The Cotswolds towns and villages are north west of London and are spread through the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. The Cotswolds also reach parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
So as you can see, the Cotswold villages do cover quite a large area in the west country. I'm hoping these pages of my site will help give you a quick overview of the most picturesque Cotswold towns and villages in England and also help you plan what to see and how to get to this beautiful area from London.
The central landscape of the Cotswold villages actually run south west to north east through six counties and particularly in the county of Gloucestershire, west Oxfordshire, and south western Warwickshire. The northern and western edges of the Cotswolds villages are marked by steep undulating hills down to the Severn valley and the Warwickshire end of the River Avon.
This cliff-like ridge of land commonly formed by faulting or fracturing of the earth's crust, sometimes called the Cotswold Edge, is also a result of the uplifting or tilting of the limestone layer, exposing its broken edge. This is a cuesta, in other words a long low ridge with a relatively steep face on one side and a long gentle slope on the other, in geological terms.
On the eastern boundary lies the city of Oxford and on the west is Stroud in the county of Somerset. To the south-east the upper reaches of the Thames Valley and towns such as Lechlade, Tetbury and Fairford are often considered to mark the limit of this picturesque area.
To the south the Cotswolds Edge reaches as far south as Bath and towns such as Chipping Sodbury and Marshfield, which share elements of the Cotswold character. The area features attractive small towns and villages built from the underlying Cotswold stone a yellow limestone. This limestone is rich in fossils, in particular fossilised sea urchins.
In the Middle Ages, the wool trade made this area prosperous; hence the Speaker of the British House of Lords sits on the Woolsack showing where the Medieval wealth of the country came from. Some of this money was put into the building of churches so the area has a number of large, handsome Cotswold stone "wool churches". The area remains affluent and has attracted wealthy people who own second homes in the area or have chosen to retire to the area.
Cotswold towns include Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, picturesque Chipping Norton, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Winchcombe and Stow-on-the-Wold. The town of Chipping Campden is notable for being the home of the Arts and Crafts movement, founded by William Morris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
William Morris, as I mentioned previously, lived occasionally in the Broadway Tower, a folly now part of a country park. Chipping Campden is also known for the Cotswold annual Games, a celebration of sports and games dating back to the early 17th century.
The Cotswolds were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966, with an expansion on 21 December 1990 to 768 square miles. In 1991 all AONBs were measured again using modern methods. The official area of the Cotswolds AONB increased to 787 square miles. In 2000 the government confirmed that AONBs had the same landscape quality and status as National Parks.
The largest of 40 AONBs in England and Wales, the Cotswold AONB stretches from the border regions of South Warwickshire and Worcestershire, through West Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and takes in parts of West Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset in the South.
The Cotswold Way is a long-distance footpath, approximately 103 miles long, running the length of the AONB, mainly on the edge of the Cotswold hills with views over the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham.
Burford is a town on the River Windrush in the Cotswold hills in Oxfordshire. The town itself is about 20 miles west of the City of Oxford and basically is the gateway to the picturesque towns and villages of the Cotswolds. The town is a great stoppng off point for visiting the other towns and villages in the area.
The very wide High Street slides down the hill
from the A40 towards the river Windrush which is crossed by a narrow three arched bridge. The High Street itself contains all types of houses, shops and inns, and some dating as far back as the 15th century. From about the 14th to the 17th century Burford was a great wool town and near the middle of the High Street is the 'Tolsey' where once wealthy wool merchants held their meetings and collected tolls; it now houses a museum.
Fairford is a Gloucestershire town and probably most famous for being the home of Royal Air Force Fairford, where the annual Royal International Air Tattoo is staged. Fairford is between Cirencester and Lechlade.
Shipston on Stour is on the northern edge of the Cotswolds and has many small cottages that reflect the use of the Cotswold stone here.
I'll have more detail about Shipston soon....
Upper Slaughter is a beautiful village tucked away in a
wooded vale with cottages dating from 16th, 17th and 18th centries, and is home to a charming Elizabethan manor house. The neighbouring village of Lower Slaughter has some ancient stone bridges and one of the last traditional Cotswold blacksmith's works.
Morton in Marsh is an ancient market town with Cotswold houses and coaching inns lining the wide main street. Opposite the Market Hall is the 16th centry curfew tower which has an original bell which rang until 1860. The town should be on your must do list I think.
How to get to the Cotswold's from London:
For a great one or two days exploring the Cotswold's via Stratford Upon Avon, you could take the Express Train from Euston Mainline Station in central London. It's fast, comfortable and a very convenient way to travel. Go to the "Train Travel Page" for details and direct link for fares and timetables and special deals.
If you prefer bus or coach, click the link above for fares and timetable from London's Victoria Coach Station.
Leave the Cotswolds area for London.......Click
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