The quintessential golden-stone villages, winding country lanes, bucolic pastures and charm galore – what’s not to like about an area of such beauty that it has been designated as a protected landscape and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? The Cotswolds has been the star of many a TV series and film, from Agatha Raisin to The Libertine to Harry Potter, and a bucket-list destination for millions of people around the world.
We highly recommend visiting this stunning region, even if it’s just a one-day outing from London – but we’d definitely suggest staying longer! It’s ideal for self-drive vacations but you can get around by public transport too. Get in touch to book your Cotswolds trip at email@example.com or 021 975 2047.
It’s impossible to list all the must-see spots, but here are our team’s top ten
This charming village is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds due to the River Windrush rippling through the centre of town, criss-crossed by little stone bridges. Bourton-on-the-Water is indeed one of the Cotswold’s prettiest villages. We recommend starting your day at the Model Village – a one-ninth replica of the town itself which will give you an oversight of where everything is. The Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum is packed with vintage vehicles of all kinds, while a visit to the Greystones Nature Reserve makes for a lovely visit on a warm day. There is so much more to do here, so plan to spend at least a day – but beware: it becomes very crowded during the summer months, so take this into account when planning your trip.
The Slaughters, Gloucestershire
Despite their somewhat scary-sounding names, the picturesque villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter make for a wonderful day out. Lower Slaughter is just 8.6km from Bourton, which can be done with an easy walk via a picturesque circular route. An easy 1-mile stroll alongside the River Eye separates Upper and Lower Slaughter – and the walk is worth it. We recommend a stop at the Old Mill at Lower Slaughter for tasty treats, great gifts, and interesting museum. And the scary name? Nothing to worry about – it comes from the Old English for ‘muddy place’.
Known as the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’, the gorgeous market town of Cirencester is an excellent base from which to explore the region – but the town itself is well worth your time too. In Roman times, it was the second largest town in England. Visit the soaring St. John the Baptist church, see the Roman mosaics at the Corinium Museum, and do some shopping at the historic Corn Hall and Arcade.
Also known as Downton Abbey village, this charming place is a must-see too. Downton Abbey fans will recognise the old Grammar School Building as Downton hospital and St Mary’s Church, which played host to many a dramatic event. But it’s so much for than a film location! Bampton is full of beautiful buildings, narrow lanes, lovely gardens, and plenty of boutique shops and delightful restaurants.
Many people don’t realise that the university town of Oxford is, in fact, part of the Cotswolds and an excellent starting point for a visit. A bustling and attractive city, the university town is packed with things to do and surrounded by gorgeous countryside. It’s less than an hour-and-a-half from London by train and well-connected with the rest of England. We highly recommend a walking tour as well as a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus to show you around. You’ll definitely want to visit the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral, and university precincts, particularly if you’re a Harry Potter film fan – the Bodleian Library, New College Cloisters and Christ Church Cathedral itself all have their place in the films. And don’t forget to pop in at Alice’s Shop – the real shop Alice Liddell visited as a child.
This lovely hilltop market town on the Roman Fosse way is one of the prettiest in the region. Stow-on-the-Wold is home to the Porch House, said to be England’s oldest inn, where you can raise a pint or get a tasty bite to eat. There are lots of excellent places to eat and do some shopping too. Don’t forget to visit St Edward’s Church with its decidedly Tolkien-esque door.
Artist and designer, William Morris, referred to Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’ and, while many may contest this, it certainly is a gorgeous place – like walking into a picture on a chocolate box. The famous Arlington Row, with its row of stone cottages, makes for fantastic photo backdrop – in fact, the entire village is a photographer’s paradise. It’s a great base for walks in the countryside, has a host of excellent pubs and restaurants, and the boggy meadow of Rack Isle is an important wildlife preserve. Take a stroll out to the Church of St Mary, a Saxon church that provides a peaceful respite from the bustling town. For something different, visit the Bibury Trout Farm – the oldest working trout farm in England – where you can feed the leaping trout and even try your hand at catching some
The second-largest town in the Cotswolds is the official home of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom – and a visit to Tetbury will show you why they love it so much. The southern gateway to the Cotswolds is architecturally much as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries, and boasts a beautiful Market House, built in 1655 as a place from which to sell wool and yarn, in its centre, in which markets are still held on certain days. We recommend a visit to the Tetbury Police Museum and Courtroom (yes, really) for something different, and a stroll to the 17th-century weaver’s cottages. A visit to the nearby National Arboretum at Westonbirt is recommended for nature lovers.
Burford, West Oxfordshire
Located by the River Windrush (the very same one that meanders through Bourton-on-Water, Burford boasts a charming medieval bridge, beautiful stone and half-timbered buildings, and rolling hills surrounding it. Explore along charming side streets and alleys, visit the Tolsey Museum and stroll down the high street to the river. Indulge in some sweet treats at the charmingly old-fashioned Burford Sweet Shop, treat yourself to a proper cream tea at Huffkins bakery and tea rooms, and indulge in a pint and some hearty food at one Burford’s many historic pubs.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
As with every town or village in the Cotswolds, this one is also ‘the prettiest’! Castle Combe (the featured image for this post) is bursting with the honey-coloured stone buildings we love so much, all nestled up to the By Brook aka Bybrook. The village, like many others in the region, has been the site of various filming locations, including the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.
Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire
Okay, we said 10 places but simply had to include Moreton in Marsh too as it’s such a great place to visit! Dating back to the 13th century, this delightful town can be reached by train from London in just 2 hours, and offers a host of beautiful sights, including many typical Cotswold houses built of the ubiquitous honey-coloured stone. Every Tuesday, the town is home to the Cotswolds’ largest street market. Don’t forget to visit The Bell Inn, said to be JRR Tolkien’s inspiration for The Prancing Pony, an inn at which Frodo and his friends met Aragorn.
TIP! The Cotswolds is phenomenally popular in Summer, with both locals and foreigners alike. If you’re planning on visiting during the peak times of May to August, we strongly suggest booking your accommodation several months in advance.
This blog post is written to inspire and all information is correct at time of writing. However, things can change so, before visiting, it is always important to check.