The Cotswolds is a range of limestone hills that extends from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty characterised by gentle rolling hills, sleepy villages hewn from honey-coloured stone, picturesque rural countryside and a quintessential Englishness that draws visitors from around the world. Not only is the Cotswolds a beautiful place to visit, it is also extremely easy to reach from London, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bristol and Bath.
The name of the Cotswolds derives from ‘cots’, the Old English word for stone sheep shelters, and ‘wold’ meaning rolling hill, and it gives an indication of how this region became so wealthy. This hilly region suffers from thin soils, which are notoriously difficult to plough, yet are ideal for the grazing of sheep, and so the woollen trade emerged as a major source of income for the people of the Cotswolds.
There is evidence of habitation in the Cotswolds area since about 3,000BC, and the mysterious Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton are an example of a Megalithic henge of the period. Some people believe that the 77 stones were once the army of a king, turned to stone by a witch; their purpose and origin remain unknown. By the 12th century many of the villages familiar in the Cotswolds today had already become established, and due to the rich deposits of Oolite limestone in the region, a wealth of buildings with characteristic architecture began to emerge.
It is interesting to note that Cotswold stone has a light grey tone in the south of the region, a pearly hue in the central region and towards the north a richer, warmer tone. This is often reflected by the architecture in the region and across the world buildings made of Cotswold stone can be seen: St Paul's Cathedral in London, Melbourne Cathedral in Australia and many of Oxford’s colleges are a few examples.
There is so much to see and do in the Cotswolds; the area is rich in history and possesses a quintessential English charm that few other areas can match. It has possibly the highest concentration of truly great hotels anywhere in the UK, and with a vast selection of superb restaurants and charming country inns, the Cotswolds is a must see region.