The Cotswolds area was never a political entity. Its history, therefore, is diffuse. The first Neolithic visitors came to the Cotswolds in about 3500BC, and have left some seventy long barrows, or burial tombs, some of which, in excellent condition, can still be seen. The Bronze Age was notable for the construction of grand religious places of worship (most notable, in England, Stonehenge – not within the Cotswolds but not far either), such as the Rollright Stones (right), just inside the Cotswolds not far from Chipping Norton. The Iron Age people were the engineers of the impressive hill forts or camps that line the Cotswold escarpment at points like Little Sodbury, Uleybury and Crickley Hill.
A short time before the first millenium, an invasion of Belgic tribes from western Europe swept into England. The Dobunni tribe, who settled in west and southwest England, established their capital at what is now Cirencester (originally called Corinium Dobunnorum by the Romans). Bagendon, close to Cirencester, in the Churn valley, was also an important Dobunni settlement and several sections of the impressive ramparts remain to the north of the village.
The Roman Legions finally arrived in the Cotswolds in AD43 absorbing the Belgic tribes into their civilisation. Their centuries-long stay left rich architectural remains. From Cirencester, the second town in Roman Britain (after London), major communication links were established with the construction of Ermin Way to Silchester, the frontier road of the Fosse Way, which passed through the area from Lincoln to Axminster, and Akeman Street to St.Albans. In the north of the Cotswolds, Ryknild Street joined the Fosse Way at Bourton on the Water. Significant remains can still be seen at Cirencester, including a section of the town wall and a large amphitheatre. Above all, the Romans, or Romano-Britons, clearly found the Cotswolds as beautiful as their descendants do today, for they built a number of luxurious villas here, one or two of which, open to the public (for example, Chedworth), give a strong flavour of how Roman civilisation unfolded in England. And magnificent Bath, 'Aquae Sulis', still has its original Roman baths.