Cotswolds, England

Jason R. Matheson
6 min readOct 2, 2023


We’re staying in an Airbnb in an area of south-central England called the Cotswolds. The region consists of green hills and grasslands covering a layer of soft Jurrasic limestone. The homes and buildings in the region are built of that stone, providing a consistent golden hue to the villages.

We reserved a car to better explore the area. I talked the guy at the rental counter into a small blue Volkswagen SUV instead of a tiny Fiat. We’d sit up a bit higher but still get good gas mileage. Plus we could slip into small parking spots and navigate narrow streets.

I just had to get used to sitting on the right and shifting gears with my left hand as the British drive on the opposite side of the road from America.

Mom was delayed in Dallas due to thunderstorms and cancelled flights but she eventually made it over the Atlantic. I picked her up seamlessly at Heathrow and we drove west on the M4 toward our place in Charlton.

In addition to a comfortable Airbnb housed in a renovated milking shed, we were blessed with a fine pub just a couple minutes down the road. The Horse & Groom served beer and surprisingly good pub grub in a renovated 450-year-old stone inn along the road to Malmesbury.

Pubs are a core component of the English identity. Short for “public house” pubs dot the country from small villages to big cities. I thought it was almost British law that they were named for an inanimate object and a living thing: Flag & Lamb, Crown & Rooster or Elephant & Castle.

The Brits love their dogs and you’ll regularly see bowls of water and canisters of treats inside businesses, pubs included. They’re welcome just about anywhere.

England is not known for sunshine with frequent cloud cover blowing in over the island from the ocean. But we were blessed with several days of bright weather.

In his 1934 book English Journey, J. B. Priestley wrote of Cotswold buildings made of the local stone: “Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.”

The Cotswolds were dotted by handsome towns built by the local wool industry. According to a 12th Century saying, ‘in Europe the best wool is English and in England the best wool is Cotswold’. The wool was obtained from the golden, long-haired Cotswold Lion breed of sheep, thought to be introduced by the Romans during their invasion of our British Isles.

We discovered several villages completely off the beaten path and hidden behind leafy covers by first stopping to admire the local church.

The Wiltshire village of Ashton Keynes revealed itself after we stopped to explore its picturesque Church of the Holy Cross. A short path shaded by chestnut trees led us to the village from the churchyard.

Often you stumble across local pubs driving through the villages. We stopped at the Mason’s Arms in Meysey Hampton and enjoyed a light lunch paired with a local beer. Pub grub never tasted so good.

You could spend a lifetime exploring every nook and cranny of the Cotswolds and probably never see everything the region offered. Over the years, the villages and countryside of the Cotswolds were able to maintain their age-old charm by remaining mostly untouched by industrialization.

We would drive single-lane roads outlined by dense hedges through fields and forests before emerging among handsome stone farms and houses.

Truly, the best memories from a trip are usually made when you come across completely unplanned surprises. We took slow back roads through the English countryside, stopping to admire the scenery and when a bevy of pheasants appeared.

History is ever present in an area as old as England. Each medieval village was marked by a Great War memorial in its central market, often with added names for the second World War.

We visited Winston Churchill’s unassuming grave in the quiet parish church of St. Martin’s near his family’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

After a day of exploring, we knew we could retire to the local pub for an evening of good food, beer and conversation with the locals and other visitors.


Thanks for coming along on the trip. If you have questions or suggestions, tweet @JasonRMatheson. Missed an entry? Click here.



Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.