When William Blake wrote of England’s green and pleasant land in his hymn Jerusalem, he could have easily been writing it with Gloucestershire in mind but perhaps the Cotswolds in particular.
My home since my early teens, this little patch of southwest England is not only dear to me but also many more, it’s place as one of most popular travel destinations in Britain firmly solidified. And it’s no surprise why so many tourists from Britain and the rest of the world flock here all year round. Home to many history-steeped towns and some of the most beautiful natural scenery available anywhere in the world, the Cotswolds is charming to say the least.
Yet one little town in this lovely part of England stands out further than most. The town in question? Cirencester.
Known in Roman Britain as a trading town, the capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester has played a very important role in the formations of the country. From those times, right up until the English Civil War, it was an important site for trade, politics and battles throughout history. Thanks to such importance, Cirencester has become an exceptional place to visit for those who love history and the history of Britain in particular.
And history buffs will be pleased indeed. With sites like the partially excavated Roman Amphitheatre just on the outskirts of town and the nearby Chedworth Roman Villa, the area has some of the best places in the country to observe what life was like here all those years ago. Tread further still and you’ll also see other grand sites such as the Church of St John the Baptist, another stunning structure which dates back to the medieval era of England. The church, with it’s one 120-foot tall spire, was the home of the Anne Boleyn Cup, which Henry VIII had made for her just one year before he had her executed for adultery.
Luckily those times are behind us and as you walk the streets of Cirencester you’ll find plenty to distract you from that grim thought. Stumbling upon the old Norman Gatehouse, you’ll find a rare victory against that same king, having stood proud for 900 years despite various attempts by Henry to destroy it. Elsewhere the town’s Corinium Museum is also worth a visit if you want to know more about the history of the town up until present day.
Apart from all that history you might also enjoy the fact that Cirencester is still a functioning market town and shopping is one of the best activities available to those who walk its cobbled streets. Doing so also gives you a chance to take in the magnificent architecture of the town while stopping in plenty of it’s quaint cafés and tea-shops along the way.
As well as the town, the countryside in the Cotswolds is among the best you will find anywhere in the world – and what better way to build up a thirst making those pub-bound stops all the more worthwhile? The Cotwolds Way is a firm bet. A long path designed for those who love to walk or cycle, even if you want to go at a more leisurely pace, the path is still a great idea as it passes through many of the regions towns (including Cirencester) along the way.
To get the most from your visit of course, it’s best to head in the spring or summertime. Those country walks? They can be quite chilly during the rest of the year! Check the internet or the local information service to find out where the best places to walk are and plan ahead. Routes can range from around two miles to six miles in length after all!
Enjoying your visit to Cirencester isn’t hard to do. Just head with your hiking boots and your history books and you’ll find it one of the most captivating places in the country.
This article was written by Will Peach, site editor at gap year travelsite Gap Daemon and travel blogger behind the overland travel blog DontFlyGo.com.