Gloucestershire (abbreviated Glos) is a county in southwest England. Its county town, the city of Gloucester, hosts about 110, 000 residents. Its Roman foundations, Victorian docklands, splendid Norman cathedral (used for scenes in Harry Potter films) and bustling city centre make it one of England 's top ten historic cities. Elsewhere, the county hosts the Forest of Dean, some of the Cotswold Hills, and part of the River Severn valley. The area’s several royal residences include Highgrove House and Gatcombe Park.
Gloucestershire borders Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Bristol, Somerset and the Welsh county of Monmouthshire. The county’s other principal towns include its largest settlement – Cheltenham – as well as Cirencester, Stroud, and Tewkesbury.
The county is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the 10th century. However, the two most notable contemporary accounts of childhood in rural Gloucestershire are Laurie Lee's Cider With Rosie and Winifred Foley's A Child in the Forest. In 2007, Gloucestershire suffered the worst flooding in recorded British history. The RAF conducted its largest-ever peacetime domestic operation to rescue residents. The county recovered rapidly, investing in attracting tourists to visit its many sites.
The famous Gloucestershire Old Spots pig is historically associated with the county. The rare Gloucester cattle breed can still be found in and around the area, recognisable by the white stripes running down its back. These pigs produce milk for both Single Gloucester and Double Gloucester cheeses.
Road: The M4 and M40 motorways provide easy access to the major regional and national road networks. The M5 is a direct link to Birmingham, England's North Country, Devon and Cornwall. The A38 is another major route. (The Severn Bridges themselves are also major landmarks.)
Air: Birmingham Airport is best for travelling to Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds. Of London’s airports, the region has best access to Heathrow.
Bus: The National Express network runs routes to Gloucestershire from London’s Victoria Coach Station. The main bus stations in Gloucestershire are at Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud.
Rail: At the heart of the British Rail network, Gloucestershire provides mainline routes to London, the Midlands and the north and southwest. There’s also direct links to both Heathrow and Birmingham airports. The county’s main stations are at Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stonehouse and Stroud. Trains from London depart from Paddington Station.
Cycle: There are several cycle routes around Gloucester; and also to both Cheltenham and Bristol.
The Daily Telegraph commended the county’s largest town thus:“Excellent schooling, low crime rates, a thriving sporting culture and a bustling town centre all make Cheltenham a natural place for families with children.” It highlighted the lido and “delightful Pittville Park” as being deservedly popular. It also mentioned that house prices increase the further away you move from the centre.
Gloucester is second to the strong Cheltenham scene, but the city’s housing market is doing well, due to recent investment in the docks. The area’s Victorian warehouses are being converted into riverside apartments, thereby pushing prices up. Elsewhere, Gloucester Docks is a collection of new builds designed to complement the nearby Grade II listed warehouses. If you don’t want to live in the city, a good selection of family homes on the outskirts includes newly built houses as well as older properties.
The GloustershireLive website – which collates data from multiple regional sources –nominated up-and-coming Gloucester as offering some of the cheapest house prices in the county. It also said that mortgages are easier to get in the regenerating city. It also offers great links to the M5 motorway, and has railway and bus stations – which are often important factors for house-hunters. The appetite for new housing means the city has been earmarked for 13,100 new homes.
Gloucester has retained much of its market town atmosphere. Shopping in the city is not only full of pleasant surprises, but its pedestrianized main streets are laid out in a cross structure, making browsing safe and easy. The main streets – including Northgate, Eastgate, Southgate and Westgate streets – are wide and airy. The usual high-street stores are here in abundance but Gloucester also boasts fascinating specialist shops and boutiques.
It’s also home to the Kings Walk and The Eastgate shopping centres (which are both made livelier by stalls, stands and family friendly activity days). Gloucester Quays is a magnificent outlet centre; its many stores offer designer labels at huge discounts; there are also lots of restaurants and a cinema. It's also worth walking down Westgate Street and along Berkeley Street to the Victorian Docks. The area also has its own specialist shopping centre with some esoteric outlets.
Every Friday, the best locally sourced produce hits the stalls of the popular Farmers’ Market on The Cross. The Cathedral Quarter (Westgate Street, College Street and the picturesque College Court) is home to friendly independent boutiques. The city centre also hosts seasonal craft markets. Gloucester’s range of antique shops and flea markets include Gloucester Antiques Centre, Upstairs Downstairs, and Fab and Faded. Blackfriars Priory also hosts a quarterly Vintage Fair within its medieval confines.
Sport: Cheltenham Town is the region’s main football club, based in Whaddon Road. Gloucestershire County Cricket Club is one of the domestic game’s first-class county clubs.
Outdoors: Gloucestershire forms the greater part of the Cotswolds region with many fine churches and manor houses. The Royal Forest of Dean is one of England's few remaining ancient forests. Designated as a National Forest Park in 1938, this woodland has inspired artists and writers including Tolkien and JK Rowling. In the Severn Vale meadows lie alongside Britain's longest river; its estuary is a haven for wildfowl and wading birds. Gloucestershire’s National Garden Scheme promotes 90 gardens that are open to the public. The so-called ‘Daffodil Way’ in the Leadon Valley, on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, attracts thousands of walkers.
Family: Comedy Club 4 Kids knows how to make the little ones laugh. Enjoy some comedy then join the lantern procession to see Santa and the Christmas lights. There’s also Gloucester Life Museum – and the Nutcracker Trail of 6.5ft-high characters hidden around Gloucester Quays.
Events: There’s the two-day Beer, Cider and Perry Festival in August; live music and local suppliers create a real festival atmosphere. Running alongside the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Festival, visitors can also expect to find heritage boat processions, live music and great food at Over Basin. The Café Rene Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival is a weeklong music showcase. Meanwhile, the Barn on the Farm features intimate performances by folk artists. The Carducci Festival fills the city with world-class classical music. The Sportbeat Festival and Nibley Music Festival are other local music fests. An annual cheese-rolling event takes place near Brockworth. Ring in the festive cheer with Gloucester’s annual Lantern Procession – followed by a free carol concert at Gloucester Cathedral. A Christmas play is performed at Gloucester Guildhall.