On this tour we get a chance to explore one of the most beautiful corners of England, a region of charming stone villages, meandering streams and gentle rolling hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty known as The Cotswolds.
Just over an hour from London, the Cotswold region boasts 790 square miles of limestone hills, filled with grazing sheep, woodland and rivers. Now and again we come across a village with stone cottages, narrow streets and impressive churches built on the wealth of the wool trade. Beginning our journey by following the valley of the River Windrush, we decend on Burford, our first stop. Have a break for morning coffee before visiting St John's church with its 'woolsack' tombs, unique to the region. Browse around the antique shops and stroll along the main street with its houses cascading down to the river below. Burford is known as the 'Gateway to the Cotswolds' and from here on we travel through a breathtaking range of hills, valleys and villages all clad in the warm honey coloured stone that is so distinctive to this part of the country.
Moving on through the heart of the Cotswolds, we travel through the Wychwood Forest, via Chipping Norton and Bourton-on-the-Hill, ascending to one of the highest points in the area before heading down to the delightful town of Broadway with its thatched cottages and historic pubs. Broadway lies at the eastern most part of the region with views across to the Vale of Evesham, the Malvern Hills and the distant mountains of Wales. After a break for lunch we follow the limestone settlement which forms the Cotswold edge then up hill again to one of the regions highest towns, Stow-on-the-Wold. Here, on market days in the past, up to 20,000 sheep would be bought and sold. Its days as an important centre for the wool trade may be long over but its beautiful market square still remains, along with wool merchants houses, weavers cottages, village stocks, a Roman well and an ancient inn, claiming to be the oldest in the country. With St Edward's church chiming the quarter hours and the smell of wood burning fires drifting over the square from a nearby tavern, it's as if time has stood still and the 21st century has yet to arrive.
Rejoining the Windrush valley, we head to Bourton-on-the-Water, criss crossed with little stone bridges arching over the cold clear river and giving rise to its alter ego as 'The Venice of the Cotswolds'. There are plenty of attractions for the visitor here, for amongst the pretty stone cottages are an aviary, maze, motor museum, model railway and a scale replica of the village itself, built of Cotswold stone back in 1939. A picture perfect place to end the day before we return to London.
- 8.30AM From International Students House, 229 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5PN