Click on thumbnail to view full size picture of Winchcombe Almshouses
WINCHCOMBE TO SUDELEY CASTLE
Winchcombe is larger than you might think. It sits on the river Isbourne and in Saxon times was the capital of Mercia. It once had an Abbey. Founded in AD798 it grew to be the largest (and richest) landowner in the vicinity. This proved to be its undoing, Henry VIII took a liking to its assets and during the "dissolution" and took the money for himself. Winchcombe grew rich on the wool trade, throughout its history wealthy merchants built fine houses and many can still be seen. The almeshouses, the cottages down Vineyard St, and the little passageways between the houses all add to the town's charm.
Hailes Abbey also suffered from Henry VIII's attentions; although it's ruined the joint efforts of English Heritage and the National Trust have given character to the remains and it's easy to imagine what monastic life was like.
Sudeley Castle has 1,000 years of history and it shows. Katherine Parr lived there and Henry VIII was so attracted by her that he took time off from wrecking monasteries to court and subsequently marry her. Charles the 1st visited too but he led the castle into disaster. It sided with the royalists in the civil war and was wrecked by Cromwell's army. It stayed that way until the mid 1800's when the Dent family bought it and began to restore the building ( part of one tower is still in ruins). Inside it's a glorious jumble of differing furniture that oozes history. There's a Tudor costume exhibition, ladies - if you want to see dresses, take a look.
There are no pubs on the walk but pubs and tea rooms are available in Winchcombe.
How to get there:- Park in Back Street car park; its larger and much cheaper than the one near the war memorial. From Cheltenham take the B4632 and follow it for 7 miles, it leads straight into the town. From the M5 leave at Junction 9 at SO 9040 2565 taking the A46 for 3.3 miles to the B4077 on your right at SO 9629 3396. Continue on this Rd for £.8 miles to a cross roads with the B4078 at SP0204 3251. Turn right here and this lead to Winchcombe.