When you think of the villages of the Cotswolds, you’re probably picturing rows of pretty stone cottages lining the narrow streets and alleys. And while that’s definitely true, the best Cotswolds villages have so much more to offer than just picturesque buildings.
This guide on the best places to visit in the Cotswolds doesn’t just cover the most interesting villages and towns that you shouldn’t miss. It is also filled with insider tips about the hidden gems in each place, where to go for the best meals (and pints), and some not-so-obvious attractions and activities that are equally unmissable.
Being one of the easiest and most pleasant weekend trips from London, these prettiest villages in the Cotswolds should definitely be on any UK-enthusiast’s bucket list!
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📍 Where Are the Cotswolds Towns & Villages?
The Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is situated in Southern England, about 2 hours northwest of London and 1.5 hours south of Birmingham. It is the largest AONB in England and Wales, covers roughly 800 square miles, and runs through five counties: Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Wiltshire.
🏡 Where to Stay in the Cotswolds
There are plenty of amazing accommodation options in the Cotswolds, from spa hotels to quiet countryside getaways in authentic Cotswolds stone cottages. Here are my suggestions.
BEST SPA HOTEL: Calcot Hotel & Spa (⭐ 9.2)
This spectacular 4-star hotel in Tetbury has a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, an indoor pool, a sauna, a spa & wellness centre, and a tennis court. They also provide free bikes so that you can cycle around the area. In addition to that, there’s free WiFi and free breakfast.
MOST SCENIC HOTEL: The Swan Hotel (⭐ 9.0)
This gorgeous ivy-clad hotel in Bibury is only a few steps away from one of the most photogenic places in all of Cotswolds: Arlington Row. It’s also very close to the scenic Bibury Trout Farm and is the perfect base to explore the rest of the Cotswolds villages.
MOST UNIQUE HOTEL: Grade II Listed Stone Cottage (⭐ 9.6) This 16th-century holiday home in Burford is the perfect little countryside getaway as it’s directly facing a large pasture with nothing but sheep roaming around. It’s a wonderful place to escape the crowds while still staying close to town.
BEST TOWN HOTEL: Stow Lodge Hotel (⭐ 9.1)
This hotel is located just a few minutes by foot from the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold, one of the best towns in the Cotswolds. Inside its premises, there’s a bar, a gorgeous garden, and a restaurant. There’s free WiFi in its cozy rooms and plenty to do around the area.
🇬🇧 18 Best Cotswolds Villages & Towns to Visit
18. Chipping Campden
🌸 Why you should visit: This picturesque medieval town is filled with history, life, and bustle. It’s considered one of the jewels of the Cotswolds and is gorgeous no matter the season. In the winter, it’s covered in snow. In the spring, there are beautiful cherry blossoms. In the summer, you can stroll through the nearby lavender fields, and in the fall, there are golden colours all around.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take a stroll on High Street, which is lined with atmospheric 14th-century buildings. Stop by the iconic 17th-century Market Hall, which used to provide shelter for traders back in the days. Visit St James’ Church, one of the best ‘wool’ churches in the Cotswolds. Take in the beauty of the nearby Hidcote Manor Garden and Kiftsgate Court Gardens.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Enjoy a chicken pie and sticky toffee pudding from Eight Bells!
🔥 Insider Tip: Take a walk on Sheep St. and the B4081. You’ll come across some townhouses and cottages with the prettiest hay roofs and the most beautiful plants decorating their facades. It’s truly an enchanting sight, especially in the spring when colourful blossoms are at every corner.
🌸 Why you should visit: Situated just 20 miles (32 km) west of Oxford, Burford is an easy 30-minute drive from there and is considered as the southern gateway to the Cotswolds. This picturesque town is filled with postcard-worthy views of ancient cottages and the scenic countryside. It’s also bustling with pubs, restaurants, and shops lining its atmospheric streets.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Wander the premises of the stunning St John the Baptist Church and admire the gorgeous architecture there. Stroll by the charming stone houses on The Hill. Visit Tolsey Museum to learn about the history of the town. Browse the shops on High St and stop for a drink at one of the cafes. Last but not least, watch beautiful swans and ducks swim in River Windrush.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Grab a pint and taste the delicious panfried seabass at The Angel. They have a gorgeous outdoor seating area in their garden, and the food is absolutely delicious.
🔥 Insider Tip: Take a walk up to Cottage on the Hill (click here for the Google Maps address) through the countryside. It’s a peaceful and relaxing stroll past some sheep on a large pasture, and throughout the walk, you’ll get an incredible view of a picturesque row of cottages in front of you. You can even stay at a 16th Century Grade II Listed Cotswold’s Stone Cottage (⭐️ 9.6) there!
16. Bibury — One of Cotswolds’ Best Villages
🌸 Why you should visit: Of all the Cotswolds towns and villages, Bibury truly stands out for its ridiculous attractiveness. In fact, it’s famously deemed as “the most beautiful village in England” and also offers plenty of things to do for nature lovers.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take a stroll down Arlington Row, one of the most photographed streets in England. This Grade 1 listed street is the main attraction in Bibury for a good reason: its row of honeycomb cottages is one of the most picturesque places in all of Cotswold. Just a few steps from them lies the Bibury Trout Farm, where you can feed trout and enjoy a tasty homemade cake at their stunning garden cafe.
🌿 For nature enthusiasts: Take a pleasant 6.5-mile (10.4 km) circular walk around Coln Saint Aldwyns and Bibury, which would take roughly 3 hours to complete and will immerse you in the green rolling hills of the countryside.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Have a pint and some delicious trout or steak at The Catherine Wheel, the only pub in the village. They have a cozy outdoor seating area in their garden and aim to always use fresh, locally sourced produce.
🔥 Insider Tip: The ivy-clad Swan Hotel (⭐️ 9.0) is right in the heart of the village and offers a variety of dining, drinking, and afternoon tea options, even for non-guests. It’s of course also an amazing place to stay the night due to it being right next to the iconic Arlington Row.
🌸 Why you should visit: The elegant village of Broadway is often deemed as the “Jewel of the Cotswolds” and has something to offer everyone, from nature enthusiasts to history buffs.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take the scenic Cotswold Way Circular Walk up to Broadway Tower, which sits on top of a high hill. This walk will take roughly 2.5-3 hours, and you’ll get some gorgeous views of the Cotswolds countryside along the way. If you’re into history and art, visit the interesting exhibitions at the Broadway Museum & Art Gallery. For something relaxing, stroll through the quiet and residential High Street, which is lined with picturesque houses, restaurants, and cafes.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Stop for some delicious afternoon tea and scones at Tisanes.
🔥 Insider Tip: Don’t miss the hidden Millennium Garden, one of the most commonly overlooked spots in town. It is right next to the Broadway Museum and has several benches where you can sit down and take in the stunning surrounding sceneries. The atmosphere there is very quiet and tranquil, so it’s a great place to go for some downtime.
14. Snowshill — One of the Cotswolds’ Best Places to Visit
🌸 Why you should visit: The tiny sleepy village of Snowshill is a mere 5-minute drive and 15-minute bike ride from Broadway, and it’s totally worth stopping by for its unique and fascinating attractions (see my insider tip!). This secluded village is also great to see in the winter because as its name suggests — if it’s snowing in the Cotswolds, you’ll see it there first.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Explore the beautiful Snowshill Manor and Gardens and all the fascinating antiques inside; it’s essentially become a museum of eccentric objects collected by Edwardian gentleman Charles Paget Wade over his lifetime. Take a walk around St Barnabas Church and admire the quintessential Cotswolds stone cottages lining the narrow streets in the village centre.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Grab a pint and some tasty fish and chips at Snowshill Arms, a dog-friendly locals pub that also has a large play area for kids.
🔥 Insider Tip: A mere 10-minute walk from the village centre will get you to the Cotswold Lavender Farm, where you can enjoy gorgeous fields of lavender and even buy some dry lavender for your home. The fields are open to the public (the admission fee is £7 per person) and the best time to see the lavender there is from early to mid-July (although this differs from year to year).
🌸 Why you should visit: Bourton-on-the-Water is not only an incredibly picturesque village with a fun and lively atmosphere; it also offers a wide range of engaging activities for everyone — whether you’re visiting alone, with friends, or with family. You can easily find enough things to do here to keep you busy for a whole day.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take a stroll alongside River Windrush or sit down on the green riverbank for a relaxing picnic. Visit the incredibly cute Model Village to feel like a giant among all the tiny replicas. If you’re a car geek, the Cotswold Motoring Museum has a large collection of rare, vintage cars. For a fun activity, head over to the Dragonfly Maze for an hour of clue-solving with a twist.
🐧 For animal lovers: Go see penguins, parrots, flamingos, and other exotic birds at the Birdland Park & Gardens! There are over 500 birds in their 9-acre woodland, and they also offer plenty of hands-on activities such as bird feeding. Kids will also love their obstacle course playground.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Stop by the cozy, family-run Bakery on the Water for some delicious afternoon tea. Grab a pint and enjoy a delicious lamb shank at the picturesque setting of Rose Tree Restaurant.
🔥 Insider Tip: Bourton-on-the-Water is typically quite busy, especially during the weekends, Bank Holidays, and in the summer. Visit outside these peak times, or better yet — book a night at The Lamb Inn (⭐️ 8.9), which is situated right at the heart of the village, so that you can enjoy this place in the evening when all the day-trippers have gone home.
12. Upper Slaughter
🌸 Why you should visit: Upper Slaughter is a very quaint and tranquil village that isn’t often frequented by visitors. This gives you a great chance to see a quintessential Cotswold village without the crowds. This tiny village is also one of the only 14 villages in the UK to have lost no men in both WWI and WWII. That’s why it’s often referred to as one of the ‘Doubly Thankful Villages’.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take a relaxing stroll along River Eye, which runs through this pretty village. Wander across the small footbridges on the river. Admire the picturesque medieval houses around The Square, the heart of this tiny village. Visit the 12th-century St Peter’s Church, a Grade II* listed building that’s just as charming on the inside as its stunning facade suggests.
🔥 Insider Tip: Head over to Lords Of The Manor Hotel (⭐️ 8.9) for a relaxing afternoon tea on their lawn. They also have two restaurants on-site serving delicious food, but be sure to book a table in advance. If you’re planning to stay the night, this is definitely one of the best countryside hotels in the Cotswolds for a luxury experience.
11. Lower Slaughter
🌸 Why you should visit: Lower Slaughter is definitely one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds, UK. Its 16th-century stone cottages line the banks of River Eye, which cuts through the village — creating postcard-worthy sceneries at every angle. This is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger towns and appreciate the slower country life.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Stroll along Copsehill Road, which was once voted as Britain’s most romantic street. There, you’ll get breathtaking views of the historic stone houses lining the banks of River Eye. Stop by the Old Mill Museum to learn about breadmaking. Wander inside the gorgeous Parish Church of St. Mary. Snap a photo at the Slaughters Village Hall, a charming Grade II listed building.
🔥 Insider Tip: Taste some high-quality local produce at the Sixteen58 restaurant in The Slaughters Manor House (⭐️ 8.8), the perfect place to spend the night. This hotel is surrounded by five acres of beautiful gardens and is situated in an atmospheric 17th-century Grade-II listed building.
🌸 Why you should visit: This lively and vibrant market town is interestingly home to some of Britain’s finest antique shops. There’s also plenty of history here, as the main town square used to be a centre of wool trading. On top of that, there are plenty of pubs and tearooms around offering delicious food and drinks.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Go antique shopping around the historic Market Square (the heart of the town) or simply soak up the medieval vibes there. Visit St. Edward’s Church, which has an enchanting tree-framed doorway that gives off all the Lord Of The Rings vibes (it’s said to have inspired the ‘Doors of Durin’ in the series!). Taste some delicious cheese at the Cotswold Cheese Company at the heart of town. If you enjoy art, stop by the Fosse Gallery to enjoy some contemporary British art.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are several locations near Stow-on-the-Wold which were featured in popular films and TV shows. You can take a little tour and visit Cheltenham Town Hall, which is 30 mins away, and was a filming spot for Pride and Prejudice. Gloucester Cathedral is a 50-min drive and was featured in Harry Potter, and Snowshill (15 mins away) was seen in Bridget Jones’ Diary.
9. Kingham — One of the Best Places to Visit in the Cotswolds
🌸 Why you should visit: This peaceful, charming, and unspoiled village is lined with elegant 17th-century thatch cottages, many of which are ornate with blossoms at their footsteps in the spring. There are also a number of walking and cycling routes in town. Moreover, the Kingham railway station is just one and a half hours by direct train from London Paddington.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Visit St. Andrew’s Church, which features a 17th-century rectory. Wander the narrow streets of the village and admire the pretty stone houses with their pastel-coloured doors. Stop by the ornate Kingham Village Stores for some snacks and pastries.
🚴🏻♀️ A fun activity: Loop around Kingham on a 28-mile (45 km) Cotswolds Electric Bike Tour which takes you through the hidden gems in the Evenlode and Windrush valleys. This is a very pleasant and relaxing way to take in some classic Cotswolds sceneries!
🍺 Where to eat & drink: The Michelin starred restaurant The Wild Rabbit offers delicious meat and veggie options if you’re into fine dining. Alternatively, the award-winning The Kingham Plough serves exquisite pub food.
🔥 Insider Tip: Head over to Daylesford, an ultra-chic farm shop with organic veggies, fruits, and herbs that are freshly picked each morning from their local garden. You can tour their garden room and cheese room, or sit down at their café for some tasty dessert.
8. Castle Combe
🌸 Why you should visit: No trip to the Cotswolds would be complete without seeing the iconic row of stone cottages in Castle Combe, often referred to as “the prettiest village in England”. When you’re there, you’ll see why — it essentially feels like stepping into a fairytale. It’s worth it to stop here for even just an hour to stroll around and snap a photo with the postcard-worthy houses.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Stroll down Water Lane and snap a photo of the iconic row of houses there — it’s one of the most photographed spots in all of Cotswolds. You can also sit on one of the benches there and have a snack while enjoying the view. Visit the 15th-century St. Andrew’s Church, which was built when this village was a centre of wool trading. Another landmark in Castle Combe is the Market Cross, which is surrounded by more picturesque houses.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: For a Michelin dining experience, try some of the delicious seasonal dishes at Bybrook Restaurant in the gorgeous Manor House Hotel (⭐️ 9.2), which is also a great place to stay the night. This hotel also serves afternoon tea (to non-guests too) on their stunning terrace. Alternatively, The Salutation Inn is a top pub with a gorgeous outdoor setting and has great options for vegetarians as well.
🔥 Insider Tip: To get the best photos of the iconic row of houses on Water Lane, arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to get the best lighting. Alternatively, the golden hour right before sunset will provide excellent lighting too, although you’ll be surrounded by a lot more people.
7. Bath — A City With a Small Town Vibe
🌸 Why you should visit: Bath is quite different from all the other Cotswolds towns and villages. While it’s not the place to visit if you’re looking to see the quintessential stone cottages of the Cotswolds, it’s a historic city with a small-town vibe and has plenty of fun and relaxing activities to offer. It’s also the perfect place to immerse yourself in history and soothing spa treatments.
🏰 The southern gateway to the Cotswolds: Bath is only a 30-min drive from some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, including Castle Combe, Lacock, and Bradford-on-Avon. It’s therefore a great place to start your tour of the Cotswolds villages, especially if you’re coming from the south.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Immerse yourself in history at the ancient Roman Baths and see how the locals used to relax centuries ago. Take a dip in the scenic rooftop pool of Thermae Bath Spa, which is fed by naturally warm waters. Take a stroll down Pulteney Bridge and the beautiful riverbanks to get some fantastic views of this ancient town. Go shopping at the charming Green Street.
🎈 Explore from above: A unique experience to enjoy in Bath is to take a hot air balloon flight complete with champagne and explore the town from up above. You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of all the stunning landmarks of Bath as well as the gorgeous Cotswold countryside.
🛶 Explore from the waters: Another fun way to explore Bath is to enjoy a sightseeing boat cruise on River Avon complete with Prosecco. That’s right, you’ll be taken past all the gorgeous attractions in town with a drink in hand — what better way to sightsee?
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Enjoy a delicious bun from Sally Lunn’s, one of Bath’s oldest institutions. They’ve been making buns for centuries now and offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tasty afternoon tea with lots of homemade cakes.
🔥 Insider Tip: Treat yourself to a stay at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa (⭐️ 8.9), which is situated right inside the Royal Crescent, one of the best Georgian masterpieces in the UK. This 5-star hotel has a gorgeous spa leading out onto a picturesque garden. The spa includes two relaxation pools, a sauna, and a steam room. Moreover, Bath’s town centre is only a 15-minute walk away.
6. Chipping Sodbury
🌸 Why you should visit: This medieval market town is very easy to reach from both Bath and Bristol, but is much more than just a pit stop for food if you enjoy nature and green spaces. There are tons of parks and gardens in and around the village, making it a great place to visit with kids. There’s also a river that runs through the village for those who enjoy riverside strolls.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Walk down the vibrant High Street, which is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stroll the premises of the scenic St. John the Baptist Church. Take a bread-making course at Hobbs House Bakery or simply stop by there for a delicious cake and afternoon tea.
🌿 A village of many parks: Have a picnic or go cycling in one of the several charming green spaces in the village: the small riverside Jubilee Park, the pleasant Millennium Gardens, or the larger Kingsgate Park, which has a lake and an adventure playground for kids.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Grab a pint and some great pub food at The Beaufort Hunt, which has a gorgeous outdoor seating area in their charming little secret garden. They have some good vegetarian options too.
🔥 Insider Tip: Chipping Sodbury is a part of the Frome Valley Walkway, a scenic 18-mile (29 km) footpath that follows the River Frome from Bristol to the Cotswold Hills. You can access this trail right from the heart of the village as it passes right next to St. John the Baptist Church. Follow this relaxing walkway for as long as you want before looping back to the village. Or, you can walk all the way to Bristol if you have a whole day to spare!
5. Lacock — One of the Best Places in the Cotswolds
🌸 Why you should visit: This quaint, picturesque village is a great place to visit for culture, history, and food. You can truly experience the idyllic countryside life here, and will especially love what you see if you’re a Harry Potter fan!
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Stroll through the beautiful gardens in Lacock Abbey and see the stunning photography exhibitions at the Fox Talbot Museum of Photography, which is inside the abbey. Shop for crafts, chocolates, bakery, and more at the many chic village shops. Take a scenic walk up to the 14th-century St. Cyriac’s Church and admire its medieval architecture.
⚡️ For Harry Potter fans: Lacock is known for its many Harry Potter filming locations, such as the Lacock Abbey Cloister (Hogwarts’ Corridors) and Church Street (Budleigh Babberton). There are also plenty of other spots inside the Lacock Abbey, such as the Sacristy and the Chapter House, which you may recognize from the films.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Grab a pint and a delicious meal at Sign of the Angel, which has everything from pies and seafood to great vegetarian options.
🔥 Insider Tip: Sit down for a delicious afternoon tea at the ‘Secret Garden of Lacock’, AKA the stunning hidden garden of King John’s Hunting Lodge. It’s the perfect spot to relax after strolling around the village, and they have a large variety of delicious cakes for you to choose from!
🌸 Why you should visit: Bradford-on-Avon is an enchanting historic town straddling the River Avon. Its ancient bridges and riverside buildings will make you feel as though you’re stepping into a postcard. There are tons of shops, cafes, and restaurants in town to keep you busy, and there’s something here for everyone — from history buffs to outdoor enthusiasts.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Walk over the iconic 14th-century Town Bridge and enjoy the views along the river. Stroll through the absolutely gorgeous Grade 1 listed Iford Manor Gardens and admire the pretty statues, blossoms, and pavilions inside. Browse the little craft shops inside the 14th-century Tithe Barn, one of the most well-preserved medieval barns in the UK. Near the barn, there are also three churches worth exploring: St Mary’s Chapel, Trinity Church, and Church of St Laurence.
🚣🏻♀️ For outdoor enthusiasts: Bradford-on-Avon is only a 20-minute drive from the Bath Boating Station, where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and punts to explore River Avon on a fun adventure.
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Sit down for a pint and some haddock (or a duck confit) at the beautiful garden of The Seven Stars.
🔥 Insider Tip: Just a 15-minute drive from this little town lies the picturesque Farleigh Hungerford Castle, a fascinating 14th century fortified mansion with tons of hidden treasures inside. It’s a great place to visit for couples, families, and walkers who will love the surrounding countryside.
3. Cirencester — One of the Best Towns in the Cotswolds
🌸 Why you should visit: Widely known as the capital of the Cotswolds, the thriving town of Cirencester truly has something for everyone. History buffs will love the Ancient Roman ruins in town, outdoor enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice of fun activities to do nearby (see my insider tip), and those looking to simply relax and wander around will come across more than enough gems.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Take a walk around the town centre and browse the shops, cafes, and pretty buildings on Park Street, Black Jack Street, and Castle Street. Admire the stunning pastel-coloured buildings at Market Place and while you’re there, do some shopping at the Corn Hall mall. Learn more about the town’s deep past at the Corinium Museum. Relax at the quaint Abbey Grounds Park and take a scenic walk at the grandiose Cirencester Park.
💦 Take a dip: The Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool (situated right at the edge of Cirencester Park) is an especially fun place to visit in the summer or with family. This outdoor pool is heated to 27°C and fed by local spring water. There’s also a sunbathing patio, a children’s paddling pool, and picnic tables. Be sure to book your visit in advance!
🏰 Step back in time: If you love history, be sure to explore the Cirencester Amphitheatre, one of the largest remains from the Roman occupation of Britain. Another historic place to visit is the Parish Church of St. John Baptist, which has the highest tower 162 ft (49m) in Gloucestershire. From there, you can get an amazing panoramic view of the whole town!
🍺 Where to eat & drink: Stop for a meal at the New Brewery Arts, a centre of crafts-making with tons of workshops and collections of ceramics and jewellery. Their cafe and restaurant is a great place to sit down for a meal and a drink after a visit to their gallery and craft shop.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are two remarkable points of interest that are only within a 10-15 minute drive of Cirencester: the Cerney House Gardens, a hidden Cotswold paradise perfect for a pleasant stroll, and the Cotswold Water Park, which has over 180 lakes and offers plenty of fun activities such as sailing, water skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, birdwatching, nature walks, and more.
🌸 Why you should visit: Minchinhampton is truly one of the best hidden treasures of the Cotswolds. This little town is quieter than many other Cotswolds villages and offers the perfect countryside getaway as it is surrounded by beautiful green rolling hills and scenic grasslands. It’s also less than an hour’s drive from Bath, making it a great place to escape the crowds of the city.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Go on a lovely walk or bike ride at the Minchinhampton Common, a glorious 600-acre (2.4 km) hilltop grassland with tons of ponies and cattle roaming free. The scenery is simply beautiful, and don’t forget to bring a kite for windy days! The Minchinhampton Town Centre is also worth exploring for its rows of pretty stone cottages and the scenic Holy Trinity Church.
🐎 For outdoor enthusiasts: There are plenty of fun outdoor activities to do on the Minchinhampton Common, such as horseback riding, paragliding, golfing, and gliding.
🔥 Insider Tip: If you can, try to be there on a Thursday morning — this is when a bustling Country Market takes place in the 17th century Market House at the heart of town. There, you’ll find everything from jewellery and crafts to fresh produce and homemade cakes. It’s a great way to experience a bit of the local life!
🌸 Why you should visit: Stanton is an incredibly beautiful and idyllic sleepy little village where not much has changed in the last 300 years. Unlike many other Cotswolds towns and villages, there’s no commercialization here. You won’t see any shops or guesthouses, nor crowds of tourists. It’s the perfect place to get an authentic Cotswold experience and enjoy the beauty of the Cotswolds in peace and quiet.
🚶🏻♀️ Top things to do: Admire the pretty stone cottages lining Stanway Road and High Street. Many of them are adorned with climbing roses and stunning garden flowers — it’s truly a pleasant sight! Wander the premises of the 14th-century, Grade-1 listed Church of St Michael and All Angels. Take a walk in the surrounding countryside — there’s even a 4.2-mile (6.9 km) Broadway to Stanton walking trail which is great for hiking, cycling, bird-watching, and more!
🐎 A unique experience: The Cotswold Riding facility lies on the immediate outskirts of Stanton, and they offer horseback riding in the countryside as well as lessons. They also cater to everyone, from beginners to the most experienced.
🔥 Insider Tip: There aren’t many pubs in this quiet village, but The Mount Inn pub is a must-go. They have an incredibly gorgeous outdoor seating area that offers spectacular views of the Vale of Evesham and the Malvern Hills. Their food is delicious too!
🌿 More Places to Visit in the Cotswolds
If you’re wondering about where to go in the Cotswolds aside from the villages and towns mentioned above, here are some more interesting places to see. They may not have made my personal list of the best villages to visit, but they’re definitely still worth exploring.
The idyllic town of Tetbury is the second largest town in the Cotswolds and has at least 1,000 years of recorded history. It’s only a half hour drive from Castle Combe and is famous for its iconic Chipping Steps, a very photogenic spot lined with a row of medieval weavers’ cottages.
During your time in Tetbury, don’t miss the beautiful Highgrove Gardens, which has some pretty colorful architecture and blossoms. If you love trees, the Westonbirt Arboretum is only a 10-min drive away and is home to a whopping 15,000 trees from all over the world.
Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’, the market town of Painswick is lined with elegant buildings made of pale grey limestone. There are tons of traditional pubs and eateries in town, as well as some historical landmarks to explore. The Grade-I listed Church of St Mary is a great place to start; its quaint courtyard and pretty stained glass windows are a delight.
The 18th-century Painswick Rococo Garden is also a great place to go for a relaxing stroll and to see some interesting architecture amid a sea of plants and flowers.
Minster Lovell — One of Cotswolds’ Best Places
This pretty village is only a 10-minute drive and 30-minute bike ride from Burford, and is interestingly deemed as one of the most haunted villages in the Cotswolds. Its main attractions are the picturesque ruins of the 15th century Minster Lovell Hall, an ancient Oxfordshire manor house sitting beautifully beside the River Windrush. In the 18th century, some workmen are said to have found a secret chamber there containing skeletons of the former residents of the manor.
There are also tons of pretty stone and thatched cottages in the village, so it’s worth spending a few hours strolling around.
This quintessential Cotswolds village is a great place to unwind and enjoy the countryside life. While the village itself is home to a small green, a village hall, and lots of pretty stone cottages, the nature around the village is the true draw here. In fact, there are tons of walking trails in the area from where you can enjoy pleasant rural views. The Guiting Power and Naunton Circular Walk is one of the best ones.
You can also drive for 6 minutes to the nearby Cotswold Farm Park, where there are even more walking trails — better yet, ones where you can spot rare wildlife.
🗺️ Map of the Best Villages in the Cotswolds
Now that you know all the best places to visit in the Cotswolds, here’s a map of the Cotswolds villages and towns mentioned in this guide. You can click here to see it in full on Google Maps.
🚗 How to Get to the Cotswolds
Getting to the Cotswolds by Car
Getting to the Cotswolds by road is very easy as this area is excellently linked to the M40, M5, and M4, which connect it to many big cities in the UK. Here are the driving distances and times from close-by cities:
From London: 85.7 mi (137 km) / 2 hrs
From Birmingham: 68.2 mi (109 km) / 1 hr 20 min
From Manchester: 148 mi (238 km) / 2 hrs 45 min
From Bristol: 52.5 mi (84 km) / 1 hr
From Cardiff: 79.4 mi (127 km) / 1 hr 30 min
From Worcester: 42.2 mi (68 km) / 1 hr
Getting to the Cotswolds by Train
Reaching many of the Cotswolds villages by train is a bit more of a hassle, but still very doable. From large cities like London, Birmingham, and Cardiff, you can take a direct train to any of the following towns in the Cotswolds area: Stroud, Cheltenham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Kemble, Cam and Dursley, Gloucester, Ashchurch, and Stonehouse.
From those towns, you can then reach many smaller Cotswolds villages either by bus or by car. Here are some of the regular rail services in the area:
From London: London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa — nonstop / 1 hr 59 min / £19
From London: London Paddington to Moreton in Marsh — nonstop / 1 hr 29 min / £18
From Birmingham: Birmingham New Street to Ashchurch — 1 change / 1 hr 13 min / £25
From Bristol: Bristol Temple Meads to Cheltenham Spa — nonstop / 1 hr 10 min / £11
From Cardiff: Cardiff Central to Gloucester – nonstop / 1 hr 9 min / £21
🚴🏻♀️ Getting Around the Cotswolds
Getting Around the Cotswolds by Car
The easiest way to visit the best villages in the Cotswolds is to rent a car and do a relaxing road trip. Many of the Cotswolds villages are very close to each other, which means sometimes, you’ll only need to spend 5-10 minutes on the road to get from one of them to the other.
Of course, the Cotswolds is quite big, so if you’re driving from Chipping Campden (far up in the north) to Bradford-on-Avon (far down in the south), you can be on the road for around 1 hour and 40 mins. But that’s about as much as it’d take to get from one end of the Cotswolds to the other.
Getting Around the Cotswolds by Bus
Alternatively, you can also take a bus to get between many of the Cotswolds villages. To be very honest, though, I don’t recommend this option as it can be pretty time-consuming and inconvenient. You’ll typically also need to make some bus changes along the way, as it can be hard to find direct buses even between villages that are pretty close to each other.
Let’s look at this example: If you wanted to get from Castle Combe to Lacock (two of the best places in the Cotswolds), you can make the journey in only 17 minutes by car (the distance is 8.9 miles / 14 km). However, getting between these two villages by bus would take at least one whole hour, and you’d also have to make a change at Chippenham (there’s no direct bus route).
Also keep in mind that some villages, like Snowshill and Upper Slaughter, are unreachable by bus due to how tiny they are. So driving is sometimes the only way to reach the more secluded villages.
🚌 Insider Tip: If you do prefer to get around via bus, use Traveline to check the departure times and journey details between the different Cotswolds towns and villages.
Getting Around the Cotswolds With a Guide
If you prefer to have everything taken care of for you and not have to worry about renting a car or navigating the bus system, then there are plenty of fun Cotswolds tours that you can join. Here are some I highly recommend:
- (⭐️ Top Pick) Full-Day Cotswolds Tour with Lunch From London: This tour takes you through 4 of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages: Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Burford. You’ll also enjoy a 2-course lunch at the picturesque Swan Hotel.
- (🚴🏻♀️ For bikers) Cotswold Electric Bike Tour: This full-day, small-group guided cycling tour will get you off the traditional tourist track and take you to many hidden gems in the Cotswolds. You can choose from 7 different cycling routes and departure points.
- (🏰 Cotswolds & beyond) Day Trip from London to Cotswolds, Oxford & Stratford: If you want to see the Cotswolds along with some other towns nearby, this tour will take you to the English countryside, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and to one of the world’s oldest university towns.
☀️ Best Time to Visit the Cotswolds Villages
The Cotswolds is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but here’s a little breakdown of what you can expect during the different seasons:
🌸 Spring: The months of March to May are definitely one of the most ideal times to visit the Cotswolds. You’ll see beautiful blossoms decorating the front porches of the cottages, you’ll get long daylight hours (the sun rises at 5 am and sets at 9 pm) as well as mild temperatures (3°-16°C / 37°-60°F). The villages are also not as crowded during this time of the year.
☀️ Summer: If you don’t enjoy crowds and busloads of tourists, then avoid visiting the Cotswolds during the high season of June to August, when you might also struggle to find accommodation. With that said, you’ll get the most sunshine and warmth in the summer (10°-21°C / 50°-70°F) and it’s also the only time of the year when the Cotswold Lavender Farm is open and blooming.
🍁 Autumn: The months of September to November are also an amazing time to visit the Cotswolds because you’ll see spectacular rust-coloured foliage, which definitely adds to the charm of the villages. Moreover, temperatures are still pretty good (5°-18°C / 41°-64°F), and you won’t see the crowds of tourists that you’d get in the summer.
❄️ Winter: Winter in the Cotswolds is simply magical and ethereal. Though it is crisp and cold (1°-7°C / 33°-44°F), the villages are the quietest at this time of the year and the atmosphere is very unique. There’s also the possibility of snow, of course, so if you want to experience a Cotswold winter wonderland, then visit between December and February. With that said, keep in mind that days are shorter in the winter (the sun sets between 4-5 pm), so be sure to plan your itinerary well.
🗓️ How Many Days to Spend in the Cotswolds
To be honest, how long you should stay in the Cotswolds largely depends on your interests and the kind of vacation you’re looking for. You can easily spend a week or two in the Cotswolds if you want to take it slow and enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside — there will be plenty of things to see and do, including hiking the Cotswold Way, which can take 7 to 16 days.
If you don’t have so much time to spare, though, a weekend will definitely give you plenty of time to explore the best places to visit in the Cotswolds. The villages are pretty close to each other, so you can easily get from one to the next in a short amount of time and maximise your days. You can also take a long weekend if you prefer to relax more.
In fact, the villages of the Cotswolds are a great weekend trip from London (2 hours away by car) and also an easy day trip from Bristol, which is just an hour’s drive away.
🏰 Where to go After the Cotswolds Villages
If you’re looking to pair your trip to the most beautiful Cotswolds villages with other destinations in the area, here are my top three suggestions for where to go.
🌿 The Malvern Hills AONB
The Malvern Hills are an incredible hidden gem near the Cotswolds that most tourists don’t know about. Situated only an hour by car from the Cotswolds, they provide many incredible walking trails with spectacular views of green rolling hills and the countryside. Many of these walking paths are also devoid of people and crowds, so it’s a great escape from the tourist hotspots of the Cotswolds.
Oxford is only 45 minutes by car from the Cotswolds, and it is a lot more than just a university town. Steeped in history and stunning architecture, this buzzing city has something for everyone. The atmospheric university buildings will turn the eyes of any visitor, the cocktail bars are the most creative in the world (head over to Raoul’s Bar and you’ll see what I mean), and museum-lovers will be spoilt for choice.
Moreover, punting has been an Oxford tradition since at least the 1880s, so pack a picnic and some champagne and get ready for some unmissable river fun!
This charming town is the birthplace of Shakespeare and is filled with Tudor architecture that’ll make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Being a mere 45-minute drive from the Cotswolds, it’s a great day trip to take if you have extra time. Aside from catching a play at the iconic Royal Shakespeare Theatre and cruising down River Avon on a boat, you can also explore the largest butterfly farm in the UK.
🌸 Final Tip on Visiting the Cotswolds Towns
I hope this guide on the best places to see in the Cotswolds has been helpful for your trip planning! My final tip would be to take it slow and let your curiosity lead you: wander down the narrow streets of the villages to see what you’ll find. We found the best hidden spots by simply getting lost in the back alleys and taking secluded routes a bit out of town. Last but not least, don’t forget to venture to the countryside to see some adorable sheep! 🙂
📸 My Cotswolds Villages Photography Gear
This is the gear I used to capture most of the photos in this guide. You can also see my suggestions for the best cameras for bloggers for more options other than the ones listed below.
- Cameras: Nikon D610 + Sony a7III (check out the best Sony lenses)
- Main lens: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8
- Wide-angle lens: Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8
- Prime lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G
- Tripod: Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod (Ball Head)