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Secret UK: Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire in bloom: The Imperial Gardens in Cheltenham ©VisitEngland Images

10 reasons to love Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire, a county in the southwest of England, is best known for its traditional towns and cities, annual festivals and beautiful countryside – it’s a truly British experience, offering an insight into English culture and history.

To celebrate this timeless county, Jane Gordon and Matthew Ward from the University of Gloucestershire share the 10 reasons they love it…

1. The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty, attracting over 6 million tourists a year (there are 46 designated ‘areas of outstanding natural beauty’ in the UK – find out more here). It is home to picturesque towns and villages such as Bourton on the Water, Cirencester and Bibury, and gives the opportunity to explore both the UK’s heritage and the classic green hills and meadows of the English countryside.

You might even spot a famous face! This area has been home to many celebrities, such as Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Elizabeth Hurley, Patrick Stewart, Kate Winslet, J.K. Rowling, Simon Pegg and members of the Royal Family.

17th century stone cottages in the village of Bibury ©VisitBritain/Britain on View

Scroll down to see more of the Cotswolds in our short film!

2. Cheltenham town centre

If you’re looking for high-end fashion or high-street shops, Cheltenham has it all. This spa town is known for its pretty Regency architecture – and one of the five best shopping streets in the UK! There are also cafés, shops, restaurants, bars, theatres, a cinema and even a seasonal Christmas market (all within 10 minutes’ walking distance!).

Cheltenham has been described as a ‘town within a park’ because of its many green open spaces, and often wins the Britain in Bloom competition for its amazing floral displays.

Cafés and designer boutiques on a classic Cheltenham street ©University of Gloucestershire

3. The Cheese Rolling

What is it? The strangest display of sportsmanship in England, attracting thousands every year. How do you win? Chase a 9lb (4kg) Double Gloucester cheese to the bottom of Cooper's Hill, and the first person across the finish line wins. It’s a dangerous event for both participants and spectators – injuries invariably take place every year (one year, a rogue cheese even hit an innocent bystander).

But what a spectacle!

Chase that cheese: Competitors race down the hill (left) and the winner shows off his prize (right) ©VisitEngland

4. A multitude of festivals

Did you know there’s a festival every two months in Gloucestershire? There’s a festival for everything – from food and drink, comedy and cars to design, music, science, and literature – giving the public a chance to see big names from the arts, science and media worlds. Previous speakers and performers have included Stephen Hawking, Judi Dench, Salman Rushdie and Van Morrison. Click here to see what’s on.

Cheltenham Town Hall (left) and fireworks in the park during the Gloucester Festival (right) ©VisitEngland

5. Cotswold Water Park

Who says you need to be on the coast to enjoy the beach?! The Cotswold Water Park is a huge area of 150 lakes, offering opportunities for swimming, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, wakeboarding – and even sunbathing on man-made beaches! There are also places to eat and stay overnight, and fantastic nature reserves where you can walk or cycle and discover magnificent wildlife.

6. Gold Cup week

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a lot of fun – for one week every March, it brings Cheltenham alive with excitement! This is a Grade 1 National Hunt horse race, that draws a crowd from around the world. You don’t even have to be interested in horse racing – every year there’s a fantastic atmosphere, with live music, entertainment and food.

7. Cotswold Falconry Centre

The Falconry Centre houses an array of 150 photogenic birds of prey that you can see at close proximity. It’s great fun to watch the handlers fly the birds and gaze on as they perform impressive feats of avian hunting. You may even have the opportunity to handle a Bald Eagle – a day out you won’t forget!

Birds of prey: A falconer tests his nerve ©VisitBritain/Rod Edwards

8. Gloucester

Famous as one of the earliest Roman cities in the UK, Gloucester attracts thousands of visitors each year. Its medieval cathedral famously appeared in the Harry Potter films, and the 18th century docks now include waterside restaurants, museums, an outlet shopping centre and the opportunity to explore the waterways by boat! Gloucester is also preparing to welcome thousands of rugby fans from around the globe when it’s home to the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Make like Harry Potter and explore the cloisters inside Gloucester Cathedral ©VisitEngland

9. 2000trees festival

Our largest local music festival is 2000trees. This year it showcased 80 bands and attracted a crowd of over 5,000. The festival started back in 2007 when a group of six friends decided they were tired of paying too much to go to bigger festivals. So 2000trees was born! Since then it has won plenty of acclaim, including a UK Festival Award 2013, and attracted acts including Funeral for a Friend, Frank Turner, Bombay Bicycle Club and Hundred Reasons.

10. Historical places of interest

Gloucestershire is full of historical landmarks, so it’s a great place to learn about culture and history (or to walk around and pretend you’re in a Jane Austen novel or period drama!). You can see Roman ruins at Chedworth, historical re-enactments at Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, and Tudor and Elizabethan stately homes in many Cotswold towns. There are also beautiful abbeys in Tewkesbury and Prinknash – where monks still live and work today.

Travel back in time: Actors tell the story of Henry VIII and Princess Elizabeth at Sudeley Castle ©VisitEngland

Explore the Cotswolds

Want to see more of the Cotswolds? Watch this short film to experience this beautiful part of the UK as if you're really there (almost)...

Read more

   •  Gurns, bogs and cheese rolling: 10 surprising UK traditions
   •  Festivals, celebrations and public holidays in the UK
   •  Top tips for exploring the UK's countryside

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