The Cotswolds has a rich history. In the past, it has housed royalty in castles and palaces, been home to Civil War battles, inspired authors and moviemakers and some towns and villages were even thriving centres for the tweed industry. There’s much to see, do and learn about the area, so whether you’re staying in the Cotswolds long-term or simply passing through, here are our top Cotswolds historic landmarks to visit.
Blenheim Palace is an 18th century baroque masterpiece located outside Woodstock in the Cotswolds. The stately building, home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough has played host to many intriguing moments in history, including the birth of Winston Churchill. The majestic palace is surrounded by 2000 acres of beautiful, landscaped parkland designed by Capability Brown with a lake and several water features.
You can lose yourself meandering across grand bridges, in mazes and admiring rare exotic species in the butterfly house. Enter inside the palace to explore stately rooms and halls adorned with fine art and antique furnishings or seek out the filming locations for Hollywood blockbusters including Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter movies.
Bliss Tweed Mill
Tucked away in the northern Cotswolds, the bustling market town of Chipping Norton appeals to many visitors with fine independent shops, upscale restaurants and charming book and antique stores. However, in the 1800s, the atmosphere was very different. Chipping Norton was once a thriving mill town producing tweed cloth for the UK, made with wool sourced from local sheep.
The original limestone mill, Bliss Tweed Mill, complete with tall circular chimney stack, still stands at the edge of town a short walk from Chipping Norton high street. Although it has now been converted into luxury apartments, you can still gain an insight into the town’s industrial heritage when you gaze at the building’s exterior.
Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe has a storied history and played an important role in England’s turbulent and everchanging past. Henry VIII and several of his wives lived here and it’s also the burial ground of his last surviving wife Katherine Parr. King Charles used the castle as a refuge during the Civil War and Queen Elizabeth I and Richard III also spent time here.
It offers a fine example of Tudor architecture, is surrounded by ten spectacular sculpted gardens and there are annual exhibitions, historic castle quarters and even endangered pheasant species to discover.
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Nestled in the charming parish of Bibury, Arlington Row dates to the late 14th century. The honey-hued row of brick houses with heritage-coloured front doors and matching window frames are straight from the set of a period drama – beautifully preserved with hanging flower baskets, shrubs and plants for exterior decoration.
The pretty cottages served as a wool store before being converted into weaver’s houses in the 17th century, and today, they are one of the most photographed scenes in the Cotswolds.
If you are planning to visit Gloucester whilst exploring the Cotswolds, you will discover a magnificent feat of architecture in the city’s cathedral. The Gloucester Cathedral we see today was constructed between 1089 and 1499 in a combination of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Although traditional in structure, there are some unusual highlights to look out for during your visit.
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The magnificent stained-glass windows depict some of the earliest images of golf and there are carved medieval football images on the walls. Don’t leave without visiting the fan vaulted cloister roof (which featured in the Harry Potter films), the West Window in myriad colours, the royal tombs and the nave with its wide stone pillars and archways. Time your visit to coincide with a choir recital and be transported back to the very era when the cathedral was built.
The Rollright Stones
This ancient site on the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire border comprises a complex of megalithic monuments which include the King Stone, the King’s Men stone circle and the Whispering Knights. Combined they date back 5000 years and are made of Jurassic oolitic limestone found naturally in the Cotswolds Hills.
It is said that the Whispering Knights is an early portal burial chamber resembling a giant doorway looking over the countryside, and that the King’s Men stone has over 70 stones that were used for ceremonial purposes. Events are held here at summer and winter solstice and the site has been used in dramas, for sculpture exhibits and as a field observatory for astronomers.
These are just a few historic landmarks of the Cotswolds. We will list more exciting places to visit in the coming months, so keep visiting our site for regular updates!