Located in the north Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the principal market towns in the region. The main feature of the town is the historic market square which used to play host to the annual sheep fairs where, at the height of the Cotswold wool industry, up to 20,000 sheep were sold at one time.
The market square is steeped in history and has two features which date back to the medieval period. At one end of the square there is the medieval cross which was erected to urge traders to carry out fair business under the eyes of God, and at the far end stand the town stocks which are found in the shadows of the old elm tree.
Originally known as Edwardstow or Stow St Edward after the town's patron saint Edward, the town's church is also named after him. The church is just 100 yards from the town square and is a lovely place for locals and tourists alike to get some peace from the bustling market square. The north door is guarded by two yew trees and is a focal point of the town.
Stow has traditional narrow alleyways, or "tures" as they were once known, which wind their way through the centre of the town. It is these same alleyways that were once used to channel the sheep to the fair.
Another point of interest in the town is the well in Well Lane which is now a Grade II Listed Building. As a result of the rather unique geology of the area, water held in the higher layers of the limestone bursts out of various fissures on the slopes and two do still work as wells now.
Food & Drink
Stow has numerous places to eat and drink, with a range of cuisines and prices to suit all tastes and budgets. The list below is a small sample of the range of options available:
- The Queens Head Inn (http://donnington-brewery.com/pub_queenshead.php): The Queens Head is a traditional town pub, owned by the local Donnington brewery. Here locals mix with tourists who are unsurprisingly attracted into this lovely old pub. Good traditional pub food and ale, in a great atmosphere;
- The Conservatory Restaurant at The Grapevine Hotel (www.thegrapevinehotel.com): Contemporary fine dining. Diners sit beneath the century old Black Hamburg grapevine, from which the hotel derives its name. The menu is a blend of modern British cooking, offering an extensive choice of dishes, to suit the most discerning tastes;
- The Talbot: Laid back drinking, eating and coffees in a traditional meeting place for the town slap bang in the Square. Sofas, original paintings, rickety old tables and chairs, with staff who are under the threat of death if they are not friendly!
- White Hart (www.thewhitehartstow.com): A 'boutique' style Inn, which has recently been beautifully refurbished throughout. The Inn boasts two cosy bars, lots of open fires and an atmospheric dining room. Hearty food is served during the day, with finer dining in the evening. All food is sourced locally and prepared on the premises;
- The Bell (www.thebellatstow.com): The Bell at Stow is the perfect country pub. Behind the ivy-clad façade lies a charming, stylish interior with the warmest of welcomes. A favourite with the locals, The Bell is open all day every day offering everything from a pint of well-kept cask ale through to a delicious three-course supper. Friday evenings are legendary for the Champagne Happy Hour at 5pm - grab a seat if you can as the weekend gets off to the perfect start!
Stow has a Tesco and a Co-op for regular food purchases and, for special treats, there is a traditional butcher's shop and a number of delicatessens specialising in local produce, including:
- Lambournes Butchers (www.lambournesbutchers.co.uk): A family owned, multi-award winning traditional butchers, renowned for locally-produced meat, poultry and game, sourced from hand-picked suppliers. Referring to the owner, the BBC's Adam Henson has observed that "what Bob doesn't know about sausages isn't worth knowing";
- Cotswold Food Store and Café (www.cotswoldfoodstore.co.uk): The Cotswold Food Store and Café offers a huge variety of delicious local foods, ranging from locally sourced vegetables, meat, eggs and bread to charcuterie, hams and pates in its deli counter. The adjoining café offers freshly prepared meals by resident chef Sonya Kidney, along with home-made cakes, biscuits and light bites;
- Hamptons Fine Foods (www.hamptons-hampers.co.uk): Hamptons offer a wide range of quality foods to discerning customers. The shelves are packed with exclusive and delicious fine foods that one would not normally find in the mass outlets. A veritable Aladdin's cave. Hamptons specialise in gourmet hampers which can be collected from their shop or delivered direct.