The Cotswolds is the largest of Britain's 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is one of Britain's most popular countryside areas for walking and outdoor activity holidays. A gentle quintessentially English landscape of rolling hills and ancient woodland, the mellow golden Cotswold stone buildings across historic market towns and villages gives this area in Britain a unique beauty. The Cotswolds stretch from Wiltshire in the south across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Along the length of the Cotswolds escarpment is the Cotswolds Way National Trail running for just over 100 miles between Bath and Chipping Campden.
Attractions in the Cotswolds include ancient prehistoric sites, numerous opportunities for walking and cycling, family fun farm parks and heritage railways, stunning stately home estates and gardens and magnificent historic churches, cathedrals and abbeys. Plentiful in the Cotswolds are heritage inns, wonderful tearooms, a wealth of outstanding craft centres and shops and award winning farmers markets. A superb area for family activity holidays, walking holidays and romantic getaways, accommodation in the Cotswolds features luxury spa leisure country house hotels, family caravan and camping sites, heritage inn B&Bs and beautiful forest lodge retreats.
The North Cotswolds is a best walking holiday area in England. Cotswolds walking centres Winchcombe, Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water are all surrounded by the stunning Cotswold Hills, within easy reach of the Cotswold Way National Trail. Featuring picturesque medieval wool towns with wonderful craft shops, traditional inns and heritage churches and abbeys, the North Cotswolds is idyllic England at its best. Attractions in the North Cotswolds include stunning gardens and stately home estates, historic mills, castles and heritage railways and family attractions such as farm parks and falconry centres.
North Cotswolds centres Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury all have their own unique identities and histories. Regency Cheltenham spa town is a festival centre in Britain, home to the legendary Cheltenham Racecourse which hosts famous horse race the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham dating from 1830 is one of Britain's finest Regency spa buildings. Gloucester with its magnificent Romanesque Gloucester Cathedral is also home to a spectacular historic waterfront on the Severn Estuary and Sharpness Canal. Tewekesbury has one of Britain's finest medieval townscapes with centrepiece the truly breathtaking inside and out Tewkesbury Abbey, a medieval architectural gem with a Norman core.
The South Cotswolds contains a wonderfully varied landscape and a variety of attractions from boat trips on the Thames at Lechlade to quintessential Cotswold towns and villages like Bibury. The beautiful landscape of the Severn Vale around local produce centre Stroud, with its multi-award winning farmers market, overlooks the Severn Estuary. Attractions around the Severn Vale area of the North Cotswolds include stunning wetland centres, premier local produce markets, family farm parks and historic treasure Berkeley Castle where Edward II was imprisoned and died under mysterious circumstances in 1327.
Market town Cirencester was one of Roman Britain's most important centres and the Corinium Museum in Cirencester contains one of the largest collections of Romano-British antiquities in the UK. Great walking holiday locations in the North Cotswolds situated alongside the Cotswold Way National Trail include Nailsworth, Stonehouse, Painswick, Dursley and Wotton-under-Edge. Family attractions and outdoor activities in the South Cotswolds are superb. The area contains family outdoor mecca the Cotswold Water Park around Circencester and Lechlade. Further attraction highlights in the South Cotswolds are the traditional Mop Fairs and many festivals in medieval market town Chipping Sodbury. Essential visiting is Royal Tetbury, a famous Cotswolds local produce centre with a range of wonderful craft, gift and local produce shops. The family home of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Highgrove House with flagship organic farm Duchy Home Farm is in the Tetbury area.
Nestling along the western edge of the Severn Estuary, The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire is one of Britain's best precious forest corners. The ancient forests of the Dean have featured much in TV and film from Harry Potter to popular TV shows like Dr Who and Merlin. Perfect for family outdoor activity holidays, The Forest of Dean contains great family outdoor activities holiday centres like Symonds Yat and pretty market town centres Coleford, Cinderford, Newent and Lydney.
Family attractions across the Forest of Dean include stunning family woodland trails and sculpture trails which branch out from family friendly forest visitor centres. Fantastic heritage railways like the Perrygrove Railway and Dean Forest Railway are in the Forest of Dean alongside mysterious caves, model villages and hedge puzzle mazes. Nature reserves for woodland bird watching and outstanding Birds of Prey centres are further highlight attractions in the Forest of Dean which contains a host of heritage inn B&Bs, great family camping and caravan parks and beautiful forest lodge retreats.
Things to do in Oxford and Oxfordshire cater for a range of holiday tastes. Oxfordshire is dynamic and modern as well as being rich in medieval and English Civil War history. Outstanding walking holidays feature around the Oxfordshire Cotswolds towns of medieval Burford, specialist shopping favourite Chipping Norton, brewery centre and historic wool town Witney and beautiful Woodstock, home to first class specialist shops, unique boutiques and World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The River Thames pushes into Oxfordshire and beautiful Thames waterfront locations like Henley and Abingdon offer numerous opportunities for boat trips on the Thames, boat hire and rowing as well as featuring luxurious historic hotels and B&Bs alongside superb specialist shopping. Shopping fans won't want to miss a visit to Oxfordshire's top designer outlet Bicester Village, one of a selection of European high end chic designer outlets containing over 130 luxury outlet boutiques.
Centrally situated in Oxfordshire, the county's great jewel city Oxford has a wonderfully friendly face, perfect for a range of short break experiences from romantic getaways to top shopping breaks and family friendly museum holidays and weekends. A cultural mecca offering an outstanding choice of thematic tours, Oxford contains internationally acclaimed free entry museums and galleries like the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and the world leading Museum of the History of Science. The Oxford Colleges feature architecture by Sir Christopher Wren and James Gibbs, with famous buildings like the Bodleian Library regularly featuring in film and TV, from Inspector Morse to Harry Potter.
A gateway into the West Country and the Cotswolds, Wiltshire is one of Britain's richest areas for prehistoric monuments and sites. Wiltshire's two most famous prehistoric monuments are the World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge north of Salisbury and Avebury west of Marlborough. Wiltshire is also famous for its mysterious White Horses carved into the rolling chalk downland across the county. Well known of these is the Westbury White Horse on the western edge of Salisbury Plain. Wiltshire's historic market city jewel is Salisbury with centrepiece the magnificent medieval Salisbury Cathedral. Salisbury features a host of fine specialist shops, restaurants and acclaimed museums like the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum with many prehistoric finds from around Stonehenge on display here.
Perfect for walking and cycling holidays, Wiltshire contains a spectacular mixed landscape of chalk downland, ancient woodland, historic canals and beautiful stately home estates and gardens. The great mix of attractions in Wiltshire includes best family attractions like Longleat Safari Park and the Steam Museum Swindon and Wiltshire is rich in historic market and wool towns which contain historic abbeys and churches, farmers markets, cosy inns and tearooms and outstanding craft and specialist shops.