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The highest settlement in the Cotswolds

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Market Square
Royalist Hotel
Shops and Galleries
St Edward's Church
As the saying goes: "Stow-on-the-Wold, where the wind blows cold". The town stands on a plateau, 200 metres above sea level, making it the highest settlement in the Cotswolds.
The draughts are particularly strong in the wide market square. It seems like a much bigger space than such a small town deserves. The large size helped to accommodate the sheep and horse fairs which used to take place here. Up to 20,000 animals were bartered or sold in a single day's trading. At one end of the square were the stocks, where criminals were shamed before the public. At the other end was a stern market cross, which reminded the merchants to act fairly under the gaze of God. Both structures are still standing, despite being a little worse for wear. Even today, they keep a watchful eye on the local shopkeepers.

Stocks in the Market Square.
Photo Robin Drayton
Instead of cattle, the current money-spinner is antiques. Despite its size, Stow has as many dealers as anywhere else in the UK. At times it seems like the place barely sells anything else. With a bit of exploration though, you'll stumble across plenty of book shops, craft stores and art galleries.
Elsewhere are the old coaching inns. Stow-on-the-Wold is at the junction of 7 roads, including the Roman Fosse Way, so it has been putting up travellers for centuries. "The Royalist Hotel" is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest in England. Carbon dating on its timbers showed that it has been in existence since the year 987!

The Queen's Head, one of Stow's many Inns.
Photo Mike Cattell
A slightly younger building is St. Edward's Church. It was built between the 11th and 15th centuries when the wool trade was booming. During the 1600s, the building was used as a prison for over 1000 soldiers. This was during the Civil War, when Stow became a vicious battleground. So many people died that the town's ducks could swim in the pools of blood. The horrific tale sounds like something out of a fantasy novel. This feels even more likely when you see St. Edwards' north porch. A small wooden door hides between two gnarled trees, forming a scene that could've been taken straight out of The Lord of the Rings.

St Edward's Church.
Photo Jim Linwood
Visitor Information
Stow on the Wold Tourist Information 12 Talbot Court, Stow on the Wold, GL54 1BQ. Tel: 01451 870 150

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