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Christmas in the Cotswolds for 1st timer: PLEASE HELP

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This will be my 1st visit to the UK, so I need help! There is a possibility that we can stay in somebody's home in Cheltenham for 8 days over the Christmas period.We enjoy history, art, good food, interesting places, listening to locals, waiting quietly for the moon to shine on the lake ...

I have several questions:
1 I would prefer not to rent a car. Having said that, it seems to me that public transport to the beautiful smaller towns in the Cotswolds is difficult. Is there somebody reading this who did actually use public transport? Did it work for you?
2 I have tried to study the maps and distances. It looks as if Cheltenham is right at the western edge of the Cotswolds, with many prime places an hour or more away. Is this right? Is Cheltenham itself a good place if you just want to 'be there'? To me it looks as if it a huge sprawling town, without much to offer the one-time tourist. Am I wrong?
3 Having learned from you Fodorites, I now know that I prefer 'slow travel' - doing less and experiencing more. I am not sure if travelling daily for an hour or more to Oxford / Stonehenge / Bath / all the pretty small places, will work well, even if I do rent a car. Please comment. An hour or two to get there and then back again ... even if you start early it can become a long day. Or am I wrong?
4 What are the chances of having a white Christmas?
Thanks!!

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