Undulating gracefully across six counties, the Cotswolds region is a delightful tangle of golden villages, thatched cottages, evocative churches and honey-coloured mansions. In 1966 it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surpassed for size in England by the Lake District alone.
No one’s sure what the name means, but ‘wolds’ are rolling hills, while ‘cots’ might be ‘cotes’, or sheep pens. Certainly the region owes its wealth, and exquisite architecture, to the medieval wool trade, when ‘Cotswold Lion’ sheep were prized across Europe. Attentions later turned towards textiles instead, but the Industrial Revolution passed the Cotswolds by. Hailed by William Morris in the 19th century as encapsulating a timeless English rural idyll, it remains both a prime residential area and a treasured tourist destination.
Criss-crossed by long-distance trails including the 102-mile Cotswold Way, these gentle yet dramatic hills are perfect for walking, cycling and horse riding.