The word Cotswolds can be loosely translated as ‘sheep enclosure in the rolling hills’. This area is home to the quintessential English countryside and is a designated place of outstanding natural beauty. If you join our Cotswolds tours here are a few things you can expect to see…
Sheep…and lots of them!
In many ways, sheep are arguably the Cotswolds’ most important feature. Yes, they are very cute, and yes there are lots of them in this part of England. But historically their importance should not be underestimated. For centuries the Cotswolds was known as an important producer of wool, dating as far back as the Middle Ages. The local sheep breed nicknamed the ‘Cotswold Lion’. Within Europe it was said that the best wool was British, and in Britain the best wool from the Cotswolds. Prosperity followed as a result, and today the region remains affluent, with sheep farming still a major industry.
As a result of the prosperity created by the wool trade, people in the Cotswolds had the wealth to construct beautiful homes made out of the finest of material; local Cotswolds limestone. Everywhere you go here you’ll see cottages that are several hundred years old: some nestled in the heart of a village, and others placed out in the middle of farmlands. Possibly the most famous cottages are those of the Arlington Row (see above) in Bibury, which were built in 1380 as wool shops and later turned into homes, which they remain. They have been visited by many, including Japan’s Prince Hirohito and Henry T Ford, and this historic terrace is now one of the symbols of the Cotswolds.
Dry Stone Walls
The art of the stone wall has been perfected in the Cotswolds; a seemingly simple but actually rather complex building process. Here there are over 4,000 miles of dry stone walls, with the stones themselves often dug up during ploughing. But building the walls themselves requires an experienced hand, as there is no binding element and the stones hold themselves together through their precise and structured placements. As the walls are built up, stones must be slotted together carefully, taking into account size, width and angle. The results are beautiful as well as efficient, with many of these walls several hundred years old.
Charming towns & villages
When you are travelling through the Cotswolds, its seems like there’s another charming village around every corner. In this part of middle England there are no large towns and most people live in small villages which are scattered throughout the region, but still have good connections to nearby cities like Oxford and Bath. The villages themselves (like Castle Combe above) are full of history, character and pretty honey-coloured cottages. There are also many historic small towns, like Stow-on-the-Wold, which is where the final battle of the English civil War took place.
England’s green and pleasant lands are typified by the gentle undulating hills that make up the scenery of the Cotswolds. This designated area of outstanding natural beauty is spread over more than 750 square miles, and lies largely within the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. The area is 80% farmland and marked as lying between Stratford-up-Avon in the north, and Bath 90 miles to the south. Due to the combination of pretty scenery and charming villages, it is one of England’s most desirable countryside areas to live, and a popular place to visit too! If you want to see the most quintessentially English countryside, then the Cotswolds is the place to come.
If you’re visiting England this year, find out more about our Cotswolds tours and see some of England’s most beautiful countryside!