1. STRATFORD-UPON-AVON Birthplace of W. Shakespeare Esq (he’s listed under ‘local authors’ in the bookshops) Stratford is, in fact, just north of the Cotswolds, but within easy reach. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a national institution and there are also five ‘Shakespeare properties’ to explore.
2. CHIPPING CAMPDEN A beautiful setting, an ancient High Street and a cluster of thatched cottages make ‘Campden’ almost everyone’s idea of the perfect village. There’s an Arts and Crafts movement connection – the Guild of Handicraft moved here from London in 1902 and the remnants remain at Hart Silversmiths. Check out some quirky little shops along a High Street that dates from the 14th century and take the walk to Dover’s Hill where the Cotswold Olimpicks take place annually (an event older than the Modern Olympiad).
3. BROADWAY As the name implies, a single broad street is the focus of life in Broadway. Antique shops, tea rooms and galleries abound – or park the car and take the circular walk up to Broadway Tower. An outpost of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum is located here and design aficionados should pay tribute at the Gordon Russell Design Museum.
4. STOW-ON-THE-WOLD All roads seem to lead to Stow, making it a great touring base. Fortunately, the town square is set off the busy main road and the town has pubs and shops to explore, as well as a rather great Cricket Museum. The main draw is the concentration of antique shops.
5. BOURTON-ON-THE-WATER Probably the most-visited Cotswold village, Bourton is buzzy, commercial and fun. There are various local attractions including Birdland, a maze, a (listed) Model Village and a brilliantly retro motor museum. The nearby Slaughters (Upper and Lower) are impossibly beautiful – and usually much quieter than Bourton.
6. BURFORD Set on a slope, along a single High Street, with alleys and side streets leading off, Burford is often the ‘first’ Cotswold town for visitors arriving from London. Ridiculously photogenic, Burford’s highlights include England’s oldest pharmacy (1734) and the tombs in the historic church.
7. BIBURY The fabulous medieval and Tudor wealth of the Cotswolds was generated by the wool trade and Bibury tells the story in a single location. Sheep dot the nearby hills, the slow flowing, clean water was perfect for washing wool and Arlington Row, a much-photographed 14th century row of weaver’s cottages is next to Rack Isle, where wool washung to dry.
8. TETBURY ‘Royal’ Tetbury is a smart little town not far from Highgrove, the home of The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Some shops have Royal Warrant of Appointment plaques and there are also some superior antique shops in the centre of town.
9. CASTLE COMBE It may well look familiar to you… that’s because it has been used as a location for various films – Spielberg’s War Horse, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice and Dr Doolittle. Nearby Lacock Abbey has medieval origins and is a place of pilgrimage for photographers. Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the photographic negative was an owner.
10. BATH Bath probably needs no introduction as a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, loved for its Roman origins and Georgian architecture. It’s also a great festival city.