The Cotswolds is an area in the southwest of the UK encompassing five counties; Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. There are many wonderful places to visit in the Cotswolds and the area is famed for its picture-postcard towns and villages.
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this gorgeous part of England and love the area for its undulating countryside, great hiking, pretty villages, and rustic old pubs. Visiting the Cotswolds should be high on the list of anyone traveling to the UK as it really is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Travel to the Cotswolds is a hugely rewarding experience and there’s so much to do. Enjoy visiting stately homes and gardens, national parks, castles, and other historic sites. Some of the highlights of the Cotswolds include the villages of Bibury, Burford, and Bourton-on-the-Water.
15 Best Places to Visit in The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is one of the best places to visit in England to get a real feel for its rural countryside and see a part of the country that’s barely changed in centuries. Below, you’ll find some of the most charming places in the Cotswolds from historic cities to market towns and sleepy villages.
There’s some debate over whether Bath is actually in the Cotswolds as it doesn’t fall into the five counties that make up the “Area of Natural Beauty” (Bath is in Somerset). However, many people consider it to be due to its proximity to some of the prettiest towns in the Cotswolds.
Bath is one of my favorite cities in England and makes a fantastic base for exploring the Cotswold region. The city is famed for its Roman baths which date back 2,000 years. I’m a huge fan of Roman history and exploring these ancient bathing houses is one of the best things to do in England.
This full-day tour from London not only includes a drive through some of the most picturesque places to visit in the Cotswolds and a visit to historic Bath, but you’ll also get to see some of the country’s top sights including Stratford-upon-Avon and Stonehenge too.
Location: Bath is located in the southwest county of Somerset at the southern tip of the Cotswolds.
Getting There: You can take a tour from London, drive or take one of the many bus or train services departing major cities throughout the day.
Things To Do: Visiting the Roman baths, sightseeing, walking, eating, and shopping.
Where to Stay: The Macdonald Bath Spa and Hotel is the perfect place for couples to unwind and take in the same healing waters enjoyed by the Romans some 2,000 years ago. The Henry Guest House is a great option for first-time visitors thanks to its central location.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a perfectly picturesque village on the River Windrush and is one of the top places to visit in the Cotswolds. The village is famed for its five stone bridges dating back to the 17th Century which add to the attraction of this Cotswolds favorite.
Bourton is definitely one of the best places to go in the Cotswolds if you want to see one of the most beautiful villages in the entire country. It’s packed with quaint, stone cottages, tea rooms, boutique shops, and an excellent assortment of eateries.
Smiths of Bourton is one of the best restaurants in the area; specializing in burgers and cocktails. The pastrami burger is to die for and the prices are very reasonable given the popular location. Burgers range from £12.00 to £13.50 and all cocktails are £12.00 (I recommend the Nervous Breakdown).
Location: Bourton-on-the-Water is located in the county of Gloucestershire 15 miles east of Cheltenham.
Getting There: One of the best ways to see Bourton-on-the-Water is on a Cotswolds tour from London, which also includes many other sites such as Stow-on-the-Wold.
Things To Do: Walking, sightseeing, eating, and drinking.
3. Chipping Norton
The small market town of Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire houses a who’s who of high society. This is where you’ll find the “Chipping Norton Set” comprised of former Prime Ministers, TV and movie stars, media moguls, and other celebrities living among the quaint streets, stone cottages, and contrasting mansions.
Chipping Norton is definitely one of the places to see in the Cotswolds for its old-world charm, rows of interesting antique shops, and excellent cafes and restaurants. It’s the highest town in the Cotswolds and is nestled within a landscape of hills and valleys.
There’s plenty to do in and around Chipping Norton from exploring the old wool mill to the nearby Rollright Stones (a 5,000-year-old stone circle). I visited Rollright on one of my recent trips back to England and was blown away by the place. The medieval Chequers is a nice little pub in the town and it serves a great Sunday roast.
Location: Chipping Norton is 18 miles northeast of the city of Oxford in the county of Oxfordshire.
Getting There: Nearby Oxford is easily reachable from anywhere in the UK by road and rail. From Oxford, it’s a 30-minute drive or an hour by bus (S3) to Chipping Norton. You can also take a Cotswolds tour from Oxford.
Things To Do: Shopping, eating, drinking, walking, and sightseeing.
Where to Stay: The Fox Hotel is housed inside a 16th Century building in the center of town and has an onsite bar and restaurant. The Falkland Arms is a traditional inn 8 miles from Chipping Norton and is perfect for those seeking a rural retreat.
If you’re looking for the best of the Cotswolds then you can’t go wrong with the town of Stroud in Gloucestershire. I have friends living here so have visited many times and found that it’s a great base for exploring some of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds.
There are lots of hiking trails nearby that take you through open pastures and ancient woodlands. The Cotswold Way is a 100-mile trail running from Bath to Chipping Campden and passes through the Stroud Area. I’ve hiked a few sections around the town and highly recommend it when you visit the Cotswolds.
The town itself is so pretty with the main high street atop a cobbled hill, offering magnificent views across the countryside, and featuring lots of excellent independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. On my last visit, I bought a few books by one of my favorite authors, Laurie Lee, who lived in the area.
Location: Stroud is located in the county of Gloucestershire 13 miles from the town of Cirencester.
Getting There: I’ve always driven to Stroud (it takes two to three hours from London depending on traffic), but it’s also well connected to the rest of the UK by train and bus.
Things To Do: Hiking, walking, shopping, and drinking local cider at the Stroud Brewery and Taproom.
Where to Stay: The Clothiers Arms is a pub and inn in the center of town that’s perfect for first-time visitors. If you’re looking for a little luxury, the Burleigh Court Hotel is an excellent option.
Cirencester is considered the “capital of the Cotswolds” for its central location. This gorgeous old market town is situated on the River Churn which is a tributary of the Thames. The town has a history dating back to Roman times and is filled with interesting things to see and do.
The Cirencester Brewery Arts Centre is a gallery and space for local artists with some interesting shops and cafes inside. Stroll around the beautiful Cirencester Park, see the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, or browse the many shops and market stalls (the market is every Monday and Friday). There’s even an open-air pool for the summer months.
Cirencester is definitely one of the best towns to visit in the Cotswolds and is an ideal base for exploring the region. The town is just minutes away from some of the prettiest villages and must-see places in the Cotswolds. This interactive self-guided tour is a good way to get an introduction to the town.
Location: Cirencester is located 80 miles west of London in the county of Gloucestershire.
Getting There: Cirencester has excellent road and rail links with the rest of the UK. The train from London’s Paddington takes just two hours.
Things To Do: Sightseeing, walking, shopping, eating, and drinking.
Where to Stay: The Corinium Hotel and Restaurant is a centrally located hotel that’s perfect for couples and families. The Fleece is a traditional inn in the heart of the town and is a wonderful option for first-timers in Cirencester.
6. Upper Slaughter
Don’t let the creepy name fool you, as the village of Upper Slaughter is one of the best places to go in the Cotswolds for sightseeing. Upper Slaughter is a quintessential English village where you can imagine having tea with the vicar and watching cricketers on the village green.
The village sits on the slopes of a hill overlooking a small brook that connects it to its neighbor, Lower Slaughter, one mile away. There was once a large Norman castle here but all that’s left now are the remains of the motte and bailey. Eyeford House is a large manor house in the village where it’s alleged the poet John Milton stayed when he wrote Paradise Lost.
One of the best things to do is to take the short walk from Upper to Lower Slaughter and take in the magnificent surrounding countryside. Be sure to pop into the Hawkstone Brewery for a tour to see how local Cotswold lagers and ciders are made.
Location: Upper Slaughter is located in the county of Gloucestershire a few miles north of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Getting There: Driving is the best way to get to Upper Slaughter as it’s quite rural.
Things To Do: Walking, sightseeing, visiting the brewery and Eyeford House.
Where to Stay: Lords of the Manor is a gorgeous four-star hotel in the center of the village and is a great option for couples. The Slaughters Country Inn is another excellent option with exceptional service.
7. Bibury (One of the Prettiest Places to Visit in the Cotswolds)
The gorgeous village of Bibury on the River Coln (another tributary of the Thames) in Gloucestershire is a must-see in the Cotswolds. The 19th Century thinker, poet, and artist William Morris dubbed Bibury “the most beautiful village in England” and it’s not hard to see why.
There are lots of things to see in this Cotswolds village including the famous Arlington Row cottages (one of the most photographed places in the Cotswolds). The lodgings date back over 600 years and were once part of the woolen industry. Arlington Mill is another of the local attractions and dates to the 17th Century.
There are some great walks around the village as well as a campsite for those that really want to get back to nature. The Catherine Wheel is a nice little restaurant in the village, or fish lovers can dine at the Bibury Trout Farm where the menu consists mostly of, you guessed it, trout dishes.
Location: Bibury is in the county of Gloucestershire six miles north of Cirencester.
Getting There: You can take a tour from London or drive to Bibury. Hiring a car is best as public transport in this part of the country can be a little lacking.
Things To Do: Take pictures at Arlington Row, visit the old wool mill, sightseeing, walking, eating, and drinking.
Where to Stay: The Swan Hotel is the perfect romantic getaway with four-star service and a location in the center of the village. The nearby New Inn at Coln is another great option within a gorgeous rural setting.
8. Castle Combe
The gorgeous village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire is located right in the heart of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Think stone cottages, ancient bridges, and a village that’s barely changed in centuries. This is without a doubt one of the best places in the Cotswolds for picturesque charm.
The village has been used as a location for many famous television programs and films; the latest being Stephen Speilberg’s War Horse. The houses are made from the local honey-colored stone which lends the place a unique, fairytale feel.
Things to see around the village include the 13th Century St Andrew’s church, a market cross, and a couple of excellent pubs. The faceless clock in St Andrew’s is said to be one of the oldest working clocks in the country and it’s definitely one of the top things to see in the Cotswolds.
Location: Castle Combe is in Wiltshire, not far from the town of Chippenham.
Getting There: As with other small villages in the Cotswolds, the easiest way to get there is to drive/hire a car.
Things To Do: Walking, sightseeing, view the oldest clock in England.
The picturesque Gloucestershire settlement of Stow on the Wold is one of the best towns in the Cotswolds to visit for its charming stone houses, pubs, river, and market square. It’s surrounded by beautiful countryside and rolling hills; perfect for getting out into nature.
Stow is an old wool town that dates back to Roman times and means “Holy Place on the Hill”. It’s home to one of the Cotswolds tourist attractions – the Tolkien Door in St Edward’s church. This gorgeous old door is nestled between two ancient yew trees and was allegedly the inspiration behind the Doors of Durin in Lord of the Rings.
The Porch House Inn is said to be the oldest inn in England and is the perfect place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They do a great steak, but my favorite is the fish pie with salmon, cod, and prawns. Prices are reasonable with most mains costing between £15 and £25.
Location: Stow-on-the-Wold is located in Gloucestershire 20 miles from Cheltenham.
Getting There: One of the easiest ways to visit Stow is to take a tour from London.
Things To Do: See the Tolkien Door, walking, hiking, eating and drinking.
Where to Stay: The Stow Lodge Hotel is the perfect place for first-time visitors and is located in the center of the village.
10. Slad (One of the Best Places to Visit in the Cotswolds)
Slad is my favorite Cotswold village and is one of the best places to visit in the Cotswold region. It’s also the birthplace (and burial site) of British author Laurie Lee whose seminal book As I Stepped Out One Midsummer Morning was gifted to me by my grandfather and inspired my own travels and wanderlust.
Lee is buried in the graveyard of the Holy Trinity church which is well worth a look around. There’s a nice walk behind the graveyard up into the hills and this really is some of the most picturesque English countryside to be found.
Across from the church is the Woolpack pub; perfect for refreshment after hiking in the nearby hills and valleys. There’s outdoor seating overlooking the valley and it has an excellent food menu with a mixture of classic and contemporary pub dishes. Slad is definitely one of the hidden gems of the Cotswolds.
Location: Slad is in the county of Gloucestershire 2.5 miles from Stroud.
Getting There: Hiring a car is the best way to get to Slad but there’s also a bus from Stroud (No 228).
Things To Do: Visiting Lauri Lee’s grave, walking in the hills, and eating lunch at the Woolpack.
The 14th Century village of Stanton is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds with honey-stone and thatched cottages, colorful flower gardens, and the nearby archaeological site of Shenbarrow Hillfort. Although there isn’t a great deal to do in the village itself, it’s well worth a look for its typical Cotswold architecture.
The St Michael’s and All Angels church just off the high street dates back to the 14th Century and is worth a look for its impressive medieval architecture.
The Mount Inn is a traditional village pub and is an excellent place to while away a few hours sampling the local brews and home-cooked food. It’s a great place for a Sunday lunch after a stroll around the village and surrounding countryside.
Location: Stanton is a small village in Gloucestershire 14 miles from the town of Cheltenham.
Getting There: Hiring a car is the best way to get to rural Stanton.
Things To Do: Sightseeing, visiting Shenbarrow Hillfort, walking, eating, and drinking.
The large Worcestershire village of Broadway is a great place for some Cotswolds sightseeing. From the charming lanes and byways dotted with traditional houses to the historic Broadway Tower which offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside, this is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds.
I love exploring the old marketplace, cottages, and interesting shops that call the village home. The Horse and Hound is a cozy little pub that’s well worth popping into for lunch or a refreshment stop. The Broadway Museum and Art Gallery is an excellent place to learn a little about the history of this charming Cotswold village.
Location: Broadway is located in the county of Worcestershire 16 miles from Cheltenham.
Getting There: The Heritage Railway runs between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway and is a convenient way to get to the village. Driving is the other best option to get to Broadway.
Things To Do: Climbing the Broadway Tower, walking in the countryside, and seeing the Broadway Museum and Gallery.
The old wool town of Painswick is known as the Queen of the Cotswolds for its narrow streets lined with perfectly preserved cottages and houses. It contains the oldest building in England to house a post office, dating back to 1428. It’s also home to England’s oldest bowling green, a world-famous Rococo Garden, and more.
Painswick lies about midway on the Cotswolds Way so it’s a great base for hiking the nearby countryside and exploring other nearby towns and villages. One point of interest, located just outside the churchyard, is an old set of stocks dating back from around 1840 that were used to punish transgressors.
The Oak Painswick is a great place for a pint or a bite to eat after a day’s sightseeing in the Cotswolds. This traditional British country pub is the place to go for locally-made cider and food sourced from the Cotswolds.
Location: Painswick is located 4 miles from Stroud in the county of Gloucestershire.
Getting There: Bus 66 takes just eight minutes to reach Painswick from Stroud.
Things To Do: Visiting the Rococo Gardens, seeing the old stocks, walking, eating, and drinking.
The village of Burford nestled in the Cotswold Hills is one of the most picturesque in the country and is certainly worth a visit. The village sits on the banks of the River Windrush and includes many honey-stone cottages typical of the region. The gently sloping High Street is lined with boutique shops, antique stores, independent sellers, cafes, and pubs.
The three-arched medieval bridge across the river is worth a look, as is the Tolsey Museum charting the history of the village. The pharmacy dates back to 1734 and is the oldest in England. You can even stay in the same inn frequented by Lord Nelson, King Charles, and William Morris among other well-known guests.
This Cotswolds Electric Bike tour is a great way to see some of the best places in the area.
Location: Burford is located in the county of Oxfordshire twenty miles west of Oxford.
Getting There: You can visit Burford on a tour from London.
Things To Do: Sightseeing, visiting the Tolsey Museum, walking, eating, and drinking.
Where to Stay: The luxury Bull at Burford is a traditional inn where King Charles once slept and is a great option for couples. The Priory Tea Rooms offers budget accommodation in the heart of the village and is a great option for solo travelers.
If you can only pick one of the best cities to visit in the Cotswolds then look no further than Oxford. Oxford is a charming city famed for its prestigious university and the annual boat race. Although I love spending time walking Oxford’s historic streets, I will always choose Cambridge when it comes to the friendly rivalry between the two cities as it’s more local to me.
Oxford is definitely one of the best cities in the Cotswolds with so much to do from visiting the old castle and prison to exploring the displays at the Ashmolean Museum, seeing the collages of the university, and sampling local food from one of the many restaurants in the city.
One of the best ways to get the most out of your trip to Oxford is to take a city and university walking tour. You’ll get to see the city’s major landmarks and attractions and learn all about its history from knowledgeable guides.
Location: Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire and is located sixty miles west of London.
Getting There: This full-day tour from London includes Oxford and other Cotswold tourist attractions such as Bibury. There are hourly trains from London Paddington and the journey time is under one hour.
Things To Do: Sightseeing, visiting the University, shopping, eating, drinking, and walking.
Getting Around the Cotswolds
Because the area is so rural, the best way to get around the Cotswolds is to either take a tour or have your own transport. There are sporadic bus services between some of the larger towns and villages, but these aren’t always reliable, particularly on weekends. Click here to book a full-day tour with Get Your Guide.
Getting to the larger towns and cities of the Cotswolds such as Bath, Cirencester, Oxford or Stroud is easy with hourly train services from London and other cities around the country.
Coach services like National Express and Flixbus are also good options for reaching some of the main Cotswold towns.
Quick Itineraries for the Cotswolds
Here are a couple of simple itineraries to follow when visiting the Cotswolds.
3 Days in the Cotswolds
With three days to explore the Cotswolds, a good base would be Stroud in Gloucestershire. It’s easy to visit the nearby villages of Sled and Painswick and it also has access to the Cotswold Way for hiking.
Use one day to explore the above towns and villages, and on a second day drive to Chipping Norton via Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury.
On your third day, drive or take the train to Bath and explore the ancient Roman baths in this charming west country city.
One Week in the Cotswolds
One week is the perfect length of time to explore the best of the Cotswolds. Start off in Bath and spend a day and evening exploring before heading to Stroud. Walk the cobbled streets and drive the short distance to Sled to have lunch at the Woolpack.
From Stroud head to Stow-on-the-Wold and spend another day and a couple of nights exploring this beautiful rural village. You can make day trips to nearby Chipping Norton and Bourton on the Water whilst here.
Make your way to Oxford for a couple of days and explore the famous university, castle, prison, and some of the great restaurants in the town like Turtle Bay near the Ashmolean.
From Oxford, make your way to Cirencester via a stop in Burford and spend a few days in the “capital of the Cotswolds” where you can enjoy the shopping and nightlife in the town before escaping into the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beuty for some excellent hiking.
FAQs About Visiting the Cotswolds
Answers to some commonly asked questions about visiting the beautiful places in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds region is located in the east of England. It’s made up of the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire.
The Cotswolds are definitely worth visiting as the area is home to some of the most beautiful English villages.
It’s impossible to choose the prettiest village in the Cotswolds as there are so many contenders. Burford, Bibary, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold all deserve to be named the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds.
The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are a great time to visit the Cotswolds. There will be fewer tourists and the milder weather is perfect for long walks and hikes in the countryside. Personally, I think fall is best with the incredible colors across the landscape.
Bath, Cirencester, Oxford, and Stroud all make great bases for exploring the Cotswolds. These larger towns and cities have lots to do and it’s easy to get out into the countryside by car or bus.
The Cotswolds are famous for beautiful villages of honey-stone houses, gentle, rolling countryside, and some of the best cider in the UK.
The Cotswolds are some of the safest parts of the country compared to the larger towns and cities of England. Take usual precautions when traveling such as locking doors and not flashing expensive gear.
Now you know where to go in the Cotswolds to see the most picturesque towns and villages. With so many wonderful places to visit in the Cotswolds, it’s no secret that this is one of the most popular parts of the UK for visitors.
From the picturesque villages of Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water to the cities of Bath and Oxford, you won’t be bored for a second exploring this beautiful part of the country. Be sure to check out the best place in the Cotswolds and my personal favorite, Slad.