This is one of the most charming parts of England. The butter coloured limestone houses with their stone roofs, beautiful churches with ancient yew trees guarding the entrances, show the wealth that the area generated during the middle ages. The entrance to the area from London takes you through the village of Woodstock the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. Outside the village you will find Blenheim Palace, one of the largest houses in Britain. This was built for the 1st Duke by Vanburgh, who had previously worked on Castle Howard in Yorkshire, and has some wonderful works of art, most notably pieces by Grinling Gibbons. The park was constructed by Capability Brown in the late 18th century, however he had a lot of trouble with the enormous lake. Picturesque towns and villages dot the countryside, with the most notable being Broadway, Chipping Norton, Chipping Camden, and the capital of the area Cirencester. The prefix Chipping means market, and both Norton and Camden have these every week with wonderful local produce on sale. The other major shopping experience in the area is for antiques, and Burford is the centre for this with a selection of dealers lining the High Street. Chipping Camden, by contrast is much more quaint, with charming inns and hostelries often with log fires to warm you on a winters' day. One of these even has a glass floor in one of the dining rooms that shows the passageway that the catholic priests took to escape Puritan Militia. Chipping Norton is much larger, and has had a Royal Charter to hold a market since 1205. Outside the town is a Neolithic stone circle called the Rollright Stones, and local folklore has it that when counting the stones you will never reach the same number twice. Leaving Oxfordshire behind and renting a cottage in Gloucestershire the first town you come across is Stow-on-the-Wold, an old market town that in its prime sold as many as 20,000 sheep at its annual fair. The market cross is a reminder to merchants that they must honour their word and the narrow streets that lead off the square were designed so as to better control the livestock. The parish church has two interesting features; an 88ft spire, and a living tree incorporated in the main door. Most of the houses in the town are constructed of the local stone and there is a wonderful old coaching inn that you will probably recognise from some costume drama or another. The town of Stroud, in the southwest of the region has various attractions in and around it. A lively commercial centre, at one time there were 150 woollen mills in the town, the antiques and art trade continue to thrive. To the north the village of Painswick is a gem, hardly touched by mass tourism, whilst to the south in Woodchester you will find two examples of the builder's art. A Roman villa, with a vast mosaic, and Woodchester Manor, a half completed Victorian country house. This area of the country is quintessentially English and has been filmed more times than almost any other. This is not to say that there is nothing to do for the more energetic as the Cotswold Water Park will cater to all tastes. As for Fairford airfield, the original launching point for the world's only supersonic airliner, this offers other activities. To say that this is an old fashioned part of England is not fair, and has something for all tastes, and all pockets.
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