The Cotswolds are rich in history and brimming with endless stunning landscapes. Its quaint villages and rolling countryside hills are some of my favourite spots in England to explore.
But where do you start? The Cotswolds AONB runs through five British counties – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire – making it tricky to decide where to base yourself. I’ve visited a few times and rounded up my favourite spots so you can plan your visit to The Cotswolds with ease.
The best time to visit The Cotswolds
All seasons are magical in their own way. Spring and summer bring months of vibrant landscapes and reliable weather to embark on hiking. During autumn months it seems to glow with the burnt orange hues of falling leaves and if you’re lucky, winter might bring a sprinkling of powdery snow – the perfect setting to lap up a hot drink in an old cosy pub.
The best things to do in The Cotswolds
Firstly, soak up the British countryside views by taking a hike on one of the many routes. End your day with a roast at a country pub or visit a tea room for scones and clotted cream and jam. The fresh produce here is not to be missed – visit Daylesford Organic and Allington Farm Shop for a delightful range of cheese, meat and vegetables.
For a full guide on what to do in The Cotswolds, read my post here.
Are The Cotswolds worth visiting?
Yes, yes, yes! The Cotswolds is established as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and for damn good reason! There are plenty of sites to explore, walking trails to tackle, and local produce to divulge in, and each village, hamlet and town differs slightly, so there’s always something to see. I highly recommend a visit to The Cotswolds, whether it’s a day trip or part of a great English road trip.
Here are the best places to visit in The Cotswolds:
1. Castle Combe
Often dubbed the ‘prettiest village in England’ and it’s not hard to see why. It’s small but packs a punch – with charming cottages and a picturesque brook, make sure to explore the village (which won’t take very long) and the plentiful forests beyond.
Take leisurely walks along the quaint streets, admiring timeless architecture and lush greenery. The tranquil River Coln meanders through the village, enhancing its idyllic atmosphere. Bibury is celebrated for its honey-coloured stone cottages that line Arlington Row, a row of 17th-century weaver’s cottages, often hailed as one of the most beautiful streets in England.
Charming pubs and boutique shops straddle the River Windrush in this quaint yet bustling village. Known for its traditional stone houses and five low bridges, it makes for a great stop on your Cotswolds itinerary. Enjoy afternoon tea at the Bourtanical, a cracking burger at Smiths and a Sunday Roast at The Mousetrap Inn.
Stow is famed for its historic market square, quaint stone cottages, and a rich history dating back to medieval times. Explore antique shops, cosy tearooms, and traditional pubs, all set against a backdrop of rolling hills and stunning countryside. The village is a gateway to the Cotswold’s natural beauty, making it a perfect starting point for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a quintessential English countryside experience.
5. The Slaughters
Just over a mile from Bourton-on-the-Water are the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. Not as terrifying as it sounds, the name actually comes from old English ‘Slohtre’, which has nothing to do with anything sinister and simply means ‘muddy place’. These tiny villages are far from muddy these days and are in fact, some of the most beautiful in The Cotswolds.
Lower Slaughter sits on the River Eye with weeping willows and colourful wildflowers nestled on the banks and quaint cottages perched at either side. In Upper Slaughter, head to the picturesque Ford that sits at the lower end of the hamlet. Even on a rainy day, it still was worth a trip.
6. Chipping Campden
One of the main market towns in The Cotswolds, Chipping Campden was once a famed medieval wool town. Meander through its charming streets and visit historic landmarks like St. James’ Church or the centuries-old market hall, and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of local pubs and tearooms.
How long to spend in The Cotswolds?
Give yourself 3-4 nights in The Cotswolds to fully embrace the charm of these various villages and towns. With plenty of hiking trails to explore, market towns to wander and delicious country produce to try, you can easily enjoy a few full days here. The drive between towns or villages are often not too far and some are so small you can tick off a few in one day. I highly recommend hiring a car when exploring The Cotswolds to ensure you can maximise your time and stop off at local spots when you fancy.