The Cotswolds is the largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom and occupies an upland region in the “West Country” of Britain, some eighty miles from London. The Cotswold Hills are bordered to the west by the River Severn and the Bristol Channel, to the north by the Vale of Evesham and the River Avon, to the south by the River Thames, and to the east by the River Cherwell.
It is an area rich in history, where gently rolling countryside has not only provided agricultural wealth and prosperity down the centuries, but has also inspired artists, writers and philosophers. Its beauty has attracted many visitors through the ages, and the wealthy and influential have, today as in the past, chosen to live here, to build their stately homes and mansions, and to settle amid the natural beauty of the landscape.
During the time of the Roman occupation, the Cotswolds were chosen as the site of some of the principal administrative towns, including Cirencester and Gloucester. Even then, the rich and powerful appreciated the beauty of the area, and the remnants of their grand villas occupy some of the most beautiful locations in the landscape. Through the Middle Ages the Cotswold landowners amassed great wealth on the backs of the sheep that provided the wool which clothed a nation. Market towns like Stow-on-the-Wold, Northleach and Chipping Norton thrived, and the mellow ochre-coloured stone for which the Cotswolds are now so famed, was used to construct imposing new buildings, churches and manor houses.
As the importance of the wool trade declined, the Cotswolds turned to its natural charm for a prosperous future, and from the eighteenth century onwards has been a popular destination for travellers and sightseers. Today the Cotswolds are known throughout the world for the picturesque villages, rich in that gloriously honeyed stone, that pepper the hills and valleys, and for the green and luxurious farmland. They are admired for the beautifully tended gardens, and for the many country estates, castles, manor houses and medieval churches that rise above the trees. It is a region steeped in heritage and tradition, where ancient battlefields stand cheek by jowl with magnificent homes, where generations of artists and craftsmen have found inspiration, and where nature’s beauty survives undimmed by the 21st century.