Fairford

Fairford is a small Gloucestershire town along the River Coln just six miles east of Cirencester.  The town is nearby the Cotswold Water Park and is principally known for its wonderfully preserved churches and its proximity to the RAF Fairford air base.

Fairford was originally a river-crossing town which traded in wool.  During the Middle Ages it became very profitable and was able to construct the impressive Saint Mary Church.  Saint Mary’s set of 28 stained glass windows is the most complete set of medieval stained glass windows in all of England.  The structure of the church has been marvelously preserved relatively unaltered over all these years.

Another highlight is the 19th century church St. Thomas of Canterbury.  This lovely church includes an organ and stained glass windows, as well as a gargoyle in the churchyard dedicated to the memory of a boy who jumped off the roof and died.

The largest military air show in the world is held annually at the neighboring air base, RAF Fairford.  The Royal International Air Tattoo is held each July and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.  Definitely expect the roads around Fairford to be backed up in the summer; the air show is an exciting event; if you’re in the Cotswolds in July you may wish to include it on your to-do list!

fairford

Faringdon

Faringdon is a mid-sized market town in the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire.  The Vale is wedged between the River Thames and the River Ock.  Faringdon was the first town in England to achieve Fairtrade Town status in 2004.  The town is a half hour drive away from Oxford.

Due to its strategic position, Alfred the Great built a castle there.  Faringdon was once a rather important town; it was the original capital of Wessex and had its own mill and plentiful farming land.  In 1216 King John granted Faringdon a charter for a weekly market.  You can still attend this market today.

The Town Hall constructed in the 17th century has an idiosyncratic history, having served as market hall, meeting room, whipping post, jail house, storage area for the town’s fire engine, ambulance station and town library at various points of history.  Today it remains a well known landmark, as interesting for its diverse past as for its architecture.

There are several areas just outside town which would are of definite interest to visitors.  Folly Park is an open, natural park with a lake for fishing and tables for picnic dinners.  The local folly is located on Faringdon Hill to the east, a tall, slender tower built by Lord Berners in 1935 and designed by his friend Lord Wellesley to stand a hundred feet high.  Perhaps the most famous landmark and the most remarkable in Faringdon is on White Horse Hill.  The chalked-in hill figure of a galloping steed is the second largest hill figure in the area and has existed for 3000 years!  It is this ancient white horse which gives its name to the Vale and Hill.

With so much to see which is distinctive, Faringdon makes for a fascinating side trip on a journey through the Cotswold Hills.

 

Woodstock

Woodstock is a captivating market town in Oxfordshire just ten miles north of Oxford on the way to Broadway and Worcester.  It sits surrounded by the Glyme Valley which was once a part of Wynchwood Forest.  This is the origin of the town’s name which in Anglo-Saxon means “Clearing in the woods.”

Woodstock itself is a lovely town with many pleasant inns and bed and breakfasts, tea houses, craft and antique shops and restaurants.  The town is most renowned for being close to the illustrious Blenheim Palace which belonged to the Churchills.  The nearby village of Bladon is the burial place of Sir Winston Churchill.

The northern section of the town above the Glyme River is called Old Woodstock and was settled by the Saxons.  King Alfred was believed to have resided there in 890 and Ethelred the Unready was believed to have held a council there.  Woodstock Manor, a famous site in Old Woodstock (demolished in the 18th century) was where Henry I created a deer park and seduced Rosamund.  You can still visit Rosamund’s Well today, one of the most popular destinations in Woodstock.    Woodstock Manor was also believed to be the place where the Black Prince was born in 1330.  During the reign of Queen Mary, Elizabeth I was held prisoner in a gatehouse of Woodstock Manor.

The part of Woodstock south of the Glyme was developed by Henry II who started a weekly market there.  New Woodstock became home to a prosperous glove making industry and subsequently grew to be an industrious and busy market town.

You can visit the Oxfordshire County Museum in Fletcher’s House to learn more about daily life in Woodstock over the centuries.

Perhaps one of the most magnificent sites in all the Cotswolds is Blenheim Palace.  Queen Anne gave this gorgeous 2500 acre estate to John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough in the early 1700s in thanks for his military service and victories.  She agreed to finance an opulent new home for him there next to Woodstock.  John Churchill commissioned Sir Jon Vanbrugh, an architect, to design his house in 1705.  The house is considered one of Vanbrugh’s greatest works, featuring such renowned rooms as the Long Library, The Great Hall with its ceiling painting of the Battle of Blenheim and the Green Writing Room.

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace near Woodstock

The beautiful estate was eventually passed down to Sir Winston Churchill’s cousin who became duke through his inheritance.  Winston Churchill was born there and loved Blenheim as though it were his own home; he proposed to his wife Clementine there.  He desired to be buried upon his death in Bladon Churchyard with his family.  Their graves can all be seen there today.

Woodstock’s history is long and highlighted by many intriguing personalities and events.  Despite being a small, seemingly remote town, some truly famous personages have lived there and treasured it.  Woodstock is a wonderful destination in the Cotswolds for history buffs who are interested in the Churchill family or want to appreciate a truly stunning English estate.

Woodstock

View Accommodation in Woodstock

 

Warwick Tourist Information

Warwick is among the largest Cotswold towns with a population of over 25,000 and lies along the northernmost border of the region.  It is the capital town of Warwickshire; its name means “dwellings by the weir.”

Don’t let the size of this town fool you though – you’ll see the same gorgeous, centuries-old architecture in the streets of Warwick as in the rest of the Cotswolds.  The olden-day feel of the Middle Ages permeates the busy streets and colours every day life with a sense of mystery.  Warwick was originally founded as a fortified burh in 914 by Anglo Saxon Ethelfleda, the sister of Edward the Elder.  This burh served as the foundations of the famous Warwick Castle.  Warwick was invaded by the Vikings in 1050 (who burned most of it down).  Since the fortified portions held strong, the town went on to thrive in spite of its hardships to become the county town of Warwickshire.  During the Middle Ages, the Beauchamp family walled in Warwick (the east and west gatehouses are still standing today).  The town was besieged during the English Civil War by the Royalists for two weeks.  Sadly much of the town later burned in 1694, thus most of the buildings you see were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but you can still locate some surviving medieval structures on the outskirts of the town centre.

Warwick has numerous landmarks which tourists can enjoy.  Like other Cotswolds towns, Warwick offers antique shopping in its gift shops and also hosts a market event every Saturday as well as a largely monthly farmers’ market.  Smith Street, Jury Street and Swan Street are probably the most well known shopping areas in the town.

For those who enjoy museums, Warwick has much to offer in the form of the St. John’s Museum, the Warwickshire Museum, the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum and the Queen’s Own Hussars Museum.

Warwick has one of the largest and most renowned churches in England, the Collegiate Church of St. Mary.  The church was founded in 1123 by Robert de Newburgh, the 2nd Earl of Warwick.  It was damaged in the fire in 1694 that destroyed much of Warwick but the damaged sections of the nave and tower were reconstructed within a decade by builders Francis and William Smith.  The tombs of many well known individuals are located in the church including Thomas Beauchamp, Fulke Greville First Baron Brooke, Richard Beauchamp and others.  The North Transept contains a chapel dedicated to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The most famous landmark in Warwick is Warwick Castle.  The original fortifications were constructed by Anglo Saxon Aethelflaed in 914, but it was William the Conqueror who founded Warwick Castle itself in 1086.  The castle passed down the line of the Earls of Warwick.  Eventually it belonged to Henry of Anjou and afterward King Henry II.  King Edward IV was imprisoned there in the 15th century by Richard Neville.  The castle underwent many architectural modifications over the years but retains a strongly 14th century character.  The grounds the castle was built in were converted into a garden in the 17th century.

While visiting the castle, tourists can enjoy not only the amazing structure itself but also a Dungeon tour and shows featuring combat, archery, falconry and more.  You can check out medieval war machines in action during your tour of the castle; a reproduction Ballista and a Trebuchet are launched in demonstrations twice a day.

There is so much to see and do in Warwick that a visitor to the Cotswolds would be truly remiss to neglect to visit the town.  Warwick can give you an immersive and exciting experience of medieval history!

Warwick

Marlborough

Marlborough, a mid-sized market town in Wiltshire, is a great destination for tourists looking for a quiet weekend, a fun marketplace and a town with an amazing history reaching back to Neolithic times.  Marlborough is located along the Old Bath Road between London and Bath.  Its high street is the second widest in all of England.

A Neolithic burial mound on the grounds of Marlborough College is considered to be the oldest marker of civilization in Marlborough.  Locals say that Merlin is buried there and that the name of the town is derived from the term “Merlin’s Barrow.”  The motto of Marlborough is Latin for “Where now are the bones of wise Merlin.”

Other Iron Age artifacts have been uncovered in Marlborough including a decorated bronze burial bucket.  Roman artifacts and bones have also been discovered within two miles of the town at Mildenhall.  After Roman occupation, Anglo-Saxons settled the area.  In 1067 William the Conqueror constructed a motte and bailey castle in Marlborough.  Originally built of wood, the castle was later fortified with stone in 1175.  William minted silver pennies in the town as well which refer to the town by the name “Maerlebi.”

The castle and hunting grounds William established in Marlborough were enjoyed by many other monarchs after him including Henry I, Henry II, Richard I and King John, who established a treasury in the town.  John also gave Marlborough a charter for a yearly eight-day fair and a weekly farmers’ market for Wednesdays and Sundays.  Tourists in Marlborough can still attend these farmers’ markets.

Henry III was married in Marlborough and held Parliament there in the year 1267.  The groundbreaking Statue of Marlborough was passed in that Parliament which granted rights to land owners and took away the King’s right to claim their land.  The statue remains in effect to this day.

In Marlborough you can enjoy shopping in the markets and the high street and also see the famous Merchant’s House, open on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months.  The house was rebuilt after it burned in the Great Fire of 1653 and is currently undergoing restoration so that it can later be opened to display daily life as it existed in the 17th century.  You can also see Chandlers Yard on High Street, which has remained more or less unchanged in four centuries.

Another famous landmark in Marlborough is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, originally erected by the Normans and later rebuilt during the Cromwellian era.  In the countryside surrounding Marlborough you can occasionally see crop circles which pop up regularly in the area.  There is a stone circle six miles outside of town to the west in Avebury.  The circle is larger and more ancient than the more famous Stonehenge.

There is much of historical and legendary consequence in Marlborough.  The High Street is one of the most delightful in Britain.  Marlborough’s environs are as interesting as the town itself and this is surely a lovely stop on any tourist’s trip through the Cotswolds.

View Hotels in Marlborough

Tetbury

Tetbury Tourist Information Guide

Tetbury is a mid-sized Cotswold town located in Gloucestershire.  It was founded in 681 by an Anglo-Saxon who built a monastery there, most likely Ine of Wessex.  Tetbury established its importance in the wool industry in medieval times.  To this day the Tetbury Woolsack Races pay testament to the history of the town.  Contestants in the races on Woolsack Day run up a steep hill carrying a 60 pound sack of wool.

Tetbury is perhaps best known for its shopping.  While antique shops are a popular attraction throughout the Cotswolds, Tetbury is regarded as the premier town to buy antiques with over thirty stores to choose from.  People travel from all over England and throughout the world to shop in Tetbury.  You will also find plenty of tea houses, pubs and inns along Tetbury’s streets in which to relax or stay.  Nearly all the shops in Tetbury are locally owned.  In the town centre you’ll come across the Market House, an intriguing building that seems to stand on stilts.  The House contains the clock and dolphins which you see featured on the town’s emblem.  Also popular and located in the city centre is the Tetbury Police Museum which exhibits the history of the policing trade in the county since 1839.

If you want to get out and see the countryside, just east of the town you can enjoy Preston Park which follows the Railway Yard Path toward Long Newnton.  You can enjoy both long and short walks as well as picnics here at the picnic tables.

Another attraction just outside of Tetbury is Westonbirt Arboretum.  The 600 acre park showcases over 16,000 exotic and rare trees and offers many woodland paths for you to amble along.  The arboretum holds many events including pop concerts, charity walks, fireworks and a yearly Festival of the Tree.

Also of interest (although less accessible) is the Highgrove House where Princes Charles, William and Harry live.  The House is less than a mile from Tetbury and is closed to the public, but occasionally you can get in on garden tours.  It is not uncommon to see one of the princes visiting town!

One magnificent house with lovely grounds you can explore is Chavenage House on the edge of town.  This Elizabethan style manor is located near the National Arboretum and was constructed on 600 acres of land with 17 miles of paths which are open to the public.  Many tourists and locals consider the grounds of Chavenage to be as glorious as the Arboretum itself, particularly during the autumn as the foliage changes colours.

The Cotswold Water Park is within easy reach of Tetbury and contains the largest inland body of water in the country.  Here you can partake in a variety of activities and sports and relax in the tranquility of nature.

Tetbury is a haven for antique shoppers but also offers a wide variety of activities both in town and in the immediate surrounding area for people with diverse interests.  There is plenty to see and do here that can keep you busy for days!

Tetbury Wikipedia

Evesham

Evesham is a fairly large Cotswold town, located on the flood plain of the River Avon in an area called the Vale of Evesham, which is known as the “fruit and vegetable basket of England.”  The area is famous for producing delicious seasonal produce all year, in particular asparagus, an important cash crop since the Middle Ages.  The countryside is considered some of the most beautiful in all the UK, dappled with the colours of plum and apple blossoms in the spring.

The River Avon provides enjoyable recreations ranging from fishing to boating to simply strolling and relaxing.  You can delight in live Victorian music each Sunday afternoon in Abbey Park during the summer.

This town retains a very medieval character in spite of its larger size.  One of the first structures in the town was an abbey constructed in the 8th century.  It was renowned as one of Europe’s largest abbeys but was tragically torn down during the Dissolution.  The Bell Tower survived though and you can still see it today.  Among the many gorgeous Tudor buildings in the town is the Almonry constructed in the 14th century to house the Abbey’s Almoner.  Today it houses a Heritage Centre containing artefacts and history about the town including information about the Battle of Evesham in 1265 which secured victory for the future King Edward I.

Accommodations in Evesham include bed and breakfast estates, the lovely thatched Campden Cottages and the stately Evesham Hotels, converted from a 19th century manor house.  Evesham is a picturesque and charming Cotswold town – be sure not to miss it on your trip!

Evesham

 

Cotswold Water Park

The Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester is one of the more unique highlights of the Cotswolds is the UK’s largest water park consisting of 147 lakes set in 40 square miles of land.  The lakes were once gravel quarries which were “de-watered” but have been permitted to refill naturally.  You can fish in 74 of the lakes and enjoy walking or biking on 150km of paths!  Many of the lakes are privately owned but plenty are open to the public.

You will find public car parks and picnic sites in a number of locations including Neigh Bridge, Clayhill Copse, Bridge Car Park, Lakeside Car Park, Waterhay Car Park, Gateway Centre Car Park and Riverside Car Park.  These car parks provide access to secluded walkways, playgrounds for children and tables for picnics.

The sporting activities you can participate in at the Cotswold Water Park are practically endless.  You can enjoy aerial adventure, angling, cycling, farm visits, golf, paintball, walks along sculpture trails, wilderness training, canoeing and kayaking, diving, sailing, snorkeling, swimming, waterskiing and windsurfing.  Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran at any of these sports, you are sure to have a great time in a beautiful country setting.

Accommodations are conveniently available in the neighboring area including hotels, bed and breakfasts, caravan sites and more.  Cotswold Water Park is an exciting and accessible diversion for the whole family!

Cotswold Water Park

Official Cotswold Water Park Website 

Chipping Norton

Chipping Norton

Chipping Norton has the highest elevation of any town in Oxfordshire.  Its site was previously occupied by a Norman castle with a commanding view of the hills.  The word “Chipping” in its name is derived from an old English word, “ceapen,” which means market.

Chipping Norton has had a profitable market since the Middle Ages.  Like other towns in the Cotswolds it did well in the wool trade and was able to construct a “wool church” called St. Mary.  Unlike other towns in the Cotswolds, this one is out of the way; you will see less tourist related bustle in Chipping Norton and find that the town retains a very local character.

Nonetheless there is much to delight a tourist in Chipping Norton.  The unusually constructed Bliss Tweed Mill identifies Chipping Norton as a landmark for kilometers around.  You can also see the Almshouses built by the unfortunate but generous Henry Cornish in the 17th century.  The Town Hall and the Chipping Norton museum also provide diverting distractions.  One of the most unique features of Chipping Norton is the presence of a theater in such a tiny town.  The theater hosts a diverse program of regular events and its annual pantomime is so celebrated that travelers come from around the world to enjoy it.

Chipping Norton is a wonderful “off the beaten path” town to visit in the Cotswolds!

 

Chipping Norton

 

Charlbury

If you want to go somewhere quiet and secluded on your Cotswolds trip, you may want to meander over to Charlbury in Oxfordshire, a small market town well out of the way in the Evenload valley.  The town is hemmed in by the Wychwood Forest and has a 600 acre estate known as Cornbury Park.

Cornbury Park is a National Nature Reserve and has no roads.  The only way into the park is via footpath and while in the forest you will be able to enjoy a peaceful walk in nature among the deer and other wildlife.

Back in town you can visit the Charlbury Museum on Market Street, which shows off some of Charlbury’s traditional arts and crafts.  Charlbury became a profitable town during the 18th producing gloves.  A quaint green in town known as Playing Close features some iconic English cottages and a neo-Jacobean water fountain.

The liveliest time of year in Charlbury is during the second week in July when the town hosts an annual beer festival.  Cornbury Park also hosts its own festival each year, a unique event featuring music and family entertainment.

Charlbury is a lovely place to escape from the main roads and busier destinations in the Cotswolds and enjoy the country air!

Charlbury