If you’re heading to the Cotswolds for a few days or planning on coming there for a daytrip, then you won’t be disappointed. The Cotswolds has been noted as an area of outstanding natural beauty and is the second largest named area in England. The region stretches for 800 square miles and covers Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and parts of north-east Somerset with a population of around 139,000 people.
The Cotswolds was once famous for its sheep (nicknamed the ‘Cotswold Lions’ because of their shaggy golden wool) and the region was one of the largest contributors to the English wool trade before the industrial revolution. When the cloth trade moved to the north of England, the Cotswolds was left unspoilt and no major industrial development had taken place, apart from the building of magnificent wool mills. The wool mills such as Bliss Mill in Chipping Norton have all now been converted to residences or offices throughout the Cotswolds, retaining the structural beauty of the buildings and making them a stunning landmark in the rolling hills of the countryside.
Market towns in the Cotswolds are famous for being built around the town’s focus point – a charming market square. The market squares were once home to regular sheep markets where farmers would bring their sheep to trade and visitors would come from all the surrounding areas. The towns were even built around the market square to cater for flocks of sheep coming to market, with small alleyways and lanes to the square purposefully designed so that farmers could count their sheep coming in and out of market. The Cotswold market towns include Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Norton, Woodstock, Burford and Cirencester.
Stow-on-the-Wold was built on the old Roman road called The Fosse Way and is known as the highest town in the Cotswolds at 800 feet above sea level. It was a regular meeting place as six roads leading from various locations joined in the town and visitors flocked from everywhere to attend the sheep markets and meet for business. In recent years, Stow has become a beautiful market town where shops in the town centre are overlooking the big market square that includes cafés, antique shops, restaurants, Cotswold gift shops and stunning art galleries. The town was founded in the 11th Century and was originally called Edwardstow. Regular markets have taken place in the town since 1107 when a charter was granted by King Henry II. Since the sheep market faded out, regular gypsy fairs have taken over and Stow Fair is still held twice a year in a nearby field on the edge of town.
Woodstock is a famous landmark in the Cotswolds and is the home of the beautiful Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace was the resident to the Churchill family and Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace. The stunning palace stands in 2000 acres of land and is now still home to the late Duke of Marlborough. Woodstock is a bustling town, popular with tourists because of the famous palace and collection of pretty, antique shops and art galleries. Local boutiques and gift shops also make up this pretty picture-perfect market town in the Cotswolds. In the heart of the town is Oxfordshire Museum, an informative and educational place where you can learn about the county’s history. The Textiles Trail in Woodstock shows the Blenheim Palace Tapestries, the fascinating Woodstock Wallhangings in the Town Hall and the beautiful Stonesfield Embroidery at The Oxfordshire Museum.
Chipping Norton is a stunning market town in north Oxfordshire and the highest known town in the area. It was originally built on the site of a Norman castle and the weekly market has existed in the market square since the 13th Century. The town is famous for Bliss Mill and was one of the largest wool towns in the Cotswolds during the 15th Century when the Cotswold area was known for being one of the biggest outputs for wool in Europe. When the cloth trade moved to the North of England, Chipping Norton remained unspoilt and untouched in all its beauty, a distant memory to what was once a busy area. Bliss Mill has now been converted into residences and still stands majestically in the valley on the edge of the town.
Private Cotswolds Tour
If you’re staying in London and want to see more of the English countryside, then it’s only one hour and 40 minutes from London Paddington Station to Moreton-in-Marsh train station. Experience a Cotswolds tour with the Cotswolds Mystery Tour that will pick you up directly from the train station in a 7-seater luxury minibus and take you on an amazing 6-hour tour of the Cotswolds. A Cotswolds tour will show you all the best places, including chocolate box villages with thatched cottages, stunning stately homes, pretty Cotswold hamlets and charming market towns. There’s no need to bring a picnic for your Cotswolds tour as we will stop for lunch in a delightful 16th Century inn, and visit a village café in the morning for a hot drink and pastry. After the Cotswolds tour, you will be returned to the train station to get your train back to London in time for the evening. Don’t miss out on a wonderful experience – book your Cotswold Mystery Tour today!