Travelling south along the A34 from Stratford, the home of Shakespeare, we took a pleasant turn onto the A429 heading into the Cotswolds. Gentle slopes lay snug within the folds of land; quaint villages dot the region known for its scenic beauty that has captured an image so typically British. During the medieval period of the 13th to the 15th centuries, the Cotswolds became famous for the wool produced by the native Cotswold sheep. With the trade, elapsed wealth in the region enabled wool producers to build quality homes and churches made from the local limestone, which has left a charming and timeless appeal.
The first village we passed though was Moreton-in-Marsh. Due to its easily accessible location and beauty, this is one of the more lively communities. The main road runs directly through the village and offers the passer-by a view of the 16th century Curfew tower, as well as the 18th century inns and small homes blooming from each corner. Moreton-in-Marsh was one of the principal market towns and has continued to attract many visitors every Tuesday for the outdoor market.
Stow-on-the-Wold was the next village along the A429. Slightly smaller than Morteon-in-Marsh, this community may be the most famous. Well known during the old wool producing days for large sheep sales and annual fairs, now it is popular for shopping, browsing art galleries and antique shops. As a visitor, you can expect to find lovely dwellings made of caramel colored limestone, country inns, B&B’s, tea houses and pubs.
Just before you reach the main stretch of Bourton-on-the-Water, there’s a huge parking area on the right hand side. Even with the numerous tourist coaches, there's usually space. After parking, it was off along the narrow pathways that lead to the main street of Bourton. Upon turning the last corner, you’re greeted with a view of the charming village, adorned like most Cotswold villages with sand colored cottages and vibrant gardens blooming in color.
It feels as though you’ve stepped back in time. You can feel the urgency in your step fade away as the pace decreases and the meandering starts. The river Windrush gently cuts a shallow path along the length of Bourton with small, cobblestone pedestrian bridges allowing several crossing points.
Before exploring further, we stopped for a light refreshment in a tearoom where from its ceiling, hangs teapot after teapot, each different in size, shape and design. If there’s one thing the British love, its tea, and they aren’t afraid to admit it.
There are numerous subtly signposted footpaths that can be walked. One of my favorites is found to the far right end of Bourton past the tearooms and sweet shops. You come to a magnificent house called the Mill House, just in front is the sign for the footpath. The walk takes you round the back of the house and then follows the path of the water as it runs alongside green meadows before popping you out again in the middle of Bourton. It’s not easy to find, but doesn’t take long and is worth it for those English countryside lovers.
From Bourton-on-the-Water we returned to the A429, turned onto the A40 east heading to Burford. Driving into the village, we entered from the top of a hill which gives the visitor a brilliant view from the main street that slopes downhill to the river Windrush. The main street is lined with old cottages, shops and pubs. On arrival we ambled down the main street taking in the scenery that surrounded the medieval village. A patchwork of golden and green grass meadows surrendered to the horizon as we walked past inviting tea houses and bakeries. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, we made a left turn down a small side street just past the public toilets. Not far down the road we found the church of St. John the Baptist, surrounded by an overgrown graveyard scattered with tombstones from the past and present. The 15th century church is open to the public for viewing; donations are appreciated. Once inside the building, each spoken word echoes across the high ceiling with a gentle soothing hum.
The best way is by car. This allows visitors complete freedom to choose when and where they would like to see. There are many more Cotswold villages which cannot all be thoroughly visited in one day. Some travellers may not be able to hire a car. If the Cotswolds is on your list of sights, do not panic as there are other options. There are regular rail services from London to Moreton-in-Marsh, allowing travellers to stay the night and tour at their own pace. Many scheduled coach tours depart from London daily as well, offering tourists a chance to taste what is so typically British!
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