Alcester to Gloucester

Tour historic towns and tackle the Cotswolds’ highest point

Follow the route - Alcester to Gloucester

Mary Arden's House

Alcester to Wilmcote

> From Alcester follow the B4089 northeast to Great Alne, then unclassified roads east to Wilmcote.

Visiting Wilmcote

This sprawling village is best known for the lovely timbered farmhouse which was the home of Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother. It is now a museum of furniture and the farm buildings contain exhibitions of agricultural implements and country bygones, including man traps which were used to catch poachers.

Places to stay near Wilmcote

Larkrise Cottage

Stratford-upon-Avon Lodge Retreat

Burnside Hotel

Ann Hathaway's cottage

Wilmcote to Stratford-upon-Avon

> Continue along the unclassified road, then the A3400 for 3 miles (5km) to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford has retained its role as a market town despite being one of the world’s most famous tourist centres. Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street is now a museum and contains exhibits about the poet’s life. Stratford is full of interesting places to visit, including the Royal Shakespeare Company Collection. One of the most ornate timbered houses is Harvard House, the former home of the mother of John Harvard, a benefactor of Harvard University in the US. A visit would not be complete without seeing a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre beside the River Avon.

Places to stay in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Arden Hotel

Hotel du Vin Stratford upon Avon

Ashgrove House

Chipping Camden

Stratford-upon-Avon to Chipping Campden

> Leave Stratford, going west along the B439 for 4 miles (6km) before turning south along unclassified roads through Welford-on-Avon and Long Marston to the B4632. Turn right and soon left on to the B4081 to Chipping Campden.

Visiting Chipping Campden

Wool made this town rich, and it retains a wealth of beautiful architecture such as the Jacobean Market Hall in the High Street, which was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks. Other buildings of note are the Woolstaplers’ Hall and Grevel House. The Church of St James is one of the most splendid Cotswold churches.

Hidcote Manor Garden, to the northeast has six gardens with winter borders, terraces and walks.

Places to stay in Chipping Campden

The Eight Bells

Cotswold Charm Holiday Cottages

Rosary Cottage

Buckland buildings

Chipping Campden to Buckland

> Take the B4081 and the A44 to Broadway, then the B4632 and a minor road to Buckland.

Visiting Buckland

Buckland is a quiet village nestling at the foot of the Cotswolds. The rectory here is England’s oldest and it is the most complete medieval parsonage. Further along the B4632 is the GWR Steam Railway at Toddington, where you can make a 20-mile (32km) round trip.

Leave the B4632 to visit Hailes Abbey, where the old Cistercian ruins stand alongside the 12th-century parish church. In 1270, a small jar of blood, supposedly that of Christ, was given to the abbey, and brought it much fame as a centre of pilgrimage.

Places to stay in Buckland

Buckland Manor

Abbots Grange

Bumble Bee Cottage

Sudeley Castle

Buckland to Winchcombe

> Continue south to Winchcombe, a distance of 8 miles (13km).

Visiting Winchcombe

This attractive town was once the capital of the Kingdom of Mercia. Its abbey, founded in 797, was destroyed during the Dissolution, but the site has been excavated. The Railway Museum has many relics of the steam age, and the town hall houses the Folk Museum and a Police Museum.

Sudeley Castle, reached through the village, was once the house of Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s wives. The magnificent gardens have been developed and renovated.

Just east of town on the B4632, at the top of the hill at Cleeve Hill, are the remnants of a settlement and earthworks, and much good walking, including the Cotswold Way, a long-distance footpath. Cleeve Cloud, 1,031 feet (314m), is one of the highest points in the Cotswolds, and the views from its summit are quite spectacular.

Places to stay near Winchcombe

Bushcombe House Farm

Ellenborough Park

Priory Cottage

The Cotswold way near Cheltenham

Winchcombe to Cheltenham

> Continue along the B4632 to Cheltenham.

Visiting Cheltenham

Cheltenham started life as a typical Cotswold village, but the discovery of a mineral spring here, in 1718, turned it into a fashionable spa. The Promenade, an elegant, wide street lined with Regency houses, has been described as the most beautiful thoroughfare in Britain. The famous Pittville Pump Room, with its colonnade and dome, is a masterpiece of 19th-century Greek revival. Cheltenham has many places worth visiting, such as the Holst Birthplace Museum, which contains rooms with period furnishing. The town is famous for its two schools, the College for Boys and Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Places to stay in Cheltenham

Arkle

Hotel du Vin Cheltenham

The Portland Guesthouse

The view from Painswick Beacon

Cheltenham to Painswick

> Take an unclassified road then the A417 south and then the B4070 to Birdlip. Follow the Stroud road south until an unclassified road leads through Cranham and on to the A46 south to Painswick.

Visiting Painswick

Painswick is an old wool town with many buildings of note, but is dominated by 15th-century St Mary’s Church and its collection of ‘99’ yew trees. Local tradition says that only 99 will grow at any one time – the Devil always kills off the 100th. Among Painswick’s many old houses are Court House, resplendent with its tall chimneys, and 18th-century Painswick House. South of town a few old cloth mills have survived on Painswick stream.

Places to stay near Painswick

The Painswick

Hatton Court

Little Court Cottages

Gloucester Cathedral

Painswick to Gloucester

> Head north to Gloucester on the B4073.

Visiting Gloucester

Gloucester is a town with a lot of history, and plenty of charms: it has an uber-magnificent cathedral, historic docks, remnants of a Roman wall, and some great museums. If you’re wondering why, with all this, it doesn’t draw more tourists, it might have something to do with the large shopping arcades and a few other less appealing buildings – but all these things balance out. There is in fact quite a lot to see here, although with the exception of the obvious, magnificent cathedral, it has to be sought out, perhaps with the aid of a helpful travel guide.

Places to stay in Gloucester

MV Edward Elgar

Little Court Cottages

Hatherley Manor Hotel & Spa

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