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The Cotswolds: One of the best parts of England

The what?

That's one of the most common responses I get whenever I bring up the Cotswolds to people who aren't familiar with the bucolic region in south central England.

The region covers about six counties and features rolling hills and medieval villages with slate roofs and cobblestone streets. In many ways it's the quintessential English countryside experience. And it's popular. Prime Minister David Cameron and former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson have homes there.

Some Cotswolds villages include Stow on the Wold, Winchcombe, Broadway, Cheltenham, Moreton-In-Marsh, Stratford Upon Avon and Chipping Campden.

The latter is where I spent a few days last year. It's easy to get caught up in the rolling hills and tiny villages all of which have their own unique charm. The area is popular with day trippers out of London, about two hours away. But most often you'll have whatever village you're staying in to yourself after dark. There's something about wandering through a village like Chipping Campden on a cool fall night that make the headaches of travel worthwhile.

High Street in Chipping Campden.
High Street in Chipping Campden.

Chipping Campden, or Campden as the locals call it, is known for its 400 year-old market stall on the High Street that is still used today. The streets are mostly cobble stones and the roofs are slate.

Badgers Hall in Chipping Campden is a great place to stay overnight, or enjoy tea time most afternoons.
Badgers Hall in Chipping Campden is a great place to stay overnight, or enjoy tea time most afternoons.

We stayed at Badgers Hall, a B & B  that also serves as a tea room. The rooms don't fall into the "budget" category you might get at a lot of B and B's. Rates are 110 pounds per night which is about $160 US. Not bad. But not budget either. But well worth it. It includes a full English breakfast in the tea room and it's centrally located on Chipping Campden's High Street.

On a typical afternoon wandering through the village you might see farmers bringing crops to market, sheepdogs and men dressed in flat caps and Wellington boots. It's quiet, yet not too quiet. At night there are plenty of restaurants, including the awesomely British Eight Bells Inn.

Dogs are welcome here. And indeed one night my wife and I saw Badgers Hall owners Paul and Karen Owen with their dog, Bertie, at the pub.

The best way to get around is by car. The villages aren't far apart so visitors can cover a lot of territory in a short time, or linger in one place that catches their fancy.

Places of interest include,

Sudeley Castle: Near Winchcombe, Sudeley is actually owned by an American woman from Kentucky who married into aristocracy. The home was built in the 15th century and includes with it some interesting exhibits. It's also the burial place of Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s  six wives.

Stratford-Upon-Avon: For those that are Shakespeare fans they'll find the bard himself buried here. The river scene is pretty but this village has grown up and it gets pretty busy during the day.

Warwick Castle: In the bustling city of Warwick, this castle was built in the 12th century and later restored many times. It was home to British aristocracy during the Edwardian times. It's a cool place, but it does have a bit of "theme park" feel to it.

Blenheim Palace: Easily one of the grandest palaces in a country full of them, Blenheim is privately owned by the Duke of Marlborough and his family, but is open to the public throughout the year. 

Go for a long walk: The British love their walks and the country is honeycombed with public walking trails that often go through private land. The 102 mile Cotswold Way is a great way to explore the region if you have the time and the stamina.

These are just a few of the highlights. More can be found here or here

The best part of the Cotswolds are the people and the scenery both in the villages and in the countryside. It's not a check the tourist attraction off the list place like London. You can slow down, take your time, enjoy a bit of tea and soak up one of the best parts of England.

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›

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