But the countryside around here – quintessentially English in every sense of the phrase, with green rolling hills and dry stone walls – isn’t alone in its appeal. This natural beauty has been complemented – enhanced, even – by the preservation of village life and historic buildings which dare you to imagine what life was like here centuries ago.

The Cotswold Way
Anyone wanting a breath of fresh country air should consider tackling the 100-mile Cotswold Way, which runs between Bath and Chipping Campden. The trail, which is primarily promoted as a long-distance walk, has limited access for cyclists. It takes around seven days to complete on foot, and passes through beech woodlands and open pasture, along dry stone walls, through picturesque villages and past ancient burial mounds and beautiful stately homes.

Pedal power
Explore the region bound by Stow-on-the-Wall and Chipping Campden on wheels by hiring a bike (£15) from the Moreton-in-Marsh train station, which is roughly halfway between the two villages. Country Lanes, which operates the bike hire, also have route maps and overnight and weekend packages which include accommodation at some great B&Bs and hotels. See www.countrylanes.co.uk.

Cheese rolling
Cooper’s Hill is host venue for Gloucester’s annual Cheese Rolling Championships, a rather unique phenomenon which sees thousands of people throw themselves down a hill in pursuit of giant pieces of cheese. Strange, very, very strange. Next year’s event is scheduled for Monday, May 29, 2006. See www.cheese-rolling.co.uk.

Cooking in the country
Get to know local produce and good, wholesome country fare by learning to cook like the locals on a course in Gloucestershire. Robert Rees has been a working chef in the Cotswolds for 15 years, and offers cooking classes at his family cottage near Bisley. Numbers are limited to eight, so advance bookings are essential. For dates and prices, see www.thecotswoldchef.com or email info@thecotswoldchef.com.

Shakespeare country
Stratford-upon-Avon is either endlessly fascinating or hideously overcrowded, depending on the season and your level of interest in Shakespeare and his works. Many buildings, dating back to Shakespeare’s time, in the district have been lovingly preserved by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and are open to the public. Shakespeare’s boyhood home is furnished as it may have appeared in the 1570s, while the childhood home of his wife, Anne Hathaway, is another tourist magnet. Curiously, the official Cotswolds tourist webpage modestly chooses to omit the world’s most famous writer from its ‘Famous people’ page, instead listing Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter and her distant relative, Harry, among the area’s best-known ex-residents. See www.shakespeare.org.uk instead.