Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds, a historic market town framed with signature honey-coloured stone houses, art galleries and quintessentially English tea rooms.
Originally known as Stow St. Edward, the Gloucestershire town is said to stand on the site of an Iron Age Fort and was once a wealthy wool trading town on the Fosse Way – an ancient Roman road linking the cities of Lincoln and Exeter.
Stow-on-the-Wold has a storied past and if the town could speak it would tell many tales. It is home to England’s oldest inn – the characterful Porch House, dating to 947, it was the site of the English Civil War’s final battle in 1646 and legend says the Doors of Durin in JRR Tolkien’s book Lord of the Rings were based on a certain timber door located on the west side of St. Edward’s Church.
Although now firmly in the 21st century, Stow-on-the-Wold still holds onto many past traditions, bringing whole communities together. On the edge of town a bi-annual horse fair takes place, plus, there are regular craft fairs and Farmer’s Markets where local vendors can sell their produce. St. Edwards Church also hosts an annual Christmas Tree Festival where prizes are awarded for the best-decorated tree.
The town’s main thoroughfare is charming. Tucked away in properties sculpted from golden stone with heritage window frames are delicatessens, craft and gift emporiums, antique shops, and art galleries showcasing works from local talent. There are elegant, centuries-old manor houses, chic boutique hotels to suit all tastes and budgets, and award-winning restaurants serving gourmet dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
If you are spending a weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold and want to see as much as possible, follow the Town Trail Walk. The self-guided tour highlights Stow’s past as a medieval trading centre and begins at Market Square, taking in the historic landmarks of St. Edwards Church, the Old Stocks, Tollgate, Fleece Alley and Porch House.
Sports enthusiasts will also enjoy visiting Cotswolds Cricket Museum in Stow-on-the-Wold. Set inside a historic building, it is filled with everything from cricket bats, paintings, caps and blazers to players’ autographs and old cricket trading cards.
If you plan to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold for a week or longer, the 62-mile circular Donnington Way trail passes through several charming Cotswolds villages and is themed for walkers to stop for refreshments at several pubs on route.
Within a short drive of the town, visitors can connect with nature at Batsford Arboretum. With over 55 acres of parkland to explore, it boasts over 1500 tree species and spectacular views over Evenlode Valley. If travelling with children, a trip on the steam train along Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway will appeal or explore Broadway Tower and the surrounding 50-acre estate on foot or on an e-bike. With commanding views over rolling hills and fields – it’s a photographer’s dream location.
Getting to Stow-on-the-Wold is easiest by car, although local bus services operate between most Cotswold towns. Moreton-in-Marsh train station a few miles away has regular services to and from London Paddington, Hereford, Worcester and Oxford.