England's Cotswolds region is best known for its cozy cottages, medieval churches, and simple village life with tiny shops and charming pubs.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I've read too many British murder mysteries, or watched too much BBC. But, truth be told, I'm in love with those small cottage towns of England in the Cotswolds. Heck, I love just about everything in England, but there's just something special about thatched-roof cottages, stately castles, and medieval churches.
Don't you agree? If you do, then the next time you've got a hankerin' to head to the other side of the Pond, make sure you come to at least one of these towns.
And before you ask about some of them, yes these really are the town's names.
Made famous by the Arts & Crafts Movement, Chipping Campden has been around since the Middle Ages. Its Wool Church of St. James (a church built by a wool guild) still has a medieval altar; and no stop here would ever be complete without visiting its Hidcote Manor Garden or its specialty shops.
Found along the River Churn (a tributary of the Thames), Circencester might be all British now but it has a Roman past; which you can see a large collection of Roman artifacts at the Corinium Museum.
After that, get the camera ready to take plenty of snapshots of all the buildings built with that famous Cotswolds Stone. Why do you think those cottages look so awesome? Then visit Cirencester's 12th century Abbey, OK?
Moreton in Marsh
It's more cottages in Cotswolds Stone in Moreton in Marsh, as well as antique shops. Um, in case you don't want to pay for all that extra luggage by buying antiques--visit the 16th century Curfew Tower or the Batsford Arboretum instead.
Oh, this is also where you'll find the 4-Shire Stone. So named because Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Worcestershire all meet up here.
On to Tetbury, a town built on the foundations of a 7th century medieval monastery. While once known for its wool and yarn, Tetbury is now bustling with antique markets, cheese shops, and pubs.
Cool, a pub to drink 'til I don't care about making a fool out of myself at the town's Woolsack Day and Street Fair that's held every May.
Walking and hiking is a big deal in the Cotswolds, and this town is where some six trails meet up. Your choice if you want to take the Cotswold Way, the Gloucester Way, or the St. Kenelm's Trail; I've decided to head to Sudeley Castle.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for a 12th century castle that's also the final resting place of Queen Katherine--one of Henry VIII's many wives. The gatehouse is quite impressive--too bad the castle itself is only open on select dates.
Only a history lover can appreciate Wotton-under-Edge's Ram Inn. It looks like it could fall down any minute, but considering it's been around since 1145 you should cut it some slack. It was built around the same time as the Kingswood Abbey (1139AD), and the only thing that remains of this medieval place is its 16th century Gatehouse; and it's older than Wotton's Church of St. Mary the Virgin that didn't come along until 1283.
William Morris called Bibury "the Most Beautiful Village in England", and I'm inclined to agree with him. What amazingly beautiful cottages made from that Cotswolds Stone await you here, as well as an old Saxon church.
How can you top the most beautiful village in England? Rightfully, you couldn't--but Malmesbury does give it a good try. Which is why, by the way, that I've added it as a last minute addition to the best of the Cotswolds.
Actually, it was Malmesbury Abbey that sealed the deal. This 7th century Abbey once housed one of the largest library collections in the country; and its gardens are stunning.
It's pretty cool how the town was built over an Iron Age Fort too. One of its most popular places to see is its Market Cross, built here in 1490.
With all these awesome villages (and this hasn't even listed them all), no wonder the Cotswolds have been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It isn't all about the castles and cottages, there are tiny farms with rolling hills spread out over the region.
Excuse me, I think I found the perfect spot to envision my own little cottage in the Cotswolds.