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The Cotswolds is an area of England about the size of greater Tokyo. Popular with both the English themselves and visitors from all over the world,the Cotswolds are well-known for gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), sleepy villages and for being so ‘typically English’.
There are famous cities such as Bath, well-known beautiful towns like Cheltenham and hundreds of delightful villages such as Burford and Castle Combe. Above all, the local honey-coloured limestone, used for everything from the stone floors in the houses to the tiles on the roof, has ensured that the area has a magical uniformity of architecture.
You will see ‘Drystone walls’ everywhere in the fields. Many were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, a matter of considerable skill as there is no cement to hold the walls together. They represent an important historical landscape and a major conservation feature – and are of course still used by farmers to enclose sheep and cattle.
During the 13-15th centuries, the medieval period, the native Cotswold sheep were famous throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and high quality of wool. Cotswold wool commanded a high price and the wealth generated by the wool trade enabled wealthy traders to leave their mark by building fine houses and wonderful churches, known as “wool churches”. Even today, the sight of sheep on the hillside is still one of the classic Cotswold images.
The city of Bath takes its peculiar name from the Roman Baths that were built here between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, the remains of which can still be seen today. Since its earliest days as a Celtic settlement, the history of Bath is inextricably linked to the natural waters that rise up here. The heyday of Bath came in the 18th century when it became a fashionable spa town, and was a focus for English high society. Much of the architecture of Bath dates from this time, and the city is famous for its elegant Georgian townhouses and sweeping crescents. Today Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. With plenty to see and do, it is an absolute must for any visitor to the UK. As well as a spa town, in its history Bath was also very famous as a religious centre. This was because of the magnificent Abbey that is still situated in the heart of the town.
There has been a church on this site since at least the 7th century. However the building that you can see today dates primarily from the 15th century, although traces of an earlier Norman church can still be seen in the Norman Chapel.
During the reformation in the 16th century the abbey suffered at the hands of Henry VIII and fell into disrepair, however within a few decades restoration work began. Since then the Abbey has been carefully modified and preserved, the result of which is today's superb building with its breathtaking interior.
There are numerous monuments and memorials to Bath's past residents within the church. And the elaborate exterior is also worth a second glance - the west front is said to be based on a dream of Jacob's Ladder that Bishop Oliver King had in the 15th century.
The Bath Abbey Heritage Vaults opened in the Abbey in 1994, and these contain an excellent exhibition about the history of the Abbey and the importance of religion in Bath's history. Abbey and the importance of religion in Bath's history Victoria Art Gallery is Bath's main art gallery, is located on Grand Parade, close to the famous Pulteney Bridge.
Although small, it is a very pleasant gallery. The collection includes pieces by Bath artists, past and present, as well as pieces by several more famous names, including Gainsborough and Turner.