137km (85 miles) NW of London; 58km (36 miles) NW of Oxford
This is the quintessential Cotswold village, with history dating from the Celts. Today it's overrun with tourists in summer. Residents fiercely protect the heritage of 15th- and 16th-century architecture, though their town is singled out for nearly every bus tour that rolls through the Cotswolds. Populated in Anglo-Saxon times, Bourton-on-the-Water developed into a strategic outpost along the ancient Roman road, Fosse Way, which traversed Britain from the North Sea to St. George's Channel. During the Middle Ages, its prosperity came from wool, which was shipped all over Europe. During the Industrial Revolution, when the greatest profits lay in finished textiles, it became a backwater as a producer of raw wool -- albeit with the happy result for us that it never "modernized."
This scenic Cotswold village on the banks of the Windrush River has earned the title of "Venice of the Cotswolds," with its mellow stone houses, its village greens on the banks of the water, and its bridges. Don't expect gondoliers, however. This makes a good stopover, if not for the night, at least as a place to enjoy a lunch and a rest along the riverbanks. Afterward, you can take a peek inside St. Lawrence's Church in the center of the village. Built on the site of a Roman temple, it has a crypt from 1120 and a tower from 1784. You can also visit this lovely spot as part of a fine walking tour.