The Cotswolds have deviated little from their etymological roots – Cotswolds means sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides. Grazing sheep and cattle roam 2,000 square kilometers of vivid, verdant hills, which hide tiny towns barely touched by modem times. These old Roman settlements and tiny Saxon villages, hewn from the famed Cotswold stone, demand a place on any itinerary, although their relative inaccessibility via public transportation will necessitate extra effort to get there.
TRANSPORTATION. Useful gateway cities are Cheltenham, Oxford, and Bath. Moreton-in-Marsh is one of the bigger villages and has trains to Oxford (30min. every hr. S7.90) and London (lVfchr. every l-2hr. £25). The Cotswolds are much easier to reach by bus. Getting There, a pamphlet that details bus information in The Cotswolds, is available free from the Cheltenham tourist office. Pulham’s Coaches ( (01451) 820 369) run from Cheltenham to Moreton-in-Marsh (lhr.; M-Sa 8 per day, Su daily; £1.70) via Stow-on-the-Wold (50min. £2).
Local roads are perfect for biking. The Toy Shop, on High St in Moreton-in-Marsh, rents bikes. ( (01608) 650 756. Open M and W-Sa 9am-lpm and 2-5pm. £12 per day.) Visitors can also experience the Cotswolds as the English have for centuries by treading footpaths from village to village. Cotswold Way, spanning 160km from Bath to Chipping Camden, gives hikers glorious vistas of hills and dales. The Cotswold Events booklet lists anything from music festivals and antique markets to cheese-rolling and woolsack races along the Cotswold Way. A newer way of seeing the region, the Cotswold Experience is a full-day bus tour that starts in Bath and visits five of the most scenic villages, ( (01225) 477 101. £22, students £18.)
WINCHCOMBE, MORETON-IN-MARSH, STOW-ON-THE-WOLD. 10km north of Cheltenham on A46, Sudeley Castle, once the manor of King Ethelred the Unready, crowns the town of Winchcombe. (Open Mar.-Oct. daily llam-5pm. £6.70.) The Winchcombe tourist office is in Town Hall. ( (01242) 602 925. Open Apr.-Oct. M-Sa 10am-5pm, Su 10am-4pm, closed l-2pm; Nov.-Mar. sa-Su 10am-4pm.) With a train station, relatively frequent bus service, and bike shop, Moreton-in-Marsh is a convenient base for exploring the Cotswolds. The tourist office is in the District Council Building. ( (01608) 650 881. Open M 8:45am-4pm, Tu-W 8:45am-5:15pm, Th 8:45am-7:30pm, F 8:45am-4:45pm, Sa 9:30am-lpm.) Warwick House B&B , on London Rd. offers many luxuries, including a pleasant garden and access to a nearby gym. Book 2 weeks in advance. ( (01608) 650 733. www.snoozeandsizzle.com. Singles £21-25; doubles £42-50.) Stow-on-the-Wold, the self-proclaimed Heart of the Cotswolds, sits atop a hill, offering visitors fine views and a sense of the Cotswold pace of life. The tourist office is in Hollis House on The Square. ( (01451) 831 082. Open Easter-Oct. M-Sa 9:30am-5:30pm; Nov.-Easter M-Sa 9:30am-4:30pm.) The YHA youth hostel is near the tourist office on The Square. ( (01451) 830 497. Open mid Feb.-Oct. daily; Nov.-Dec. F-Sa. Dorms £13, under-18 £9.)