Roman Baths in Bath

Visiting the Cotswolds and interested in Roman history?  You won’t want to miss out on the incredibly well-preserved Roman Baths complex in the city of Bath.  This public bathing house features four main elements, the Roman Temple, the Sacred Spring, the Roman Bath House and the Museum, which contains a number of artifacts discovered in the Bath House.  More than a million visitors a year make it a point to stop by the Roman Baths and the Grand Pump Room nearby.

While you cannot actually bathe in the spring water in the Bath House, you can look at it.  There are also plenty of other fun historical activities you can participate in.  Throughout the day, workers garbed in Roman costumes tell stories to visitors about living and working in the Bath House two thousand years ago.  You can also stop in at the Pump Room and enjoy coffee, lunch, or tea, and while you cannot bathe in the water, you can taste the water from the spring at the fountain (you cannot bathe because the pipes that lead to the baths—not the fountain—are made of lead and have been declared unsafe owing to radioactivity and infectious disease, while the fountain water is safe).

In the evenings, the Roman Baths are lit by torches and are a lot less crowded.  The guided walk by torchlight is very atmospheric and can help you to experience the feeling that you have traveled back in time.  If you love Roman History, you will be thrilled at how well preserved these ruins are and how magnificently they capture a portrait of daily life in Ancient Rome!

Rollright Stones

The Rollright Stones

If you are visiting the Cotswolds and are intrigued by particularly ancient history, you may wish to visit the Rollright Stones, located near the village of Long Compton on the borders of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire in the English Midlands.  These stones are constructed out of oolitic limestone, mined locally, and comprise three different Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments.  They are known as The King’s Men, The King Stone and The Whispering Knights.  The three monuments were erected at different periods of late prehistory, and the fact that they were all constructed here shows that this particular plot of ground was regarded as sacred for quite some time by different societies.

The Whispering Knights was constructed as a burial marker in the Early or Middle Neolithic period.  The second monument to be placed in the area was the King’s Men.  This stone circle was built either in the Late Neolithic Period or in the Early Bronze Age.  Similar structures can be found in the Lake District to the north, implying a connection of some sort.  The King Stone was erected last, and is a single monolith that probably was used as a grave marker in the Bronze Age.

The Cotswold Conservation Board has voted the Rollright Stones to be one of the “Seven Wonders of the Cotswolds.”  They are quite well known worldwide and remain a very popular destination for tourists in the area.  There are a number of folk legends attributed to the stones, and many visitors believe they have mystical qualities.  Regardless of the truth, there is no denying that there is a magical, antiquated atmosphere to the location which is steeped in mystery and reverence.  If you want to experience some of the oldest monuments in England, then you will want to be sure to stop by the Rollright Stones while you are visiting the Cotswolds.

 

Ragley Hall

Ragley Hall is a well-known manor house located south of Alcester, Warwickshire near Straford-upon-Avon.  Historically, the hall is best known for being the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Hertford.  In the present day, it is famous for having been featured in a number of films and television shows.

You might have seen it in the television serial The Scarlet Pimpernel in the 1980s, or possibly in the 1993 BBC serial To Play The King.  Doctor Who fans will recognize it as the Palace of Versailles in the 2006 episode The Girl in the Fireplace, one of the best-loved episodes of the popular television program.

Today you can visit the 17th century stately mansion and its 400 acres of beautiful parkland.  The tour to the house allows you to visit a dozen or so rooms which are beautiful constructed with ornate baroque décor.  Each of the rooms has a unique design and color scheme which sets it apart from the others in the house.

The red saloon contrasts brightly with the green-themed drawing room.  You will also be impressed with the splendor of the great hall with its 40-foot ceiling.  The central medallion overhead features the Roman goddess Minerva.

A tea house is available to provide refreshments in case you get thirsty during your visit to the estate.  You can also choose to enjoy a picnic lunch outside on the park grounds.  The rose garden is another elegant feature of the grounds.  The bright colors and the beautiful smells create a charming and aromatic environment.

Ragley Hall and its parklands are also available to host special events such as weddings.  Whether you have a special event planned or are simply looking for a beautiful and memorable place to spend an afternoon in the Cotswolds, you will find that Ragley Hall offers an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Ragley Hall

 

Longleat House

Longleat House

If you are visiting the Cotswolds and want to see a truly magnificent, stately home, Longleat is a perfect choice.  This Elizabethan country house is immense and imposing in its splendor, set on neatly cultivated grounds with elaborate hedge mazes, landscaped parkland, and even a safari park.

More than 900 acres of land comprise the grounds, landscaped by the famous Capability Brown.  The house was completed in 1580.  If you take the tour of the house, you will be able to view the Great Hall with the minstrels’ gallery, the lower east corridor, several different libraries and dining rooms, the saloon, several bedrooms, and the grand staircase.

With seven libraries and more than 40,000 books, Longleat houses one of the largest private book collections in all of Europe.  You can also view the waistcoat worn by King Charles I during his execution in 1649, still stained with his blood.

Longleat Safari Park

While you are in the area, don’t miss out on visiting the Longleat Safari Park, the first drive-through safari park located outside of Africa.  The park is situated on 9,000 acres and was opened in 1966.  You can view more than 500 animals roaming freely over the landscape, including giraffes, rhinos, lions, tigers, and more.

You can even purchase the VIP experience and feed the animals yourself—even the fearsome predators.  A passport ticket will give you access to the Longleat Safari Park, Longleat House, the gardens and grounds, the hedge maze, and many other fun attractions in the area.

There is so much to see and do here that you could easily spend days just exploring this small area of Wiltshire.

The entire experience is one which you will treasure for the rest of your life.

Kelmscott Manor Near Lechlade

Kelmscott Manor near Lechlade was the home of William Morris.  Morris lived from 1832-1896, and was a famous textile designer associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement.  As an artist and a writer, he also frequently shared his insights about life and was also one of the earliest fantasy writers.

The manor itself is constructed of grey stone and sits in the middle of a pleasant green lawn with beautiful trees and flowers.

Admission to both the manor and garden require a modest fee.  While you are visiting Kelmscott Manor, you can enjoy envisioning country life in the 19th century and learn more about William Morris and his many contributions to textile art, painting, and literature.  Morris left quite a lasting legacy behind him and had an impact on many artists and writers who followed him.

While you are visiting the manor, you can also visit the shop, where you can purchase tablecloths, stationary, pillows, kitchen cutlery, hangings, rugs, and other household items which carry designs by William Morris.

These mementos are perfect reminders of your Cotswolds vacation, make wonderful gifts, and are unique treasures to be cherished by any fan of William Morris or the Arts and Crafts movement.

 

Pittville Pump Room Cheltenham

Pitville Pump Rooms

Cheltenham has many claims to fame, but perhaps the city is best known for its Regency character. To date it is considered the best-preserved Regency town in England. One of the most prominent Regency structures you can visit in Cheltenham is the Pittville Pump Rooms. The Pump Room was the last spa building constructed in town, and also the largest. The waters that serviced the Pump Room were discovered in 1716. Cheltenham rose to fame after King George III visited in 1788. In the early 19th century, a landowner named Joseph Pitt named the northern neighborhood of Cheltenham “Pittville.” The Pump Room itself was designed by John Forbes and constructed between 1825-1830.

While visiting the Pittville Pump Room, you can view the original Pump, constructed magnificently from marble and scagliola, view the splendid Ionic columns, and the beautiful interior ballroom. Three statues grace the colonnade, representing Hygieia, Aesculapius, and Hippocrates, sculpted by Lucius Gahagen in 1827. While enjoying the beauty of the gardens surrounding the Pump Room, you can imagine life in the 19th century and the entertainment which was typical of the era, including menageries, traveling exhibits, and balloons.

The Pittville Pump Room is not simply a defunct historical structure, however—it still plays a role in modern Cheltenham life. Currently the Pump Room is owned by Cheltenham Borough Council, and can be rented out to host public and private events. During the Cheltenham Music Festival, the Pump Room is used as a concert hall. While visiting the Pump Room, you can check the posters and flyers in the Box Office to see whether there are any events you might enjoy attending.

Pitville Pump Rooms

Holst Birthplace Museum Cheltenham


Gustav Holst Birthplace

Gustav Holst was born in Cheltenham on September 21st, 1874. A well-known classical composer, his famous masterwork “The Planets” has had a lasting impact on modern classical music and soundtrack composition.

Today, fans of Gustav Holst can see the house where he spent his childhood years in Cheltenham. The house was constructed in 1832 and retains its original character, a typical Regency style. The house is not very large, being located downtown, and Holst lived here until 1882. Holst spent his final years in London, where he died on the 25th of May, 1934.

Holst’s childhood home was opened to the public in 1975 as a museum and memorial to the great composer. There are only two birthplace museums in the entire country which stand as memorials to composers, the other belonging to Elgar. While visiting the museum, you can get a feel for life in Cheltenham in the late 19th century and also learn more about Holst’s childhood and the rest of his lifetime.

You will make discoveries about his family and other relationships, including his lifelong friendship with Ralph Vaughn Williams, whom Holst met while attending college. For those who are interested in everyday life in Cheltenham in the late 19th century and those who love the music of Gustav Holst, the Holst Birthplace Museum is a must-see stop on any visit to the Cotswolds.

Gustav Holst Cheltenham

Sulgrave Manor

Sulgrave Manor is a manor house located in the village which shares its name in South Northamptonshire close to the town of Brackley.  The manor house is probably the most well-known feature of the village along with its historical parish church.  The manor house itself features a rather simplistic exterior, but it is home to some very interesting history.

The house is famous because it was the ancestral home to the George Washington family.  It was opened to the public in 1921 by the Marquess of Cambridge, brother-in-law to the King of England, as a symbol of friendship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

You can only explore the house as part of a guided tour.  Tours are conducted throughout the day, and there is a small entry fee.  You will want to call ahead to make sure that you do not miss your tour since the times for the tours are sometimes moved.

The Manor Buttery serves refreshments during the early part of the day.  It is wise to book ahead to ensure your spot on the tour.  While you are at the house, you will learn about the Washington family and the history of the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sulgrave Manor

Rousham House

Rousham House is a large, regal-looking manor house located in Oxfordshire in the Cotswolds.  The house was first constructed around the year 1635 and has never left the ownership of its original family in all the centuries since.  It has however been remodeled a number of times, most notably by William Kent in the 18th century, who added Gothic elements to its style.  William Kent is quite well known, and fans of his work travel from all over England and all around the world to see the Rousham House.

The manor house itself resembles a miniature castle with its embrasured walls, and overlooks a beautiful garden featuring a pigeon house, apple trees, herbs and flowers, and artfully grown hedge walls.  There is no tea room at the Rousham House, which makes it a bit different from other houses in the area.  The reason for this is that the family did not want the grounds to become commercially developed.  They do however allow you to bring your own picnic lunch and eat on the beautiful grounds.  It is easy to spend an entire afternoon at the Rousham House, so you probably will want to plan for this.  You can also choose to have your wedding hosted at Rousham House.

Rousham House

Rousham House Wikipedia

Rodmarton Manor

One of the larger manor houses in the Cotswolds is Rodmarton Manor, located near Cirencester in Gloucestershire.  The building is an important monument to the Arts and Crafts style and was constructed from 1909-1929 based off a design by Ernest Barnsley.  Barnsley himself was unable to complete the building, as he died in 1925; his brother and his son in law completed the work.

The large manor house is itself a fine example of the architecture of the time, but it is also famous for the collection of furniture and crafts from the Arts and Crafts movement.  Outside the house, you can also explore eight acres of beautiful garden featuring wide lawns, a sizeable kitchen garden, elegant pathways and low stone walls, and artistically trimmed hedges and trees.

Roses and other flowers fill the air with their aroma while birds and butterflies flutter among the trees and blossoms.  The garden is particularly famous for its snowdrops.  There are more than 150 types!  There is a lot to see and do at Rodmarton Manor, so you may want to plan a whole day of it while you are staying in Cirencester.  It’s a great opportunity to get out of the city and take in some history.

Rodmarton Manor

Rodmarton Manor Website