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A visit to the Cotswolds is like a journey into the English countryside. Away from hustle and bustle, a truly wonderful escape.
The picturesque countryside of rolling green hills and golden-coloured stone villages is a far away land full of character. Footpaths weave through stone walls and through fields laden with grazing sheep. Quiet rivers like the Windrush flow alongside country pubs with wood burned smoke swirling from the chimney tops. And one of the best things about the Cotswolds that only footsteps away from the village- and town centres, is countryside – and it’s all yours to explore.
So whether you're going to the Cotswolds with your partner, as a group of friends or you're looking for a family cottage holiday, this beautiful region has so much to offer.
Come to the Cotswolds for a week or two and you will have plenty to fill your days out with an abundance of attractions, pretty walks, villages, restaurants, shops, museums and more. But if all you have to spare is a long weekend over a Bank Holiday, the Cotswolds is sure to show you a wonderful time too. This wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is only a few hours away from most places in the UK. If you're coming from London, for instance, all you need is a car or a return train ticket from Paddington Station and in just 90 minutes Moreton-in-Marsh will welcome you to the Cotswolds, just as it has been for over 1700 years.
“Cotswold” actually means “hilly shelter sheep” in Saxon. During the Middle Ages, Cotswold sheep were famously known throughout Europe for their thick fleece and superior wool. Almost 20,000 sheep per day could be sold in just one Cotswold town, and it was because of the wool industry that the area saw a surge in incredible wealth. Visitors can see this wealth in the elaborate churches, gated mansions and beautifully carved stone buildings that line each town.
When the Industrial Revolution and cotton trade replaced wool production, the sheep industry tapered off. Limited rail connections lead the Cotswolds to become an isolated rural area, forgotten until tourism became popular. Now, 85% of the countryside is still agricultural, but the scenic limestone hills boast almost 100 quaint villages of stone buildings, all overflowing with antique stores, tea shops, inns and last but not least, pubs. All 2,250 square miles of the Cotswolds has been named an Area of Outstanding National Beauty – aka, “it’s pretty.”
From Moreton-in-Marsh, get in the car or hop on a bus (it runs every hour) to Stow-on-the-Wold. Only four miles away, Stow is one of the best known market towns in England – and one the prettiest. At 800 feet elevation, it’s the highest of all the Cotswold towns, which makes for the perfect walking route because who doesn’t love going downhill!
Stow is a historical town. Stone Age and Iron Age burial relics are nearby. In 1645, King Charles I stayed at the King Arms in Stow, shortly prior to the battle of Naseby. Even though Charles lost the battle (and his head!), don’t let it discourage you from grabbing a pint at the Kings Arms. Want more? Take a walk to the Porch House, an inn since 947 A.D., making it the oldest in England. Savour the fish and chips or enjoy a Ploughman’s lunch (bread, ham, cheese and pickle) and quench your thirst with a local Brakspear bitter.
Stow’s town square is a village straight out of a storybook, flowers and yellow-stone buildings from as far back as the 14th century. At the centre of the square is the medieval stock, where criminals were locked in and publicly humiliated. If the entertainment of tormenting people wore off, Stow was famous for its bear baiting – wild dogs would attack a chained bear. Time moved slowly in the Cotswolds, the town of Stow didn’t have running water until 1958.
The square is surrounded by buildings because it was the square where the sheep were brought to market. The narrow alleys were built especially for the sheep, all aisles leading into the square were built sheep wide. Squeeze through them to find hidden pubs, antique stores and tea shops. Visit the Information Center and grab a map for a traditional four-mile Cotswold walk from Stow to Burton-on-the-Water – don’t worry, it’s mostly downhill.
As you follow the map from Stow-on-the-Wold, it will lead you near a cemetery close to 15th century St. Edward’s Church, and then follow the yellow arrows and signs specifying a well-marked Public Footpath.
In England and Wales, there are over 140,000 miles of Public Footpaths that allow you to walk past palaces, across estates, across fields of sheep and through working farms. No animals can escape as humans pass through “kissing gates,” a swinging gate that lets only humans pass. Safety for all. As you walk, you’ll be witness to scenic views of countryside, cross streams, hop over stone walls, pass through large farms, and get a rare look at wonderful stone cottages.
After three miles of trekking, you are brought to the beautiful village of Lower Slaughter. And no, “slaughter” does not mean what you fear, but rather derives from Old English, meaning “muddy place.” It’s has a real charm to it. An old mill stands beside the River Eye, which runs quietly through the town’s centre and has several small brides crossing over it. There is always time for a pint at the Slaughters Country Inn in their lovely outdoor beer garden. Watch horseback riders march across the river and gallop off on the paths.
Past a cricket field and another mile later, you stumble upon Bourton-on-the-Water – probably the most visited of the Cotswold villages, and it just picture-perfect. The River Windrush flows silently through the centre of the village and crossed with five chic stone pedestrian bridges.
There are many pubs with blissful outdoors patios overlooking the water – watch ducks and swans swim in the stream. We highly recommend a visit the Old Manse Hotel or Chester House Hotel. And don’t forget the tourist attractions: a model railroad and car museum, shops, and a miniature model of the village. Take a side street and admire the blooming flowers and stone buildings.
When you're out and about in the Cotswolds, you're sure to pass many a lovely pub on your way, but one thing you definitely must consider trying, is lunching alfresco. See our recent blog post on Giffords Circus. This year (2016) they are showing “The Painted Wagon Tour” in various locations in the Cotswolds throughout the summer.
We hope to welcome you to the Cotswolds in one of our Cotswold holiday cottages on the next Bank Holiday. If you're looking to stay in the Cotswolds sometime soon, consider checking out our, last minute cottage. We always have a deal on our cottages when you book them less than 2 weeks before your stay.