In medieval times, Gloucestershire grew rich on wool, and handsome churches were built in almost every village. Its fortunes fluctuated, however, and during the 18th century, the county was seen as a bleak and poor outpost.

Nothing could be further from the truth today; Gloucestershire is one of the most sought-after counties in England, and is given added appeal by the fact that both the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne have made their homes there.

Communications to London are good, and as planning controls are strict, much of the countryside remains unspoilt. Essentially, there are two parts to Gloucestershire, which has now reclaimed the northern section of the former modern county of Avon. To the east are the Cotswolds, where the stone houses and pretty villages are popular among locals and tourists alike. To the west is a rich landscape of orchards and dairies, bordering the Forest of Dean, once described as ‘the most beautiful assembly of trees in England’.

In the Cotswolds, houses are typically built of mellow stone with stone slate roofs; to the west, brick is more common. Prices reflect the county’s desirability and popularity with both commuters and weekenders.

Major towns

Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Burford, Stow on the Wold, Moreton in Marsh, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Dursley, Wootton-under-Edge.

Transport links

Train: Paddington Cheltenham, 2hr 10min, £38.70 for a Saver return; Paddington to Bristol, 1hr 30min, £41.50 for a Saver return.

Car: Cirencester is 92 miles from central London via the M4 and A419; Cheltenham 120 miles, via the M40 and A40); Bristol 119 miles, via the M4.

Public schools

Cheltenham College (01242 513540). Co- educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.cheltcolls.sch.uk

Cheltenham Ladies’ College +44 (0)1242 513540. Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.cheltladiescollege.org

Dean Close School, Cheltenham +44 (0)1242 522640. Co-educational, age range 12-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.deanclose.co.uk

St Edward’s School, Cheltenham +44(0)1242 526697. Co-educational, age range 2 1/2-18, day. www.stedwards.co.uk

Rendcomb College, Cirencester +44 (0)1285 831213. Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.rendcombecollege.co.uk

The King’s School, Gloucester +44 (0)1452 337337. Co-educational, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.thekingsschool.co.uk

Wycliffe College, Stonehouse +44 (0)1453 822432. Co-educational, age range 12-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.wycliffe.co.uk

Westonbirt School, Tetbury +44 (0)1666 880333. Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.westonbirt.gloucs.sch.uk

Bredon School, Tewkesbury +44 (0)1684 293156. Co-educational, age range 5-18, day and boarding.

Leisure

Golfcourses: Cirencester (01285 653939); Cotswold Hills, Cheltenham (01242 522421); Minchinhampton (01453 832642); Painswick, (01452 812180).

Hunts: the Beaufort,the Berkeley, the Cotswold, the VWH, and the North Cotswold.

Yacht clubs : rivers Severn, Windrush, Coln and Churn.