Tourist Attractions in The Cotswolds
To make life easier for you and to help you to find your way around, we have a wealth of information and travel directions to various attractions you may wish to visit, as well as to important venues such as Heathrow Airport, Central London, Bath, York, the Lake District etc. We can also advise you about days and times of opening, the best ways in and out and where to park your car.
Blenheim Palace, the home of the Duke of Marlborough, is one of the largest and most splendid houses in the country. It was built in the early 18th century as a reward from Queen Anne to the first Duke of Marlborough for his victories in Europe over the forces of Louis XIV of France.
Blenheim was built in the baroque style by Sir John Vanburgh and is considered his masterpiece. The marvellous interior includes a lofty Great Hall, the majestic library and gilded staterooms. The superb collection includes fine paintings and furniture, bronzes and the famous Marlborough Victories tapestries.
Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim and the five room Churchill Exhibition includes his birth room. His simple grave in the churchyard at Bladon is just one mile away.
The palace grounds were superbly landscaped by Capability Brown, dating from 1864.
The Pleasure Gardens complex has recently been developed and includes a maze, herb gardens, the Butterfly House, Putting Greens and an Adventure Playground. A miniature railway connects the Palace to the Pleasure Gardens.
A marvellous example of a complete mediaeval castle, Warwick has played a dominant role in the power game in England for over one thousand years. Originally the home of the Earls of Warwick, one of whom in the fifteenth century was known as Kingmaker, Warwick Castle has witnessed murder, mystery, intrigue and scandal.
The 14th century Great Hall lies at the centre of the Castle where you can see Oliver Cromwell’s death mask and the shield of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The State Rooms have been restored to their recent grandeur whilst the dungeons and the Torture Chambers have the power to terrify, as has the Ghost Tower.
There are sixty acres of ground and gardens which were landscaped by Capability Brown. Special events, including Jousting, Birds of Prey and a mediaeval festival are organised during the year.
Waddesdon Manor was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild at the end of the 19th century. This French Renaissance style chateau houses one of the finest collections of French 18th century decorative arts in the world: Sevres porcelain, Savonnerie carpets, Beauvais tapestries and furniture by some of the top French cabinet makers. There are also portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds as well as works by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 17th century. The wine cellars, which are open to view, contain thousands of bottles of vintage Rothschild wine.
The grounds are beautifully laid out in the Victorian manner and are famous for the landscape of specimen trees and parterre. There is also a Rococo style aviary with many exotic birds.
Very un-English; but a remarkable example of its kind.
One of England’s finest and most complete Jacobean houses dating from 1612. When it was taken over by the National Trust a few years ago it was described as a time warp as nothing had been altered in the house for so many years. The National Trust has now restored the house sympathetically, retaining the impression that time stood still in the house – as well it might after nearly 400 years of occupancy by the same family.
The house contains a mixture of rare and everyday objects. The gardens have a Jacobean layout.
Note: Admission is by pre-booked timed ticket only.
Broughton Castle, near Banbury, has been the home of the Saye and Sele family for six hundred years. Although called a ‘castle’, it really is a fortified Tudor manor house – and a superb example it is! The original house, much of which remains today, was built in about 1300 and was surrounded by a moat. About 100 years later a battlemented wall was added, giving the house a military look. Then in about 1554, the house was enlarged and reconstructed in the ‘Court’ style of Edward VI, completing its translation into a Tudor manor house.
Visitors may see the Great Hall, in which arms and armour from the Civil War are displayed, Queen Anne’s room, the King’s Chamber and many other fascinating parts of this family home. They may also visit the gatehouse, the park, the nearby 14th century Church of St Mary and the gardens.
The garden consists of mixed herbaceous and shrub borders containing many old roses. In addition, there is a formal walled garden with beds of roses surrounded by box hedges and lined by more mixed borders.
Note: The house is only open from mid-May to mid-September on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons; and also on Thursday afternoons in July and August.
Upton House was built at the end of the 17th century but was remodelled in the 1920s. The house is chiefly renowned for its paintings and for its china collection. The paintings include works by El Greco, Bruegel, Bosch, Hogarth, Stubbs, Memling and Guardi. The china collection includes Chelsea figures and superb examples of beautifully decorated Sevres porcelain. There is also a set of 17th century Brussels tapestries.
The outstanding gardens, which are of interest throughout the year, have a series of terraces descending from the main lawn into a deep valley. There are herbaceous borders, the national collection of asters, over an acre of kitchen garden, a water garden and pools stocked with ornamental fish.
Of special interest to American visitors, Sulgrave Manor was the home of George Washington’s ancestors. Today it presents a typical wealthy man’s home and gardens of the Elizabethan age.
The house was built about 1560 by Lawrence Washington but was sold by his grandson, Lawrence, to his cousin Lawrence Makepeace who took up residence in the house in 1626. In 1656, John Washington, grandson of the Lawrence who sold the house, emigrated to Virginia. There, in 1732, his great-grandson, George, was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
The house remained in private hands until 1914 when, as part of the celebration of 100 years of peace between the United States and the United Kingdom, a sum of £12,000 was raised from British subscribers for the purchase and restoration of Sulgrave Manor. After the First World War a further sum was raised from British and American subscribers, thus allowing a beginning to the refurbishment of the house, which was opened to the public in 1921. Then, in 1924, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America raised a sum of $112,000 to endow the Manor in perpetuity.
Sulgrave Manor is a charming house, furnished in contemporary 17th century style and presented extremely well by a dedicated team of guides.
Hidcote Manor, near Chipping Campden, is a ‘must’. The garden was created by the great horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnstone. It consists of a series of small gardens within the whole, separated by walls and hedges of different species. It is famous for rare shrubs, trees, herbaceous borders and old roses.
Kiftsgate Court is situated just a short distance from Hidcote Manor. It is probably best known for the Kiftsgate rose, – a giant rambler definitely not suitable for the ordinary garden – but it also contains many unusual plants and shrubs including tree peonies, abutilons, specie and old fashioned roses. The garden is splendidly sited on the edge of an escarpment from which there are magnificent views.
Brooke Cottage, in the village of Alkerton, north-west of Banbury, is a perfect example of an English country house garden. Built on four acres of hillside, it contains a great variety of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. There are over 200 shrubs and climbing roses and there are many clematis. The garden is divided into areas of different character including one-coloured borders, alpine scree and a water garden.
In the 1930’s Waterperry became a school of horticulture for young ladies, founded by Miss Beatrix Havergal. Her spirit still lives on as gardening day courses are still held at Waterperry by the horticultural staff. However, for the ordinary visitor, Waterperry has many other attractions including the 200 foot herbaceous border containing a riot of colour from early spring through to autumn frosts.
A little further on is the formal garden, planted in 1986, and inspired by the great gardens of the Tudor period. In addition there is the river walk, the rose garden and the Virgin’s walk.
Waterperry also is a specialist plant nursery which propagates nearly all the plants on sale and whose staff can provide plenty of knowledge and experience to guide the less well informed visitors.
Add to all that a most unusual and fascinating Saxon church.
Rousham, half way between Oxford and Banbury, possesses a landscape garden which should be a place of pilgrimage for students of the work of William Kent (1685-1748). It represents the first phase of English landscape design and has fortunately escaped alteration, one of the few gardens to do so. There are many features which delighted 18th century visitors still in situ, such as the ponds and cascades in Venus’ Vale, the Cold Bath, the seven arched Praeneste, Townesend’s Building, the Temple of the Mill and, on the skyline, the sham ruin known as the ‘Eyecatcher’.
Visitors should not miss the walled garden with its herbaceous borders and small parterre, the pigeon house and espalier apple trees. A fine herd of rare Long-Horn cattle can be seen in the park.
Bicester Village is an international factory outlet centre only 12 miles from Home Farmhouse. It provides a unique shopping experience with nearly 90 outlets offering up to 60% reductions on ends of line and previous season goods.
Women’s designer classic ready-to-wear
Men’s casual and sports wear
Crystal and China
Firms with outlets at Bicester Village include such famous names as:
The Cosmetic Company
The area known as the Cotswolds is a stretch of rolling uplands, mainly in Gloucestershire but also extending into neighbouring counties.
It is an immensely attractive region, regarded by many as the most attractive part of England. It is generally accepted that the name derives from the Anglo-Saxon words ‘cote’, a sheepfold, and ‘wold’ or ‘weald’, a piece of open uncultivated land, downs or woods. It was once a great centre for the rearing of sheep, whose fine wool brought fame and prosperity to the area.
By the end of the 14th century the wool industry had become England’s most important trade. The wealth accumulated in this trade from the 14th to the 16th century is reflected in the magnificent churches and splendid manor houses which were built. Many Cotswold villages and towns today, surprise visitors by the grandeur of their buildings.
The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter possibly derive their names from the sloe tree in the days when travellers used natural objects to guide them on their journey. A prominent sloe tree would be a significant local landmark and some still survive in the area.
The lovely village of Upper Slaughter has a small tributary of the Windrush running through it and is a place of grey-brown stone and gentle contentment where Cotswold stone cottages nestle among the trees. The Church of St Peter retains many good Norman features, including the tower. The fine Parsonage down by the brook dates from the 17th century.
On the hill above the village stands the old manor house, now a hotel. This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Cotswolds with the oldest part dating from the 15th century whilst the front is Elizabethan and the porch is Jacobean.
Lower Slaughter, which is close by, has many attractive cottages and a stream which flows through the centre of the village under many small bridges of ancient weathered stone. The stream was used to drive the old mill which can still be seen. The 13th century church of St Mary was almost completely rebuilt in 1867 but retains its original nave arcade of pointed arches on slender pillars. Beside the church stands the charming manor house, now a guest house. In its garden there is a fine old gabled dovecot.
This is, without doubt, the finest of the Cotswold wool towns. Unlike several other towns in the area, Chipping Campden has aged gracefully because, for some crucial years, it was a ‘forgotten’ town which was not affected by modern development.
The town was one of the most prosperous wool centres in the 14th and 15th centuries and the buildings reflect that prosperity, for all were obviously built by people of affluence. On the long wide High Street, almost every house is worth looking at. There are 14th century houses and inns, a 15th century school, 17th century almshouses and Market Hall and an 18th century Town Hall. Close to the almshouses stands the magnificent Perpendicular Church of St James which reflects the former opulence of Chipping Campden.
Close to Chipping Campden is the delightful village of Broadway, considered by many to be the epitome of Cotswolds villages. Its long broad main street and its green are lined with lovely old cottages and fine Cotswold houses, nearly all constructed from golden Cotswold stone. Among the finest buildings is the Abbot’s Grange which dates from the 14th century and once belonged to the Abbots of Evesham.
Perhaps the best known house in Broadway is the ‘Lygon Arms’ which was once a posting inn known as the ‘White Hart’. At an earlier date it was probably an important manor house. During the troubled years of the Civil War, at different times, this house sheltered both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.
The old parish church of St Eadbury was begun in the 17th Century and is a fine example of the cruciform style.
About 3 miles south of Broadway, nestling in a fold in the hills, is the attractive and secluded small village of Snowshill. Apart from the quiet charm of this hidden village, the main feature is Snowshill Manor, a lovely Tudor mansion with terraced gardens and a most extraordinary collection of craftsmanship. A previous owner, Charles Paget Wade, collected anything and everything. His collection, which fills 21 rooms, includes musical instruments, clocks, toys, bicycles, Japanese armour and weaver’s and spinner’s tools.
There is a small formal garden.
Great Tew is now a picture book Cotswold village having recently been much restored after years of neglect. It consists of delightful cottages with thatched and gabled roofs, mullioned windows and charming flower beds set among green meadows and fruit orchards which run down to a little brook. Many of the thriving ever-green trees were planted over 200 years ago.
The attractive old pub, the Falkland Arms, is very popular with visitors to the village, particularly at Sunday lunch-time.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a large and very attractive village just off the Fosse Way, south of Stow-on-the-Wold. Here the river Windrush flows beside the road between wide grass verges. The river is crossed at intervals by several low graceful bridges, some hardly wider than a footpath. There are many Cotswold cottages and houses pleasantly positioned among trees, close to the water’s edge.
Behind the Old New Inn is the stone model village, which is very popular with tourists. Half a mile to the north east is Salmonsbury Camp, an earthwork which dates from the Bronze Age.
Bourton-on-the-Water is so popular that, unfortunately, it sometimes gets overcrowded with visitors.
‘This Oxford, I have no doubt, is the finest city in the world’ – John Keats.
Keats would probably not recognise the bustling city that Oxford has now become but the city still contains one of the greatest collections of buildings to be found anywhere. Moreover, these buildings have been home to an extraordinary number of statesmen, kings and saints and for over 800 years, Oxford University has educated philosophers, poets and scientists.
Unlike many modern universities, there is no recognisable university campus; instead, the university is an organisation with separate institutions called colleges which work together to educate all their members. Each college is built round its own quadrangle. Most of the fine buildings to be seen in Oxford belong to these colleges. In addition to the colleges, there are world renowned institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Library, both of which can be visited. Although Oxford was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War in the 17th century, the ultimately victorious Oliver Cromwell did not subject it to one of his infamous demolition jobs. As a result, it is possible to trace the development of the university through its buildings.
There are two recommended ways to see Oxford. The first is to take a walking tour starting in Radcliffe Square. Visitors should allow at least 2½ hours for this tour. The second way is to take a jump on/jump off tour bus. These buses can be boarded at a number of places in the city and, as the name implies, visitors can get on and off the buses at as many places as they like on the tour route.
Visitors are strongly advised not to take their car into Oxford during daylight hours. Parking in the city centre is extremely difficult. Instead, visitors should use the Park and Ride centres which can be found on all main approaches to the City.
Stratford-upon-Avon, the oldest market town in Warwickshire, really needs no introduction. William Shakespeare, the greatest dramatic genius of the English-speaking peoples, was born and died here. His birthplace, and other buildings associated with his family, are preserved by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
The Avon, a river navigable until the end of the 18th century, is Stratford’s greatest natural asset, Spanning the river with fourteen arches is the superb 15th century bridge whilst in a commanding position on the north bank is the 20th century Royal Shakespeare Theatre, built and endowed by Shakespeare lovers from all over the world, particularly Americans.
Although the town has suffered, like many other historic centres, from unregulated building in the last century, there are still many marvellous examples of Tudor houses, many of them timbered or half-timbered. Among these is Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street in which he also spent his early years. In Shakespeare’s time it consisted of two separate parts, the family home and an adjoining shop. The property has undergone careful restoration but its essential features remain unchanged.
The layout and names of Stratford’s streets have altered little during the last 400 years. High Street, the main shopping street, and its continuation, Chapel Street, are notable for their wealth of half-timbered buildings. A fine example of these is Harvard House, the home of Katherine Rogers, the mother of John Harvard who founded Harvard University in the USA.
One mile to the west of Stratford at Shottery is Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the home of Shakespeare’s wife before she married. It is a building of outstanding architectural and picturesque appeal which remained in the Hathaway family’s possession until 1892 when it was acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Another historic house now owned by the Birthplace Trust is Mary Arden’s House at Wilmcote. This was the home of Shakespeare’s mother and in many ways is the most fascinating house of them all. It is built of close-timbered oak beams from the nearby Forest of Arden and of stone quarried in Wilmcote itself.
Visitors to Stratford may find it difficult to park and they are strongly advised to head for the two-storied car park near the river, near the main road bridge. The Information Centre is only 50 yards from the car park and it is from there that the tour buses start.
Woodstock sits at the entrance to the Cotswolds and is probably best known for its proximity to Blenheim Palace. But there is a lot more to Woodstock than that – to start with, there is a great deal of history. There is rather thin evidence that King Alfred came to Woodstock in 890 (the name means stockaded settlement in a wood) and Ethelred the Unready (978-1016) certainly held Council at Woodstock and issued a decree for the maintenance of peace for the whole nation.
At the time of the Norman Conquest (1066), Woodstock, which was sparsely populated, was in the Wychwood Forest and was listed in the Doomsday Book as forest land reserved for hunting. It was Henry I (1100-1135) who built a stone wall, 7 miles in circumference, to enclose a park in which stood Woodstock Manor House which he used as a hunting lodge.
Silverstone motor race track is only 10 miles from Home Farmhouse. The international Formula I Grand Prix is held at Silverstone every year in July and the future of this event at Silverstone has now been guaranteed by a new sponsorship deal. This deal has not only ensured that the race will be held at Silverstone for the next 15 years but has also generated additions and improvements to the facilities at the track. In addition the building of a bypass round the village has now been started which will greatly ease the traffic problems during major events at the track.
There always seems to be something going on at Silverstone whether it be race driving lessons for enthusiastic amateurs, motor racing at levels other than Formula I or rallies of vintage and classic cars. Full information can be obtained from the Silverstone web-site www.silverstone-circuit.co.uk
One note of warning. It is virtually impossible at short notice to find accommodation near Silverstone for the Grand Prix weekend in July. Anyone wishing to visit the Grand Prix should start looking for accommodation the previous winter, if not before.