The shape of a rough diamond the Cotswolds is formed from a belt of oolitic limestone that divides the heart of England from the North Sea to the south coast passing through Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and nudging into Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire forming a range of gently rolling hills.

The western edge of the hills form the escarpment that overlooks the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham whilst on the top the land opens out into rolling wolds and deep wooded valleys that make this one of the most beautiful areas in the UK, famous for the quintessentially English market towns and villages built from honey-coloured stone quarried locally from the band of limestone.

The limestone lies just below the surface of the topsoil and has been used for hundreds of years evident throughout the area in the honey-coloured buildings and walls of the north Cotswolds to the subtle grey-colour of the southern Cotswolds.

There have been many stone quarries throughout the Cotswolds and some of them have supplied the stone for some of the most famous buildings in England, such as St Paul's Cathedral for which stone from Taynton was used in the construction and the famous Bath stone quarried from the area around Corsham and use in the construction of the Georgian city.

There are other quarries supplying gravel from the Thames Valley including the area around the Cotswold Water Park, Bourton on the Water and Witney. For more information on Cotswolds stone go to our information page.

The majority of this beautiful countryside is farmland, a diverse mix of arable, livestock and about a tenth of the area is woodland with many of the woods being ancient. Some of the best examples are on the western edge with the beech woods around Cranham and Birdlip. Other woodland consists of oak, ash and sycamore.

The Cotswolds are about 25 miles across and 90 miles long and stretch from Stratford-upon-Avon in the north to Bath in the south, a huge area of almost 800 square miles. The Cotswolds was designated An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966 and this means that the Cotswold countryside is protected forever and that the past, present and future is assured for generations to come. The Cotswolds Conservation Board is the organisation that looks after the AONB in its entirety. For more information about the Cotswolds Conservation Board visit their website.

If you're looking for somewhere with a surprise round every corner then look no further than the beautiful Cotswolds towns and villages like Bibury and Bourton-on-the Water with fine buildings created by great artisans and magnificent churches built by wealthy wool merchants from medieval times and grand houses with wonderful gardens waiting to be discovered by travellers. Use the links to discover more about the history and the villages and towns of the Cotswolds.