The Cotswolds are a declared 'Area of National Beauty' that are situated around 2 hours North West of London. They are renown for their quintessentially British market towns and their beautiful stone cottages.
The Cotswolds are home to larger towns such as Cheltenham and Cirencester but have been put on the map for their unique smaller villages such as Stowe- on-the-Wold and the very popular Lower Slaughter.
The North Leigh Roman Villa
In addition to quaint villages, tea houses, small museums and cottages, the area is rich with Roman history, including The North Leigh Roman Villa.
The ruins are located in Witney, which is on the outer south east border of the area near Oxfordshire. They are accessible by bus, car, bike, and train and best of all are free to view. The ruins are sign posted, however the signs are no bigger than a normal street sign, so you will have to keep your eye out. If you are coming by car, you can use postcode OX29 6PZ to guide your sat nav.
Accessing the ruins
The ruins are free to enter and are open during daylight hours. The path down from the main road is dirt and runs for around 350 metres. It gets quite muddy, so sensible shoes are needed unless you'd like wet feet. The walk down is very pleasant as the path is lined with trees and in some parts is canopied by them also. As is typical of this region, the fences are made from stone and are well weathered.
The history of the ruins
The ruins are the remains of a villa owned by a wealthy Roman. It was built in either the first or second century and remnants of pre iron age artefacts have been found on the site. At its peak the villa included 4 bath suites, 16 mosaic floors, and 11 rooms with underfloor heating.
The area of the ruins that is visible today formed part of the courtyard villa. There is still evidence visible of hypocaust heating which was also notably used in Bath to heat the steam rooms at the baths.
The villa today
From the sky there is evidence of further buildings that no longer exist today. Much of this site is still under ground as it was reburied after excavation to ensure its preservation. In addition to the courtyard entrance, you can also view much of the perimeter of the compound.
Archaeologists believe that the ruins to the right of this photo contained farm animals and equipment to supply the villa, but much is still unknown about this site.
How long should I allow?
A visit to the site, including walking there and back and time to properly view the ruins should take you 45 mins to 1 hour. The ruins span around 2 acres of land, so there is plenty to look at if you are interested in the intricacies of such old ruins.
The site is very well signposted with information boards to help you interpret the site and imagine how it would have looked historically.
The round up
Whilst North Leigh Roman Villa is one of the lesser known sites in The Cotswolds, it is definitely worth a visit. Its a great way to break up your time between villages and it helps you to connect the present day with the past.
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