Today Cirencester may be known as the capital of the majestic Cotswold region of the U.K., however during the time that the Roman’s were in control of Britain it was more than that – it was, in fact, the largest settlement after what is today known as London – then Londinium. Archeological excavations and exploration of the town (which arguably had its heyday in the 4th century) have led to the discovery of a treasure trove of evidence of the town’s importance during this period. A basilica, an amphitheatre that may have seated up to 8,000 people and many villas belonging to the rich and influential have excited much interest among scholars. However, modern-day Cirencester also has much to offer those who visit – including those interested in its fascinating past.
Those who visit Cirencester would be remiss not to explore its past – and that fascinating past is brought to vivid life at the Corinium Museum. The museum is home to one of the most impressive collections of Romano-British artefacts in the United Kingdom – and all are sourced from the city and its surrounds. However, apart from the mosaics, coins and statues from that era the museum also has impressive displays of Anglo Saxon artifacts and even civil war era displays. This is the perfect place for both adults and children to learn more about the fascinating history of the city – and indeed of Britain itself.
Exploring the wonders of the town itself is a task best accomplished on foot. Almost every street is a marvel of architectural beauty thanks in part to the wonderful Cotswold stone that gives the architecture of Cirencester such a delightful presence. For those who wish to enjoy a shopping experience that is complemented by this incredible architecture, a trip to Market Place where one finds the magnificent Corn Hall (built-in 1862) is highly recommended – it is now an upmarket shopping mall. The shopping experience is continued in Black Street where stylish boutiques and shops are to be found in abundance.
For those who are in search of dining destinations, Cirencester does not disappoint. There is something for everyone. Tierra & Mar for instance offers exceptional Mediterranean dishes at a price that will not break the bank – and the service is out of the top drawer. Jesse’s Bistro is a hidden gem – here one can enjoy classic rustic meals made from only the freshest of local ingredients. For those who relish the pub experience destinations such as The Crown beckon or enjoy the traditional ambience at The Plough Inn where a pint in front of a roaring log fire is one of the finer things in life.
For those who want to enjoy the calm and serenity of nature Cirencester Park is ideal. This park, which is on grounds of a country house which is the seat of the Earls Bathurst is open to the public from 08:00 to 17:00 each day and there is no admission fee. The strict geometry of the Park is a reflection of the 18th-century English Forest Style which reflects the search for land that represented a rural clam and peace. Fascinatingly the poet (and landscape artist) Alexander Pope spent three decades planting the trees which provide the sense of calm which pervades the Park. As an added attraction it is worth noting that what is recognised as the tallest Yew hedge in the world can be found in the Park.
Cirencester has much to offer aside from its fascinating history. As a base to start an exploration of the magnificent Cotswold region and its many natural wonders it simply has no equal.