With its omnipresent medieval charms; yellow-tinted limestone hamlets and magnificent ancient forests, Gloucestershire's rural appeal far outweighs that of its sophisticated county towns. Authentic Gloucestershire connotes visions of picturesque cottages, gracious old country estates and miles of hiking country, once the hunting grounds of London's most revered nobility. Frankly, little has changed in hearty Gloucestershire, save the urban expansion of its capital, Gloucester.
Granted its first charter in 1167, the riverside town rapidly evolved into a port city and by the 1800's, had been linked to the Severn Estuary by the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Crumbling by the 1980's, the former dockside buildings and wharf now house the National Waterways Museum and inland RNLI Lifeboat Centre. Settlement of the Romans for over 500 years, picturesque Cirencester draws attention for its cache of Roman attractions, including the Corinium Museum and Amphitheatre. Be it historic national treasures and Regency architecture, or the olde English charm of its farmer's markets, Cheltenham also makes for an ideal base from which to explore Gloucestershire's most riveting attractions.
Cotswold Water Park
Encompassing an area in excess of 40 square miles, Cotswold Water Park comes a close second to the Lake District for its myriad of ancient watercourses, glacial lakes (over 150) and rugged humpback mountains. Far from being a huge underdeveloped conservation area, Cotswold Water Park makes use of this vast space with a massive variety of tourist-friendly activities, with kayaking tours, wakeboarding and paintballing among the many exhilarating recreational choices on offer. Waymarkers map various lakeside routes for walkers and for the energetic, its even possible to get onto the Thames Path National Trail from the Cotswolds all the way to the Thames Barrier, London. Tow paths alongside the Thames and Severn Canal are an easier alternative, with routes now mapped for Latton, Eysey Manor and Siddington, perfect for nature watching excursions during the summer months. www.waterpark.org/
Tewkesbury Abbey, Tewkesbury
Famed for its well-preserved 16th Century architecture and quintessentially English tearooms, Tudor Tewkesbury also plays host to another fascinating medieval landmark: Tewkesbury Abbey. A survivor of the 16th Century Dissolution of Monasteries order under Henry VIII, the abbey also retains a plethora of its original features, such as the Pevsner Romanesque tower. Renowned for its ornate stained glass windows, Tewkesbury Abbey lays claim to owning seven of the oldest 14th Century quire windows in Europe, coupled with two recent installations depicting St. Catherine and John The Baptist by Thomas Denny. www.tewkesburyabbey.org.uk/
The Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Housing one of the finest collections of Roman antiquities in England, the Corinium Museum preserves an abundance of Roman heritage, including the regal porticoed facades of several notable Roman buildings. Trinkets, gold, tools and furniture constitute just a small part of the living exhibitions, brought to life by scale model replicas of key buildings and local settlements. Over 40,000 objects litter the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Collections, including cemetery archives from Lechlade, dating back to the 6th Century. Kids are invited to learn about the 'Ten Treasures' of Corinium via interactive computer screens and live narration, transporting them back in time to a period when Cirencester really was the heart of 'Middle England'. coriniummuseum.cotswold.gov.uk/
Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham
Considered one of Victorian England's most accomplished contemporary composers, Gustav Holst moved millions with his orchestral arrangements. Holst's humble family home at 4 Pittville Terrace (Clarence Road) was the intimate setting within which many of his finest accomplishments were born, including 'The Planets'. Today, this roomy terraced home has been subtly transformed into a living, breathing museum dedicated to the music, life and art of Gustav Holst. Laid out in a beautiful period fashion, Pittville Terrace retains much of its Victorian character, with a working Victorian Kitchen, Children's Nursery and Drawing Room open for public viewing. See Holst's favourite grand piano, upon which it is alleged he composed 'The Planets' and post-war 'The Perfect Fool', as well as his much cherished violin. www.holstmuseum.org.uk/
What family days out have you enjoyed in Gloucestershire?