When you think of The Cotswolds, what image does your mind’s eye conjure up? I would imagine quaint medieval villages? Miles of rolling hills and countryside? Beautiful and inviting olde-worldly looking cottages? Am I right? Well… Me too! Having just returned from our first Cotswold road trip, I can confirm that much of The Cotswolds is exactly like that! It’s idyllic and beautiful. But, not all so I thought I would help you out a little. We spent much of our 4 days here meandering lazily through the leafy lanes, and exploring the villages and towns. So, I have picked out my suggestions for places to visit in The Cotswolds that I think, will live up to your expectations.
The beauty of a Cotswolds road trip is that it seems to lend itself to any season! Beautiful in the warmer months, but the perfect cosy Autum/Winter escape too! One thing is for sure. I have returned with the absolute knowledge that this will not be my last Cotswold tour. A million percent positive on that!
Prettiest villages in The Cotswolds
Let’s start with what The Cotswolds are known for shall we? The villages! The traditional Cotswold stone cottages, surrounded by countryside hinting at an idyllic life. Many of The Cotswolds village’s are also near rivers. The babbling streams running through them add to their charm and good looks!
Upper and Lower Slaughter are just beautiful! A real slice of the quieter, Cotswolds life. Tiny little twin villages, with only around 250 people living in each. These sleepy little places give a real taste of traditional Cotswold living.
We stayed in Lower Slaughter for our recent trip, and you can read all about the area in detail in this post, The Slaughters. I would highly recommend popping in to the Lords of the Manor, (in Upper Slaughter), for a cream tea on the lawn if you have time. For us, basing ourselves in The Slaughters was the ideal location for exploring the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds.
Bibury is perhaps one of the more well known, and certainly well photographed, villages in the area. The British designer, William Morris, was said to have declared it the “most beautiful village in England”. Although to be fair, many of the Cotswolds villages’s claim that title. I will leave it to you to choose your own fave. Bibury is a typical Cotswold village, but it’s appeal does draw the crowds. Up to 7000 people a day can flood into this tiny village in the Summer months! Wow!
Bibury is also home to the famous row of 14th Century weavers cottages. Arlington Row is one of the most photographed lanes in the entire Cotswolds. These gorgeous, uneven cottages are perfectly framed by sweeping medows and the little brook running alongside it. They are just so picture perfect.
Bibury should 100% be on your list as a must see on your Cotswolds tour. If you go early in the morning, or towards the end of the day, you will see it as it should be seen. Quiet, tranquil and so incredibly picturesque. Nestled beside the River Colne, it is like stepping back to simpler times.
Tip – Get to Bibury early, and do the half hour walk around the back of the village. It starts behind the church, and brings you out at the back of Arlington Row. It gives a great, lesser known view of Bibury.
Broadway is considered one of the larger, and most popular villages in The Cotswolds. Nestled at the foot of the Worcestershire Hills, it is a scenery lovers dream. A great base if you fancy a little bit more going on where you are staying. It’s rows of period cottages are all beautifully cared for, and so typical of the area.
The village of Broadway was historically, a thriving rest point. Travellers making the journey from London to Worcester, would often stop over in Broadway. It is even said that Oliver Cromwell and Charles I were accommodated here in the Lygon Arms coach stop.
You also have the Broadway Tower. A tower designed by the famous Capability Brown. At 312 meters above sea level, it was the perfect watch point to send and receive long distance signals and warnings. It certainly gives views for miles!
We absolutely loved this little village. I had not read anything about here when researching The Cotswolds. I have no idea why! It was one of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds that we stumbled across. There is a real pride in the Village, that was apparent in it’s well tended buildings. The honey hued cottages are mainly set around a sloping village green.
It is a favourite stop off point for cyclists and hikers, but remains a sleepy little village. The Guilting Power walking route is a favourite amongst people who love a scenery filled hike. The appeal to stopping off in this village could also be due to their award winning tea shop…. The Old Post office serves the BEST victoria sponge. It also does an amazing vegan, strawberry thick shake! I tried it for research purposes of course……..
Pop into The Olde Post Office for award winning cake!
Other posts you may enjoy – More English Villages I love
Towns in the Cotswolds
Although The Cotswolds always conjure up the image of village life, don’t write off the towns. The towns in the Cotswolds hold their own charm. We visited a few and although there is no doubt they have more people milling around, they are still so worth a visit. My biggest tip is to pick your times that you visit. Going early in the morning, or late afternoon should help.
Good for – History lovers. The history of the area is so interesting, and of course, King Henry VIII had a role in it!
We stumbled across Winchcombe totally by accident. That is sometimes the way you find little gems though isnt it! The Town is, (as I had come to expect), a Town that lured you with it’s good looks. The more quiet, slower paced town from the towns in the Cotswolds that we visited, but just as worthwhile. With it’s timber framed buildings and beautiful architecture, it won us over. It is also just a short drive to Sudeley Castle from here. We loved the castle. An absolute must see if you love history and gorgeous buildings.
Stow on the Wold
Good for – So much! You could indulge in a little shopping in any of the gorgeous, one off shops. You also have the famous Cotswold Cheese Shop here too.
I think most people would have heard of this town in the Cotswolds. It is probably the most well known, and often called the prettiest town. It is a bustling market town, with a plethora of gorgeous shops, cafe’s and pubs. You will certainly be able to indulge in a cream tea or two here!
There is plenty of history in Stow on the Wold. From the historic town cross at one end, to the remains of the original town stocks at the other. There is also the famous “hobbit door”. A magical, fairy like door set between two ancient yew trees. This door, in St Edwards Church, is rumoured to have inspired Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings “The Doors of Durin”after the author visited the town. Who knows! But they are like a little portal to a fairytale world so I would recommend popping by to see them.
Bourton on the Water
Good for – Sitting in one of the riverside eateries, and enjoying a Cotswold clotted cream and jam scone.
This gorgeous little town is often called “the Venice of The Cotswolds”. It has the River Windrush flowing right through its centre. You will not find any gondola rides though….
This picturesque little hamlet is another favourite for tourists. They flock to Bourton to meander its boutique shops, perhaps dangle their feet in the river, and of course, enjoy a cream tea. There is also the cutest little miniature town set up, which will delight.
The Little Venice of The Cotswolds
We loved Bourton on the Water, but again, we visited early. We took a leisurely stroll along the river, picking out the houses that in our dreams, we would move into! We sat beside the river and enjoyed a bag of chips with lashings of salt and vinegar, before saying our goodbyes to this gorgeous town.
Good for – Hunting out antiques to take home from your Cotswolds road trip.
This was the very first place that we stopped in. It was like our introduction to The Cotswolds. It did not disappoint!
Burford is about 20 miles West of Oxford. The High Street is set on a gentle slope down to the River Windrush. The town grew from Anglo Saxon times, into a well regarded and significant wool town. An important trade in those times.
The mostly 17th and 18th century building’s around Burford seem to have remained pretty much as they were in Tudor times. Precariously angled, higgledy piggeldy buildings line the streets. The warm toned stone of the traditional cottages provide the colour palette familiar in The Cotswolds. Burford is a gorgeous Town and well worth a visit.
Worth noting – Walk to the beautiful 12th century St John the Baptist church. It is gorgeous and gives a hint at the importance of the towns past. It was also placed in the top 20 as one of Englands best Churches.
Places to Visit in the Cotswolds – Conclusion
I really hope I have given you a snapshot of some of the best places to visit in The Cotswolds. We visited quite a few more on our Cotswold road trip, but these stood out for us. We only really covered a small area in our 5 days. There is so much more I would love to see! I am keen to get back. Now I have discovered the beauty of the towns and villages of The Cotswolds, I know it will happen.
Have you been to The Cotswolds? Do you have a favourite area? Any that you recommend that I put on my itinerary for my next Cotswold road trip? Let me know, I would love to hear!