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Photography : Tim Gainey / Alamy

It ’ s a late-summer morning that , despite its warmth , carries the promise of autumn in its breath . Stow-on-the-Wold , the highest town in the Cotswolds , is all aglow , its honeyhued buildings looking their best in the light of this more mellow sun . The narrow alleys that lead to its fine Market Square are filled with a languid procession of visitors

Antiques Centre , packed with vintage treasures from
at a pace that ’ s almost as leisurely . The enticing smell of
those who have time to linger to follow their noses .
And linger everyone should . Stow , though small , is not a place to be hurried . Its long history , gorgeous countryside with broad green meadows and drystone walls that are emphatically English ; its wealth of independent shops and restaurants ; and its lovely walks that lead to some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – reward those who take the time to explore . The Gypsy Horse Fair has been a part of Stow ’ s heritage since 1476 . Held in May and October , it attracts gypsy and traveller communities from all over the country who come to trade horses . It ’ s a slice of English history . A little further , no more than a 30-minute drive and doable by bike , attractions include the Arts and Crafts-inspired gardens at Hidcote and Jacobean manor Chastleton House . At Bourton-on-the-Water , beautiful canals have seen it dubbed the Venice of the Cotswolds , while the Cotswold Motoring Museum rolls out fun for the whole family , with vintage cars and retro toys . Further to the south , Lucknam Park is worth the drive – an exceptional hotel and spa , with saunas , steam rooms , a Japanese salt room and an outdoor heated therapy pool .
Stow ’ s focal point for a thousand years or more has been its vast Market Square and however you meander , you will return there . It has a monthly food market that draws in producers from all over the region , but its glory days as an important commercial centre were several centuries ago . Stow-on-the-Wold , like its neighbours , owes its former prosperity to a flaxen-fleeced sheep called the Cotswold Lion , which produced wool of such high quality that Europe ’ s finest weavers would go into a bidding frenzy to secure it . By the middle of the 16th century , half of England ’ s wealth was said to ride on the back of →
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