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Introducing Winchcombe

Capital of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia and one of the most important towns in the Cotswolds until the Middle Ages, Winchcombe is now a sleepy place with the timeless charm of a typical Cotswold town. Beautiful houses line the streets, and the picturesque cottages on Vineyard St and Dents Tce offer quintessential Cotswold views. Fine gargoyles adorn the lovely St Peter’s Church and just outside the town are the evocative ruins of Cistercian Hailes Abbey (EH; 01242-602398; adult/under 15yr £3.30/1.70; 10am-5pm Easter-Oct), once one of the country’s main pilgrimage centres.

The town’s main attraction, however, is Sudeley Castle (604357; www.sudeleycastle.co.uk; adult/under 15yr £7.20/4.20; 10.30am-5pm Sun-Thu selected weeks Easter-Oct), once a favoured retreat of Tudor and Stuart monarchs. Much of the house is off limits to visitors, but you can get a glimpse of its grand proportions while visiting the exhibitions of costumes, memorabilia and paintings, and the surrounding gardens. To see the private apartments you’ll need to join the ‘Connoisseur Tours’ (Wednesday 11am, 1pm, and 3pm Easter to October, tour £15).

The tourist office (602925; www.winchcombe.co.uk; 10am-1pm & 2-4pm Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm Sun Apr-Oct) is located on High St.