CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

10 historical places in the Cotswold countryside you need to visit

PUBLISHED: 09:14 29 June 2018

The Cotswold landscape has been, and continues to be full of change, in no little part thanks to human influences over the last 6,000 years (c) Yukioto / Getty Images

The Cotswold landscape has been, and continues to be full of change, in no little part thanks to human influences over the last 6,000 years (c) Yukioto / Getty Images

Yukioto

The Cotswolds landscape reflects a remarkable 6,000 years of human influences

Timeless. Picturesque. Quintessential rural England. Such descriptions of the Cotswolds readily spill across guide books. And who can disagree when exploring the limestone villages gathered at the escarpment’s foot and in the valley bottoms; beguiled by the vernacular details of traditional Cotswold house and home, limestone slate on steep-pitched roofs, tall gables, mullioned windows, bold chimneys, and a sprinkle of thatch here and there for variety.

Looking at the bigger picture, of course the landscape has been, and continues to be full of change, in no little part thanks to human influences over the last 6,000 years. The remarkable thing is that so much of these human influences can still be seen, living with us today and even helping to shape the future.

If you fancy a landscape journey through time, here are a few picks for fascinating days out.

Ritual monuments

Neolithic funerary and ritual monuments draw us into endless speculation over our ancestors’ beliefs, and the local landscape is imprinted with more than 100 distinctive ‘Cotswold-Severn’-style tombs. But there’s no greater mysterious experience than to wander amid the Neolithic/Bronze Age Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, to wonder if the King’s Men circle was aligned to serve an astronomical function, or what ceremonies took place here.

Prehistoric Rollright stone circle known as King's Men in Cotswolds England (c) Zoonar/S.HeapPrehistoric Rollright stone circle known as King's Men in Cotswolds England (c) Zoonar/S.Heap

Iron command of the landscape

Take a breezy step along the Cotswold Way to Uley Bury Iron Age Hill Fort and admire how our forebears made the most of the natural defences and strategic outlook provided by the escarpment – adding a double line of grassy ramparts for good measure. Probably occupied from 300BC to AD100, the vast 32-acre site some 750ft up commands views far over the surrounding landscape – great today for clearing the mind and rebalancing the soul.

What the Romans did for us

Attracted by countryside ripe for hunting and farming, the Romans arrived in the Cotswolds shortly after AD43. We still travel their roads – the Fosse Way (A433/A429), Ermin Way (A417) and Akeman Street (B4425) – and live in settlements that grew from their occupation: Cirencester, Bath, Gloucester. Touring Chedworth Roman Villa at Yanworth, poring over superb mosaics and mod cons like underfloor heating, you get a real feel for the lifestyle of some of the richest folk in the land,

Chedworth Roman Villa (c) Pasicles - creative commonsChedworth Roman Villa (c) Pasicles - creative commons

Walls of wool

Narrow alleys once used to funnel sheep to the famous fairs of Stow-on-the-Wold; merchants’ houses, almshouses and churches built by wealth from the ‘Golden Fleece’: the medieval heydays of wool have influenced streetscapes throughout the Cotswolds. Catch up with ‘flower of the wool merchants of all England’ William Grevel, commemorated in a 15th-century brass in the ‘wool church’ of St James, Chipping Campden; then see his splendid Grevel House, on the High Street opposite the 14th-century Woolstaplers’ Hall where fleeces were sold,

Back to the future: dry stone walling

Earliest local examples of dry stone walling date back 5,000 years, but most that we see today originate from the enclosure of open fields and sheepwalks in the 18th/19th centuries. Over 4,000 miles of such walls criss-cross the Cotswolds, and with the resurgence of interest in traditional rural crafts there’s never been a better time to learn the skill of making and maintaining them into the future. Why not try your hand on a course with Cotswolds Rural Skills?

Commons sense

Understandably, locals who enjoyed rough grazing rights resisted enclosures in the 18th /19th centuries: one reason why the Cotswolds has such a fine network of commons today. Ramble Cleeve Common – records of ‘common land’ here date from 1150 – and you can spot evidence of all sorts of activities through time (not least quarrying). Once, 5,000 animals grazed here; now sheep, cattle and human efforts help maintain the wildflower-rich grasslands, balancing conservation, agriculture and recreation. Download a walk and enjoy the wide open sense of freedom,

Not so run of the mill

You can follow the story of cloth making from weavers’ cottages at Castle Combe and Bradford-on-Avon to the mills, terraces and clothiers’ townhouses shoehorned into the Stroud Valleys. In the 18th century the Cotswold Canals brought coal to Stroud’s textile mills as technology moved from water power (from fast flowing streams) to steam. Guided walks organised by Stroudwater Textile Trust and mill open days reveal more of this fascinating history. Or take a stroll, cycle or boat trip along the canals where modern restoration has given them new life for recreation.

Park life

Eighteenth-century estate owners liked to keep up with the latest naturalistic landscape fashions; even so, the Cotswolds is remarkable for its density of magnificent parks and designed landscapes. The ubiquitous ‘Capability’ Brown swept all before at Blenheim Palace, and advised (along with Alexander Pope) at Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath. The National Trust is celebrating 25 years of looking after the latter and guided tours highlight restoration projects.

Green fingers

Almost every style of gardening can be explored in the Cotswolds: Jacobean-style ‘compartments’ at Chastleton House near Moreton-in-Marsh, flamboyant Painswick Rococo Garden, the revival of a 1930s leisure haven at Upton House near Banbury, outdoor Arts & Crafts ‘rooms’ at Hidcote near Chipping Campden. Taking a leaf out of many traditions, classic English cottage to Tibetan-inspired colours, Prince Charles’s Royal Gardens at Highgrove also lead the way into the future by championing organic, sustainable management principles.

Farming today

Farming, more than any other human activity, has shaped the Cotswolds countryside, Neolithic woodland clearances to medieval heydays of sheep, strip farming to enclosures, and it continues to do so today with some 87% of the AONB classed as agricultural. Find out about modern farming practices by visiting a farm on LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Open Farm Sunday, June 10. Or discover more about local breeds like Cotswold Lion sheep at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search