The Cotswolds is a unique area of quintessential English countryside, a landscape so beautiful it has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by the British government, which preserves this area’s historic villages, woodlands and farmlands. It is roughly bounded by Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, stretching across 790 square miles.
The primary feature of the Cotswolds is the hill country, made up of limestone escarpments along the western edge along the River Severn valley, with rolling hills and river valleys in the central and eastern parts of the region. The Cotswolds retains its rural character with small-scale farms that are outlined with distinctive dry stone walls and hedgerows.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COTSWOLDS
The bucolic countryside of the Cotswolds was home to a unique breed of sheep, highly prized for its quality wool. With the wool trade in the Middle Ages came prosperity and a building boom when the newly-wealthy merchants started constructing monumental churches and manor homes, along with thriving villages and market towns. They used the locally quarried stone, called Cotswolds limestone, which gives the towns such a characteristic look and appeal that they are called “chocolate box villages”. The so-called “wool churches” are brilliant golden beacons of refinement and craftsmanship.
The rich veins of limestone were quarried to build up the area, and Cotswold stone was also used for construction in some of England’s most famous buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Cotswolds has managed to preserve its towns and maintain its old world charm relatively free of overdevelopment. It has kept its cultural character as a farming region, and grazing sheep are still a common sight on the hills. The stone-walled fields give the area a well-tended look. The Cotswolds offers idyllic countryside, carefully kept gardens, and an abundance of outdoors activities. In short, this is the perfect territory for walking and enjoying the natural beauty of a very special place.
MARKET TOWNS AND VILLAGES
The Cotswolds is dotted with interesting market towns and picturesque villages. Our walks let you enjoy many of these. There are many, but two of our favorites are Chipping Campden and Broadway.
Chipping Campden has been praised as the finest of the Cotswolds wool towns by guide books and visitors alike. The High Street is an attractive avenue lined with medieval houses, all in different styles but unified by the honey-colored stone. It is still a bustling town with shops and a weekly market. The Market Hall is one of the symbols of the town, often showing up in pictures and postcards; it was built in 1627. The main monument of Chipping Campden is St. James Church, with its tall spire-topped tower, originally a Norman church that was transformed in the 1500s into what we see today.
Broadway is referred to as “the jewel of the Cotswolds,” a perfect golden village with a long, broad High Street that shows off beautifully restored historic homes. The old church of St. Eadburgha’s has Norman origins and lovely interior with interesting antique details and artifacts. The Ashmolean Museum Broadway is a recent addition to the town’s art offerings, located in Tudor House. Broadway Tower is a beautiful tall stone monument offering outstanding views on its high hill. You’ll enjoy Broadway’s gardens, manors, and lavender fields.
These are only two of the beautiful market towns in the Cotswolds. There are many more to explore and we design our walks so that you will spend the night in characteristic towns or villages.
The Cotswolds’ distinctive landscape combines hills, valleys, rare limestone grassland habitat, ancient beech woods, and farms with fields carpeted in wildflowers. Several National Nature Preserves protect ancient woodlands and limestone grasslands, along with the unique and sometimes rare flora and fauna found in them. Some Cotswolds plants are so rare they have specific legal protection. Walking in the Cotswolds gives you a glimpse of the flowers, butterflies, birds and native cattle and sheep that are still important to this habitat.
SEE THE COTSWOLDS ON FOOT
The beauty of the Cotswolds is best discovered on foot. There are more than 3,000 miles of public footpaths in the Cotswolds, and the right of ways let you walk through farm fields, wildlife preserves, woodlands and open countryside. In short, this is a walker’s paradise! The trails are well marked and well maintained. Kissing gates, or stiles, let you go into a field while keeping the animals from getting out. Don’t worry, our sheep, cows and horses are used to walkers passing by.
We have carefully designed our routes to show you the very best the Cotswolds has to offer. We provide you with detailed route notes so you don’t have to rely solely on the footpath signs. We give detailed descriptions so you can easily find your way, and we highlight the route clearly on the Ordnance Survey map so will know exactly where you’re going. We book charming accommodations for you, and even give you recommendations for your meals, or places to get a picnic lunch to enjoy along the way.
Your routes take you through varied and beautiful countryside, but you’ll also get to see exquisite gardens, manor houses, historic castles and interesting museums.
WE GIVE BACK
The magnificent landscape around us has been shaped by protective organisations and volunteer groups; they’re often taken for granted so we feel it’s important to give something back. We give donations each year to these good causes in the Cotswolds to help them, and help draw attention to their good work. If you wish to do the same, please contact them directly. Here are a few examples of these worthy groups.
- The Dry Stone Walling Association - www.dswa.org.uk
- The Woodland Trust, and in particular it's volunteer group responsible for Lineover Woods, situated on the Cotswold Way - www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
- The Wiggly Worm charity and their management of the Star Bistro at The National Star College in Ullenwood (situated on the Cotswold Way) - www.thewigglyworm.org.uk