For all of the undoubted attractions of the Cotswolds, ranging from picture-postcard villages to enchanting markets and all manner of other activities of interest, it’s always difficult to avoid the considerable draw of major towns and cities just outside the Cotswolds area. These include Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bath, three places rich in history, but also with plenty to offer right now to the curious holidaymaker.
The attractions of a holiday in Oxford are certainly obvious to anyone who has ever gazed upon the world-famous “dreaming spires” in Inspector Morse, or even sent a son or daughter to study there. They include the Carfax Tower and University Church of St Mary the Virgin that offer impressive views over that iconic skyline, while there’s also the historic Covered Market and the Thames/Isis and Cherwell rivers, where punting is a common sight in the summer.
However, eager intellectuals and museum-goers alike who embark on a holiday in Oxford will also delight in such fabled institutions as the Ashmolean Museum, Modern Art Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. But Oxford has a serious rival for the attentions of those visiting the Cotswolds and surrounding areas: the Somerset city of Bath.
Having first been established as a spa by the Romans, the city is of course especially famous for its Roman Baths. However, that the city was inscribed a World Heritage Site in 1987 also suggests that it possesses a wealth of other historical attractions, including Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, the latter an impressive sweep of terraced Georgian houses that has come to define Bath in the world’s eye.
The city also offers a wealth of restaurants, public houses and bars, together with regular open-top bus tours and even many distinguished parks and sporting venues. Such attractions help to make Bath more than a mere diversion on anyone’s holiday in Oxford or the Cotswolds, and much the same could be said of Stratford-upon-Avon, a south Warwickshire market town and civil parish that will always be irrevocably associated with William Shakespeare.
As the birthplace of the legendary playwright and poet, Stratford-upon-Avon is home to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where the Royal Shakespeare Company is based, to say nothing of Shakespeare’s Birthplace itself, a restored 16th century half-timbered house on Henley Street. Described as “a Mecca for all lovers of literature”, the house is now a small museum giving you a priceless glimpse into Shakespeare’s early life – including his first five years of married life with wife Anne Hathaway.
When all of these attractions are taken together, it’s clear why a holiday in Oxford, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon remains such a powerful draw for anyone who visits the Cotswolds and nearby areas – there’s simply no experience quite like those that these places offer.