This boring word has been around since at least the year 786, but several of its meanings (forest, wooded upland, a hill) have happily become obsolete, and the OED says that nowadays it is:
A piece of open country; a plain; in early use (with the) sometimes = ‘the plain’, the ground, the earth; in later use chiefly, an elevated tract of open country or moorland; also collect. pl. or sing. rolling uplands. (Frequent since c 1600 in vague poetical use.)
Rolling upland is right for the range of hills mainly in Gloucestershire which since 1306 have been called The Cotswolds. The cot part may be something to do with the word for a small sheep-shelter, but on the other hand it may not. Sheep have always been a big deal in that part of the country, and Cotswold lion is “a humorous appellation for a sheep”, though I do not find this tremendously humorous.
Enough of all that, which was just an excuse for posting a note for which the world has not really been waiting about Where We Went on Holiday This Week.
It struck us that the Cotswolds is (are?) less likely to be a serious let-down for, say, American tourists, than anywhere else in England, for you get exactly what you hope for: it is beautiful, it is unspoilt, the natives are friendly, the pubs are great, the eating is excellent. Certainly, in high season it would not have been possible to travel as we did from Lower Oddington (where we stayed in Rose Cottage) to Stow, Bourton, Naunton, the Bartons, both Slaughters and one of the Swells, for hours along mostly deserted roads, and we were lucky with the weather, but the whole experience could have been much less perfect and still memorable.
Even the downsides had their compensations: the RSC had nothing on in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon, but we found something good to go and see in even nearer-by Oxford; major roadworks were causing delays in Chipping Norton, but made us detour through some glorious scenery we might have missed; and things we bought in a very up-market farm shop to take home to our wives were grotesquely over-priced (and the Organic Greek Shortbreads turned out to be horrid), but you could have breakfast there and the oeufs-en-cocotte à la crème with smoked salmon were so good that I had them two days running.