The Romantic Road - a two day tour of The Cotswolds

The Romantic Road
Cheltenham Tourism have produced an excellent booklet entitled The Romantic Road containing two detailed touring routes through The Cotswolds.


They show off the loveliest villages and landscapes, reflecting the romance of their history and literary heritage.

Both routes start and end in Cheltenham so to make the most of the routes you really need to base yourself in or near Cheltenham. To complete the circular routes at a leisurely pace you would need a full day for each, although you are never far from the starting and finishing point in Cheltenham. Choose from the many places of interest which are described along the way and, for visitors with time, they will offer additional highlights to the scenic journey.


A Road for Today  


The first route heads north out of Cheltenham past the Racecourse and on to Prestbury. Heading out of Prestbury it takes you over Cleeve Hill and down into the ancient Saxon borough of Winchcombe. It then passes Sudeley Castle (which was immortalised in the novels of P G Wodehouse as Blandings Castle) and the ruins of Hailes Abbey before continuing to Stanway and Stanton.  


Stanton was the home of Thomas Dover who is best remembered for rescuing Alexander Selkirk - the man on whom Daniel Defoe based his novel - Robinson Crusoe. The Road then takes you into Broadway one of the most famous of all Cotswold villages, where the Lygon Arms is reputed to have been patronised by King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell (although not both at the same time).  


Next comes Snowshill Manor the former home of Charles Paget Wade, an eccentric who seemed so intent on collecting absolutely everything that he had to move out of his own house as there wasn't enough room for him as well.  


Climbing out of Snowshill takes you past Broadway Tower and on into Chipping Campden. The Tower is a folly built by the Earl of Coventry for his wife. On a clear day it has magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and is well worth the walk.  


The road then goes through Weston Subedge and it is well worth making the small detour to Dover's Hill which Robert Dover used as the venue for his Cotswolds Olympicks. Having been banned for hooliganism these have now been resurrected. Two famous gardens, Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate are a must for all serious gardeners before continuing into Chipping Campden.  


The Road takes you through Broad Campden and Blockley (the first village in Britain to have electricity) and on through Bourton-on-the-Hill passing the entrance to Batsford Aboretum.  The Road then takes you though two of most popular Cotswold towns, Moreton in Marsh and Stow on the Wold.  


If you have time, make sure you stop in Lower Slaughter for a stroll along the river bank, and maybe a picnic. Climbing out of Lower Slaughter follow the signs through Naunton and Andoversford back into Cheltenham.  


After a well earned evening in Cheltenham take the Road for Tomorrow for your tour of the Cotswolds south of the town.


Road for Tomorrow


Your second Romantic journey starts heading eastbound along the A40 towards Oxford. The Romans also considered this a beautiful area and the remains of a Roman Villa were discovered at Yarnworth in 1864 and is now cared for by the National Trust. The Road continues to Northleach where the excellent Cotswold Heritage Centre, museum of rural life, is housed in the former House of Correction. Northleach was one of the main wool trading centres and is dominated by the magnificent 'wool church' of St Peter and St Paul.


The Road continues through Farmington and through the Sherborne and Windrush valleys and on into the remote village of Little Barrington. Development of the village stopped in the 1660s when all the local stonemasons, and most of the stone from the local quarries, moved to London to help rebuild the capital after the Great Fire.  


Passing the village green takes you to the A40 where you head towards Oxford. The Road continues through Swinbrook where the 'Mitford girls' were brought up, then through Fulbrook and on into Burford. If time allows it is worth exploring Burford with its medieval bridge, the Weaver's Cottages and the Tolsey Museum.  


As you leave the town you pass the Cotswold Wildlife Park a favourite with both children and classic car clubs. You then proceed into Lechlade where the rivers Leach and Coln meet the Thames and the Thames and Severn Canal begins. From Lechlade you travel along the A417 in the direction of Cirencester, through Fairford along the Coln valley and into Bibury which was described by William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England".  


From Bibury the Road takes you past Arlington and Barnsley and into Cirencester, the ancient Roman town and capital of the Cotswolds. Known as Corinium Dobunnorum this was the second most important town of Roman Britain and was the point of convergence of three major roads - the Ermin Way, the Fosse Way and Akeman Street. If Rome interests you then make time to visit the Corinium Museum.  


The Road then takes you through Stroud and Painswick and down Cooper's Hill before returning you to Cheltenham.  


This information has been taken from The Romantic Road booklet and is Copyright Cheltenham Borough Council. The book is available from the Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre.


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