Lay of the Land
Centered on the gentle slopes of the Cotswold Hills in the southwest central part of the country (referred to as Middle England), the Cotswolds makes up part of various English counties—central Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire to the north, Oxfordshire to the east (thus closest to London), Wiltshire and Somerset to the south. To get from the northeastern-most district to the southwestern-most (Bath) takes approximately two hours and the drive from central London to most of the regions of the Cotswolds takes about one-and-a-half hours.
While there are no official boundaries, it is characterized by the local honey-colored limestone that was hand quarried during medieval times and used for everything from humble weavers’ cottages to mansions and churches. Cotswolds architecture owes much of its existence to the wealthy farmers and prosperous wool merchants of the time. Indeed, the wool industry was a force here until the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s (two mills are still in operation today).
The best way to enjoy the Cotswolds is to buy a map, rent a car and start driving. It can take up to two hours from London —faster if you don’t drive on a Friday night—and the M4 and M40 provide easy access. Once there you’re close to everything, and you could pootle about for a least a week exploring everything the area has to offer, basing yourself in one hotel or a few.