In a magical location and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the traditional Cotswolds towns are a destination all year around, even in the heart of winter. The following is a selection of five of these towns, with some ideas of what is on offer in each destination.
A small market town, Chipping Camden has an elegant High Street, lined with terraced houses, dating from the 14th to 17th century and built from the charming honey-coloured stone quarried in the area, Cotswold Stone. In the high street, shops, restaurants and traditional pubs are available to visitors.
This popular tourist town used to be a major wool trading centre back in the Middle Ages, and evidence can be seen of its rich past today in the form of the Wool Church of St James. The Court Barn, located near this church is now a museum, displaying the rich arts and crafts tradition of the town, much of which can be purchased in the town today.
" Chipping Camden" by WorldIslandInfo.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Stanton is a small village, right on the edge of the Cotswolds Hills in Tewkesbury Borough. One of the prettiest and idyllic unspoilt villages of the Cotswolds, the town is built almost entirely of the locally-quarried, Cotswold stone. The Cotswold Way, the famous long-distance footpath running along the Cotswold Edge, runs directly through the town. Stanton has a high street with a pub right at the end known as The Mount Inn, offering tasty, locally-sourced meals, and a beer or hot toddy in front of a blazing fire on those colder days.
A couple of places worth visiting in the town are Sheppy Corner, a Grade II listed thatched cottage dating back to around 1650, at the top of High Street and Stanton Court, a listed Grade II Jacobean Manor House building from the early 17th century.
"Stanton"by Scott Anderson is licensed under CC BY 2.0
One of the larger market towns in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is famous for its picturesque High Street, flanked with trim lawns, and with the River Windrush meandering through. This river can be crossed via several arched stone bridges, giving the town the nickname "Venice of the Cotswolds."
Interesting sights in the village include the model village, which is a 1:9 replica of the village itself, built during the 1930s, as well as the Model Railway and the Cotswold Motoring Museum.
Also of interest are the Birdland Park and Garden and the fascinating Dragonfly Maze. The latter, a yew maze with a pavilion hidden right at its centre, is unusual, as the object is not just to find the pavilion, but also to gather various clues while navigating the maze. On interpreting all these various clues, a visitor will then gain access to the final secret of this fascinating maze.
"Bourton-on-the-Water, England " by Nigel's Europe & beyond is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A small market town in Gloucestershire, Stow-on-the-Wold is located at almost 800 feet, making it the highest of the Cotswold towns. Due to this elevation, the town is often referred to as "Stow on the Wold, where the winds blow cold."
On approaching the town, some beautiful avenues of trees are seen. The village has been a market town since around 1107, and today is famous as a centre for the antiques trade and for the sale of horses. Nowadays various shops, houses and inns can be seen in the town square where the major markets were held in years gone by.
"Stow On The World" by www.heatheronhertravels.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A small Cotswolds village, in the town can be seen the late Norman Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, built around 1180, with various additions over the years.
The town offers two public houses, The Great Western Arms and The Crown Inn and Hotel (a former coaching inn). While the Post Office in the town was closed back in 2007, the following year the village opened a new not-for-profit store in town which is a combination grocer, post office, news agent and off licence. It also contains a café offering free broadband Internet.
"Sheep Grazing in Front Of Blockley Church" by Random_fotos is licensed under CC BY 2.0
There is so much to see and do in the Cotswolds that you won't run short of ideas, but these 5 towns never fail to take my breath away when I visit. And this doesn't even touch on the amazing, quaint villages which are dotted around at every turn. If time is short, then a stop in any one of them will leave you with a winter warmth and the perfect festive feeling in the run up to Christmas!