Located in South West England, Gloucestershire is steeped in history and blessed with natural beauty, characterised by its golden-coloured Cotswold stone. With an enviable blend of bustling urban regions, picturesque villages, and stunning countryside, Gloucestershire is both a fantastic place to explore and a coveted location to call home.

In this area guide, we delve into this diverse county that graciously offers tranquil countryside bliss and vibrant city life in towns like Gloucester and Cheltenham. We provide practical information about living here, highlighting amenities, schooling, transport, and real estate information.

History of Gloucestershire

The history of Gloucestershire dates back to Roman times, with the city of Gloucester tracing its roots to a Roman fort in AD 97. Throughout the ages, the region has been prominent in British history, central to battles, wool trading, and the industrial revolution. The countryside - rich in Cotswold stone - attracted the wool trade during medieval times, leaving behind picturesque and historic villages. The Severn River has also played a vital role in Gloucestershire's development, attracting industries in the 18th and 19th century, leading to significant urban development, particularly in Gloucester.


Gloucestershire is home to numerous significant landmarks. The awe-inspiring Gloucester Cathedral, pivotal in the country's religious history, dates back 1300 years and was used as a filming location for the Harry Potter movies. Tewkesbury Abbey, another spectacular historical religious site, is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in Britain. Further, the majesty of the Forest of Dean, an ancient woodland, offers scenic beauty unparalleled in England.

Landmarks we love

  • Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe: This historic castle, once home to Queen Katherine Parr, offers breath-taking gardens, fascinating exhibitions, and a fun adventure playground for the kids.
  • Chedworth Roman Villa, Yanworth: Discover one of Britain's largest Roman villas with stunning mosaic floors, bathhouse rooms, and an on-site museum which tells the villa's story.
  • Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury: This globally renowned tree garden has a collection of 15,000 specimens across 600 acres, offering beautiful displays across the seasons.
  • Berkeley Castle, Berkeley: An imposing fortress built over 900 years ago, it offers enchanting gardens, butterfly house, and is the scene of the murder of King Edward II.
  • Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, Burford: A lovely family-friendly wildlife park home to over 260 animal species and surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Top 10 things to do in Gloucestershire

  • Visit Cirencester: Often referred to as the "Capital of the Cotswolds", Cirencester offers a unique mix of modern amenities and old-world charm. Enjoy its bustling markets, centuries-old architecture, and vibrant arts scene.
  • Cheltenham Spa: This spa town offers a wealth of regency architecture, the horse racing gold cup, and the Jazz, Science, Music, and Literature festivals.
  • Cotswold Way: Walk or bike along the Cotswold Way and savour stunning views, picturesque villages, and unspoilt countryside.
  • Gloucester Docks: Explore the UK's most inland port with its restored warehouses, antique shops, and a bustling Quays shopping village.
  • Cotswold Wildlife Park: Get close to animals and explore beautiful gardens at this wildlife park that's fun for the whole family.
  • Royal International Air Tattoo: Experience the world's greatest air show at RAF Fairford and see spectacular air displays.
  • Stroud Farmers’ Market: Visit the multi-award-winning market and enjoy locally-sourced produce and products.
  • Forest of Dean: Hike, cycle, or go on a wildlife safari in this beautiful ancient woodland.
  • Slimbridge Wetland Centre: Get close to wildlife at this wetland reserve that's home to numerous species of birds.
  • National Waterways Museum: Discover Britain's historic canals and waterways at this interactive museum.

Our recommended areas to live in Gloucestershire

  • Cheltenham: A gem in Gloucestershire’s crown, Cheltenham is a regency spa town that holds appeal for families and young professionals. Offering a thriving educational scene with renowned schools, a vibrant nightlife, and the famous 'Cheltenham Gold Cup' horse racing festival, it’s a dynamic place to live.
  • Gloucester: Well-connected and steeped in history, Gloucester offers affordable living options and a range of amenities including the Gloucester Quays outlet, leisure and entertainment facilities, as well as excellent schooling options.
  • Stroud: A picturesque town with renowned farmers markets, arts festivals, and excellent schools, Stroud is perfect for those who want to enjoy rural charm without sacrificing modern amenities.
  • Cirencester: Often referred to as the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’, Cirencester is full of history and boasts a mix of independent and national retailers, excellent schooling, and access to recreational activities like cycling, golfing and horse riding.
  • Tewkesbury: Known for its half-timbered Tudor buildings and the historic Tewkesbury Abbey, Tewkesbury offers peaceful living and boasts superb river and canal network access - popular for boating and walks.

Best schools in Gloucestershire

If you're moving with educational preferences in mind, Gloucestershire is an ideal choice. The region is home to some remarkable educational institutions, both primary and secondary. Top-rated primary schools include Lakefield C of E Primary School in Frampton on Severn and Gretton Primary School in Cheltenham, both receive rave reviews from Ofsted. The secondary schools also boast top accolades. Sir Thomas Rich’s School and High School for Girls, both in Gloucester, are highly reputable. In terms of independent schools, Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Dean Close School, both located in Cheltenham, and Rendcomb College in Cirencester, have outstanding records. There are also superb further education options with the University of Gloucestershire providing numerous courses across its campuses in Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Transport links in Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire boasts excellent comparatively congestion-free transport links. With a network of A-roads connecting Gloucester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Cirencester, commuting by road is straightforward. The M5 motorway offers a direct link to Birmingham to the north and Bristol and Exeter to the south. Train services are run predominantly by Great Western Railway, with direct services to London, Bristol, and Birmingham from Cheltenham and Gloucester. The area is also served by several bus companies, both for in-town services and connecting the towns and villages within the county. Finally, for international travel, Bristol Airport and Birmingham Airport are both within reach, providing a wide range of domestic and international flights.

Gloucestershire, with its historic cities, charming countryside, and excellent amenities, is an exceptional place to live. Whether you're looking for the hustle and bustle of city living in Gloucester and Cheltenham, or a quiet retreat in picture-postcard villages like Painswick and Tetbury, this county has it all. With an excellent history, beautiful landscapes, superb transport links, and top-rated schools, Gloucestershire truly caters to everyone. Whether you're new to the area or a long-term local, there's always something new to discover in this multi-faceted county.

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