Land of the Dobunni
Explore one of the richest regions of Roman Britain, with some of the country’s most impressive Roman and Iron Age remains set amid the beautiful surroundings of the Cotswolds and Severn Vale.
- Chedworth and Great Witcombe, two magnificent Roman villas in beautiful surroundings.
- Bath’s famous Roman spa and World Heritage city.
- Caerwent and Caerleon, amongst the most impressive Roman sites in Britain.
- Meet Professor Simon Esmonde Cleary, an authority on Roman Britain.
- Dramatic hillforts of the Iron Age Dobunni tribe.
- The charming countryside and villages of the Cotswolds.
See the ‘Itinerary’ tab above for full itinerary details.
The Cotswolds was a prime area of Roman Britain, with one of the highest concentrations of luxurious villas. Today it is still one of Britain’s most affluent and attractive areas, and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The writer J.B. Priestley, who was married to archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes, described the Cotswolds as “the most English and the least spoiled of all our countrysides”.
This tour focuses on the Roman period in the Cotswolds and the Severn Vale, and on the native Brittonic people who lived here before, during and after Roman rule. This was the Dobunni tribe, whose impressive Iron Age hillforts we see, and who adapted to new ways in the towns and countryside of Roman times, emerging at the end of Roman rule to repossess their native land.
Our base for five nights is the ancient town of Cirencester, known to the Romans as Corinium Dobunnorum. It grew into the second largest town in Roman Britain and the capital of Britannia Prima, one of the four late Roman provinces of Britain. The town’s museum has one of the finest collections of Roman antiquities in the country, including many mosaics.
At nearby Great Witcombe and Chedworth are some of the grandest Roman villas in the country, with splendid in-situ mosaics. Both villas are set in beautiful surroundings, and we have a specially arranged private viewing of the Chedworth villa with Professor Simon Esmonde Cleary, an authority on Chedworth and Roman Britain. Further highlights include the elegant city of Bath, whose famous spa was the leisure capital of Roman Britain, and a trip into the land of the Silures tribe of south Wales, to see the legionary fortress at Caerleon and the Roman town of Caerwent, one of Britain’s best kept secrets.
Dates & Prices:
17 – 22 May 2021. Only £995. Booking open.
Single supplement £195.
Book now and receive a complimentary copy of Professor Simon Esmonde Cleary’s recent book on the magnificent Roman villa at Chedworth (while stocks last).
- Five nights hotel accommodation at the charming Corinium Hotel, Cirencester.
- All breakfasts, one evening meal and one lunch.
- Daily excursions with all transport, entrances and expert guiding.
Meals: We include an evening meal in the hotel’s locally renowned restaurant on the first evening, and a specially arranged lunch in the Corinium Museum on day 5. Additional evening meals can be taken in the hotel but we leave these as optional so that you can make your own choices and perhaps enjoy some of the excellent local restaurants within easy walking distance of the hotel.
All of Hidden History’s tours include a host of fully guided excursions and interesting talks to create an enriching travel experience. They also include some luxury and leisure by choosing great hotels and keeping the itineraries fairly relaxed and varied. For more on what to expect click on the box below…
Your Tour Director
Dr Eireann Marshall is an Associate Researcher and Lecturer with the Open University. She has published widely on ancient civilisations and led numerous tours exploring the Roman world. She was awarded ‘Top History & Culture Guide’ in Wanderlust’s 2019 World Guide Awards.
This tour is not especially demanding and will present no problems for participants with a reasonable level of mobility and fitness. The sites are mostly on level ground with few steps. Even the hillfort at Uleybury has fairly level access. Please feel free to ask us for more details.
Make your way to the ancient town of Cirencester, known as the capital of the Cotswolds. See the ‘Location’ and ‘Hotel’ tabs above for more details.
More on what to expect
How To Book
Reservations & Enquiries: To reserve your place or enquire further simply enter your details in the form on this page, or call us on (UK) 0121 444 1854. There is no commitment and no payment at this stage; reservations are purely provisional until we have confirmed availability and proceeded with booking and payment.
Booking & Payment: Once you have checked availability and reserved your place, we will require your full details and a deposit of £100 per person to secure your booking. This can be done with a credit/debit card over the telephone (0121-444-1854) or by sending us a completed booking form and cheque. To print a booking form click here.
See our booking conditions for further details.
Click on the ‘Gallery’ tab above for more images of this tour.
- Departure Time17 May 2021
Day 1: Arrivals.
Make your way to the historic town of Cirencester. Check-in at the charming Corinium Hotel and meet your tour director, Eireann Marshall, for a welcome talk followed by an included 3-course evening meal.
Day 2: Bagendon, Great Witcombe and Gloucester.
Bagendon is today a typical Cotswold village but archaeology has indicated it may once have been the tribal capital of the Dobunni people, and a precursor to Roman Cirencester. The site is one of the lesser-known, but perhaps most significant, Late Iron Age oppida in Britain, and recent excavations are revealing fascinating insights into the changing nature of society from Iron Age into Roman times.
At Great Witcombe we find a large and luxurious Roman villa in one of the most striking and dramatic locations of all the villas in the Cotswolds, with splendid views from the site. Once at the heart of a large country estate, the villa was built about AD 250, and lived in for around 200 years. The remains include a bathhouse complex, mosaics and an interesting shrine to a water spirit.
A few miles on from the villa, following the Ermin Street Roman road, we arrive at Gloucester, known to the Romans as Glevum. The city began life as a Roman fort controlling an important crossing of the River Severn, and part of the Fosse Way frontier zone established soon after the Roman invasion. This was succeeded by a larger legionary fortress which acted as a base for the invasion of Wales, and which grew into an important settlement that in AD 97 was granted the title of Colonia, one of only a few such high status towns in Roman Britain. Our walking tour of the city centre reveals how much of today’s street plan is still based on the original Roman layout. Saxon Gloucester became a centre of pilgrimage after the relics of St Oswald were brought here by the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, and the city’s continuing importance was reflected in the size of its medieval cathedral; its Great East Window, as big as a tennis court, was the largest window in the world when it was installed in the 1350s, and is still today a landmark of European medieval stained glass.
Day 3: Bath and Uleybury.
Home to Britain’s only natural hot springs, Bath has been a spa town since Roman times. It was the leisure capital of Roman Britain, and the original baths are remarkably well preserved, still flowing today with the natural spring water. Our tour includes a visit to the Roman Baths and reveals how the spa was both secular and sacred at the same time, displayed a fusion of Roman and native British cultures, and was a healing sanctuary of international fame.
The baths also became very fashionable in Georgian times, when the city was developed with elegant, neo-classical buildings, crescents and squares, built in the beautiful, honey coloured Bath stone. Today it is the UK’s only UNESCO World Heritage city.
We return to our hotel via the scenic Cotswold countryside and stop at the impressive Iron Age hillfort at Uleybury. With splendid views across the Severn Vale, this large and unusual hillfort was one of a number along the Cotswold scarp, and finds from the site indicate its particular significance during Iron Age and earlier prehistoric times.
Day 4: Caerleon and Caerwent.
Venturing across the Severn Vale into Wales, we arrive at Caerleon, the site of one of Roman Britain’s three permanent legionary fortresses. Built in AD 75 for the subjugation of South Wales, it was the headquarters of the II Augusta Legion and was in use for over 200 years. It took its Roman name, Isca, from the River Usk beside which it was strategically located.
Substantial excavated Roman remains can be seen, including the most complete amphitheatre in Britain, the finest remains of legionary barracks in Europe, and a very large baths complex that was a match for anything in Rome. The baths are viewed from an elevated walkway with informative light and sound displays, and the whole site give us a real sense of a Roman legionary’s life.
At nearby Caerwent we find one of the most impressive Roman sites in Britain, and one of the country’s best kept secrets. It began life in the late AD 70’s as a small market town close to the newly established legionary base at Caerleon, and was known to the Romans as Venta Silurum, the market town of the Silures, the native tribe of South Wales. In the 2nd century AD the Silures were granted a form of self government and Caerwent became their administrative centre and capital. A programme of public works followed, creating the impressive remains we see today and which really give us a sense of life in Roman times. They include walls still standing up to 5 metres high, excavated houses, a market place and a Romano-British temple.
Day 5: Cirencester and Chedworth
Cirencester today is a traditional Cotswold market town with picturesque narrow streets and honey coloured stone buildings. In medieval times it was a very prosperous wool town, and its parish church of St. John the Baptist is one of the finest of the famous Cotswold ‘wool churches’. Further back in time, during the 4th century AD Cirencester (Corinium Dobunnorum) was the second largest town in Roman Britain, and probably the capital of Britannia Prima, one of the four late Roman provinces of Britain.
Our morning’s walking tour explores the town’s heritage, including a section of the Roman wall and the earthworks of the amphitheatre that held some 8,000 spectators, one of the largest in Britain. We conclude at the award winning Corinium Museum which houses one of the finest collections of Roman antiquities in Britain, including the largest concentration of mosaics outside of London.
Our visit to the museum includes lunch and a chance to meet Simon Esmonde Cleary, Emeritus Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. Simon will then take us on a guided tour of the nearby Chedworth Roman Villa, revealing fascinating insights into Romano-British society. Cradled in a beautiful Cotswold valley and enjoying idyllic rural views, Chedworth is one of the best sites in the country for understanding Romano-British villas and society. Between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD the villa was extended and improved to become one of the grandest villas in the province, complete with flushing toilets, under floor heating and stunning mosaic floors. The latest discovery here has surprised archaeologists; a 5th century AD mosaic which indicates that the villa remained in use after Roman rule ended, when the Dobunni people regained control of their homeland.
Day 6: Departures.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before checking-out and making your way home.
By car, the town of Cirencester is easily accessed in about 20 minutes from the M4 motorway via Swindon to the south, and from the M5 motorway via Gloucester to the west. The M40 motorway via Oxford to the east is about 1 hour away.
By train, Cirencester is served by Kemble railway station which is located approximately 5 miles away. There is a regular, direct service to Kemble from London Paddington (journey time just over 1 hour), Swindon (12 minutes), Gloucester (30 minutes) and Cheltenham (45 minutes).
Use the + and – buttons on the map below to zoom in and out.
The Corinium Hotel
12 Gloucester Street
The privately owned Corinium Hotel is quietly situated in one of the oldest streets in Cirencester, yet just a 5 minute walk into the town centre. Built in 1595 and grade 2 listed, the hotel is full of Cotswold charm. It offers 15 individual character bedrooms, a locally renowned restaurant and a cosy bar which is listed in the Good Beer guide.
The hotel prides itself on offering the best traditions of warm hospitality, friendly service and good quality food. It has a pretty secluded garden which provides a lovely spot to dine alfresco or enjoy a quiet drink. The Hotel also has the benefit of a large free car park within its own grounds.
Please note that, as a grade 2 listed building, the hotel does not have a lift but the staff will offer assistance with luggage where needed.