The Cotswolds is a wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is well known for its picturesque scenery and dreamy, quaint villages but its towns are also spectacular as well! The towns of The Cotswolds have rich histories steeped in the areas wealthy past as a centre for wool merchants and traders. The influence of this past is still visible in every town you visit, from the ancient market crosses and halls to the medieval houses that are still homes today! Here are 7 that you should make sure are on your list when you visit The Cotswolds!
Winchcombe is towards the north west of the Cotswolds and whilst it can be overlooked for other places in the north of the Cotswolds, like Burford and Broadway it’s well worth a visit! Not only does this mean it’s a little more peaceful but it’s a splendid example of a medieval Cotswolds town with wonderfully characterful timber buildings! Keep an eye out for the gorgeous cottages that make up Dent’s Terrace as well!
The big pull to visit Winchcombe is to visit Sudeley Castle which is a very popular spot in the Cotswolds to see. With over one thousand years of history within its walls and grounds, this castle has played an important part in England’s royal history and is even the last private castle to have a queen (Katherine Parr) buried in its grounds. The castle is not only rich in history but also in beauty with its picture perfect setting!
On the edge of Minchinhampton Common sits the ancient market town od Minchinhampton. Its charming streets, lined with 17th century cottages in bright sandy hued brick. Minchinhampton is much quieter than other places in the Cotswolds so you can explore the market square and surrounding streets in tranquility.
Walk out of the village to the common for stunning views across the valley down to Stroud but watch out for the Highland cows that roam freely here! Every so often you’ll hear a tale of the hairy beasts accidentally making their way into the town!
Tetbury is the southern gateway to the Cotswolds and its history and wealth is built on the wool trade and the centre of the town is dominated by the bright yellow painted market hall which has been the town’s hub since it was built in 1655. The town has origins over one thousand years ago with mentions as far back as 681! Many of the wool merchants homes stand as they have done over the last 3-400 years and so the town is full of history and gems!
The most well known landmark in Tetbury is ‘The Chipping Steps’ which pass by ancient weavers cottages where there was once a gate at the bottom of the steps that was the entrance to town and led up to the site of where the old market would have sit. It’s the perfect spot for a photo! Tetbury is also well known for having one of the residences of the Prince & Duchess of Cornwall nearby – Highgrove House, which you’ll have heard much of if you’ve been watching The Crown!
Stow-on-the-Wold is just a stone’s throw away from the pretty villages of Bourton-on-the-Water and the Slaughters and alongside which, is a popular spot to head to in the Cotswolds. We arrived early to enjoy Stow with very few others about and had our breakfast at 9am as soon as the Stow branch of Huffkins opened!
Stow was an important trading spot as it sits 800ft high (the highest town in the Cotswolds) on the Fosse Way at a point where a number of trading routes crossed. The wealth of the town can be seen in the impressive market place where you can see the ancient market cross and beautiful buildings. Hunt for the famous door in St Edward’s Church which, flanked by two Yew trees and with a magical lamp hanging above, is said to have inspired Tolkien’s Door to Moria in The Lord of The Rings series!
Beautiful, bustling Burford is often known as ‘the Gateway to the Cotswolds’ as it stands on the eastern edge of the AONB. Wonderful medieval buildings line both sides of the Main Street, housing both homes and shops, you’ll be amazed at some of the wonky angles and squint windows you’ll see! Burford is a very popular Cotswolds spot not only because it’s so picturesque but also for its shopping – particularly antiques! Explore the streets of the town, wander along the river Windrush or make a stop at England’s oldest pharmacy!
6. Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden is a charming little market town in the north of the Cotswolds which despite its size was once famous across Europe for its wealth and prosperity from the wool trade! This is one place we didn’t quite have enough time to explore as rain had become persistent and the light was fading before we sat down to dinner at Da Luigi’s. In the centre of the town look out for the ancient Market Hall (standing since 1627) built for traders to shelter from the rain and notice the gentle curve of sandy hued medieval buildings that grace the edges of the road that passes through. Head further out to the outskirts of Chipping Campden for some gorgeous, larger Cotswolds cottages that are popular with photographers.
Last but by no means least on this list is the pretty town of Painswick, which is physically built from Cotswolds stone but financially built from the wool trade. The town has a narrow little main road that runs through the middle of it but is so narrow that a traffic light is required to ensure cars travel single file through! Painswick is a lovely place for a wander and to admire views out across the valley, you’ll see why it’s known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’!
Painswick sits halfway along the 102 mile long Cotswold Way walking route and many people enjoy walk some if not all of the route! Whilst in Painswick you might want to make a trip to the town’s Rococo Garden. These extravagant and over the top gardens were built in the 1700s and littered with follies and vistas, the gardens are the only remaining rococo gardens in England!
Some others you might want to add to your list but I missed out are:
If it’s Cotswolds villages you’re after then check out:
And for beautiful Instagram spots in the Cotswolds: