With new walking tours for visitors, we look at some of the region’s best itineraries from where to stroll among picture-postcard surroundings
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1966, the Cotswolds lie across the boundaries of several of England’s counties; a truly inspiring collection of stone-built towns, incredible architecture and verdant hills. Prospering mostly under the wool trade which would fund the churches and squares, these perfect towns would draw artists and craftsmen such as William Morris, founder of the arts and crafts movement. Today they attract tourists in their thousands, particularly walkers, who love to stroll among their idyllic landscapes while pottering around some of the many boutiques and craft shops. Read on to discover some of the Cotswolds’ most charming walking routes for the summer …
Cirencester is known as The Capital of the Cotswolds and was an important regional capital in Roman Britain. Visitors can learn about life in Roman times at the award-winning Corinium Museum where they can also marvel at the ornate mosaics. The Church of St John Baptist is the centrepiece of the town’s market place, and today Cirencester is an important tourist and craft centre with regular fairs and auctions – well worth a visit on your stop-off in the Cotswolds.
Featured walk: A Roman Town Trail is a brief trail to see the remnants of the large Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum, now modern day Cirencester. The trail takes 90 minutes to complete and includes the ancient town walls and the amphitheatre.
Visitor Information Centre: +44 (0) 1285 654 180
Full of independent shops, cafés and galleries, Stroud has been described as ‘the Covent Garden of the Cotswolds’ and wows visitors with its fabulous farmers’ market. Backdropped by the stunning Five Valleys, The Cotswold Way runs through Stroud and has been popular amongst writers and artists for centuries. Throughout the year textiles, music and contemporary art festivals take place here, while former textile mills, occasionally open to visitors, are a testament to the region’s industrial heritage.
Featured walk: The Historical Trail provides information boards detailing Stroud’s history with charming tales of local events and characters. This circular route starts in St Laurence churchyard, home to the last duel ever fought on British soil.
Visitor Information Centre: +44(0)1453 760 960
One of the Cotswolds’ best preserved and most historically important towns in the area is Chipping Campden. ‘Chipping’ is an ancient word which refers to a market, and the impressive Market Hall was built here in 1627 to sell butter, cheese and poultry. The town has a long history of prosperity from the wool trade, reflected in its wonderful stone buildings, while the town also saw the fruits of the arts & craft movement when artists and designers took up residence around 1900. Visit the Court Barn Museum in Church Street to discover a fine collection of silver, jewellery, printing and furniture.
Featured walk: The Cotswold Way is a 102 mile National Trail and runs between Chipping Campden and Bath along the Cotswold Escarpment with wonderful views of the surrounding landscape. Come here for short or long walks amid picturesque villages and historical treasures.
Visitor Information Centre: +44 (0)1386 841206
In the north Cotswolds, the hill-top town of Stow is the highest of the Cotswolds towns at 800ft. The area was the site of the ancient Jurassic Way and the Salt Way which met here and an Iron Age fort was constructed here around 700BC. Today the Roman Fosse Way from Cirencester to Leicester passes through Stow with its extensive town square, markets and pretty lanes dotted with trees which lead to stone houses, shops and inns. Stow had a special importance in the English Civil War close to Donnington where the last battle was fought in March 1646. St Edward’s Church in the town centre was used as a prison for the defeated Royalist troops but today Stow is most famous for its antique trade.
Featured walk: Stow Walks – Seven circular educational walks from the Visitor Information Centre down to The Slaughters village, the Civil war memorial of 1646 at Donnington, and to the villages of Maugersbury and Icomb.
Visitor Information Centre: +44(0)1451 830341
Tewkesbury is an English medieval gem situated at the meeting of the Rivers Severn and Avon with an impressive Norman Abbey keeping vigil over the town. In the past, mustard making was an important trade (Shakespeare’s recurring character Falstaff has the line ‘Wit as thick as Tewkesbury Mustard’), while the town’s industrial heritage can be traced on Church Street with its half-timbered houses and delightful alleyways. There are Royal links too – in 1471 the fields to the south saw the penultimate and decisive battle in the Wars of the Roses which lead to the the house of York coming to power.
Featured walk: The Battle Trail is a short route one mile around the fields where the Battle of Tewkesbury was fought in 1471. You can relive what life was like in medieval times and imagine what took place in ‘The Bloody Meadow.’
Visitor Information Centre: +44(0) 1684 855040
For a comprehensive list of Cotswolds walks available in the area’s most beautiful towns, visit www.cotswolds.com
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