That prosperity is reflected in the buildings of the town from the magnificent church with its array of alarmingly fierce gargoyles to the many grand merchants’ houses, mainly built out of the warm, golden Cotswold stone.
It is a town that repays time spent wandering its streets, but for those needing to walk off Christmas excesses, it is also the perfect centre for country walking as it stands in the valley below the Cotswold escarpment. This is a walk that will take you back long before the Middle Ages and Christmas festivities to where rituals took place some 4000 or more years ago.
Belas Knap Long Barrow Ancient Monument ©Getty
The first part of the walk follows the Cotswold Way. Turn off the main street down Vine Street and cross the bridge towards the entrance to Sudeley Castle. The original castle was built in the 14th century, but little of that remains. It was rebuilt as a handsome house in the early 19th century and is now open to visitors.
Once across the bridge, turn right to follow the path through the fields, offering a good view of the castle. At the roadway turn left then right down the driveway to Corndean Hall. As the driveway swings right, turn left by the footpath sign for the path heading diagonally up the escarpment. It is a stiff climb but offers great views down over Winchcombe. A series of marker posts show the way uphill. At the top of the hill, cross the road and go through the gate into the woodland. At the far side of the wood, follow the path round the field towards the obvious mound of Belas Knap.
This is an immensely imposing Neolithic long barrow, an ancient burial site, with a large forecourt flanked by stone walls.
From Belas Knap retrace your steps to the road and turn right until you reach another patch of woodland. Turn left onto the footpath past the cottages and on down the hill past Wadfield Farm. The footpath eventually arrives at the road, back near Sudeley Castle. Turn left to return to the start.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.
Main image ©Alamy