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It contains unique features derived from the use of this mineral; the predominantly rural landscape contains stone-built villages, historical towns and stately homes and gardens. Its boundaries are roughly 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (140 km) long, stretching south-west from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath.It lies across the boundaries of several English counties; mainly Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.Some 38 million day visits were made to the Cotswolds that year.Agriculture is also important; 80% of the land is used for this purpose.
To the south the Cotswolds, with the characteristic uplift of the Cotswold Edge, reach beyond Bath, and towns such as Chipping Sodbury and Marshfield share elements of Cotswold character.
Cotswold towns include Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Chipping Norton, Cricklade, Dursley, Malmesbury, Moreton-in-Marsh, Nailsworth, Northleach, Stow-on-the-Wold, Stroud and Winchcombe.
Bath, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Gloucester, Stroud and Swindon are larger urban centres that border on, or are virtually surrounded by, the Cotswold AONB.
The area is characterised by attractive small towns and villages built of the underlying Cotswold stone (a yellow oolitic limestone).
This limestone is rich in fossils, particularly of fossilised sea urchins.