Discover the Cotswolds

Posted by Luci Ackers on 23 January 2020
Related property: Buckland Court
Discover the Cotswolds

Nested amongst gently rolling hills and picturesque countryside, you’ll find the chocolate-box stone towns and villages that have made the Cotswolds famous.

There’s plenty to tempt you outside in the Cotswolds, from the undulating greenery to the amazing views. However, the real charm lies among the cobbled streets and pleasing brickwork of some of the loveliest villages in England. Filled with honey-coloured buildings, quaint pubs and tearooms and independent boutiques, these picturesque towns and villages are a vision of wealth and style, something the Cotswolds has boasted since its prosperous wool industry took off in the Middle Ages. Evidence from this can still be seen in the rather elaborate ‘wool churches’ dotted across the region, which were financed by donations from rich farmers.

Characterised by an eye-catching Gothic tower, pretty stained-glass windows and intricately carved interiors, you’re likely to spot a ‘wool church’ in most villages. Particular examples, just a short distance from Buckland Court, include St Peter’s Church in Winchcombe and St James’s Church in Chipping Campden, both of which were built in the 15th century. The first is popular for the 40 grotesque carvings that embellish the battlemented roofline, the latter is home to one of the earliest priest vestments on record, dating back to around 1400.

Have you any wool?

The Cotswolds became famous during medieval England for a perhaps unlikely reason; wool. Nicknamed ‘Cotswold Lions’, the sheep had shaggy coats that produced a lot of particularly high-quality wool, much of which was sold to Italian merchants. Business boomed (particularly between the 13th and 16th centuries), skilled tradesmen moved in, immaculate Cotswold-stone manor houses popped up amid the hills and the little market towns and villages grew larger and more affluent.

It’s still easy to see how wealth shaped these towns, with their carefully crafted homes, historic sites and elegant streets. These towns still attract wealthy visitors and second home-owners today, and places such as Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold are particularly popular with visitors. But sometimes it’s nice to venture to the lesser known areas and discover something new…

Cirencester, known as the Capital of the Cotswolds, is a lively market town that dates back to the Roman occupation when it was one of the largest towns in Britain, second only to London. Even in Roman times the wool industry was thriving and contributed to the town’s growth. Cirencester’s importance continued throughout the Middle Ages and its market town status was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Today, little has changed: Market Place, at the heart of the town, still hosts a Charter Market every Monday and Friday, and a Farmers’ Market every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The Corn Hall also boasts a regular programme of different markets and, if that’s not quite your thing, you can visit an array of independent shops too. 

For more on the Romans, visit the multi-award winning Corinium Museum to see one of the largest collections of Romano-British antiquities, and to discover the archaeology of the area. Alternatively, just a short walk from the town centre is an English Heritage-owned Roman amphitheatre that was built in the 2nd century. The earthwork remains reveal what would once have been an impressive structure with a capacity for 8,000 spectators. 

Occasionally dubbed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton-on-the-Water straddles the gently flowing River Windrush, crossing it at intervals in the form of five low stone bridges, the earliest of which was built in 1654. Not only is it beautiful, but it is home to the likes of the Cotswold Motoring Museum, the Model Village and the Model Railway Exhibition, so there is plenty to keep you occupied. Just under half an hour from Buckland, this is a good one for the whole family. Even King Charles I and his son are thought to have stayed in the town during the English Civil War. If you are looking for a meal that is fit for a king, try grabbing lunch at either The Mousetrap or The Rose Tree.

Spotlight on Sudeley

For a touch of elegance, Sudeley Castle is just slightly further away at 15 minutes’ drive. This somewhat hidden gem was built in the 15th century by Ralph Boteler and, since then, has seen the likes of Richard III, Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey among its important visitors. It remains the only private castle to have a queen buried in its grounds: Katherine Parr lived in the Castle from 1547 to 1548 and is buried in St Mary’s Church in the castle gardens.

Sudeley has a little something for everyone. The castle rooms are a pleasure to explore; though still a family residence there are exquisite collections of art and furniture and interesting exhibition rooms in the original west wing. Outside, wind your way through the 10 award-winning gardens, including the beautiful Queens’ Garden which would have been planted with herbs and vegetables in Tudor times but now has more than 80 varieties of roses.

Spotlight on Snowshill

Only a 10-minute drive from Buckland Court, Snowshill was purchased by Charles Paget Wade, architect, craftsman, poet and collector, in 1919. He restored and renovated it for just one purpose: to house his wondrous collections, which included everything from samurai armour to clocks and bicycles. His eclectic pieces were all housed in the rooms of Snowshill, while he lived in a modest house in the garden. This second smaller house was also split into a number of outdoor ‘rooms’, which act as an extension of the manor and are equally fun to explore.

Wade handed the property over to the National Trust in the 1950s and it remains relatively untouched, a treasure trove that is part house and part museum and a wonderful reflection of Wade’s interest in craftsmanship, colour and design. Reopening in March, just in time for the daffodils to start appearing in the orchard, Snowshill Manor is an interesting example of one man’s dedication to his hobby.

Put your best foot forward

There aren’t many walking routes as iconic or beautiful as the famous Cotswold Way. The trail winds through the length of the Cotswolds AONB, taking walkers across more than 100 miles of countryside from Chipping Campden all the way south to Bath. You can pick up the trail by following the signposts in many of the popular tourist spots and towns including Chipping Campden, the lovely 18th century Tower at Broadway and National Trust’s Crickley Hill Country Park. Even if you just decide to explore a short stretch, you’re bound to chance across some amazing scenery and friendly faces along the way.

The Fosse Way is another walking route worth exploring. Originally linking Exeter to Lincoln, it was a Roman Road, many sections of which form some of our modern-day roads and lanes. With the Cotswolds having an extraordinarily high density of Roman sites, it is unsurprising that the Fosse Way has become an unofficial route through a number of iconic landmarks. Cirencester and Stow-on-the-Wold, for example, but also Northleach which, thanks to its position, later prospered as a strategic centre for the wool trade, and Chedworth Roman Villa. At Chedworth you’ll find incredibly well-preserved 4th century mosaic floors. Nearby footpaths include the Macmillan Way and Monarch's Way, and there is a woodland to explore above the site.

Tips from your manager

Sadie Blakely, Site Manager of Buckland Court, was born and raised in the Cotswolds. “I love walking,” she says, “and walking in the Cotswolds is always a pleasure! There is something different and something beautiful wherever you go.” One place in particular that will always stand out for her is Broadway Tower. “I was born in Broadway, so the walk to the Tower is a special one,” she explains. “The views are stunning and there is a red deer park too.” The site has a new visitor centre, Tower Barn, which was completed in 2018. A range of workshops and experiences is available there and the café stocks delicious homemade cakes and savouries. “My favourite time of year to go to the Tower,” says Sadie, “is lambing season. Those lambs get everywhere!”

“Another go-to walk of mine is the four-mile circuit from Hidcote to Mickelton. It passes through my favourite tiny thatched village of Hidcote Bartrim.” Hidcote Manor Gardens is a National Trust property just 25 minutes from Buckland in the north Cotswolds. The Arts and Crafts-inspired gardens have been beautifully and intricately designed with a maze of narrow pathways, secret gardens and exquisite vistas to discover.

“For something really different,” she concludes, “I often recommend my guests to Daylesford Organic Farm near Kingham. It’s a charming place. The food is amazing, there is fresh produce to buy, a cookery school on site and even a spa!” Carole Bamford’s award-winning farmshop and café also hosts events throughout the year such as flower arranging courses, stargazing evenings and workshops.

To find out more about Buckland Court, as well as our other 30+ properties across the UK and Europe, make sure to get in touch.

 

Luci Ackers

Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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