Winchcombe Tourist Information Guide
Winchcombe is a relatively small Cotswold town with a population of around 4,500. The history of the town is extremely ancient; the Belas Knap Neolithic long barrow on the hilltop just above the city was built in 3000 BC. Winchcombe later served as a prime Anglo-Saxon city and it is believed to be the resting place of the Anglo-Saxon saint St. Kenelm. During the 11th century it was known as Winchombeshire.
Winchcombe is easily accessible by bus from the larger towns of Cheltenham, Broadway and Willersey. Winchcombe also has a reconstructed station and a heritage railway known as the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. You can also reach Winchcombe on foot via six different long distance hiking routes. Among these are the famous Cotswold Way, the Gloucestershire Way, the Wychavon Way, St. Kenelm’s Trail, St. Kenelm’s Way, the Warden’s Way and the Windrush Way. The town hosts a walking festival each year in May.
What historical attractions can you enjoy in Winchcombe?
Sudeley Castle is perhaps the most famous site in Winchcombe. Its oldest portions were erected in the 10th century but most of the castle is Elizabethan in origin. St. Mary’s, the castle’s chapel, contains the remains of Queen Catherine Parr who was the last wife of Henry VIII. She survived him and ruled as regent until Edward was ready to be crowned. Sudeley Castle is not a defunct artifact; people still live there. As such you can only visit during the summer months between March 29th and October 31st. Both general admission to the public areas and private tours of the inner quarters are available and very affordable. The castle is commonly said to be haunted; the paranormal events there are accepted by the occupants and staff as a mundane phenomena. The grounds are as famous as the edifice itself and feature iconic knot gardens.
Another well known site at Winchcombe is Hailes Abbey, constructed by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in 1245. The grounds were a gift from his older brother, Henry VIII. Richard’s son Edmund later obtained a holy relic in Germany, a phial supposedly filled with the blood of Christ (later stated to be the blood of a duck after the Dissolution). The Abbey became a popular destination for pilgrimages which enabled the monks to refurbish the Abbey. It remains a popular destination for tourists today.
Like many other towns in the Cotswolds, Winchcombe takes pride in offering an annual Festival of the Arts and participating in modern culture. The town hosts some quaint shops, bars and tea houses and features a charming high street typical of small English towns. While staying in Winchcombe you can enjoy a cozy bed and breakfast or cottage like Elm’s Farm, Blacksmiths Cottage, Misty View Holiday Cottage or The White Hart Inn.
Winchcombe is a lovely town sure to be of interest to those who appreciate beautiful architecture and grounds and have an interest in history, particularly that surrounding the reign of King Henry VIII. This is a great stop on a walking tour along the Cotswold Way or other long distance foot paths.