Cotswolds, woodstock

Woodstock

Woodstock

A pretty town of stone built houses, interesting shops and smart hotels, and a practical centre for exploring the eastern Cotswolds and West Oxfordshire. Famous for glove-making in the C16, and for Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) who is buried nearby in Bladon. There are a number of antique shops, art galleries and a fascinating museum plus a melee of delis, inns, restaurants, tearooms and coffee shops. The foodaphile is spoilt for choice.

 

 

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Blenheim Palace
Iona House Gallery
The Oxfordshire Museum




Cotswolds, witney

Witney

Witney

The largest shopping centre in West Oxfordshire and a dormitory town to Oxford has seen much rapid expansion in the past 25-years. A town of hustle and bustle with a good share of attractive limestone buildings. Note the C17 Butter Cross with gabled roof, clock turret and sundial. The Town Hall with room overhanging a piazza and across Church Green the unusually handsome spire to the Parish Church visible from far and wide.

There have been signs of Iron Age and Roman settlements but the first records of any activity date from 969 AD. The Bishop of Westminster built a palace in 1044 which was eventually excavated in 1984. In 1277 the town’s business centred on the fulling and cloth mills. In the Middle Ages gloves, blankets and brewing were the staple industries. Earlys of Witney, the blanket makers were in business for 300-years until quite recently. All of this has been ably recorded by the new Blanket Hall and Cogges Manor Farm Museum.

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Blanket Hall
Cogges Manor Farm Museum
Witney Museum.

 



Cotswolds, Winchcombe

Winchcombe

Winchcombe

This small Cotswold town lies cradled in the Isbourne Valley. It was an ancient Saxon burh (small holding) and famous medieval centre visited from far and wide for the market, horse fair and monastery which was destroyed in the C16.

You can still walk the narrow streets beside the C16 and C18 cottages, but do look up and admire the many fine gables above the shop fronts. There’s a local saying: Were you born in Winchcombe? which is directed at those of us who leave doors open. It can be a wee bit draftey.

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Belas Knap Long Barrow
Folk & Police Museum
Hailes Abbey
Parish Church of St Peter
Sudeley Castle
Winchcombe Pottery

 



Cotswolds, tewkesbury

Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury

One of England’s finest medieval towns set at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Severn. Just look up at the gables of the many ancient buildings and admire (or venture into) one of the 30 narrow alleyways that make up this historic place so magnificently brought to life in John Moore’s Brensham Trilogy.

In the Middle Ages Tewkesbury was a flourishing centre of commerce: flour milling, mustard, brewing, malting, shipping. Today, it has its flourmills and is a centre for boating and tourism. It is still a busy market town of half-timbered buildings, overhanging upper storeys and carved doorways. Following the recent floods the town has a new energy and purpose. Note the Tourist Information Centre and Out of the Hat Museum which symbolise the ambitions of the Town’s elders.

 

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Bredon Hill
John Moore Countryside Museum
Out Of The Hat Museum
Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Museum
Three Choirs Festival




Cotswolds, tetbury

Tetbury

Tetbury

A market town with a fine church, St. Mary’s. The town’s recent claim to fame has been due to its proximity to Highgrove, Prince Charles’ home at Doughton. The opening of his Highgrove shop on   the High Street has brought an influx of new visitors to the town with coach outings bringing thetraffic to a standstill. How this helps the rest of the town’s merchants, one can only surmise?

Today, it is the Cotswold’s major centre for antiques. It has had much welcome investment in the shape of new shops, galleries, and places to eat and drink. Nearby is Gatcombe Park, the home of Anne, The Princess Royal. The Woolsack Races on May Bank Holiday are fun to watch,  and do cause great merriment to the bystanders, but not the participants who are forced to carry the heavy woolsack.  

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Badminton Horse Trials
Chavenage
Market House
Parish Church of St Mary
Westonbirt Arboretum

 



Cotswolds, stroud

Stroud

Stroud

This is not a pretty, pretty, almost too perfect, Cotswold town. No. Stroud was as close to the grime of the industrial revolution as any other town in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. It has few architectural gems. However, its attraction lies in its energy and artistic ambitions (or pretensions). There has been a liberal, bohemian attitude at play here since the group of Tolstoyan Anarchists settled at Whiteways in 1898. There is a lively community of writers and artists living in the surrounding valleys. Many will have read Laurie Lee’s "Cider With Rosie" about his early life in the Slad Valley but artists Michael Cardew, Lyn Chadwick and Norman Jewson settled here, too. And Damien Hirst has a business making up his prints and artworks in nearby Chalford.

Farmers' Market, Stroud ss - Page 77.jpg
 

So, supposedly the claim that it is the Arts and Crafts centre of the Cotswolds is justified. A busy café culture pervades, too. The weaving industry all began in a couple of cottages up the hill in Bisley. This moved into the town where 150 mills were soon in action using the water-powered valleys. But, as the C19 progressed much of this cloth making moved north to the West Riding of Yorkshire. The surrounding valleys provide wonderful walks through combes and woodland that are so very different from the Central Wolds. Look out for the Subscription Rooms built around 1833.

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Cotswold Canals
Farmers' Market
Gallery Pangolin
Lansdown Pottery
Museum In The Park and the Stroud House Gallery. 

Fringe Festival - 2nd week of September. Arts Festival - October.  stroudfringe.co.uk  




Cotswolds, stratford-upon-avon

Stratford-Upon-Avon

Stratford-Upon-Avon

The birthplace of William Shakespeare, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and one of the great tourist destinations in England. The town was established as a Romano-British settlement beside the river crossing on the busy Exeter to Lincoln route. In 1086 during the Domesday survey Stratford was a manor house belonging to Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester. In 1196 Richard I granted permission for a weekly market thereby establishing Stratford’s early days as a market town. This instigated the annual Mop Fair on October 12 where local labourers sought employment. The tradesman’s society, the Guild of the Holy Cross, was later formed to promote the crafts and local industries.

 

During Shakespeare’s time Stratford was home to 1,500 persons and was a bustling centre for the marketing of corn, malt and livestock, as well as being a centre for local government, and proud to foster one of the country’s finest grammar schools. The town’s buildings were predominantly Elizabethan and Jacobean. Today, there are C15 half- timbered buildings on Church Street, and C16 to C17 timber-framed houses in Chapel Street, the High Street and Wood Street plus a number of C18 period buildings of re-frontings with brick and stucco. It is not strictly a Cotswold town, but is included as it lies on the edge of the map, and is worthy of a day’s visit from Broadway, or Chipping Campden.  

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Butterfly Farm & Jungle
Gower Memorial
Guild Buildings
Holy Trinity Church

Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Shakespeare's Birthplace Properties: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm, New Place and Harvard House.




Cotswolds, stow-on-the-wold

Stow-On-The-Wold

Stow-On-The-Wold

With a name like this it is bound to attract visitors, and it has, and does so to this day for with its exposed position at the intersection of eight roads, (one being the Fosse Way) Stow has been party to some momentous events in history. The Romans used Stow as an encampment and route centre. The Viking merchants traded down the Fosse Way, but it was the Saxon hill farmers who laid the foundations for the “fleece" which created wealth for the wool merchants who used the great Market Place for sheep sales of 20,000, or more.

The Kings Arms is named after Charles Stuart who stayed here in 1645 before the Battle of Naseby. In March 1646, the Battle of Stow was the last skirmish, or battle of the English Civil War. Stow has a number of historic hostelries, and is thus, an agreeable place in which to succumb to fine ales and wine, and the comfort of a four-poster bed. Today, the town is a busy and pleasing place to be. It still has free parking and you may wander freely about, and admire and visit the art galleries, antique shops, bookshops and delis. ‘Where the wind blows cold’ so the song goes. go-stow.co.uk   stowonthewold.info

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Fosse Gallery
Parish Church of St Edward the Confessor
Stow Horse Fair

 



Cotswolds, Morton-in-marsh

Moreton-In-Marsh

Moreton-In-Marsh

Perhaps the first Cotswold town you’ll visit if heading south along the ancient Fosse Way.  And, what an impressive site it is, too. The wide, main street built by the Abbot of Westminster in 1220 for the sheep and arable sales is today a lively scene on market day, every Tuesday since King Charles I granted the town a Charter in 1637. But, its origins go back to the Romans whobuilt a military camp around 43-50 AD whilst planning the construction of the Fosse Way. 

Redesdale Hall, Moreton in Marsh.jpg

It remains the largest town in the North East Wolds and is dominated by the Market Hall built in 1887 by Lord Redesdale, father of the infamous Mitford sisters. Look out for the Curfew Tower, an unusual phenomenon on the corner of Oxford Street, dated 1633, which rung until 1860. A fine centre given to a number of inns, art galleries and independent retailers. Associated with the English Civil War, for the Royalist Cavalry were based here. Just out of town on the Chipping Norton road is the Fire Services’ College and HQ of the Institute of Fire Engineers. Moreton (agricultural & horse) show - 1st Saturday in September. 

 

 

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Batsford Arboretum
Bourton House Garden
Cotswold Falconry Centre
John Davies Gallery
Mill Dene Garden
Sezincote House & Garden




Cotswolds, Malmesbury

Malmesbury

Malmesbury

Claims to be the oldest borough in England (although Barnstaple, in North Devon may dispute this) - established in 880 AD. Military strategists have described its hilltop location as the best naturally defended inland position of all ancient settlements. No wonder then that King Athelstan, the first King of all England, chose it as his home.

 

Set on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, it is a cheaper place to stay than the more central towns. Its spirit though lies with the Wiltshire landscape. Dyson, the innovative design company of vacuum cleaners, hair dryers (and now electric cars) is the major employer and has brought some much needed zest, style and money to this isolated town. However, James Dyson was not the first inventor to work in the town. You must go back to the free-spirited monk, Eilmer, in the C11, who designed and built his own hang glider. 

“Special Places" to Visit:  

Abbey House Gardens
Athelstan Museum
 Malmesbury Abbey Church of St Peter & St Paul




Cotswolds, Gloucester

Gloucester

The county town of Gloucestershire and its administrative centre is set to the west of the Cotswold Hills, south of the Malvern Hills, and to the east of the Forest of Dean. Originally a port connected to the tidal Bristol Channel and strategic point developed by the Romans into the fort Glevum.

Cotswolds, Chipping Norton

Chipping Norton

A well situated hill-top town affording spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Mentioned in the Domesday Book. The new Market Place was built in 1205 and is today surrounded by elegant houses with Georgian facades. But it was the Wool industry established in the C13 that brought wealth to this corner of Oxfordshire and, like so many before them and after, the wealthy merchants invested their coppers in the C15 ‘Wool’ church in order to guarantee a place in heaven.

Cotswolds, Cirencester

Cirencester

One of the finest and most affluent towns in the Cotswolds lies Cirencester surrounded by a plethora of attractive villageswhose populace (often second home owners) tend to shop, and hob-knob in Ciren (as the locals call it). The smart shops, and bars, reflect the riches of its patrons.

Cotswolds, Bath

Bath

Is Bath the most beautiful city in England? Many believe so for it is second only to London in the number of visitors it attracts. It will captivate you today, as it has done so down the centuries, from the Romans to Jane Austen, to Robert Southey and the Romantic Poets, to the Rugby aficionados jostling to get into the Recreation Ground. 

Cotswolds, Cheltenham

Cheltenham

A smaller version of Bath, often described as ‘the most complete Regency town in England.'     Elegant Regency buildings overlook the crescents, squares,  tree-lined avenues and spacious parks. Cheltenham remains, in historic terms, a young town of a mere 300-years. It grew as a spaafter George III had approved the waters in 1788.