The sleepy, unspoiled village of Winchcombe (population 4,500), once the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, has some attractive half-timber and stone houses, as well as a clutch of appealing old inns serving food. A good place to escape the crowds, it's near Sudeley Castle and is also on several walking routes: the Cotswold Way; the Warden's Way and Windrush Way, both linking Winchcombe with Bourton-on-the-Water; and the Winchcombe Way, a 42-mile figure-eight trail around the northern Cotswolds. A three-day walking festival ( takes place here in mid-May.

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