There’s no doubt about the fact that the Cotswolds is one of the most beautiful parts of England. It may be less dramatic than, say, the Cornish coast or the Lake District, but for many people it represents the epitome of the English rural scene. This especially applies to foreign visitors, who come to England expecting to see thatched cottages, red post boxes, rolling green hills and winding country lanes. You won’t find them in many parts of England, in some cases because they never existed there in the first place, but you will still find them in the Cotswolds.
This Cotswolds travel guide runs to 264 pages and covers the highlights of the whole area, including both Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. It includes the author’s choice of ’16 Things not to Miss’, which reminds us how much there is to see and do in the Cotswolds, and how varied it is.
In addition to the obvious choices among the towns and villages (Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter, Stratford-upon-Avon) the things not to miss in the Cotswolds include:
Kelmscott Manor, Photo (c) Donna Dailey
Dipping into the book to check out places we know in the Cotswolds, they all seem to be in there and accurately described. These include Kelmscott Manor (above, former home of William Morris), Raymond Blanc’s very special gastro-temple Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and even the fun Pudding Club, based at the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton. If three very different places that you pick at random from your own visits to an area are all included, and in accurate detail, then that’s definitely a good sign.
Thankfully today’s Rough Guides don’t usually show the reverse snobbery of the earlier editions, where anything that was popular or expensive was sneered at. This Cotswold travel guide, for example, is as happy to showcase the latest boutique hotels as the cheapest hostels and campsites.
When it comes to finding authors for guidebooks, publishers have three main options. Very often they choose people who know a destination well and are known to be reliable guidebook writers, but they don’t necessarily live in the destination. Sometimes they choose people who are brand new to a destination, on the grounds that they will come to it with fresh eyes. And sometimes they strike lucky and find an experienced guidebook author who does already live in the destination.
Matthew Teller does live in the Cotswolds, though he’s more often to be found writing about the Middle East. He has written three previous Rough Guides, including their guides to Jordan and Switzerland, and updated and contributed to many more Rough Guide titles.
A Cotswolds Postbox, Photo (c) Mike Gerrard
Now we happen to know that the author lives in the North Oxfordshire town of Banbury, so is there any bias in his entry for his home town? Absolutely not, as far as we could tell from our admittedly brief visits to Banbury. Indeed, he describes it as being ‘what is, in truth, a pretty ordinary market town.’ That’s not to say it isn’t worth seeing, as it does have its attractions, but it’s good to know that the author doesn’t use his book to try to promote his own town.
The usual Rough Guide thoroughness combines with the author’s in-depth research and insider knowledge to produce a guidebook any visitor to the Cotswolds can rely on.
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