Guide To Holidaying In Gloucestershire
A guide by Verity Burns
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England well known for its gentle hillsides, sleepy villages and its typically English character. It comprises the largest part of the Cotswolds, a range of hills often referred to as "the Heart of England" that were designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966.
Gloucester, the ancient city from which the county takes its name, is located at the foot of the Cotswold Hills on the [link-=http://www.canaljunction.com/canal/severn_avon.htm]Severn River[/link] at its last point before it becomes the Severn estuary. Here, a trip to the docks makes for a nice day out, where old Victorian warehouses have now been made into an exciting complex of museums and specialist shops for you to browse. Be sure not to miss a visit to Gloucester Cathedral either - its magnificent architecture means it is always a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
Just a few miles away you will discover the urban delights of Georgian high society and the large town of Cheltenham. Famous for its Regency architecture, it was once a popular spa town and is now well renowned for being the home of Cheltenham Racecourse. In fact, if you plan to visit during Cheltenham Gold Cup week, be sure to book your accommodation early to avoid disappointment as it gets booked up very quickly.
Another ancient town in the area is Cirenester, named Corinium by the Romans. Indeed, the Roman's earlier presence in the area can still seen today, with a visit to the site of an old amphitheatre in the north of the town. Chedworth, a village just a few miles from Cirencester, is site to probably the finest Roman villa in England, whilst the Fosse Way, a perfectly straight ancient Roman road, cuts through the town, and can still be followed south to Salisbury or north up to Leicestershire.
Possibly the most famous part of Gloucestershire is the quaint Cotswold villages and small towns that are dotted throughout the county. Being as picturesque as they are, places such as Stow-on-the Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh are always bustling with visitors checking out the array of antique shops or grabbing a traditional English cream tea at one of the many tearooms in the area. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, there are plenty of lesser known Cotswold villages to visit so you are sure to find an uncrowded corner even at the height of the tourist season.
In the north of the county, you will find Tewkesbury situated where the Severn and Avon rivers merge. Rich in history, you really do feel like you have taken a step back in time with the half-timbered Tudor buildings and antique shops. The huge Abbey that dominates the town dates back to the 11th Century and is a must-see for visitors to the area, whilst just south of the town was the site of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.
If you are looking for a holiday fit for a king then Gloucestershire may well be the place for you. With several royal residences in the area, including Highgrove House, Gatcombe Park and Nether Lypiatt Manor, not to mention many celebrity residents that can be spied walking around the county's towns, you can be assured that your holiday will be enjoyed in the best of company.
Don't forget about Gloucestershire's annual county events too. In June be sure to catch the festival at Berkley castle for a weekend of family fun, whilst in July you can see the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, labelled as the greatest airshow on earth. If you are visiting Gloucester in late July and you cannot fail to miss some of the events that go on during their annual summer festival, including a funfair, carnival procession and the firework finale in early August. Literature fans should visit Cheltenham during October to catch the long-running Festival of Literature in the Town Hall.
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