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Byline: Peter Collins

1. There are hundreds of ancient and beautiful villages and market towns dotted around the Cotswolds, each with its own charm.

You could spend the summer visiting them.

We chose three of the best known. Stow-on-the-Wold is a good place to start, followed by Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water. Spend the day visiting all three and you will come across fine churches, good restaurants and pubs and fascinating antique shops.

2. The market square at Stow-on-the-Wold oozes history.

At one end stands the ancient cross, and at the other the town stocks, shaded by an old elm tree. Everywhere you turn are antique shops, art galleries and gift shops.

Perhaps the best known is Styles of Stow, a grandfather clock shop with a fine display of general antiques.

But there are countless others to browse around and learn more about the history of this delightful market town which stands exposed on a 700-feet high hill at a junction of seven major roads, including the Roman Fosse Way.

3. Stow-on-the-Wold is a good place to start on one of the many walks around the Cotswolds.

There are as many walks to choose from, as there are antique shops in Stow.

Walking in the Cotswolds countryside is relaxing and a great way to see more at close hand.

There are some great walks in the Cotswolds, many based in and around the characteristic villages and market towns.

The Cotswolds Way walk is popular because it cuts through the whole area, running 105 miles from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. The path is well marked, but it is advisable to take a guidebook.

4. St Edward's Church, Stow-on-the-Wold, is one of the many fascinating historic buildings in the market town.

The church is primarily a product of the 11th Century with later additions in the 15th Century. The architecture is attractively simple and the church has an important significant historical connection with the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold.

The battle was the final conflict of the English Civil War. In 1646 a Royalist army marched through the Cotswolds in a desperate attempt to join up with King Charles at Oxford.

They were finally confronted at Stow-on-the-Wold by a Parliamentary force.

The fighting was fierce and deadly. The Royalists were defeated and more than 1,000 imprisoned in the church.

5. There is an excellent selection of good restaurants, cafes and bars in Stow-on-the-Wold, many offering fine dining with prices to match.

But for a delightful and very much cheaper alternative you can visit Greedy's Fish and Chip Shop, in Park Street. It is known for offering some of the best plaice and chips for miles around.

The fish is freshly cooked and so you have to wait about 10 to 15 minutes after placing (no pun intended) your order.

The fish comes covered in a fine, crispy batter. If you just want chips you can ask for them with some batter on top. In Wales it used to be called "scrumps," but in the Cotswolds they call it "scratchings."

Either way it is delicious. There is a bench outside the shop where you can sit and eat your fish and chips from the bag.

6. Bourton-on-the-Water nestles between Cirencester and Stow-on-the-Wold and is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds.

Stroll through it and you will quickly realise why it is regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England.

It has a fascinating selection of Cotswold houses and cottages, many of them 300 years old, and some dating back to Elizabethan times.

The Model Village behind the Old New Inn is a one-ninth scale model of Bourton-on-the-Water. Built by local craftsmen in the 1930s it was opened to the public in 1937 on Coronation Day.

A unique experience which appeals to all ages, the Model Village remains one of the Cotswolds' most popular tourist attractions.

7. Birdland, on Rissington Road, was originally sited in the centre of Bourton in 1957. It moved to its present site, a few hundred metres down the road in 1989.

The current location was a trout farm and a poplar plantation, for matchstick production, owned by Bryant & May. There are still more than 150 trees which create a high canopy for the River Windrush and enclosures.

Set in woodland, river and gardens, Birdland is inhabited by more than 500 birds. Flamingos, pelicans, penguins, cranes, storks, cassowary and waterfowl can be seen on various aspects of the water habitat. There are more than 50 aviaries with parrots, falcons, pheasants, hornbills, toucans, touracos, pigeons, ibis and many more. The Tropical, Toucan and Desert Houses are home to the more delicate species.

There are large areas to picnic and watch the activities of the birds on and around the River Windrush.

8. The Cotswold Motoring Museum, in Sherborne Street, Bourton-on-the-Water obviously concentrates on the history of motoring, but it also includes the paraphernalia that made motoring so popular, including picnic sets from the 1920s, alongside caravans, radio sets, gramophones and knitted swimsuits. It also boasts a selection of pedal cars, bicycles and aeroplanes. Some of the toys have been made at home by parents, while others are one-offs by manufacturers with intrinsic detail based on the real car.

9. Moreton-in-Marsh, at the head of the Evenlode valley is a thriving market town with a similar atmosphere to Stow. It dates back 1,000 years to the Saxon era. The High Street has many elegant 18th Century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall, a Victorian building of distinction. The oldest building is thought to be the 16th Century Curfew Tower on the High Street. Its bell was rung nightly until 1860 to remind people of the risk of fire at night. The parish church of St David was originally "a chapel of ease" for Bourton-on-the-Hill, which meant it was more accessible to some parishioners than the main church. It was rebuilt in the medieval style in 1858.

10. Railway enthusiasts will be interested in Moreton-in-Marsh because it has one of the earliest railway stations in the country , The Moreton to Stratford tramway opened in 1826, and the London-Oxford-Worcester main line followed in 1853. Even those not particularly interested in railway history will enjoy taking the train through some of the best parts of the Cotwolds. Moreton is also home to Gloucestershire's agricultural county show held on the first Saturday in September.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 16, 2007
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Next Article:Peter Collins stayed at the Wyck Hill House Hotel on Stow-on-the-Wold.

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