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Bath and the Cotswolds Travel Guide

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Plan Your Bath and the Cotswolds Vacation

The rolling uplands of the Cotswolds represent the quintessence of rural England, as immortalized in countless books, paintings, and films. In eloquently named settlements from Bourton-on-the-Water to Stow-on-the-Wold, you can taste the glories of the old English village—its stone slate roofs, low-ceiling rooms, and gardens; the atmosphere is as thick as honey, and equally as sweet. On the edge

of the Cotswolds is Bath, among the most alluring small cities in Europe.

The blissfully unspoiled Cotswolds, deservedly popular with visitors and convenient to London, occupy much of the county of Gloucestershire, in west-central England. They also take in slices of neighboring Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, and Somerset. Together these make up a sweep of land stretching from close to Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare Country in the north almost as far as the Bristol Channel in the south. On the edge of the area, two historic towns have absorbed, rather than compromised. Bath, offering up "18th-century England in all its urban glory," to use a phrase by writer Nigel Nicolson, is one. The other is Regency-era Cheltenham, which, like Bath, is a spa town with elegant architecture.

Bath rightly boasts of being the best-planned town in England. Although the Romans founded the city when they discovered here the only true hot springs in England, its popularity during the 17th and 18th centuries luckily coincided with one of Britain's most creative architectural eras. Today people come to walk in the footsteps of Jane Austen, visit Bath Abbey and the excavated Roman baths, shop in an elegant setting, or have a modern spa experience at the stunning Thermae spa.

North of Bath are the Cotswolds—a region that more than one writer has called the very soul of England. This idyllic region, which from medieval times grew prosperous on the wool trade, remains a vision of rural England. Here are time-defying churches, sleepy hamlets, sequestered ancient farmsteads, and such fabled abodes as Sudeley Castle. The Cotswolds can hardly claim to be undiscovered, but the area's poetic appeal has survived the tour buses and antiques shops.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Architecture of Bath Bath is perhaps the most perfectly preserved and harmonious English city. Close up, the elegance and finesse of the Georgian buildings is a perpetual delight.
  2. Cotswold pubs The classic pubs here press all the right buttons—low wooden beams, horse brasses, and inglenook fireplaces.
  3. Hidcote Manor Gardens In a region rich with imaginative garden displays, Hidcote lays good claim to eminence. Exotic shrubs from around the world and the famous "garden rooms" are the highlights of this Arts and Crafts masterpiece.
  4. Perfect villages With their stone cottages, Cotswold villages tend to be improbably picturesque; the hamlets of Upper and Lower Slaughter are among the most seductive.
  5. Roman Baths Take a break from Bath's Georgian elegance and return to its Roman days on a tour around this ancient bath complex.
  6. Gloucester Cathedral The Great East Window, Whispering Gallery, and cloisters are especially noteworthy in this ancient monument, one of the country's finest cathedrals. Look out, too, for the settings of scenes in the Harry Potter movies.
  7. Shops in CheltenhamThe grand Regency terraces of Cheltenham make a wonderful setting for "country chic" boutiques, antiques shops, and gift stores that attract people from the entire region.

When To Go

When to Go

This area contains some of England's most popular destinations, and it's best to avoid weekends in the busier areas of the Cotswolds. During...

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