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If Moreton-in-Marsh is the most accessible of Cotswold towns, then there is no question that Minchinhampton is the least accessible. It sits on a high finger of the Cotswold Edge like The Land That Time Forgot. Explorers out of the pages of an Arthur Conan Doyle novel struggle up the Edge to the high and windswept Common and dodge dinosaurs.
Or hang-gliders, kite flyers, mountain bikers, trail riders, people walking dogs, ice-cream vans, solitary mystics, earth mystery celebrations, and horses with people on them. No dinosaurs, but make no mistake about inaccessibility - here I do not exaggerate. The only roads that go to Minchinhampton are marked on the OS map as little yellow ones, which means that there is enough room for two cows or three sheep to walk abreast. What happens when two Toyota Landcruisers meet on a twisty bend with a 30% gradient doesn't bear thinking about. There may only be 150 metres of contours from Nailsworth valley bottom to Minchinhampton, but it is 150 metres with more gravity and less road than there ought to be in such a short distance.
The best way into Minchinhampton is to leave the Cirencester road to Stroud just before it dives into the depths of the Golden Valley in Chalford. It is a small woollen town almost untouched by modern development. The streets, however picturesque they might be, were not made for cars or trucks, and it is very easy when driving a car to find yourself funnelled by the narrow streets on a non-stop journey that takes you in one end of Minchinhampton and out the other. It is like making a grab for a black-belt in Judo - for a moment you think "I've got him!" and then it is too late and you are airborne. Don't let Minchinhampton take you by surprise like this. Circle around it warily. Make no sudden moves, or before you know it you'll be driving somewhere you didn't want to go.
The best place to view the town is at the tall market cross . Close by is the columned Market House, built in 1698 and similar in style to that in nearby Tetbury. The church of Holy Trinity to the north has a highly distinctive tower, like a truncated spire. The church was begun in the 12th. century, but it has undergone substantial rebuilding at various times (the nave and chancel were rebuilt in 1842), so it is a thorough amalgam. It is worth seeing for the beautiful 14th. century south transept with its rose window and stained glass. To the northeast of the town is Minchinhampton Common, 580 acres of which belong to the National Trust. It is a popular recreation area and an important archeological site. The most visible and extensive remains belong to the Iron Age, probably just predating the Roman conquest, and it is clear that the site was an important and strategic location for the Dobunni, a Celtic tribe dominant in the area. The Minchinhampton Bulwarks is a large defensive earthwork stretching for a mile. I was expecting something on the scale of the Devil's Dyke near Newmarket in Cambridgeshire, and was a little disappointed at the remaining earthworks . Amberley Camp is a hill fort enclosing about 50 acres. There are various round and long barrows in the area and also some standing stones in the area, and also some standing stones.
Gatcombe Park is only a mile outside the town and is well-known as the home of the Princess Royal, Princess Anne.
Moreton-in-Marsh is a busy North Cotswold town on the Fosse Way. It has many attractive buildings and shops but there are no rivers running down the main street. There are no cutesy little bridges. William Morris didn't have a house there.