The Cotswolds (/ˈkɒtswldz/ KOTS-wohldz, /-wəldz/ -wəldz[1]) is an area in south-central, West Midlands and South West England comprising the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale.

Castle Combe, a typical Cotswolds village made with Cotswold stone
Location of the Cotswolds within England
Coordinates51°48′N 2°2′W
Area2,038 km2 (787 sq mi)
Named forcot + wold, ’sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides’

The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone that creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK and that is quarried for the golden-coloured Cotswold stone.[2] It contains unique features derived from the use of this stone; the predominantly rural landscape contains stone-built villages, historical towns and stately homes and gardens.

Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966,[3] the Cotswolds covers 787 square miles (2,040 km2) and, after the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, is the third largest protected landscape in England[4] and the largest AONB.[5] Its boundaries are roughly 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (140 km) long, stretching southwest from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath near Radstock. It lies across the boundaries of several English counties; mainly Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. The highest point of the region is Cleeve Hill at 1,083 ft (330 m),[6] just east of Cheltenham.

The hills give their name to the Cotswold local government district, formed on 1 April 1974, which is within the county of Gloucestershire. Its main town is Cirencester, where the Cotswold District Council offices are located.[7] The population of the 450-square-mile (1,200 km2) District was about 83,000 in 2011.[8][9] The much larger area referred to as the Cotswolds encompasses nearly 800 square miles (2,100 km2),[10] over five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire.[11] The population of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was 139,000 in 2016.[12]