow Horse Fair. This has been going on for many hundreds of years according to a charter that was granted way back in 1476. Unusually enough it originated as a sheep fair, but things changed remarkably over the years and now the onus is on horses instead! This is also known as a Gypsy Fair, and it takes place twice a year in Stow. The second event is in October, so if you miss the May event you at least have another chance to come back and see that one instead.
What to Expect?
This is quite a sight to see because hundreds, possibly thousands of travellers from all over the country flock to Stow on the Wold in readiness for the day of the fair itself. If you choose this particular week to come to the Cotswolds, perhaps it is wise to stay just outside Stow, places such as Naunton, Bourton on the Water or Broadwell for example are literally minutes away.
Once in Stow, though, don’t be too surprised to see gypsies swarming around the streets on horse-back or on horse carts. You’ll spot the horses and also the caravans that are indicative of this event and you’ll also spot them swaying around having had one or two ales too many! But it is all good natured.
Indeed the day of the Fair itself can be quite a spectacle, it was originally meant for trading and today a certain amount of “trading” – sometimes of animals – still goes on today. Of course the fair can be quite an experience for everyone, and it must be said that while it is a tourist spectacle it is first and foremost an opportunity for travellers to meet up. And they do indeed travel from all corners of the country to get here for the Stow Horse Fair and hence why alcohol flows from daybreak to daybreak in an old fashion style knees-up.
It’s worth remembering that many of the shops in Stow close while the fair is taking place, so do take this into consideration, but this isn’t true of all of them and it can vary, but if you are going to go to Stow it’s wise to make sure you have everything you need with you for the day. Conversely if you are going to see Stow itself rather than the Horse Fair, it’s best to pick another day to make sure you can see everything it has to offer.
In any event Stow has been the centre of this fair for more than five hundred years. It would seem impossible to imagine it without it occurring twice a year, and it brings many people together for all kinds of reasons.
I will probably make a fleeting visit to the fair, as I usually do, but for fear of getting stuck in a pub buying the biggest round of beers imaginable, I usually make it a brief sojourn!