We tend to think of the A40 between Oxford and Cheltenham as being all about the Cotswolds which mainly lie to the North of the road but visitors who are immediately distracted by the charms of all those famous towns like Bourton on the Water, Broadway and Chipping Camden with their distinctive limestone cottages often miss out on some extremely attractive destinations lying to the South of the highway.
Starting off at the historic market town of Witney, for whom the Prime Minister David Cameron is the Member of Parliament, visitors should head off via Brize Norton to the village of Bampton which doubles up as Downton, the village featured in Downton Abbey.It is frequently used in the hugely successful ITV series for filming outdoor scenes, most notably St. Mary’s Church and the library, which serves as the entrance to the cottage hospital.
A few miles on from Bampton is the chocolate box town of Lechlade on Thames which is the highest point on the river for navigable vessels. This is a wonderful spot to just wander around and take in the ambience perhaps with a refreshing drink at the famous Trout Inn. Just 4 miles away is the small village of Fairford whose delights fail to be eclipsed by the nearby air base which holds the World’s largest military airshow, the Royal International Air Tattoo.
From Fairford, it is only a few miles to Cirencester, the historic town that dates back to Roman times. You are now officially in the Cotswolds and Cirencester, renowned for its Royal Agricultural College, the largest in the World, is regarded as the capital of the district. After exploring its bustling streets and imposing church, head back towards base via the quintessential Cotswold village of Bibury, described by William Morris in Victorian times as the most beautiful village in the whole of England. In fact, Fox News insists it is one of the most picturesque in the World. One terrace of former weaver’s cottages called Arlington Row is regarded as such a treasure that it is now owned by the National Trust.
After a brief sojourn to Bibury, take the road back to the A40 at Burford, another famous medieval town on the edge of the Cotswolds and recently voted by Forbes Magazine as one of the top ten best places to live in Europe. The gently sloping main street is a cornucopia of fascinating shops and has some wonderful little alleys in between the centuries old buildings. The Church of St. John the Baptist is rated one of the finest in the country and was the scene of a cruel subjugation of rebellious Levellers by Oliver Cromwell and his cavalry at the end of the English Civil War.
From Burford, return to Witney for a hearty dinner at your hotel. Explore the surrounding areas when staying at hotels near Oxford