Cotswolds Tour

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The Cotswold Hills and Bath are the most requested destinations for my tours over the years. Both are beautiful, making use of the local Limestone golden-coloured stone. Bath is the finest and complete Georgian town, and a lovely place to stay for the night, to wander around the town and have dinner.

From there it is a pretty 2 hour drive across country to the Cotswold Hills. An excellent place to stay is Burford, known as the Gateway to the Cotswolds. The Bay Tree hotel is the best, recommended in Johansen's world-wide guide in an entry of about just 20 in England. Next door, and equally oldy-world charming is The Lamb. Also very acceptable is The Golden Pheasant, and for the budget conscious there is a Travelodge at the top of the town.

From here I can make a lovely circular drive mainly on back roads to see the pretty towns and villages. We often have lunch in the Snowshill Arms, pictured at the top of the picture page. Their food is genuinely home-made, and the atmosphere is of a genuine English pub, free of music and machines.

The next picture is of a recently laid hedge, a country skill where upright growth is cut almost through at the base and bent over. Straight stakes are driven in for stability, and thinner cuts are woven along the top, for initial stability. In the next few years, new growth will come upright, so by the time the stakes decay, the hedge will have its own structure, and with a trim each autumn, will keep livestock in safely for some 50 years. We see many hedges with this structure on our travels.
  The Cotswolds have many dry stone walls to separate fields, made with great skill from stones cleared from the land. They blend in beautifully with the land and the stone villages. Also seen in the Cotswolds are thached roofs as pictured 3rd left, and stone roofs as pictured above, at Arlington Row in Bibury, one of the most pictured places in the Cotswolds. They belong to the National Trust and are privately lived in, but there is a short circular walk which goes past them and along the clear fast-flowing river. It is full of brown trout, and there is a trout farm opposite the lovely Swan Inn, a great hotel.

The limestone of the Cotswolds soaks up the rainfall, and it flows in small streams all year to the south-east, to become tributaries of the River Thames. This rises near Cricklade, south of Cirencester, and the first lock and navigation is at nearby Lechlade. The tributaries join the Thames before or in Oxford.

The Cotswold Hills rise gently in folds from Burford, and end in a sharp escarpment from Cheltenham to Stratford on Avon, by the rivers Avon and Severn. Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest lived in place, in the centre of the hills. Allow 2 full days to get the full enjoyment of this area and close-by Stratford-on Avon. Each tour is individually planned, and depends upon the starting point; it would include the towns of Burford, Bourton-on-the -Water, Morton-in-Marsh, Bourton-on -the-Hill, Stow-on-the-Wold, Broadway and my favourite Chipping Camden.

Much of the travelling is on back roads so we see many pretty villages on the way. Stow has many antique shops to browse, but prices are not for collectors or dealers. Hidcote Manor is a wonderful garden to visit, and if you are there on the opening afternoons, Sezincote is an amazing house to visit. The exterior is a copy of an Indian Maharajar's palace, with a single 'onion-skin' dome. It was the inspiration for the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Another interesting Elizabethan house is Chavenage, much unaltered by any changes and fragile, and visited only by tours booked in advance.
Other little-known attractions in visiting distance are Rousham House with its garden laid out by William Kent and never altered, and Witley Court, a roofless ruin of an amazing Italianate house, where the extraordinary fountain has been restored and is powered up every 2 hours.

I hope these notes and pictures will whet your appetite to visit Bath and the Cotswolds in a personalized tour planned by The Exclusive Travel Service.

Julian Rouse
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