payday loans

Water, Culture and Character in Ipswich

ipswichWith its history dating back to a Roman settlement and its development to Anglo-Saxon times, in the 7th and 8th centuries, Ipswich can claim to be one of the oldest towns in England. As a non-metropolitan district, Ipswich retains a concentrated degree of local charm while being culturally dynamic and, more recently, undergoing extensive rebuilding and gentrification.

Ipswich is busy enough to be really diverting but it’s location in the heart of Suffolk makes it an ideal spot to explore if you’re staying in holiday cottage accommodation.

Maritime Ipswich and the Waterfront

While Ipswich has had a working port since Saxon times, the town’s waterfront has more recently become the centre of a thriving restaurant and bar scene. This rejuvenated area has plenty of places where you can eat and drink and is also home to some architecturally significant buildings, such as the Old Custom House and the modern Waterfront Building.

The Old Custom House is home to the Ipswich Port Authority and dates back to 1845 and its brick façade was designed in such a way as to imitate stone.

The University of Suffolk’s Waterfront Building looks out over the marina and is an imposing architectural presence. This was built in 2008 and adds a whole new modern dynamic to the location.

The quayside is rich in atmosphere, dotted about with bistros, bars and restaurants. There are also monthly waterfront markets, and the annual Ipswich Maritime Festival attracts up to 70,000 visitors, combining food, street entertainment, live music and markets.

There are also regular sightseeing boat trips running from the waterfront, including a river cruise restaurant, the Allen Gardiner.

An Independent Town Centre

Running between the town centre and the waterfront, The Saints is a flourishing fashionable retail area of Ipswich. The road structure including St Peter’s Street and St Nicholas Street itself dates back to Saxon times, but it is in recent years that The Saints has developed as a hub for intriguing independent shops and an eclectic choice of restaurants.

There’s also a periodic popular vintage and craft market at St Peter’s Street, and the arts and heritage centre at St Peter’s Church, home to the contemporary Ipswich Millennium Tapestries.

On the east of the town centre are the historic remains of the Blackfriars Monastery, and Blackfriars is also the name of the surrounding area, in which there is a great choice of places to eat and drink, and shops to visit.

Cultural highlights in Ipswich include Christchurch Mansion, a Tudor-era property set in beautiful grounds of Christchurch Park; the Ipswich Museum; and also the independent, volunteer-run Ipswich Film Theatre, in the town’s corn exchange.

In June and July there is the annual Ip-Art Festival, with its focus on the performing arts; and the Ipswich Arts Association organises its concerts and lectures throughout the year.

The Wolsey Art Gallery, based inside Christchurch Mansion, houses the largest collection of paintings by Constable and Gainsborough outside London; and the university’s UCS Waterfront Gallery is home to a changing collection of contemporary art.

Ipswich is a town with real character, both historically resonant and forward-looking.

Captivated by Constable Country

church-and-paddocks-at-long-melfordThe East Anglian county of Suffolk is steeped in the history of England, and in the south is Constable Country, so named because it provided the source and inspiration for the work of the painter John Constable.

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Constable Country continues to inspire contemporary visitors. With plenty of self-catering holiday cottages, it’s a beautiful destination for experiencing some of the best of England.

The Scene of the Hay Wain

Constable’s most famous painting is the Hay Wain, where he created the unforgettable image of a horse and cart crossing the River Stour. You can visit the actual location and experience Constable’s inspiration for yourself at Flatford.

This is like walking into a painting, the landscape and buildings are so vividly real. The white cottage is there, and Flatford Mill, which Constable’s family once owned.

There’s guided trail that can take you through the scenes as painted by Constable – he also painted Boat-Building Near Flatford Mill and nine others in this area.

You can also take a closer look at the buildings from the Hay Wain, now under the National Trust’s custodianship.

Dedham Vale and Stour Valley

Dedham Vale is another of Constable’s most famous paintings, and its idyllic setting is accessible by taking one of various Dedham Walks in the area.

The area is home to picturesque villages such as Stratford St Mary and Stoke-by-Nayland, as well as Dedham itself, and Flatford.

The Stour Valley Path, first established in 1994, is divided into ten different sections of varying lengths, allowing you to explore the stunning countryside and visit areas rich in historical relevance and detail.

The entire route is 60 miles in length, running from close to the source of the River Stour at Newmarket to Cattawade.

The 8.5 mile route between Clare and Long Melford takes in Clare Castle, Long Melford Church, originally built in 1484 then rebuilt after the Reformation, and the brick Tudor Mansion of Melford Hall. Cavendish, along the route, is also the location of the first Sue Ryder nursing home, dating from 1953, created for concentration camp survivors of World War Two.

The final stretch of the Stour Valley Path, from Stratford St Mary to Cattawade, takes in Constable Country, including the painter’s birthplace at East Bergholt. At Dedham you’ll appreciate the Tudor and Georgian architecture, and the church of St Mary’s, location of one of Constable’s religious paintings.

Cycling on the Painters’ Trail

As well as walks and sightseeing, there are plenty of cycling routes in Constable Country.

The Painters’ Trail is a 69 mile long route through Dedham Vale. It comprises three one-day cycle rides along well-worn tracks, paths and quiet, rural roads. It’s both invigorating and serene, taking in many places of interest along the way.

The first route on the Painters’ Trail is circular, from Bures, along quiet country roads and is around 18 miles. The next 16 miles of route runs down the Stour Valley to the river’s estuary and offers the option of departing from Manningtree railway station on completion. The final part of the trail is another 18 miles, through Constable Country, and is a circular.
This large, picturesque area of the Suffolk countryside offers an unforgettable outdoor experience of rural England at its most captivating.

Try the Inner Hebrides for Whisky, Wildlife and Wandering

the-skye-bridgeClose to the west coast of Scotland, the Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull Jura and Islay, along with a number of smaller islands. They present an ideal opportunity for exploration by island hopping, in order to experience a whole range of things to see and do.

Across these island, there is a good range of self-catering, holiday cottage accommodation to choose from, but you don’t need to be restricted by where you base yourself. The best thing to do is to get out and about, exploring the islands.

Exploring on Skye

At the northern end of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is the largest of the islands. It has miles of coastline, mountain ranges and towns and villages bursting with character.

It’s an ideal destination if you want to pull on your walking boots and really get involved in exploring the landscape. While you wouldn’t necessarily come to Skye for a traditional beach holiday, it does have beautiful beaches, such as Claigan Coral beach, actually made of algae fossilised and bleached by the sun. Nearby is the island of Lampay, which you can cross the bay to in low tide. Also close by is the historic Dunvegan Castle, which is well worth a visit to see both the interior with its highland artefacts and treasures, and its beautifully tended, formal gardens.

By way of contrast, the Cuillin is a rocky mountain range that is the dominating feature on Skye, approachable by boat or on foot. You can walk the popular Glen Sligachan route, which runs between the granite Red Hills and the Cuillin to the west.

If you want to experience wild swimming, or just take in some natural beauty, you must visit the Fairy Pools on the island, at the foot of the Black Cuillins. On the River Brittle, these are beautifully clear, tranquil blue pools.

Tobermory and Mull

On the island of Mull, Tobermory is the main town, originally built as a fishing port in the late 18th century. This charming location has a good collection of independent artisan shops, pubs and eateries.

Mull is also hugely important for wildlife. Its woodland is home to a variety of Warblers and Songbirds in the summer months, while pine forests to the north of the island are where you may find the Crossbill, a bright red, parrot-like bird, whose rareness makes spotting it all the more rewarding.

The island is also the best place in the UK to see eagles, including the Golden Eagle and the White Tailed Sea Eagle.

Other wildlife on Mull includes otters, whales and dolphins – all of which you can arrange guided tours to see in their natural habitat.

Islay and Jura Distilled

Islay and Jura are walkers’ paradises, as well as being centres of notable whisky distilleries. Jura has over 5,000 deer, while Islay is home to the RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, where you can observe a wide variety of bird species.

On Islay there is an annual Festival of Malt and Music held every May, and you take guided tours at its various distilleries at Port Ellen, Bowmore and Port Askaig throughout the year.

Jura is really quite an untamed location, but this long, narrow island is worth a visit to experience its wildness and natural beauty. It has its own distillery, producing whisky with a distinct, smoky flavour, which you can visit by appointment.

The Inner Hebrides offer plenty of choice when it comes to scenery, activities and accommodation, and a real opportunity to experience a different kind of Scotland.

Scotland’s Outdoor Capital and the UK’s Tallest Mountain

ben-nevis-scotlandFor many, the Highlands simply are Scotland. They display a glorious series of amazing landscapes and intriguing locations. A key one of these is Fort William, often known as the UK’s outdoor capital and home to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK, at a height of 1,345 metres.

There’s a good range of accommodation in the Fort William area, including plenty of self-catering holiday cottages.


Mountain Biking and Scotland’s Wildlife

Fort William really is the great outdoors, and the things to do here reflect this. It’s a well-known centre for mountain biking, with a reputation founded on hosting the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup.

It’s not restricted to a championship activity though – there are plenty of family-friendly bike routes as well as varying grades of tougher routes available at the Witch’s Trails in Leanachan Forest.

These bike trails provide excitement and stunning views in the shadow of Ben Nevis itself. There’s also a coffee shop at the base of the 4,000 foot Aonach Mor route, and, for those who persevere, the Snowgoose restaurant at the top.

In addition, you can always explore a number of unwaymarked trails in the Fort William area.

Fort William is also home to the big five of Scotland’s wildlife species: golden eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter and harbour seal.

You can watch and photograph these creatures in their natural habitat by taking a wildlife safari. Organised trips include cruises on Loch Shiel and searchlight safaris in search of pine martins.

In winter you’ll witness vast herds of red deer coming down from the mountain tops to shelter from the harsher conditions. At the other end of the scale, why not take a guided expedition to search for Scotland’s elusive otter population?


Walking Up Ben Nevis

The mountain, or munro, dominates the landscape around Fort William. The climate is not always that mild – the northerly latitude makes for some arctic temperatures – but Ben Nevis is well worth braving harsh, chilly winds for.

The good news is that you can walk up it. There’s a clearly marked mountain track leading all the way from Glen Nevis at the base to the summit. If you’re unsure about the scale of your ambition, there are guided walks available, where an experienced Ben Nevis mountain guide will take you along the track and up the mountain.

There’s another walking route up, by the narrow, rocky Carn Morg Dearg Arete, which offers stunning views of the north face.

For something more challenging, try the scrambling route up the mountain. Scrambling comes somewhere between walking and climbing, and involves ascending Ben Nevis’s North Face via the Ledge Route. For this you’ll need the right safety gear, and experience. There are separate scrambling courses available for varying levels of ability.

Finally, there is climbing, going up the mountain on the Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge or North East Buttress. These routes are for people with a good degree of mountain climbing fitness and experience.

Unlock the Immense Beauty of Loch Lomond

loch-lomond-1458598669opdAt the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is the loch itself, an immense area of water, 24.5 miles long. Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater loch in Scotland and a fantastic destination for stunning scenery, and plenty of outdoor activities and interests.

There is a good choice of self-catering holiday cottages and apartments available, including lodges on the shore of the loch, giving you the freedom to explore the area at your leisure


Walking and Cycling

This really is great walking country. With a choice of short to moderate and long distance walking routes, there’s something to suit your ability or your mood.

For short walks, try the Millennium Forest Trail at Balmaha, following the shoreline of the loch then climbing up to Craigie Fort; or the West Highland and Rob Roy Circular, through the forest and along a quiet country road

For long distance routes, six of Scotland’s Great Trails connect in and around the Trossachs National Park. Each of these is at least 25 miles long. The Great Trossachs Forest Path takes you from Callander in the east to Inversnaid in the west, and you’ll see plenty of scenery and wildlife along the way.

The West Highland Way was Scotland’s first official long distance route, connecting Milngavie to Fort William. You might not want to walk its total 96 mile length, but you certainly can experience part of it.

The Loch Lomond area is also ideal for hillwalking, including the popular route to Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly munro (mountain).

For cyclists, there are family-friendly routes or tougher mountain bike trails with a rougher terrain to challenge you. The West Loch Lomond Cycle Path is graded as easy but takes in some spectacular views of the Loch and its islands.

Taking the Banks of Loch Eck Loop route provides more tranquil scenery, including beaches and forests.

For mountain biking there is the Old Military Road that includes the three Lochs of Lomond, Arklet and Katrine. And you’ll have a pretty wild experience on The Three Glens circuit, where you climb to the upper part of Glen Kendrum, then dramatically descend at Glean Dubh into Glen Dochart.

On the Water

When you’re here, you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience the water up close on a loch cruise.

On a loch cruise you’ll get unique views of the mountains and countryside and the various loch islands. Cruises on Loch Lomond run from Balloch and all along the western shore, from Luss, Tarbet and Inveruglas.

There are also cruises on Loch Katrine departing from Trossachs Pier.

Other water activities on Loch Lomond include canoeing and kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. You can also enjoy a bit of swimming, if you feel up to the challenge of the loch’s water temperature – plenty of people enjoy it.

Unmissable Views

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is abundantly blessed with places where enjoying the view is its own reward. There are almost too many locations to choose from but there are some key ones not to miss.

The mirrored lookout cabin at Loch Voil offers spectacular views of the landscape while the mirrored stainless steel of its outer surfaces reflects the surroundings to mesmerising effect.

Also to the north of the Trossachs are the Falls of Falloch. The Woven Sound shelter space here is a long trellis of woven steel rods overlooking the waterfalls. It offers the opportunity for a close up view without being overly intrusive on the encompassing landscape.

Finally, the An Ceann Mòr viewpoint at Inveruglas, on the shores of Loch Lomond, is an architecturally intriguing wooden structure, pyramid shaped, where viewers can climb to its apex to experience superlative views of the loch and surrounding mountains.


Visit Edinburgh – But Don’t Miss the Lothians!

scotland-edinburgh-castle-1393484290ifrScotland’s capital, Edinburgh, might seem a rather obvious holiday destination, but the surrounding area of the Lothians also has much to offer and really is not to be missed. The advantage of combining the two is that you can choose from a good range of self-catering accommodation and holiday cottages and enjoy the opportunity to visit Edinburgh itself.


Exploring East Lothian

Home of the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick is a seaside town with stunning views of the Firth of Forth. You can also see the Bass Rock from North Berwick, home to the world’s largest colony of northern gannet seabirds. North Berwick is a classic seaside town, with great beaches to go with the coastal scenery, alongside fish and chip shops, tearooms and other attractions.

It’s a good base for taking boat trips around the local islands, some of which are seasonal homes to colonies of Puffins.

Further along the North Sea coast is Dunbar, a small town with lots of character. It has a ruined castle, once a strategically important fortress and shelter to Mary Queen of Scots. It’s also home to the John Muir Country Park, a nature reserve named after the explorer and conservationist who was born in Dunbar.

Closer in, six miles from Edinburgh is Musselburgh, with its shoreline on the Firth of Forth. It’s home to both a historic racecourse, dating from 1816, and the Musselburgh Links, a 9-hole golf course, said to have first been used by James IV in 1504.

This small market town also has some fine examples of historically important architecture, Newhailes House, now run by the National Trust, and the Tolbooth in the High Street, dating from the late 1500s.


Two Towns, One City

The centre of Edinburgh is divided into two very different parts, with Princes Street running between them, from east to west.

The Old Town retains its medieval layout, replete with winding alleys and compact spaces. It contains both the imposing Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, along with the National Museum of Scotland. It’s also filled with shops selling traditional Scottish wares and speciality goods.

Edinburgh’s New Town is only new relatively speaking, as it was actually built in the 18th Century to relieve overcrowding in the Old Town. It has a distinctly Georgian character, with plenty of sandstone buildings and cobbled streets, but it is also the contemporary commercial hub of Scotland’s capital.

In close walking distance to one another in the New Town are three of Scotland’s national art galleries, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery.

In the New Town you’ll also find the Scott Monument, an architectural tribute to Sir Walter Scott in the form of a spire. It’s 200 feet tall with 287 steps to its summit – an effort that’s really made worthwhile by the fantastic views of the city it gives you.


Out West

In West Lothian the iconic Forth Bridge has been in operation since 1890. It was Britain’s first bridge to be made completely of steel and weighs 53,000 tonnes. It’s 2.5km long. Visitors can enjoy views of this enduring Victorian wonder by visiting the Forth Road Bridge, which has pedestrian and cycle access.

Between these bridges is the village of South Queensferry, on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. You can get good views of the bridges from here, and you can catch boat tours from South Queensferry that will take you under the Forth Bridge. You can also travel by boat to Inchcolm Island, home to a 12th-century abbey.

The Lothians, East and West, combined with Edinburgh itself, make for a fascinating region of Scotland to explore and immerse yourself in.

Deceptively Quiet Shropshire, A Hidden Gem

ludlow-englandShropshire doesn’t shout about itself – it has the reputation of being one of England’s quieter counties. But in fact this just means there’s lots to discover, which you might not be previously aware of, making Shropshire something of a hidden gem when it comes to English holiday destinations.

It has plenty of self-catering accommodation to offer in the form of holiday cottages, and it’s a great place for experiencing the English countryside and our rich, industrial heritage.

Blue Remembered Hills

Covering about a quarter of the county to the south, the Shropshire Hills are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The poet A E Housman wrote the famous poem cycle A Shropshire Lad, and described the “blue remembered hills” of the area, evoking a wistful but powerful vision of the English countryside.

The hills are stunning to walk across, with deep, golden valleys contrasting with dramatic rises and rugged moorland. And if you want to experience a very different view of them, you can always go on a scenic balloon ride, starting from the Craven Arms, which is the base of the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.

You’ll come across a whole variety of landscapes across these hills, from the almost Alpine experience of the heather-covered Long Mynd and Stretton Hills, to the sandstone of Grinshill and the fossil-filled double escarpment of Wenlock Edge.

Industry and History

The Industrial Revolution began in Shropshire, and you can get a feeling for the enormity of this historical shift when you visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Telford. This is an impressively comprehensive World Heritage Site, consisting of a recreated Victorian town at Blists Hill, the Coalport China Museum, celebrating the history of porcelain manufacturing in the area, and the world’s first cast iron bridge, spanning the impressive gorge itself.

If you want to travel further back in time, then the castle that once dominated Ludlow for centuries pretty much encapsulates all that you might imagine an English Castle should be.

Construction began on Ludlow Castle in the late 11th century and it underwent several historical modifications over time, as it became home to a succession of noble families, and even royalty.

Nowadays Ludlow Castle puts on a number of regular events, including jousting and archery and historical talks. It’s also home to the Ludlow Food Festival, and has its own unique shops and traditional tea rooms.

Alongside these there are many other attractions, including plenty of charming, market towns to explore, a whole range of castles, churches and other historical places of interest, and great local produce when it comes to eating and drinking.

It may be the quiet heart of England, but Shropshire really is something to shout about.

Will Shakespeare Country Play a Part in Your Holiday Plans?

anne-hathaway-cottageCovering an area of the East Midlands that includes Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa, Shakespeare Country is, naturally, named after the playwright William Shakespeare, one of England’s greatest (if not the greatest) literary figures. Obviously there are things to do and see here that are Shakespeare-related, but that is by no means the whole story.

When you visit Shakespeare Country you really do feel like you’re in the heart of England, and with lots of holiday cottages available, you can design your own holiday and run to your own relaxed schedule.

The World of Shakespeare

You can really experience Shakespeare’s world in Stratford-upon-Avon – not through what he wrote, but by seeing how he lived, and what kind of life you might lead in Tudor England.

At the award-winning Tudor World museum, you can immerse yourself in a Tudor ambience, from cobbled streets to timbered buildings and detailed recreations of what it was like to live in Shakespeare’s time.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace is an historic house that has become something of a shrine. People have been visiting it for 250 years, including other famous writers such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Here you can actually explore the Shakespeare family home, with the added attraction of extracts from Shakespeare’s plays performed live.

Another Shakespeare-related attraction worth seeing is Ann Hathaway’s Cottage. This thatched farmhouse is where the young William Shakespeare wooed his future bridge. It’s located in Shottery, a short, scenic walk from Stratford town centre. The cottage is 500 years old and contains its original furniture, including the Hathaway bed.


An Elegant Spa Town

Royal Leamington Spa is a spa town in central Warwickshire, which originally expanded in the 18th century, following the growth in popularity of its local water. The whole town practically emits elegance, from its tree-lined avenues and beautifully-tended gardens to its fine examples of Regency architecture.

The town’s museum, art gallery and visitor information centre all come under the Royal Pump Rooms, an historic building turned cultural complex. Here you can catch a guided tour, exploring the building that originally housed Royal Leamington’s spa baths, with behind the scenes access. There’s also a café on site serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

Opposite the Pump Rooms are the famous Jephson Gardens, a stunning Victorian garden with breathtaking floral displays and a boating lake. Ideal for taking some relaxing time out the centre of town.

A Day Out at Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, but it’s recently been given something of a makeover courtesy of Horrible Histories, whose Maze makes the experience of history, for kids, very entertaining and interactive. The Horrible Histories Maze covers six history zones, from a Viking Ship to World War One and gives children plenty of opportunity to get involved.

Elsewhere, Warwick Castle offers various trails, tours and events, taking in the castle dungeon, a conservatory and peacock garden, a children’s Pageant Playground and a restored Victorian Mill.

All in, it makes for an ideal one-stop family day out.

Reaching Peaks of Holiday Perfection in the Peak District

peak-district-1-20851287391863hzMHAt the southern end of the Pennines, the Peak District National Park covers over 500 square miles of moorland and rock, it’s highest point being Kinder Scout. The area has springs and caverns, historical market towns and charming villages, and a multitude of things to see and do. There’s plenty self-catering accommodation in the form of holiday cottages, giving you the right kind of freedom to explore the area and shape your break.


Deep, Deep Down

Despite the area being known as the Peak District, there’s a lot to see and experience under the ground. At Poole’s Cavern and Country Park you can take a guided tour through vast limestone caverns and see underground chambers lined with crystal-formed stalactites and stalagmites. This natural limestone cave is two million years old and stretches underground for some 1,000ft.

The Heights of Abraham is another popular, underground destination. This spectacular network of caverns goes deep down, penetrating the surrounding hillside. It was the site of lead mining, from Roman times to the 17th century and has now become the site of a fascinating guided tour, enhanced with state-of-the-art lighting. Above ground, you’ll find a breathtaking cable car ride, 500ft up, which gives you spectacular views of the Derwent Valley below.

The Hope Valley is also home to three caverns open to visitors: Treak Cliff Cavern, Peak Cavern and Speedwell Cavern.


Matlock Bath – Little Switzerland

Close by to the Heights of Abraham is the spa village of Matlock Bath, developed from an historical village site after the discovery of warm springs in 1698. Its reputation grew and when Lord Byron visited it he compared it with alpine Switzerland, leading to its Little Switzerland nickname.

Its location is stunning, dramatically situated in a deep gorge of the Derwent Valley. It is still served by a local railway line that is an attraction in itself. The overall impression Matlock Bath gives is of a characterful seaside resort, but without the sea, obviously.

You can enjoy fine views of the River Derwent from the narrow, iron Jubilee Bridge, built in 1897, which spans the river and was lovingly restored to its original state in 2014.

In the village there are plenty of places to eat and drink, as well as the nearby Matlock Bath Aquarium and the Peak District Lead Mining Museum.

Ideal for Walking

The Peak District is one of the UK’s most popular walking destinations, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of space for you to enjoy the freedom of the countryside without bumping into lots of other visitors.

There’s plenty of choice in how you might want to go about it: 500 square miles of access land, which means you don’t have to keep to public footpaths; high moorland treks; and more tranquil, riverside routes.

You can go for adventurous, long distance trail walks, such as the Limestone Way, or take a guided walk with an experienced tour-guide through some of the Peak District’s most stunning scenery.

The Cotswolds: Visit England’s Bedrock

cotswalds-of-englandThe rolling hills of the Cotswolds stretch across five counties of England and take in historic towns and villages of great character, alongside beautiful rural scenery. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board.

As an area to visit, the Cotswolds offers a quintessentially English holiday experience, with sites of historical interest, a wide variety of activities, and places where you can simply relax and enjoy the natural world around you. It also offers a great choice in holiday cottages and self-catering holiday accommodation.

Unspoilt Towns and Villages

Some towns in the Cotswolds are rightly famous – Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cirencester for example – but there are others, tucked away in semi-seclusion that preserve an historical magic, and feel like well kept secrets.

In the North Cotswolds you’ll find Bourton-on-the-Hill, containing many 17th and 18th century cottages made of the distinctive, yellow Cotswold stone. In the centre of the village is Bourton House Garden with its historical tithe barn and striking plants and flowers. Nearby is Batsford Arboretum, which has a garden centre and adjoining terrace restaurant.

A little off the tourist trail is the village of Naunton, home to a fine pub and historic dovecote. It’s peaceful, scenic, and dotted with footpaths along which visitors can explore the surrounding area.

Winchcombe maintains a feeling of tranquillity despite being a popular centre for walkers on the Cotswolds Way. This market town is a great base for exploring the more rural areas of the Cotswolds but is itself a great visitor destination. The Gloucestershire Warwickshire heritage railway runs through it and it contains many charming, independent shops, pubs, cafés and restaurants.

More well known is the Stow on the Wold, the highest of the Cotswolds towns, situated on the 800ft high Stow Hill. It has a vast market square, a testament to its historical importance as a trading town. It hosts a biannual Gypsy Horse Fair and it’s a great centre for antique shopping. It has plenty of fascinating boutiques and specialist shops, as well as pubs and tearooms.

Activities in the Cotswolds

For those seeking a more challenging, physically active holiday, the Cotswolds isn’t all idyllic scenery and views. It’s a great place for walking and cycling holidays, including the Cotswold Way, stretching the length of the Cotswolds, from Chipping Campden in the north to its finish at Bath Abbey, in the south.

The 102 mile trail takes you through picturesque villages and close by to historical sites such as Sudeley Castle and Hailes Abbey, so there’s plenty of opportunity to stop off and take in these places of interest.

For cyclists, the numerous country lanes and bridleways of the area provide an excellent network for exploration, combined with enough uphill exercise and downhill stretches to make you feel you’ve earned a drink and something substantial to eat in one of the many characterful local pubs.