Lying between Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon are the Cotswolds, a series of quintessentially English towns and villages.
The area, defined by its golden coloured Cotswold stone, covers 2,038 square km and is the second largest protected landscape in England (after the Lake District). Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966, particular places of interest include Sudeley Castle at Winchcombe, Calcot Manor and Cleve Hill, the highest point of the Cotswolds.
Cirencester is one of the largest towns in the area, with a fascinating history that dates back to Romans times, and serious shoppers will also be impressed with the Regency splendour of Cheltenham, a nineteenth-century spa town that also boasts beautiful gardens and graceful architecture.
However, when you think of the Cotswolds you think of the picture perfect honey-coloured cottages, cosy pubs, tiny tearooms and narrow streets. Some of the prettiest villages you may wish to explore are Blockley, Lower Slaughter, Kingham, Mickleton, Bibury and Naunton.
Moreton-in-Marsh is a more spacious market town, dating back to the thirteenth century, which still holds an open-air market every week and Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the area’s most popular destinations. With its quaint, low bridges over the River Windrush and charming shops and tea rooms, it is also home to the Cotswold Motoring Museum.
For those who want to buy a piece of the past, the Cotswolds is also unrivalled for antiques and towns such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Tetbury have the largest concentration of antique shops outside of London.
To explore this enchanting area further, try walking some of the Cotswold Way, a 100 mile route that threads through valleys and villages and finishes in the heart of Georgian Bath.