Step back in time and discover a world of history, heritage, myths and legends in South West England. Established on the wool trade, the picturesque Cotswold region is blessed with tiny pockets of honey coloured villages and market towns. Immerse yourself in the 2,000 years of history by visiting the UNESCO City of Bath Spa; and unveil the myths and legends surrounding Somerset’s Glastonbury and Wilshire’s Stonehenge. Conclude with a stroll through stunning stately homes and gardens inspired by Capability Brown.
History, Heritage, Myths & Legends
Day 1 & 2: The Cotswolds: Gloucestershire
From London take the M40 & A40 through stunning countryside to Cheltenham Spa, heart of the Cotswolds. This Regency town was first established by its spring water in 1716 – which can still be sampled at the Pump Rooms - and is an excellent base to explore the Cotswold region; enjoying its stylish shopping, parks and gardens, cafes and restaurants.
There are many small towns and villages to explore in the Cotswolds with their honey coloured stone buildings and old-world charm. Follow the Cotswold Way northwards, visiting Winchcombe, Broadway, Chipping Campden, and looping round to Morton-on-the-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water and back to Cheltenham. Each offers a variety of quaint tea rooms, historic pubs, vintage fairs, local arts & crafts and farmers’ markets.
Take a side trip to medieval town of Tewkesbury – where the River Severn meets the River Avon - and visit its impressive 12th century Benedictine Abbey, vintage shops and the Royal Hop Pole Inn, known to Shakespeare and Dickens.
For a complete guide to the Cotswold Villages and Towns visit here.
Day 3: UNESCO City of Bath
From Cheltenham, if time permits, take the more scenic route from Cheltenham along A417 followed by the A46 to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath, steeped in history! This magnificent Regency city dates back 2,000 years and is home to one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world - the Roman Baths. Its museum offers insight into the bathing complex and the Roman temple of Sulis Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and healing. Upstairs, visit Pump Room, taste the spring water and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.
Nearby is Bath Abbey which has been a site of worship since 757 AD. Climb the tower for impressive city views and find out about its Anglo-Saxon history and Norman Cathedral past.
For true history enthusiasts, Bath offers no less than 17 museums and galleries including the Fashion Museum, No 1 Royal Crescent, Victoria Art Gallery and the Jane Austen Centre where you can explore her Regency surroundings which inspired her writing between 1801 and 1806. The Jane Austin Festival takes place annually in September, with gatherings of Regency re-enactors and fans from around the world.
No trip to Bath is complete without a relaxing soak as the Celts and the Roman did 2,000 years ago at Thermae Bath Spa, a restoration of 5 historic spa buildings. Enjoy amazing city views from the rooftop pool, laze in the Minerva Bath and rejuvenate in the Aroma Stem Rooms, followed by afternoon tea in the Springs Café Restaurant.
For more information on Bath visit www.visitbath.co.uk
Day 4: Myths & Legends: Somerset
From Bath its just a 45-minute drive along the A367 and A39 to Britain’s smallest city – Wells - passing through picturesque patch-work green countryside. Visit the historical centre, its magnificent Cathedral and moated Bishop’s Palace. Nearby, explore the secret gardens of Kilver Court, created over 100 years ago by Ernest Jardine.
Somerset is rich in history, heritage, myths and legends. Just 6 miles away along the A39 lies the mythical town of Glastonbury and is renowned for its new age community. Glastonbury Abbey dates back to 7th Century and is believed to be King Arthur’s final resting ground. Centuries of legends and folklore have gathered around Glastonbury Tor, known as one of the most spiritual sites in Britain, and also have strong links to King Arthur. A steep climb to the top of the Tor will bring magnificent views of the surrounding Mendip Hills.
For more information on Somerset visit www.visitsomerset.co.uk
Day 5 & 6: History & Heritage: Wiltshire
From Glastonbury, take the A37 and A303 to the 18th Century mansion of Stourhead, Wiltshire. Stroll through the world-famous gardens designed by Henry Hoare II and marvel at its iconic Pantheon.
Head south to Salisbury, taking the A303 & A36 via a stroll through the grounds of the 450-year-old family owned Wilton House. The magnificent Salisbury Cathedral is home to one of the best preserved four remaining copies of Magna Carta, the symbol of justice, fairness and human rights, issued in 1215 AD.
Salisbury Plain is an ancient land, steeped in mystery and legend. Walk in the footsteps of the Neolithic ancestors at the inspirational and spiritual place of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Its history spans 4,500 years and the Stone Circle is a master piece! Step back though centuries of history as you wander around the Neolithic houses. From Stonehenge, explore the magnificent stately homes and the ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parklands and gardens of the Elizabethan Longleat Estate and the Georgian Bowood House.
Heading north into the lower Cotswold region, explore the historical market town of Corsham, marveling at its golden Bath stone architecture. Visit Corsham Court and explore the ‘Capability’ Brown connections. The picturesque village of Lacock, owned and managed by the National Trust, is popular filming location for productions such as Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and The Cranford Chronical. Take time to explore its spectacular Abbey founded in 1232.
The final stop is at one of the Cotswold’s hidden gems, the quaint 14th Century village of Castle Combe. Originally thriving on the wool industry, it is now also a popular filming location including Agatha Christies Poirot, The Wolfman and War Horse. Discover the village’s Market Cross, village church and old weavers’ cottages. Walk across the bridge for a spectacular Cotswold village photo opportunity.
For further information visit www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
Continue exploring the stunning South West of England or head back along the M4 to London.