Malmesbury

Malmesbury is a small market town located in the southern Cotswolds in Wiltshire County next to a number of freshwater springs.  It has ancient roots as a Neolithic fort but after being chartered by Alfred the Great it became a significant town in the Middle Ages.  Alfred granted the charter in 880 AD, which makes it the oldest borough in England.  It is believed to be possibly the oldest inhabited town in the country.

The famous Malmesbury Abbey was constructed in 675 AD by a poet and musician named Aldheim and has survived over thirteen centuries of warfare, neglect and politics.  Henry VII’s Dissolution Act spelled destruction for many of the monasteries in England, but the Malmesbury survived.  The city claims to have been passed back and forth seven times during the English civil war and the Abbey survived that ordeal as well.

The Abbey guest house has been converted into the oldest hotel in England, The Old Bell Hotel.  The Abbey was believed to have contained the very first organ in the country and now it boasts a Dobson pipe organ.  King Athelstan is buried there.  The most well known trivia about the Abbey concerns a monk named Elmer who in 1010 built himself a pair of wings and attempted to fly off the Abbey tower.  Unfortunately he crash landed and crippled his legs for life.  Nonetheless he was planning a second attempt for the sky before the Abbot put a stop to it.  He lived in the Abbey for the rest of his life.

There are a number of lovely bed and breakfasts and hotels in which you can enjoy your evenings in the peaceful Cotswold town of Malmesbury.  With such an idiosyncratic and rich history, you will be sure to find much of historical interest to entertain and enlighten you during your stay!

Malmesbury

 

The Malverns

The Malverns are a 13km region of hills running north to south eight miles southwest of Worcester.  The beautiful hills reach a height of 425 metres at the Worcestershire Beacon and offer a view of 15 counties and the River Severn and the Cotswolds to the east.  The Malverns are best known for their natural spring water which was believed to healing properties in the 19th century.  Up until then, Great Malvern was a tiny, practically unknown village.  The spring water captured the public’s imagination and Great Malvern grew prosperous.  Great Malvern still bottles mineral water for sale worldwide today.

The name “Malvern” probably is derived from the Celtic term for bare hill, “Moel Bryn.”  Great Malvern is still a quaint town with pleasant shops and public houses where visitors can relax after a day hiking and driving through the hills.  The beauty of the Malverns is legendary and was believed to be part of C.S. Lewis’ inspiration for The Chronicles of Narnia.  Other famous personages who loved the Malverns included Lord Byron and Sir Edward Elgar.

Pathways and car parks are provided throughout the hills to provide explorers with access to the summits and valleys.  There is also a bus service which conveys pedestrians to the walking paths.  The summit of the Worcester Beacon is the highest point in the hills and offers a magnificent vista.  There is also an Iron Age Hill Fort which hikers can reach that can be seen from kilometers around.

Great Malvern includes some attractions of its own such as the lovely Priory Church of Saint Mary & Michael, a beautiful Norman work of architecture, the Great Malvern Theatre, originally opened in 1885, and the remarkable and quirky 12 seat Theater of Small Convenience.  Nearby in Little Malvern you can enjoy the medieval Church of St. Giles.  A short distance from the Gregorian town Upton upon Severn is the beautiful, mysterious 18th century landscaped grounds of Croome Park with its many architectural follies, arches, pavilions and greenhouses.

The Malverns is a quiet and remote place where you can partake of fresh air and rejuvenating spring water and get in touch with nature.  This is a wonderful stop to include on your journey through the Cotswolds!

The Malverns

 

Oxford

Oxford is a destination not to be missed on any tour of the Cotswolds or Britain at large.  The county town’s fame extends far beyond its region; it is one of the most renowned cities in all of Europe.  Known as the “city of dreaming spires,” it is a magical place with gorgeous architecture which showcases every period in British history from the Saxons onward.  Transected by the rivers Cherwell and Thames and containing the oldest English-speaking university, it has become a cultural and academic crossroads.

Oxford was settled by the Saxons but it wasn’t chartered until 1191 when Henry II gave Oxford citizens the same rights enjoyed by the inhabitants of England’s capital.  A number of important religious houses were constructed by a variety of orders in Oxford at this time including the Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians and Trinitarians.  Parliaments were frequently conducted in Oxford in the Middle Ages and it was there that the Provisions of Oxford were drafted.  These documents were a turning point in political history and are considered the first written constitution in the country.

Oxford is best known for its prestigious medieval university.  The University of Oxford is one of the most celebrated schools in the world and contains 38 colleges.  The University has more than 100 libraries including the recognizable Radcliffe Camera.  There are many museums on the campus which you can visit including the oldest museum in the UK, the Ashmolean Museum.  Also noteworthy is the Museum of Natural History which houses the unearthed prehistoric remains of dinosaurs and other creatures.  The adjacent Pitt Rivers Museum houses over 500,000 archaeological finds.

Oxford’s city centre is another very popular destination.  Shopping opportunities abound in both retail and independent forms.  Blackwell’s Bookshop boasts the largest room book store room in all of Europe known as the Norrington Room.

There are so many landmarks in Oxford that you could probably spend months in town and not see everything.  Other places to visit include gorgeous gothic churches like the St. Mary The Virgin Church and the Christ Church Cathedral.  Oxford has its own 1.8 hectares Botanical Garden containing over 8,000 species of plants.  More destinations to enjoy include the Sheldonian Theater, the Museum of the History of Science, and Modern Art Oxford.  28 nature reserves within and surrounding the city of Oxford offer peaceful, green walks for those wanting to enjoy the fresh air and some quiet.  On the west edge of town, you can visit Oxford Castle, a 14th century motte and bailey fortress with an accompanying hotel (developed from a former 18th century prison!).

Oxford has sparked the imagination of so many that it figures hugely into literature and film.  Some films you may have seen filmed in Oxford include all the Harry Potter films, Children of Men, Tomorrow Never Dies and The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Numerous writers lived in Oxford or attended the university including Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, T.E. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Philip Pullman (whose Dark Materials books, favourites in Britain, are set partly in Oxford).  If you choose to include Oxford on your Cotswold tour, the “City of Dreaming Spires” will surely inspire you as much as it inspired these writers and filmmakers!

Oxford

Cirencester

Cirencester, a market town in Gloucestershire, is the largest town in the Cotswolds and has one of the richest and most elaborate histories.  This is a prime destination for tourists fascinated with ancient Rome, as Cirencester was one of the two largest Roman towns in Britain.  The city is situated along the River Churn and during the age of empire it was known as Corinium Dobunnorum.

Corinium was profitable in trading wool and other goods.  When the Romans arrived on the site, the former Iron Age fort was converted into a Roman city complete with a forum and basilica.  A partially excavated site southwest of the town reveals a Roman amphitheater.  During Saxon times the same site became the scene of the Battle of Cirencester between the Mercians and West Saxons in 628 AD.  Norman times were dominated by power struggles between the townspeople and the Abbot until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when all of the Abbeys were destroyed.  The townspeople were still frustrated with their lack of autonomy in the Tudor era, but continued to thrive on industrial production of wool and cloth.  The wealthy merchants put their money into building a large wool church known as the “Cathedral of the Cotswolds.”

In 1643, 300 people were killed when the Royalists and Parliamentarians came head to head in the English Civil War in Cirencester’s streets.  Charles II stayed a night in Cirencester while making his escape to France.

In the years since, Cirencester has only continued to grow as a market town.  Canal and railroad access helped the town to grow in earlier times and later the inclusion of major roadways brought trade in and out of the city.  While visiting Cirencester you can enjoy the town’s many different outdoor markets including the Street Market on Mondays and Fridays, the Cattle Market on Tuesdays and the Antiques Market on Fridays.  Each year the city also hosts a Festival of Arts.

Those curious about Rome can discover more about the city’s Roman roots by visiting the Corinium Museum.  Just outside of town, the Chedworth Roman Villa can give visitors a taste of what daily life was like on a typical Roman estate.

Perhaps the most famous attraction in Cirencester is Cirencester Park.  Just west of the city, this cultivated forest style garden spans more than 3000 acres.  The entrance contains a castellated structure erected in 1898.  It served as the headquarters of the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment.  The building is open to the public, though the mansion on the grounds is not.

The Park was designed by Earl Allen Bathurst in conjunction with his friends Alexander Pope and Stephen Switzer.  They developed the park over a period of decades to have a natural yet geometric appearance and a peaceful environment.  The park is open to pedestrians, dogs and horseback riders.  Many events are held in the park including the Cotswold Show.

Another popular tourist destination for a family fun day out is the Cotswold Country Park & Beach which is just outside of Cirencester, the park offers a beach, water sports and water activities, walks, crazy golf and much more.

As the Cotswold’s largest town and one of its oldest, Cirencester is certainly a fascinating place to visit and discover ancient history.

Cirencester

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Cirencester Wikipedia

 

Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury is a remarkably preserved medieval style town in Gloucestershire situated on a flood plain at the juncture of the River Severn and the River Avon.  The flooding of Tewkesbury is so frequent that the town owes its preservation in part to the rivers’ waters.  Unable to expand beyond its original outlines, the town still occupies the same basic layout as it did in medieval times and contains many of the same buildings it did in the 14th century.

Tewkesbury was known in Saxon times as Theocsbury, named for Theocalious, an Anglo-Saxon living in the 7th century who started a hermitage there.  The famous Battle of Tewkesbury took place south of the town in 1471.  There in the “Bloody Meadow,” Edward IV triumphed over the House of Lancaster in the War of the Roses.

Along with its monastic history, the town was the home of many religious dissenters including Samuel Jones, Samuel Chandler, Thomas Secker and Joseph Butler in the beginning of the 18th century.  Tewkesbury also served as a market town; it has been fundamental to the flour milling industry for centuries.  One mill called the Abbey Mill produced flour for 800 years before being shut down in 2006 and converted into a residence.  The town expanded slightly after WWII, but the floods prevented large changes.

What highlights should you see in Tewkesbury?

One major highlight is the streets of the town itself; many of the buildings you see are medieval in origin; wandering down some of the narrow alleys with their Tudor shops and apartments and admiring the fine craftsmanship of the carved doorways, you will feel transported back to the Middle Ages.  The Tewkesbury Heritage Trail is a pathway you can take through the streets and alleys of the town to appreciate some of its historical landmarks.  You can even visit the Black Bear, Gloucestershire’s oldest medieval pub, originally opened in 1308!  Another famous landmark is the Royal Hop Pole Hotel on Church Street, referenced by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers.  Every Wednesday and Saturday you can attend an open market.  Every day of the week, High Street, Barton Street and Church Street offer antique shopping.

The Tewkesbury Abbey is the most recognizable landmark in the town.  The first abbey on the site was founded in the 8th century but as funding vanished, the abbey degraded and disappeared as well.  When Robert Fitzhamon, a relation of William the Conqueror, moved into the Manor of Tewkesbury, the Abbot of Cranborne, Giraldus, co-founded the new abbey with him.  When Fitzhamon died in 1107, he was buried into the Chapter House.  Work on the church was completed by Fitzhamon’s son in law after both of the founders had passed away.  With its colourful vaults and dazzling stained glass, this is considered one of the finest examples of Norman religious architecture in the Cotswolds.

Tewkesbury is considered one of the most complete examples of a medieval town in all of Britain, cited by the Council of British Archaeology as “so splendid and so precious that the ultimate responsibility (for its preservation) … should be of national concern.”  Tewkesbury is an absolute must-see town for those with an interest in medieval history.

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

View Accommodation in Tewkesbury

Witney

Witney is a medium-sized Cotswold market town in Oxfordshire with some buildings dating back to the 13th century.  While it is well known for some of its architecture it is perhaps just as well known as a center of industry.  Located on the banks of the River Windrush, it is only 10 miles from Oxford itself.  Some of the woolen products that Witney is famed for producing include gloves and blankets.

Witney’s market square is still a popular trading point.  The Butter Cross in the square is a steeply gabled structure which was used in the middle ages by women trading in dairy and produce.  This is not the original structure though; it is a refurbished version constructed in the 17th century.  Along with the shopping along the high street, you can still partake in at the market twice a week.  In the market square you will also find the historical Town Hall and the Church Green.  Much of the lovely architecture that you see was the result of the profitable trade in wool goods by the town’s craftsmen and merchants over the centuries.

The church, called The Church of St. Mary is designed in the shape of a cross.  It was originally constructed in the 13th century but was refurbished in the mid 19th century.  Other historical buildings in Witney include the Henry Box school, built in 1663, the Blue Coat School for weavers, constructed in 1723 and the Blanket Hall built in 1720.  If you are willing to travel a short distance, you may want to visit the Church of St. James in South Leigh which contains some particularly beautiful medieval wall paintings.

Witney offers a wide range of accommodations including historical bed and breakfasts, farm houses on working farms and hotels.  This is a growing town that still hangs onto its historical heritage and is a fine destination on your Cotswold tour!

Witney-Oxfordshire

 

Gloucester

Gloucester, the county town of Gloucestershire, is one of the largest cities in the Cotswolds with a population of more than 123,000.  The city is close to Wales and sits next to the River Severn below the Cotswold Hills which rise to the east.  The Forest of Dean lies to the west and to the north are the lovely Malvern Hills.

This port city is very ancient, originally settled by the Romans in AD 96.  Old Roman artifacts and remains are still being discovered throughout the city and its environs.  The city passed briefly through Saxon hands before changing hands again during the Norman Conquest.  It was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II.  During the Middle Ages, citizens of Gloucester enjoyed great privilege.  The city was an important exporter of wool, leather, iron and fish products.  A massive fire in the 13th century led to the banning of thatched roofs.  In the Tudor and Stuart eras the city was chartered a number more times.  In 1643, it was the site of the Siege of Gloucester, a battle won by the parliamentarians.

There is much to see and do in this bustling city.  Certainly its most iconic landmark is the Gloucester Cathedral.  The Cathedral’s origins can be traced back to 678 AD when an abbey was founded in the name of Saint Peter.  The grounds for the Cathedral itself were placed in the 11th century by Abbot Serlo.  The basis for the construction is Norman but the details are all characteristically Gothic.  You may have seen Gloucester Cathedral before since it was featured in the wildly popular Harry Potter films as well as a in Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Also in Gloucester are a number of other medieval and Tudor buildings and beautiful churches.  Some churches that may interest visitors include St. Mary de Lode, St. Mary de Crypt, St. Michael Church and St. Nicholas Church.

 

Gloucester features a number of shopping centres for visitors in search of souvenirs, and of course there are numerous hotels in which you can stay during your visit.  There is a lot to see in Gloucester, so be sure to set some time aside for this beautiful English port city!

Gloucester

 

Moreton In Marsh

Moreton In Marsh is a small Cotswold town in northeastern Gloucestershire at the joining of the Fosse Way Roman Road and A44.  The town is in the low-lands in a rather flat area and can also be reached by rail from London Paddington.

The town is one of the key market towns in the northern part of the Cotswolds and has been since its beginning in the 13th century.  The open air market each Tuesday is a popular attraction for locals and tourists both.  Over 200 vendors show up to sell their wares every week.

Owing to its convenient location, Moreton has also been a coaching station for centuries.  Although its use as such has declined since the Oxford to Worcester railway was constructed in 1853, it is still a frequent stop for travelers and contains many pleasant comforts in the manner of inns, public houses, hotels, tea shops, restaurants and various cottages and bed and breakfast accommodations.  There is a caravan site on the edge of town for those with recreational vehicles.

What can you see in and around Moreton?   Most of the buildings you see range from the 17th to 19th centuries including the Redesdale Market Hall in the town centre.  The oldest building is believed to be the Curfew Tower located on High Street, constructed in the 16th century.  If you enjoy the delights of nature and landscaping, you may want to visit some of the celebrated gardens which are just outside of town.  These include Hidcote Manor, Snowshill Manor, Sezincote, Bourton House, Kiftsgate Court and the Batsford Arboretum.

While more “modern” than some of the other towns in the region, Moreton is as quaint and inviting now as it was when it was a major coaching station and warmly welcomes tourists to partake of its market and its hospitality!

If you have arrived in Moreton In Marsh via train then you may need a Taxi, a local highly recommended taxi firm is Moreton In Marsh Taxi

Moreton In Marsh

 

Temple Guiting

Temple Guiting is a small town three miles from Guiting Power in the Cotswolds.  Both are placed along the sloping hillsides of the Windrush Valley within a short drive of the market town of Stow-on-the-Wold and the larger town of Cheltenham.  Temple Guiting showcases commendable examples of medieval architecture.  Nearby Guiting Power offers accommodations including a Post Office, village hall and two pubs.  Nearby the two towns are excavation sites of a Saxon church and barrow.  There are many idyllic footpaths surrounding Temple Guiting as well as the nearby villages.  On your strolls you will delight in the lovely medieval cottages and the green, lush countryside of the Cotswolds.

Nearby Temple Guiting is the Cotswold Farm Park, popular for families, Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle, Broadway, Bourton-on-Water and Upper and Lower Slaughter.  There are many enchanting cottages and inns you may stay in while visiting Temple Guiting.  Perhaps the most remarkable is the majestic Temple Guiting Manor.  The Manor is a beautifully preserved Tudor estate with a gorgeous brick façade and an interior with exposed beams, fireplaces and chandeliers.  This may be one of the most atmospheric inns you can stay at in the Cotswolds and it is in close reach of many exciting destinations for you to explore!

Temple Guiting

 

Shipston On Stour

Shipston-on-Stour is a town in the northern Cotswold Hills near the boundary between Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire counties.  Its name is derived from an Old English word meaning Sheep-wash-town, referencing its early role as an important sheep market.  The town is located relatively close to Chipping Campden, Broadway and Moreton-in-Marsh.  After the decline of the wool market in later years, many Cotswold towns suffered economically, but Shipston was spared by the opening of a horse-powered tramway line, which later became the site for a railway in 1889.  This town served as a coaching stage during this era; many of the inns from that time still stand in High Street.

Today you can enjoy an eclectic collection of shops, pubs and restaurants in Shipston-on-Stour.  There are also many inns which are open to visitors.  Nearby are other attractions like Warwick Castle (less than a half hour’s drive) and the gardens of Kiftsgate and Hidcote Manor.  Shipston plays host to a couple of annual events including the Shipston Proms in June and July and the Wool Fair in the spring.  The Shipston Proms are a two week live music event featuring local musicians.  Just as Shipston was a great coaching stage for journeys in the 19th century, it is a great stop for you on your Cotswold journey today.

shipston-on-stour-1