Discover a hidden English gem in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, at 2,000 sq km, is the second largest conservation area in England, behind the Lake District National Park. The name is derived from old English “Cots” meaning sheep enclosure and “wold” meaning hill.

On our recent trip to Britain, we joined Tom Benjamin to visit Cotswolds, a beautiful English countryside. Benjamin was a fantastic tour guide with a passion for what he does and he showed us off-the-beaten-track places and towns with unique names like Chipping Camden, a market town that has been around since the 7th century.

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A thatched roof cottage in Chipping Camden.

This is one of the most picturesque towns in England with a variety of quirky shops and traditional thatched cottages. The oldest house that is still standing today was built by a wool merchant called William Grevel in 1380.

We also visited Snowshill, a tiny village where the popular romantic comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary was filmed. The church, the main attraction of the village, was built in 1864 and is a relatively modern building by Cotswolds standard.

The village is also home to the Snowshill Arms Pub, a traditional village pub owned by Donington Brewery, which has 18 pubs in the region, and still brew their beer the traditional way.

Another unusual place, Stow-on-the-Wold (or Church on the Hill) is the highest and most popular town in North Cotswolds. The name derives from Old English – Stow meaning religious site or church, and wold meaning hill.

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Author JRR Tolkien is believed to have drawn her inspiration for the door to Moria in Lord Of The Rings from St Edwards Church at Cotswolds. Photo: Tom Benjamin

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord Of The Rings, visited Cotswolds regularly and the two trees on either side of the door at the back of St Edwards Church at Stow-on-the-Wold are widely believed to be the inspiration for the door to Moria.

Bourton-on-the-Water, also known as the “Venice of Cotswolds” is the most visited village in the Cotswolds with many visitors and locals heading there on warm days to paddle in the pristine and shallow water of the river Windrush.

The river doubles up as a football pitch once a year where the locals play six-a-side football matches in the river between bridges two and three, a tradition that has taken place for over 150 years.

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Bourton-on-the-Water is the most visited village in Cotswolds.

The second highest point in the Cotswolds at 312m is Broadway Tower and on a clear day you can see as far as Wales (100km), Birmingham (60km) and Coventry (60km).

Dover’s Hill nearby is named after Robert Dover who started the Cotswolds Olimpicks, noted for its Shin Kicking Championship in 1612. It is a primitive form of wrestling that sees locals wrestle each other to the floor by means of kicking their shins only! The modern day Cotswolds Olimpicks still takes place once every other year at the same location.

Words cannot describe the charm of the Cotswolds. Any avid traveller would be enthralled by the picturesque countryside.

Also, for budget travellers, visiting Britain is possible if you plan things properly. I was fortunate to get a train ticket from the Lake District to Inverness in Scotland for under RM100; the fare could cost up to RM555!

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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