Cotswolds

Cotswolds golden stone, a yellow limestone quarried in the local hills, is one of the things that makes this region just to the south and east of Wales so outstandingly beautiful. As the stone weathers, buildings made of it turn a glowing honey color, and the Cotswolds England villages with houses made of this stone are some of the most picturesque in the UK. You will find numerous inns and hotels in Cotswolds made of or faced with this stone in virtually all of the many villages, towns, and small cities of the region. Many of these appear virtually unchanged for centuries, making the region one of the most photographed in the country and one of its most popular destinations.

The city of Bath is one of the most well-known of the Cotswolds cities. It is an elegant Georgian city known for its ancient Roman Baths and beautiful eighteenth-century crescents of Georgian townhouses. The ensemble created by the city's architecture is the main reason that it is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another famous attraction in the region is Blenheim Palace, one of the largest private residences in the world and birthplaces of statesman Winston Churchill. The magnificent country estate is located just outside the town of Woodstock.

Perhaps the quintessential Cotswolds England village is Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as the "Venice" of the region because of the River Windrush that runs through its center and because of the picturesque stone footbridges that span the river. The village itself is considered one of the most classic in the region, with many homes made of the region's stone. It is a model village, and you can visit a true model village—a 1:9 replica, creating a replica within a replica that was opened in 1937. Another "show village" of the region is Broadway, named for its wide and gracious main street and full of stone houses. One of the most famous hotels in Cotswolds is located nearby. The Lygon Arms is prominently located on the High Street of Chipping Campden, a small village about two miles to the east of Broadway. Originally a sixteenth-century coaching inn, this lodging makes an excellent base for exploring the area. Also just outside Broadway is the famous Broadway Tower, towering above the countryside and providing fabulous 360-degree views.

The elegant little town of Northleach is dominated by one of the region's loveliest cathedrals. Known as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds, the Church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the early twelfth century with wealth garnered from the medieval wool industry that thrived here.

Two famous towns that are just outside the border of the Cotswolds England are Tewksebury and Stratford-upon-Avon. The latter, of course, was made famous as the home of the great bard William Shakespeare. Tewkesbury is home to the second largest parish church in the country. The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a former Benedictine monastery. Both of these are historic market towns known for their pretty Elizabethan half-timbered houses and both are located on the River Avon.

There is good train transportation in the area, although UK trains are relatively expensive compared to trains on the continent of Europe. The most convenient method of transportation is by private car rentals, allowing you to explore at your own pace and discover little gems off the beaten path. One thing to remember about inns and hotels in Cotswolds (whether in towns or out in the countryside) is that most of them are small and intimate. Because this is one of England's most popular destinations, the best ones will fill up rapidly during the summer months. Make your arrangements as far in advance as possible if you want to visit during this time. One way to ensure you have accommodations and the expertise of professionals familiar with the region is to book vacation packages that can be booked from operators all over the world. These guided packages include accommodations, many meals, and a number of tours. They generally travel through the countryside by motorcoach for several days.

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