Defined by its rolling hills, or ‘wolds’, the Cotwolds captures quintessential rural England at its finest.
The largest of 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, the Cotswolds runs through five counties; Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. Geologically, the Cotswolds is a limestone mass stretching 100 miles with the towns of Bath to the south and Chipping to the north.
Explore the picturesque countryside, discover quaint villages and market towns, browse antique shops, stop in a cozy pub, and soak up the rich history of the area. If you enjoy the outdoors, appreciate history, and want to see traditional England than the Cotswolds is definitely for you!
Getting Around the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is served by a comprehensive network of road, rail, and bus links making it easy to get to reach and get around.
If you are able and willing, driving is by far the best means of exploring the area as it will give you more flexibility in what you can see. The Cotswolds is served by excellent links to the M4, M5 and M40, providing easy access to and from London, Birmingham, and the national motorway network. The internal roads getting around the small towns are also well maintained.
The Cotswolds are at the heart of the British Rail network with main line trains from London, the Midlands, the North, and the Southwest of England. There are main line railway stations at Bath, Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Charlbury, Kingham and Oxford. For detailed rail information and fares look at www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.thetrainline.com
The Cotswolds is manageable to get around by bus with local services linking main towns throughout the area. This would not be the first recommended means of travel but it’s there for those that don’t want to drive or train. Check the RailBus for fares and schedules.
Our Favorite Villages & Towns in the Cotswolds
Castle Combe has been called ‘The Prettiest Village in England’ and for good reason. Visitors have been coming to enjoy its charms for at least a century. The small street leading from the Market Cross down to the By Brook is as picturesque today as it ever was. Walk through the small village center and take in the quaint ambiance and charming ambiance.
One of the village’s popular spots overlooking a water meadow is Arlington Row, a group of ancient cottages with steeply pitched roofs dating back to the 16th Century. Henry Ford thought Arlington Row was an icon of England. On a trip to the Cotswolds he tried to buy the entire row of houses to ship back to Michigan to include them in Greenfield Village.
The self-proclaimed capital of the Cotwolds is a beautiful town, and it was the second most important town in Roman Britain. The Roman amphitheatre on the outskirts has not been fully excavated, but several remains from Roman, Norman and Saxon times can be found at the Corinium Mueseum. Here you can also dress up like a Roman soldier and find out what the Saxons really looked like.
Located at the southern end of the Cotswolds, Bath is a city steeped in history. Bath is known for its Georgian classical architecture and the beautiful intact Roman bath. The presence of hot springs and easily worked limestone made it attractive to the Romans which flourished for 400 years. The city declined quickly after the Romans left Britain and did not thrive again until the eighteenth century. Once again it was water and stone that made it great but this time of Georgian influenced architecture. The city has more officially listed significant (5000) buildings than central London and most originate from the 18th century.
The magical appeal of the town’s position on the banks of the River Avon gives visitors a wonderful setting for leisure, cultural and tourist activities. Bradford on Avon has delightful shops, restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts lining the narrow streets of the town centre. The surrounding hillside is covered with cotswold stone houses and cottages of every shape and size.
In the Middle Ages, Tetbury was an important market town for the Cotswolds wool trade. The town center is still dominated by the splendid pillared Market House built in 1655. Tetbury is known as an ‘architectural gem’ as many of the wool merchants houses still look as they did 300 years ago. Also well known for its 25 antique shops and boats a wonderful variety including many specialist shops offering a wide choice.
Bourton on the Water
Bourton-on-the-Water straddles the river Windrush with its series of elegant low bridges beside neat tree-shaded greens and tidy stone banks. Standing back from the river are traditional Cotswolds buildings, many of which are now tourist shops for the day-trippers and visitors. Bourton-on-the-Water has been described as the ‘Little Venice’ of the Cotswolds and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region being serviced by the many shops, cafe’s, and attractions.
Cottages and inns dating back to the 15th century form a breathtaking backdrop, much admired by film makers over the years. From Pride and Prejudice to Harry Potter, Lacock has starred in many film classics. Walk through the historic abbey located in the town center, grab a bite to eat at one of the many pubs, and enjoy the quaint ambiance of the quiet village.