The rolling uplands of the Cotswolds represent the quintessence of rural England, as immortalized in countless books, paintings, and films. In eloquently named settlements from Bourton-on-the-Water to Stow-on-the-Wold, you can taste the glories of the old English village—its stone slate roofs, low-ceiling rooms, and gardens; the atmosphere is as thick as honey, and equally as sweet. On the edge of the Cotswolds is Bath, among the most alluring small cities in Europe.The blissfully unspoiled Cotswolds, deservedly popular with visitors and convenient to London, occupy much of the county of Gloucestershire, in west-central England. They also take in slices of neighboring Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, and Somerset. Together these make up a sweep of land stretching from close to Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare Country in the north almost as far as the Bristol Channel in the south. On the edge of the area, two historic towns have absorbed, rather than compromised, the flavor of the Cotswolds: Bath, offering up "18th-century England in all its urban glory," to use a phrase by writer Nigel Nicolson, and Regency-era Cheltenham, like Bath, a spa town with elegant architecture.Bath rightly boasts of being the best-planned town in England. Although the Romans founded the city when they discovered here the only true hot springs in England, its popularity during the 17th and 18th centuries luckily coincided with one of Britain's most creative architectural eras. Today people come to walk in the footsteps of Jane Austen, visit Bath Abbey and the excavated Roman baths, shop in an elegant setting, or have a modern spa experience at the stunning Thermae spa.North of Bath are the Cotswolds—a region that more than one writer has called the very soul of England. This idyllic region, which from medieval times grew prosperous on the wool trade, remains a vision of rural England. Here are time-defying churches, sleepy hamlets, sequestered ancient farmsteads, and such fabled abodes as Sudeley Castle. The Cotswolds can hardly claim to be undiscovered, but the area's poetic appeal has survived the tour buses and antiques shops.
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Things You Can't Miss
Visitors to Bath’s Jane Austen Centre can don 19th-century garb. This spa destination for the upper crust appears regularly in the author’s novels.
Thermae Bath Spa offers bathing in hot geothermal springs, pampering packages and an open-air rooftop mineral pool with a view.
Get a taste of Regency life with a sumptuous Pump Room cream tea at the Roman Baths and museum. The baths date back to A.D. 60-70.
If you are willing to, well OK, fly by the seat of your pants, there are plenty of great last-minute vacation bargains to be had. Here are a few strategies to help you get the best deal on a fabulous trip.
Bath’s Royal Crescent is an architectural marvel, boasting 30 palatial and pillared attached Georgian stone houses arranged in a semicircle.
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Snap photos of cute thatched cottages and limestone walls enclosing grazing flocks. Stay in Broadway; walk to Upper and Lower Slaughter for a pint.
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