The Cotswolds is full of traditional sights and experiences that visitors might expect to find in England – thatched cottages, small country lanes, cosy villages, and afternoons spent in low-ceilinged pubs or scoffing cream teas. Unsurprisingly, the area is popular with tourists and its gently rolling hills provide the added bonus of scenic countryside. Indeed, the Cotswolds have been recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The region encompasses a narrow horizontal stretch of limestone hills in south-central England, from Oxford in the east to the M5 motorway in the west, north to Chipping Camden and nearly as far south as Bath. The area is dotted with little villages, country pubs, and footpaths through lush, green countryside.
Cotswold activities range from gentle outdoor walking and cycling to sightseeing and taking in the historical attractions in the region. Walkers might try the Cotswold Way, which offers excellent day hikes or a longer journey along its 102-mile path. Cyclists will enjoy meandering on relatively flat roads with stone walls and can obtain helpful maps and routes from local tourist information offices.
Wandering through the country lanes and encountering villages by car or bike is an essential Cotswold experience. Some of the more popular and picturesque villages include Bibury, Minster Lovell, Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. Most of these villages were established by the 12th century, and many of the workers who lived in the villages participated in the area’s wool trade.
The area is steeped in history, which can be found in the hill forts and long barrows scattered around the area. Belas Knap and Hetty Pegler’s Tump are just two of the long barrows where you can learn about Neolithic remains. In addition, medieval and Gothic architecture is found in many of its villages. Highlights include Burford’s Church of St John the Baptist, Chipping Camden’s Market Hall, and Winchcombe’s Sudeley Castle. Another good stop is the 16th-century Falkland Arms pub in Great Tew, which features low beams, flagstone floors and local ales, wines and cider. Just as interesting are the rows of old cottages found throughout the region that had been built for workers in the region and were constructed out of limestone from the surrounding hills. Interestingly, St Paul’s Cathedral in London was also built with limestone quarried from the hills.
Other local attractions include Blenheim Palace, Birdland Park and Gardens, and Painswick Rococo Garden. The region has been influential in the Arts and Crafts movement, and the area remains a popular place for artisans and craftspeople to create, show and sell their work. The Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum is a good place to visit for those interested in art.
Accommodation options in the region are plentiful and range from luxury stays in hotels and spas to quaint bed and breakfasts in honey-coloured limestone houses to self-catering cottages. Accessing the Cotswolds is best done by car, as there aren’t many train lines through the region. It is convenient from a number of large cities, though, including London (90 minutes by rail or car), Cheltenham, Oxford, Bath and Bristol.