Picture perfect sleepy villages, cute tea rooms and fresh local produce are just some of the reasons to get into the car and drive to some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, 2 hour’s drive south-west of London. If you want to go back in time to another era to get a feel of the authentic English countryside, then head to the Cotswolds!
This post is a collection of the best villages in the Cotswolds you must visit in my humble opinion. Happy reading!
Why visit villages of the Cotswolds?
If you’re still not convinced on why you should visit the Cotswolds here are some great reasons:
• The Cotswolds is an excellent destination for the UK staycation. You can travel in your own car and stay in an authentic cottage.
• You may be able to spot a celebrity if you’re lucky. Many famous people like Jamie Dornan and Jeremy Clarkson, made the beautiful Cotswolds countryside their home.
• The Cotswolds area has many great walking trails the most famous being the Cotswolds Way.
• The area is also adorned for its epic cycling routes. Read more about the Cotswolds cycling routes here.
• Local produce. In almost every Cotswolds village you can find locals shops selling their yummy produce- honey, jam or fresh bakery, you name it.
• You will find countless traditional pubs where you can sample some locally brewed ales and ciders.
• Epic tea rooms. The Cotswolds has probably one of the best selections of traditional tea rooms that are in operation from the 19th century. One of the famous ones is Huffkins. When you in the Cotswolds, treat yourself to a freshly baked scone with locally made clotted cream and strawberry conserve. It would be rude not to!
15 Prettiest Villages in the Cotswolds
1 Castle Combe
Castle Combe is one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds and probably the most popular one thanks to its Instagram famous picture spot that attracts photography enthusiast all day long! The town takes its name from a 12th-century castle that stood in the nearby area. And when you visit today not much has changed in the village, and you can truly immerse yourself in authentic village vibes from a different epoch!
I arrived in Castle Combe in the early morning, and I instantly fell in love with the empty streets, pretty stone cottages not to mention the small bridge by the Manor House where you can get a stunning shot of the whole village.
FUN FACT: Did you know that Castle Combe was a film set for many movies? ‘Dr Dolittle’ from 1967 and in most recent years’ Stardust’, ‘The Wolfman’ and Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’.
Things to do in Castle Combe
• Go ahead and take a cute photo for your Instagram by the picturesque bridge at the bottom of the village. Arrive early to avoid the crowds.
• Spot the 14th-century market cross that symbolises the permission granted to hold a weekly market, located in the village centre.
• Visit St. Andrews’s Church.
• Indulge in Michelin-starred restaurant The Bybrook at the luxurious Manor House Hotel or book yourself into a golf weekend and enjoy their 18-hole course.
• Have a pint in one of the cute local pubs. In the winter enjoy it by the fireplace, in the summer in the sunshine of the pub courtyard. Try The castle Inn, Wadworth or The White Hart.
• Treat yourself to afternoon tea at The Old Rectory Tearoom.
TIP: There is free parking just outside of the village within a pleasant few minutes’ walk from the village main street.
Places to stay in Combe Castle
The Old Museum – rent out the whole cottage right in the heart of the village for an ultimate country living experience.
The Castle Inn – offers quirky, old-fashioned rooms with squeaky floors, wooden beams, four-poster beds and a jacuzzi bathtubs.
Bibury is another charming village described by 19th-century artist William Morris as the most beautiful village in England. This 17th-century village housed weavers that supplied cloth for the nearby Arlington Mill.
It is situated just a few kilometres from Cirencester, which is considered to be the capital of the Cotswolds. Bibury is best known to be home to Arlington Raw – the most photographed row of cottages in the entire country. And when you look at the photos, you immediately realise why is that!
Things to do in Bibury
• Take a photo of the Arlington Raw of fairy-tale-like cottages. Believe it or not, but people actually live in them, so try to be respectful.
TIP: Try different perspectives when you are taking your photos. There is a field and a picturesque river which may provide you with inspiration and some good angles!
• Catch your own fish at the Bibury Trout Farm.
• Visit the old post office which comes with a cute shop and local souvenirs.
• Have a cream tea at the William Morris Tea Room.
• Spot the Village Hall.
• Visit St Mary’s Church.
• Get lost in a web of public footpaths around Bibury.
Places to stay near/in Bibury
The Swan Hotel – Stay at the stylish and luxurious The Swan Hotel that comes with tastefully furnished en suite rooms, tasty breakfast and an outdoor jacuzzi. The hotel also boasts a lovely riverside garden where you can spend the afternoon chilling on sun loungers.
Burton-on-the-water is definitely one of the larger villages in the Cotswolds situated on the River Windrush with characteristic low bridges going across it. It is often referred to as the Venice of the Cotswolds.
The village is timing with life, especially on a summer weekend. A lot is happening in this small village with crowds of day visitors taking over its streets.
Things to do in Burton-on-the-water
• Walk along the river and through cute low bridges that link the two sides. On a hot day, sit by the river, chill with your feet dipped in the water and feed the ducks. Alternatively, have a picnic on a lovely stretch of grass by the river.
• Browse cute gift shops along the river and don’t forget to have ice cream.
• Visit Cotswold Distillery and shop for a range of unique gins and other spirits.
• Visit Motor Museum, which is an interesting place not only for a car enthusiast. The museum is jam-packed with exhibits and interesting information.
• The Model Village – check out the exact replica of the village in a miniature version. This is an excellent activity if you travel with the whole family.
• The Model Railway.
• Pop into the Baptist Church for a quiet moment.
• Have lunch in one of the riverside restaurants, for example, the Rose Tree.
• Have a pint in the Duke of Wellington pub.
• The Old Prison – for a truly unique experience, have a brunch in the House of Correction built in the 1790s. It is located just 10 minutes’ drive from Burton-on-the-water. Here is the address:
Fosse Way, Northleach, Gloucestershire, GL54 3JH
• Far Peak Climbing Centre – climb the 15m outdoor tower. This centre is located 10 minutes’ drive from the village in Northleach.
Places to stay in Burton-on-the-water
Stanton is a 17th-century village located 5 km south of Broadway. The town is tiny with fewer things to do; however, it is by far my favourite place and in my modest opinion prettiest village in Cotswolds!
Stanton is just picture perfect and lesser-known, which can make your experience very satisfying. If you’re a photography enthusiast, this village is a real gem with excellent photo opportunities hiding in every corner!
Stroll along the 400 years old stone cottages adorned by colourful flower beds and decorative bushes. This place is truly idyllic!
Things to see in Stanton
• Old Post House – super cute for taking a few photos!
• Visit St Michael and All Angels Church, dating back to the 12th century.
• Cricket Field – if you’re lucky you may be able to watch a cricket game.
• The Cotswolds Way – the village is located on The Cotswolds Way which is a 164km long walking trail.
• Horse Riding – the village is known for horse riding lessons.
• Stanway House – pop into this Jacobean Manor House with the largest fountain you have seen, rich history and a lovely garden. It is located just a few minutes’ drive away from Stanton.
• Haileys Abbey – the ruins of the 13th-century abbey are only 3km away from Stanton.
TIP: Leave your car in a free car park next to the cricket field.
Places to stay near Stanton
Broadway is one of the larger villages in the Cotswolds, and it’s known for Broadway Tower located just outside of the village on a hill with some incredible views of the surrounding areas.
Things to do in Broadway
• Climb the Broadway Tower from where you will be able to get a view of 16 counties weather permitting. There is also a museum inside the tower. Even if you don’t want to go inside, the area is stunning and perfect for a picnic in front of the tower! If you’re going to go inside, I recommend booking your ticket in advance, especially if you’re visiting at the weekend.
• Visit Gordon Russell Museum which exhibits the furniture designed by the local artist Gordon Russell.
• Visit Broadway Museum and Art Gallery.
• Broadway is an excellent base for embarking on a picturesque country walk. Walk to Chipping Campden, the gorgeous ancient market town.
Places to stay near Broadway
Blockley is a sleepy village where you can walk along honey-coloured cottages and buildings that are taken straight from a fairy tale. The village is a reflection of its 19th-century glory of first wool and then silk industry.
Things to do in Blockley
• Have a coffee at Blockley Café. It’s a cute place with outdoor sitting which is best enjoyed in the afternoon sun.
• Pop into Blockley Church which is situated right by the Blockley Café.
• Have a picnic on the lush stretch of grass at Bowling Green.
• Visit Mill Dene Garden (open May-September, entrance £10)
TIP: Parking is free on most streets.
Places to stay near Blockley
Stow is a beautiful market town, a 19th century centre for wool production situated on Stow Hill. In the past, it was famous for hosting an annual wool fair at which up to 20,000 sheep could be sold at one time! Today, Stow is a charming town with a myriad of fancy boutiques, antique shops and tea rooms.
Things to do in Stow
• Visit St. Edwards Church built between 11th and 15th century with beautiful stained windows and a mystical side door ‘growing out’ of two trees that looks like a door to another, more magical world!
• Browse Stow’s antique shops, galleries and jewellery workshops.
• Check out the grand building of the local library and visitor centre that stands in the middle of the market square.
• Have a delicious fudge at Roly’s Fudge Pantry.
• Have an afternoon tea at Huffkins Tea Room that’s been around since the 1890s.
• Spot the Market Cross.
• Check out Stow’s Cricket Grounds.
• Visit Mill Dene Garden situated just 7 km away from Stow.
• Visit Batsford Arboretum and Falcone Centre 5 km drive from the village.
Places to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow Lodge Hotel situated right in the ancient market square and surrounded by a beautiful garden where you can chill with a cup of coffee on a sunny afternoon.
The Stag at Stow is also situated on the market square, has rooms to rent and also a restaurant.
TIP: Park at the visitor’s car park by Tesco Supermarket. It’s free of charge and within a 5 minutes’ walk from the historic market square.
Burford is situated just a short drive from Oxford and is considered to be the gateway to the Cotswolds. Walking on Burford’s High Street will take you back in time to the Tudor times as not much really changed in this small town packed with ancient buildings and elegant, stone cottages.
FUN FACT: Burford was voted 6th best place to live in Europe by Forbes Magazine in March 2010!
Things to do in Burford
• Climb the Burford Hill for an excellent photo opportunity! You’re not only will get a beautiful view of old cottages (imagine living in one of them!) but also a fantastic vista of the entire high street and surrounding rolling hills. You can find by walking up the High Street.
• Pop into the majestic Burford Church. St. John the Baptist is a listed building and was built between the 12th and 15th century.
• Have a cream tea in the Huffkins Café.
• Feed the ducks in at the River Windrush by the church and visitor’s car park.
• Visit Tolsey Museum situated in a historic Tudor courthouse made of white and black timber.
• Have a pint in one of Burford’s historic pub with an outdoor sitting area where you can people watch.
• Browse the cute, boutique shops on Burford High Street.
TIP: Park at the visitor’s car park by the church.
Places to stay in Burford
9 Upper Slaughter
Upper Slaughter is situated in Gloucestershire, and it’s another quintessential English village with a picturesque lazy stream running through it and connecting it to the sister village of Lower Slaughter that is situated only 2 km away. If you’re already in the area, it would be rude not to visit them both!
FUN FACT: Upper Slaughter is known as a Double Thankful Village because all of its residents that fought in both wars – WWI and WWII survived with not a single casualty!
Things to do in Upper Slaughter
• Stay at the grand Manor House that dates back to the 15th century.
• Visit Eyford House built in the 17th century with Baroque details.
10 Lower Slaughter
If you’re already in the area, pop by Lower Slaughter too which is situated only a further 2 km away from Lower Slaughter. Lower Slaughter is equally serene with the same slow running stream passing by. Walk across one of its little stone footbridges and take in the countryside vibes.
Both villages are much quieter compared to Burford or Burton-on-the-water and don’t have team rooms, shops and crowds of tourists. I recommend ‘the Slaughter villages’ if you’re into a more intimate experience.
Things to do in Lower Slaughter
• Visit the Old Mill which today holds a museum and a café.
• Pop into St. Mary Church.
Places to stay near Slaughter villages
The Slaughters Country Inn – situated by the picturesque stream, The Slaughters Country Inn is a pub and also has rooms for rent.
Manor House – this 17th-century mansion is also running as a luxury hotel.
Painswick is a historic town with beautiful traditional cottages made of the locally queried stone similar to other Cotswolds villages. Painswick was a centre of wool production in the past, and today it attracts visitors with its Rococo Garden and ancient yew trees. Painswick is situated on a hill with some excellent views over the Severn Valley and Welsh mountains.
FUN FACT: Painswick is known as “The Queen of the Cotswolds” for its rich heritage and history.
Things to do in Painswick
• Visit Rococo Garden, dating back from the 18th century this garden is the only remaining garden of this kind in the whole United Kingdom.
• St Mary’s Church of England built in the 11th century with an impressive spire added later on. Don’t forget to check out the church’s courtyard and its ancient yew trees that Painswick is most known for.
• Walk the Cotswold Way National Trail, Painswick is situated about halfway through it.
• Visit the Ashton Beer Collection, a gallery displaying furniture and other art from different periods by famous designers.
Places to stay near in Painswick
Cirencester is probably one of the bigger towns in the Cotswolds and also its informal capital. It is situated right in its heart, and for that reason, it’s an excellent base for exploring the region. When you walk along the streets of this historic town, you can immediately see its rich heritage spamming over many periods. In the past Cirencester was the centre of wool production and trade.
FUN FACT: Cirencester was the second largest town in Britain in the Roman Times.
Things to do in Cirencester
• Pop into St. John Baptist Church with its 49 metres tower which is the tallest church tower in the entire country. The tower opens to visitors at certain times in the country so if you’re interested in climbing the narrow staircase to get a stunning view at the top, check it out online before your visit.
• Take a stroll in Cirencester Park. It’s 8 km long, so there is plenty of paths to walk and space to relax. Cirencester Park is home to the oldest Polo Grounds in the country. If you’re lucky to visit on a game day, you will be able to watch the spectacle for a very affordable price.
• Browse Cirencester boutique and antique shops.
• Visit Corinium Museum to find out more about Cirencester’s Roman past.
Places to stay in Cirencester
13 Chipping Norton
Chipping Norton is located 30 km north-east from Oxford, and it’s the highest situated town in the Cotswolds. The town was s booming centre trading wool, and its market function goes back as far as 13th century.
Things to do in Chipping Norton
• Visit the stunning St. Mary Church.
• Walk along the Almshouses founded by a puritan and very charitable man – Henry Cornish. The houses were built for widows in need amongst other things that the man donated to the town.
• Admire the majestic building of the Town Hall.
• Visit the Chipping Norton Museum.
Places to stay in Chipping Norton
Kingham is a serene village situated 1-hour drive from Oxford and 20 minutes’ drive from Burton-on-the-water. It is surprisingly linked with London via a train line, so it is possible to get here easily by train!
Kingham is more peaceful and less touristy than other more popular Cotswolds villages which makes the place even more charming and tranquil. Walk along the honey-coloured stone cottages dating back to the 17th century and feel the authentic British countryside vibe!
Things to do in Kingham
• Visit the highly-rated local pub The Rabbit, have a bite or a pint.
• Visit the village Kingham’s Norman Church.
• Go on a cycling tour in the picturesque countryside with Cotswold Electric Bike Tours.
• Stock up on the fresh, local produce at Daylesford organic farm shop.
Places to stay in Kingham
Sourton is a tinny place that you may want to check out if you’re planning a visit to the Cotswolds Distillery. Its population is just over a hundred people, and it shares its borders with a larger village called Cherington.
Things to do in Stourton
• Visit the Cotswolds Distillery situated only a few kilometres away from Stourton village.
• Visit the medieval St. Peter’s Church.
• Go kayaking on the River Stour.
Places to stay in Stourton
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Tips on visiting the Cotswolds
• Telephone signal and 4G in the Cotswolds can be very intermittent. I used my phone for directions and sometimes it was not working due to lack of signal. So, if you have an alternative way to get directions like a traditional sat-nav, then I recommend taking it rather than relying purely on your phone.
• Hire a car. The best way to visit the Cotswolds is to hire a car and organise your own itinerary. This option gives you the best flexibility, especially if you want to see a few places in one day. In most villages, there is a visitor car park where you can leave your car often for free.
• The bigger villages like Bourton-on-the-Water or Burford will always have the most tourists but also more things to do, such as a bigger selection of shops, team rooms and pubs as well as different museums. But don’t forget about smaller, more off-beaten track places such as Stanton or Blockley where although there isn’t as much to do, you can truly feel the serenity of the Cotswolds countryside.
• Don’t try to visit all the villages in one day. Trust me, I attempted it, and it just gets too hectic. You can probably comfortably visit 4 different places in one day and still enjoy yourself. Sometimes quality wins over quantity.
Best time to visit the Cotswolds
Any time is great to visit the countryside of Cotswolds, however, if you’re looking for pleasant weather the best time to visit is from late spring to early autumn when weather is mild (April to October). A peak season for tourism is the summer holiday that runs from July to end of August in the UK. At that time, you’ll see a lot of families taking time off with their kids. Also, weekends will be quite busy, so visiting mid-week is also advised if you can.
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