The Cotswolds is a large area of low rolling hills in South-Central England. The region's pasturelands are dotted with hundreds of timeless, quaint villages that are filled with stone buildings. Many travelers who have spent time here say that it is the real life version of the idealized English countryside that is found in literature and on TV. You don't have to travel to a far-flung corner of Great Britain to find the Cotswolds. The region is easy to reach by bus or train from London. The ride takes about two hours. The best option is to take a train from London's Paddington Station to Gloucester, the only population center in the region that can be considered a city. However, once you arrive, a car is necessary if you want to explore in depth. It is possible to rent once you reach Gloucester, but you may find more options in London.
Aside from several historic sites, there are few traditional "must-see" attractions in the Cotswolds. Traveling here is more about soaking in the charming atmosphere than checking off tourist sites on your itinerary. One of the best ways to introduce yourself to this region is by visiting one of its festive farmers markets. The village of Stroud has one of the best markets. It is open on Saturdays until 2pm. Since Stroud is on the regional train line, it is an easy place to visit even if you don't have a vehicle. The town is quite walkable (though there are some hills). Both locals and visitors use Stroud as a base for exploring the scenic hiking trails in the area.
The town of Broadway is the best-known of the Cotswolds' villages. People come from all over to see the rolling hills and stone buildings of this especially-idyllic place. The main reason to come here is to climb to the top of the Broadway Tower. The stone structure itself is impressive, but not as impressive as the view from its upper levels. On a clear day, you can see the legendary landscapes of the Cotswolds for miles in every direction. The view is said to cover as many as 13 different counties. Broadway is also a good base for exploring part of the Cotswold Way. This walking trail stretches for over 100 miles, but you don't have to trek the whole distance to enjoy some stunning views. Walking a few miles near Broadway is enough to impress scenery-seekers.
As we've already mentioned, though, a car is the best way to explore in depth. There are plenty of rental options, but one of the most interesting is Classic Motoring. This company, located in a village near Gloucester, rents classic two-seat Jaguar convertibles to tourists. With a set of stylish wheels, you can drive to the most attractive towns in the region. For example, Cheltenham has a shopping promenade and classical gardens. This town also has a 19th century green-space, Pittville Park, which features artificial lakes and aviaries. The village of Chedworth, meanwhile, has some classic restaurants and pubs. It is also the site of some of England's best ancient Roman ruins.
No trip to the Cotswolds would be complete without a meal or two in a classic country inn. Many inns in the area actually still accept overnight guests. Some are quite stylish. One of the best for both eating and staying is the Wild Rabbit. Located in the small village of Kingham, Oxfordshire near the market village of Chipping Norton, the Rabbit seeks to bring the classic English inn experience into modern times. Its restaurant serves up delicious dishes that are made using local ingredients (many of which are grown onsite). The pub features stone walls that were erected more than a century ago. The inn's rooms have the same timeless allure as well as offering plenty of modern comforts.
This is certainly one of the most attractive destinations in England. And the best aspect of the Cotswolds is that you can really immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and experience the countryside in a way that is not possible in more-touristy places.
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Have you spent time in Southern England? Use the comments section to tell us what you know about this region.