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Britain > Heart of England > The Cotswolds

A range of low hills in the west of England characterised by its small towns and stone-built villages, set within a picturesque landscape

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Pretty Villages
Market Towns
Plenty of Walks
Country Pubs
Manor Houses & Gardens
The Cotswolds are a range of low hills in the west of England. The area is characterised by its small towns and stone-built villages, set within a picturesque landscape. It is often thought to be a perfect representation of the ideal English countryside.

Views from Snowshill Manor Garden.
Photo Mike Peel
The 2000 square kilometres of the Cotswolds are surrounded by some of the country's most attractive cities, including Bath, with its ancient Roman buildings, and Oxford, which is sometimes known as "the city of dreaming spires" thanks to its endless array of beautiful university buildings. However, the real appeal of the area lies in its smaller settlements - the villages and towns that feature on all the postcards.

Cottages around the Well in Lower Slaughter
Bourton-on-the-Water is a fantastic example of everything that the Cotswolds have to offer. The river Windrush flows directly through the middle of this village, leading to it being known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds". The riverside cottages, overhanging trees and low bridges make for a perfectly framed view. As you stroll through the streets, keep an eye out for some houses with a soft, honey-like colour. These buildings are made from locally quarried rock, a type of yellow limestone known as "Cotswold Stone".

The River Windrush at Bourton on the Water.
Photo Neil Kennedy

Pretty Cottages, made of Cotswold stone
The nearby village of Bibury contains another of the hills' most famous sights. There is a small street called Arlington Row, which contains a line of 14th-century houses that seem older than the land itself. They are now owned by the National Trust, who ensure that the buildings are always looking their best.

Arlington Row in Bibury.
Photo Charles D P Miller
There are many more villages to explore, as well as a few slightly bigger towns. Several of these host weekly markets, which are popular with locals and tourists alike. The farmer's markets are particularly well attended, and should be a priority for anyone with an interest in food and cooking. They're great places to get hold of local organic meat or diary products, including Gloucester cheese, from the nearby city. The locals are also known to enjoy shopping for antiques and books, and so each of the towns' main shopping streets are filled with wonderfully quaint and dusty examples of these types of stores.

Shops in Burford High Street.
In addition to the shops and cottages, the Cotswolds are also home to a variety of larger, grander buildings. These include a fine array of beautiful churches, which were built in the Middle Ages after a prosperous period of trading wool with mainland Europe. These have become known as the "wool churches", in memory of this time. The local area also contains several attractive manors and stately homes, many of which have historic value - such as Blenheim Palace, which is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Burford Church.
Photo Dave_S

Stained glass in St Peter's Lower Slaughter, depicting the wool trade that funded the construction of many Cotswold churches.
Photo Sue H J Hasker

Blenheim Palace.
Photo simononly
What really makes the Cotswolds really special is that these buildings are surrounded by one of England's greenest and most pleasant landscapes. For every stone church or stately home, there is at least one park or garden - often in the grounds of the manors themselves.

Hidcote Manor Garden.
Photo alh1

Photo Herry Lawford
Ultimately though, there is no single place or attraction that is the obvious highlight - a visit to the Cotswolds is more about the overall atmosphere of the place, with its endless attractive villages, gardens, and farms. By browsing the many old bookshops, or by having a meals in one of the local pubs, you can enjoy a slice of life in England's most idyllic rural getaway.

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