The Cotswolds is noted as one of the most beautiful areas in South-West England. With a population of 139,000 and spreading over several counties, the area stretches across the rolling hills of The Cotswolds to the Vale of Evesham and visible from the Welsh Mountains on a clear day. The area is just a short daytrip from London with only 1 hour and 40 minutes on the train from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh. The Cotswolds is steeped in history with several major historical and tourist attractions such as; Blenheim Palace, Chastleton House, The Cotswold Wildlife Park, The Cotswold Farm Park and Batsford Arboretum.
The Wool Trade
The Cotswolds was well-known for being one of the largest outputs for wool during Medieval times. The area was famous during the Middle Ages throughout Europe for the quality and quantity of its wool. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the churches were unable to improve their wealth by increasing the already established wool industry. Cotswold sheep were known as the basis of the English wool trade and were nicknamed as ‘Cotswold Lions’ for their shaggy long coats that had a hint of golden tone. Cotswold sheep are still bred in the area but are a minority to the faster-growing breeds which have higher resistance to disease for a longer life.
“In these Woulds there feed in great numbers, flockes of sheepe long necked and square of bulke and bone, by reason (as it is commonly thought) of the weally and hilly situation of their pasturage; whose wool being so fine and soft is had in passing great account among all nations”.
William Camden wrote the above account in 1610 as part of his famous works ‘Britannia’, a historical and geographical description of The Cotswolds of Great Britain. England became so dependent on Cotswold wool in the 15th Century that even Lord Chancellor’s chair in the House of Lords was known as the ‘woolsack’, made of the finest Cotswold wool. Allegedly the Burial in Wool Acts of 1667 and 1678 said that all bodies should be buried in wool only, unless those who had passed away, had died from the Plague. The acts were revoked in 1814. The wool trade reached its peak from the 14th to 16th centuries and during this time skilled tradesman moved into the area and the towns grew larger. Local quarries provided the beautiful honey-coloured Cotswold limestone that dresses every building in cities, market towns, villages and hamlets. The chocolate box villages are carpeted with cosy cottages with thatched roofs, dotted along the hills and around the woodland.
The Cotswolds today is unspoilt and beautiful. It has avoided being overdeveloped like many other areas and many of the buildings have maintained their original stone form and charm. Some of the former fabric and wool mills have been preserved as residential buildings, offices or commercial sites, but most are still standing. Coaching inns still retain their characteristics with heavy beams, low doorways and stone floors, and many are still public houses. Most of the buildings in The Cotswolds are listed, protected from any future renovations or large alterations so that they can keep their Cotswold charm. Weekly markets still take over the market squares of Cotswold market towns, with regular visits from the Farmers Market once a month, offering fresh and organic produce. Some of the towns have newly built homes, but they have been respectfully built on the outskirts of town, leaving the historical and distinguished houses and buildings in the town centre to stand alone.
A Cotswold Tour
If you’re planning on visiting The Cotswolds for a daytrip, then you can see all the best attractions and the stunning countryside on a journey with the Cotswold Mystery Tour. If you’re travelling from London, then there’s a direct train to Moreton-in-Marsh from Paddington where we will pick you up in our 7-seater luxury Mercedes minibus. We cannot tell you exactly where we take you (and it often differs) because it’s a mystery! However, we will ensure you see some beautiful Cotswold stately homes, some of the top Cotswold attractions, some of the prettiest villages in England and the attractive market towns. We will make sure you don’t go hungry, so will stop for a drink and pastry at a village café in the morning, then also take you for a tasty lunch at a typical Cotswold 16th century inn. The Cotswolds is a far cry from any English city and a magical place to experience, whether you’ve been here before or not. We get booked up very quickly, so book your tickets soon! If you have any questions or need further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.