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The Cotswolds, England

Picture-Perfect
Explore One of England's Great Treasures


Cerney Gardens are a sight to see all year round
Cerney Gardens are a sight to see all year round

DAY 3

After another of those hearty English cooked breakfasts at your hotel, your first stop should be Cirencester, an easy twelve-mile drive on the main A433 road. Once a Roman provincial capital rivaling London, Corinium, as it was called, grew into another of those important medieval market towns. The local museum is well worth a visit, giving a quick snapshot view of life in the town from the Roman Empire to the 17th-century English Civil War. Cirencester is a perfect small town: its local landowning family, the Bathursts, still owns Cirencester Park; the town has a good selection of local crafts people working and selling here, and there's the splendid parish church of St. John Baptist, built in the local "woolgothic" style with money from the wool trade.

The old market hall, built in 1627 for traders selling butter, cheese and poultry

The old market hall, built in 1627 for traders selling butter, cheese and poultry

Spend some time here, then drive four miles northeast on the B4425 to the Village Inn in Barnsley in time for lunch. You'll have to book; this is more a restaurant than a pub and is well known both for its food and for its delightful six bedrooms. Alternatively, choose between the bar and the main menu at the Bathurst Arms in North Cerney, which you'll find on the A435 from Cirencester. By the river Churn, the creeper-covered old inn makes a delightful stop. And of course, there is a garden to visit: the romantic Cerney House Gardens shows you just what a mixed border of roses and herbaceous plants in a walled garden should look like.

There are many contenders for the honor of the most beautiful village in England; William Morris gave the title to Bibury on the banks of the River Coln, a couple of miles from Barnsley and four miles from North Cerney. Morris was a frequent visitor here as his country home Kelmscott Manor near Lechlade was, in the late 19th century, a short pony and trap ride away. He was best known for his textile and wallpaper designs produced by his firm Morris and Co., which he founded with the great names of the British Arts & Crafts movement, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb. Morris championed a return to traditional crafts and recreated the art of tapestry weaving in England, which had died out after the Industrial Revolution. Morris was a remarkable figure, a noted writer and translator of Icelandic texts, the founder of the influential Kelmscott Press and a Socialist. The Manor is delightful and feels like a real home, albeit one perfectly decorated with those familiar swirling patterns and flower designs.

Lechlade marks the start of the navigable part of the River Thames, but if, like Pooh bear, you've ever wondered where the mighty River Thames begins, it's at Kemble, three miles south-west of Cirencester. The source of the 215-mile long river is marked by a stone in a field just off the A433 at Trewsbury Mead. This is a favorite starting point for walkers who make their way along the Thames Path beside the meandering river to Lechlade, Kelmscott and beyond.

Rodmarton Manor
Rodmarton Manor

If you've timed your day so you're now ready for lunch, drive through Faringdon on the A417, then take the A420. At Buckland, turn north on the kind of very small road you will now be familiar. It's marked Bampton and it takes you to the Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge. You'll be tempted to linger here, either in the restaurant or over the bar menu as The Trout is known both locally and far and wide for the likes of its local trout, lamb and game. Or perhaps you'll decide to stay here; they have six bedrooms and berths for boats.

After all, you haven't met a Roman gladiator at one of the living history events at Chedworth Roman Villa, walked around the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water, or visited some of the houses associated with the Arts & Crafts Movement, like Rodmarton Manor in Cirencester. And what about all those oddly named villages, places like Guiting Power and Minster Lovell? Perhaps the 72 hours should be extended.

For more information, visit the Official Guide of the Cotswolds Region at www.cotswolds.com.

MORE COTSWOLDS INFORMATION

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Cerney Gardens


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