Gloucestershire is a county of great variety with three distinct areas: the Cotswold Hills, the Forest of Dean and the Severn Vale. The gently rolling hills of the Cotswolds are dotted with picturesque towns and villages of honey-coloured limestone, while the Forest of Dean, which overlooks the Wye Valley and Welsh mountains beyond, has a dark and mysterious beauty quite distinct from the rest of the county. These two areas are separated by the mighty River Severn, which over countless centuries has carved a course through the land to create the Severn Vale. Builders commonly used timber frames in the construction of dwellings in this low-lying land, notably in Tewkesbury, although some of Gloucestershireís most impressive stone buildings ñ Gloucester Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey and Berkeley Castle ñ are found in the Vale area. At the heart of the county lie its two major settlements: the historic city of Gloucester and the spa town of Cheltenham, famous for its festivals and Regency architecture. In 50 Gems of Gloucestershire author Mark Turner explores the history of these places and more, showing why this part of the west of England is so special.