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

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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

 

Painswick

The small town of Painswick in Gloucestershire has been settled since the Iron Age.  It sits atop a hill overlooking the Stroud valleys.  The town features narrow streets and medieval architecture typical of the Cotswolds.

Painswick is best known for its 15th century church, St. Mary’s.  The spire was added in the 17th century and in 1792, 99 yew trees were planted in the churchyard.  Yew trees are commonly planted in church yards in the UK (and church yards are frequently built surrounding yew groves) due to the fact that yew trees can live for centuries or possibly longer.  The seeming immortality of the yew tree makes it a symbol of immortality in Christianity.  All 99 yew trees planted in St. Mary’s church yard in the 18th century are still alive today.  The church has an organ and thirteen bells.  Architectural historian Clifton-Taylor describes St. Mary’s yard as “the grandest churchyard in England” for its yew grove and its well crafted tombs and monuments.

There are a number of bed and breakfast estates in Painswick where you can stay.  Any churchyard enthusiast would be remiss not to include a day at Painswick on his or her to-do list while visiting the scenic Cotswolds!

Painswick

Nearby you can visit Painswick Rococo Garden.

 

Naunton

Naunton is a tiny hamlet in Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds.  It is nearest to Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, Guiting Power and Bourton-on-the-Water.  Bourton-on-the-Water in turn is a short walk from Upper and Lower Slaughter.  The village is spread out across the bottom of the Windrush Valley and probably has existed in some form or another for 2000 years.  As of a decade ago, there were less than 400 people living in Naunton.

The Church of St. Andrew in town was built in the 15th century on the site of an older, demolished Saxon church.  The Church has two sun dials designed in the 18th century.  The Latin inscription over one reads “Lux Umbra Dei,” which means “Light is the shadow of God.”  The pulpit inside, carved in the 15th century, is beautifully crafted, as are the gargoyles on the exterior.

There are a number of lovely, tranquil walks around Naunton leading through the countryside and to the neighboring towns.  During the spring and summer, the Windrush Valley blooms with exquisite flowers including cowslips, yellow rattle and orchids.  This is a quiet and secluded valley in which to enjoy a pleasant stroll.  When you feel ready to retire, you can return to the Black Horse Inn to enjoy refreshments and relax.

Naunton

 

Nailsworth

Nailsworth
Nailsworth

Nailsworth is a small to medium sized town in Gloucestershire in one of the Stroud Valleys.  It is located near Minchinhampton but has more places to eat, stay and shop.

Nailsworth’s history stretches back to ancient times.  There are still buildings of medieval origin in the town including Beverston Castle and Owlpen Manor.  In more recent times Nailsworth specialized in milling and brewing.  Nowadays Nailsworth is a center of commerce for local merchants dealing in a variety of wares.  Every fourth Saturday of the month the town hosts a farmer’s market.  Among the town’s numerous shops you will find two bakeries, a delicatessen, two butcher shops, several craft shops and bookstores and a gardening store.  There are also a couple of art galleries in town.

Nearby you can enjoy visiting Ruskin Mill, an arts and crafts centre which teaches youths from around the country, Woodchester Mansion, an unfinished Gothic manor with impressive grounds, Owlpen Manor, a lovely Tudor estate with terraced gardens, Nailsworth Ladder, a very steep road leading to Minchinhampton Common, and the Minchinhampton Common itself, the second largest common in the Cotswolds.  These are just some of the many attractions in and around this bustling, friendly town!

Nailsworth

 

Minchinhampton

Minchinhampton is a small, attractive town in Gloucestershire just northeast of Nailsworth.  It sits atop a hill between the Golden Valley and Nailsworth Valley.  There are a number of sites here of to fascinate a visitor.

The town’s church, Holy Trinity, is an example of distinctive local architecture.  It has a typical cruciform appearance but its spire is distinguishing in that it is truncated.  The reason for the spire’s strange shape is that part of it had to be destroyed in the 16th century owing to the arches below being unable to support the spire’s weight.  The oldest parts of the building date back to the 14th century.

What other spots can you visit in Minchinhampton?  Ruskin Mill is a well known arts and crafts centre attended by youths from all over England.  Woodchester Mansion is an unfinished but well preserved 19th century Gothic manor.  The Mansion is set on a beautifully landscaped 400 acre park.  The Mansion includes a tea room and a gift shop.  Owlpen Manor is a handsome Tudor manor which includes a church, barn and mill.  The Manor also has a beautiful terraced garden.

There is a lot more to see and do around Minchinhampton; this is a wonderful little town that can provide plenty of pleasurable diversion for a day!

Minchinhampton