Towns and villages of the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is quintessential English countryside at its finest: amidst gently rolling hills, fields of sheep, lush river valleys and green woodlands, its beautiful towns and villages are built with local golden stone. The name 'Cotswolds' derives from the Saxon terms for sheep pens (cots) and hills (wolds), and it's no wonder: sheep have been raised in these hills for thousands of years. The Cotswolds is one of Great Britain’s 46 officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it stretches over several counties. Most of the Cotswolds is in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but parts go into Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. The Cotswolds has an extensive, fascinating history. Neolithic long barrows and Iron Age hill forts were built along the Cotswold escarpment, before the Romans settled in Cirencester and built their villas in the surrounding hills. In Medieval times, wool barons made their fortunes and built the grand “wool churches” still in use today, while during the Industrial Age, mills lined the rivers producing cloth, umbrellas, walking sticks and pins. People come to the Cotswolds from around the world to visit the market towns, walk through the charming villages, take a break in the area's quaint tea rooms and spend some time in its friendly pubs. Walking is a popular pastime here, and many public footpaths pass through the countryside. The most well-known walking trail is the Cotswold Way, which stretches for 100 miles along the Cotswold escarpment. You could easily spend a week or two here, exploring the area by doing some countryside walks, and perhaps making day trips to Bath, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. You can even get into London by train, so you can visit the capital too. With so much to offer, the Cotswolds is a perfect holiday destination in every respect.

  1. Broadway

    Broadway, in the north-west corner of the Cotswolds, is named after its wide main street, lined with 17th and 18th century buildings made of golden Cotswold stone. The town is surrounded on three sides by the Cotswold Hills, so it's a great base for walking. Visit the Broadway Deli for local produce, quality food supplies and deli items, or have a Cotswold cream tea (scones with jam and clotted cream) at one of the tea rooms. The Broadway Tower, an 18th century gothic folly, sits on a hill overlooking the town, and William Morris lived in it for a time. In the countryside to the north lies Hidcote Manor Garden, a beautiful 20th century English garden open to visitors.

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  2. Stow-on-the-wold

    Stow-on-the-Wold sits on a high hill (“wold”) in the centre of the North Cotswolds. This charming market town has a large and busy main square full of shops, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants. The village stocks – not financial stocks, but iron implements used to punish thieves in past centuries – are still in use today, but only by tourists posing for photos! In the centre of the square is a medieval cross. It's only a short drive from Stow to one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds - Lower Slaughter. So lovely that it is referred to as a "chocolate box" village, Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter (jointly called “the Slaughters”) sit along the River Eye.

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  3. Burford

    Burford, in Oxfordshire, is the eastern gateway to the Cotswolds, spreading down a hillside to the River Windrush. This is not a typical “golden” Cotswold town but instead offers a mix of architectural styles, with some of its buildings dating back to the 15th century. The church has a Norman tower and 15th century spire with medieval almshouses nearby, and at the bottom of the town, there's a one-lane medieval bridge which crosses the river. On the road from Burford to Cirencester you'll also find the village of Bibury, known for its 14th century weavers’ cottages, the famed Arlington Row which sits along the River Coln. William Morris declared it the most beautiful village in England.

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  4. Cirencester

    When the Romans settled in Britain nearly 2,000 years ago, Cirencester, then called Corinium, was the second largest city after Londinium. Today, the Corinium Museum displays the Roman mosaic floors found throughout the town, and although Cirencester isn't the hub it once was, it's still the largest town in the Cotswolds! It has a well-preserved medieval centre, with a 15th century wool church dominating the market square, whilst at its edge you'll find Cirencester Park, where locals go to stroll along the wide walking path lined with chestnut trees. The nearby remains of Chedworth Villa also show how people lived in Roman times, showcasing mosaic floors, bathhouses and under-floor heating.

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  5. Tetbury

    Tetbury, in the southern Cotswolds, could be described as the area's royal town, with the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) living nearby in Highgrove House. His shop, Highgrove, can be found on the main street in Tetbury, selling high-end gardening accessories, household items and his Duchy food products. The 17th century Market House is also used for local markets, and the Chipping Steps, a medieval stairway going down the hill from the town centre, is lined with historic houses. Indeed, Tetbury is a great destination for lovers of all forms of history, with its main streets lined with antique shops. South of Tetbury is the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, with its internationally renowned tree collection: a popular attraction, it's particularly lovely in the autumn when the leaves are changing color.

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