The Cotswold region of England is defined by its low rolling hills, quaint homes built from Cotswold stone, and meadows of sheep outlined by stone walls. This picturesque area is what comes to mind when people imagine their idea of the English countryside. Much of it looks the same as it has for hundreds of years, largely unruined by industry and modernization. A tour through the Cotswolds is ideal for relaxation and taking in scenery.
The city of Bath is in the southern part of the Cotswolds, and it is the gem of the region with its abbey, Roman baths, and beautiful Georgian Bath stone architecture. Stretching up toward Stratford-upon-Avon, which will be covered in its own post, villages like Stow-on-the-Wold are sprinkled throughout the area, giving visitors charming opportunities to enjoy local culture and history.
Throughout medieval times and up until industrialization reinvented the economy, the Cotswold region was exceptionally affluent due to the wool trade. One can still see plenty of sheep grazing on the green grass of the Cotswolds, but it has been centuries since wool made anyone rich. In fact, subsidies are in place to keep sheep farming a viable living for those who enjoy it. The prosperous wool merchant is a artefact of the past.
As a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds are preserved and protected from new building that would undermine the character of the region. The majority of buildings are created from Cotswold stone, a deeper golden version of Bath stone, so that even the homes and businesses look as though they naturally appeared there. A village that is a wonderful example of this is Stow-on-the-Wold.
Perched on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, Stow is an ancient market village that still boasts its medieval era stocks as you enter town. The elegent stone buildings and gardens will give you the feeling that you have stepped back in time, as will some of the passageways that were not built with modern heights in mind! Stow is also the location of a English Civil War battle in 1646, having played host to King Charles I on several occassions throughout the years of the wars.