When outsiders want to poke fun at the Cotswolds, they invariably aim first at Stow-on-the-Wold. Over the last ten or fifteen years, a succession of metropolitan journalists from the London papers – visiting chiefly to review one or other of the restaurants – have taken delight in tearing strips off Stow for its supposed docility and predictability.
The late Sunday Times critic A.A. Gill was apoplectic, dubbing Stow “the worst place in the world” (before going on to declare, apparently seriously, “In Britain all the really innovative food is made in cities. Well, one city. London.”).
Stow is a symptom of a terrible malaise, comes the bleat. It’s ruining the Cotswolds.
The answer, of course, is that not everybody likes urban culture, and not everybody wants boutique hotels and gastropubs. You don’t come to Stow to be thrilled, challenged or intrigued.
Stow is a historic Cotswold market town, gentrified but largely unprettified, People come to have a stroll around the old square, a browse in the shops and a nice meal. The town delivers on all fronts.
To some, that makes the place infuriating, a parody of itself. To others, it’s perfect.
[Taken from the Rough Guide to the Cotswolds © Matthew Teller, 2018]