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Ultimate Guide for a Weekend in the Cotswolds

A two hour drive or a one hour thirty minute train ride out of London lands you in the gloriously picturesque heart of England – te stunning Cotswolds. It’s a weekend trip I do often with the family or just with Mr S when we need to escape the bustle of London and everyday life.

Best Places to Visit in The Cotswolds

view of the fields of The Cotswolds

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A world of bucolic rolling hills and pretty chocolate box villages makes it feel like time has stood still. Embodied by countless charming villages within almost 800 square miles they run through five counties – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

Visitors are immediately seduced by the honey coloured cottages with thatched roofs, winding lanes and babbling brooks to crumbling castles and timeless churches

view of a thatched roof cottage with three chimney stacks, winces and green grass with a picket fence of a road in The Cotswolds

There are so many incredible places, the problem is narrowing down the villages and towns to visit. Luckily it’s possible to visit multiple destinations on a single outing due to the size and distances between most towns.

picture of three girls walking along a sanded path towards a tall tower in The Cotswolds

Here are some of my favourites along with some travel tips to help with planning your trip to the charming Cotswolds:

Times to Visit the Cotswolds

Winter

Think Christmas markets, snowy fields and mulled wine by a roaring fire. Considered by many as the low season for a UK escape, winter in the Cotswolds truly takes on a magical feel. And the bonus no crowds and lower accomodation costs – just make sure you wrap up warm.

Spring

The idyllic countryside comes alive during the spring months with the season of lambs and longer daylight hours. Flora comes into its own too, parklands filled with blossom and some hills turn a wondrous shade of purple with the lavender fields in Snowshill – A real spring highlight.

Summer

The Cotswolds is picturesque are even more beautiful when lit by the summer sun. Flowers are in full bloom and the opportunities for hikes, walking trails and afternoon picnics are endless. The only downside being that villages can be crowded during the warmer months – book accommodation well in advance especially if you are just visiting for a weekend.

Autumn

Once the leaves start turning, an autumnal ochre landscape takes hold over the region. There is a quieter feel and with warmer weather often running into September and October. This can be a perfect time to visit.

The Best Cotswolds Villages to Visit

There are many scenic villages to visit in the Cotswolds, so much so you will be booking another weekend before you know it! Here are a few of my favourites. They all make a great base for exploring the region:

Bibury

British novelist and poet William Morris called Bibury ‘the prettiest village in England‘ when he visited in 1890, and you’ll see exactly why. The charming village attracts thousands of visitors from around the world, primarily as it’s home to Britain’s most photographed street, Arlington Row.

picture of brick built sand coloured cottages on a lane in The Cotswolds

Built originally in the 14th century as wool stores, the buildings were converted into weavers’ cottages in the 17th century and look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. You may recognise them from Bridget Jones Diary.

Do: Follow the calm brook running next to the cottages upstream to a trout farm. Established in the early 20th century by famous naturalist Arthur Severn, the active fishery helps stock local rivers and streams with the native brown trout. In the warmer months they sell ice cream and you can even have a go at catching your own trout.

Eat: The historic village pub, The Catherine Wheel dates back to the 15th century and is a great stop for a drink or lunch. Sit amongst exposed original ship timber beams, prints and photographs of Old Bibury and blazing log fires during winter.

Bourton-On-The-Water

image of the river and bridge flowing through Bourton-on-the-water

Charming Bourton-on-the-Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, due to its many bridges over River Windrush. Perfect for a tranquil walk along the river, Slightly larger than some of the other villages, while away time browsing the cute shops and eating places. There is also a model village to visit which is a one-ninth scale replica of Bourton-on-the-Water.

Do: There are several museums to explore in Bourton-on-the-Water. The Cotswolds Motoring Museum showcases 20th century vintage cars and a unique toy collection.

Eat: Bakery by the Water is a small artisan family run bakery. Delicious cakes and sandwiches are on offer and they can even rustle up a breakfast if need be. Or, how about a picnic to go? Perfect for a summers day by the river.

Broadway

picture of two girls running on a field towards broadway tower in The Cotswolds

The large village located at the foot of Fish Hill (where monks used to store fish) has a pretty high street with shops and museums,. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to keep hunger at bay along with lots of beautiful cottages. It’s also home to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, a historic steam train you can ride on a 14 mile route from Broadway to Cheltenham.

Do: Visit Broadway Tower, the more energetic can walk the 1.5 mile path on the scenic Cotswold Way or drive and use the car park.

Eat: Stop at the Hunter’s Tea Room for an afternoon tea with lashings of clotted cream and jam. On colder days the hot chocolate is worth a try too.

Castle Combe

Located in Wiltshire in the Southern Cotswolds, Castle Combe is a quintessential English country village. It’s the one I would class as the prettiest village. This really is a village frozen in time, no new houses have been built in the tiny village since the 1600s.

picture of the sign outside 'the old rectory tea room' in The Cotswolds

The main street, simply called The Street runs through the village and you can walk from one end to the other in just a few minutes. Within the village you’ll find a Market Cross and St Andrews Church which dates back from the 13th century, the faceless clock part of church is said to be the oldest working clock in the country. A favourite with the movie world, Castle Combe is regularly used as a film location. Spot it in Stardust and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.

Do: For the ultimate photo op walk down the hill from Market Place to the bridge at the southern tip of the village. The weavers cottages, babbling river with a woodlands backdrop comes together for a perfect fairytale snapshot.

From outside some of the houses by the bridge you can purchase homemade cakes, sweets or bunches of flowers on a honesty basis. Pick what you like and pop the money in the box.

child looking at the baked goods wrapped up on a table outside the tearoom in The Cotswolds

Eat: For an afternoon tea with a difference, pre-book one in The Old Rectory Tearoom. The actual tea room is located within a part of a family home dating back to 1490, where you can enjoy a feast of home-baked cakes.

Chipping Camden

The enchanting small town of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire was once a major centre for the wool trade, which made it a very wealthy town in the 14th century.

view of iron lamppost in the Cotswold village of Chipping Campden

Surrounding fields are still full of sheep adding to the charm of the picture perfect setting. Evidence of the rich merchants can still be seen in Grevel House and St James Church. The elegant terraced streets, thatched roof houses and quaint shops means you can explore for hours.

Do: The historic home of the Guild of Handicrafts is based in Chipping Campden. Wander to the Court Barn Museum and check out the work of designers from the Arts and Craft Movement.

Eat: For a proper countryside pub with a cosy setting, serving high quality home-made food head to Eight Bells Inn. A delicious Sunday lunch finishes off your weekend in the Cotswolds nicely!

Snowshill

A small secluded village not far from Broadway is known for its exceptional unspoilt beauty and for the views over the Severn Vale to the west. Ancient cottages and a pretty 19th century church surround a small green.

Do: Renowned for its Manor House now run by the National Trust, it’s packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a lifetime by Charles Wade. The gardens are are a great place to relax and explore hidden vistas.

overlooking the fields of the Cotswold Lavender Farm

Eat: During the summer months visit the family run Cotswold Lavender Farm, located on the outskirts of the village. Harvest usually starts during the last week of July and continues until early August.

We visited the Cotswolds for a weekend towards the end of the season, hence the lack of colour. At its peak, usually mid July admire 53 spectacular acres of lavender with vibrant shades of pink, purple and violet. Don’t miss visiting the tea room and order all things lavender from shortbread to a clotted cream tea with delicious lavender scones.

Stow-On-The-Wold

The centuries old classic market town has a reputation of having some of Britain’s best antique shops. Perched proudly on Stow Hill it’s the highest of the Cotswold towns. In the idyllic town centre, find beautiful boutiques, art galleries, cafes and of course those antique dealers.

family sat on the bottom of a treee trunk outside the doorway of st Edwards church

Do: Go see the door. This is not any door. The magical west entry doorway of St. Edwards Church is flanked by two 700 year old yew trees. It’s widely believed to be J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspiration for the door to the underground realm Moria in The Lord of Rings.

Eat: Porch House is a Grade II listed Cotswold stone building and claims to be England’s oldest inn, with parts of the building dating back to 947 AD. Enjoy a drink or a bite to eat in historical and architecturally beautiful surroundings.

The Slaughters

Time in the Cotswolds isn’t complete without visiting the Slaughters. The neighbouring villages share an interesting name which refers to slough meaning muddy place due to the river Windrush closeby.

Upper Slaughter
picture of a doorway with firewood outside the front door, nearby stream and sheep in The Cotswolds

Classed as the sainted village, meaning it lost nobody in the First World War, picturesque Upper Slaughter will capture your heart. Minutes upstream from Lower Slaughter it’s picture perfect with the reflected warm stone cottages reflected in the river and medieval almshouses enveloping tranquil air.

Lower Slaughter
water wheel on the river eye alongside the historic mill in The Cotswolds

With more to see in Lower Slaughter, it receives a higher number of visitors. The River Eye runs through the middle of the village, and the historic mill takes centre stage. I always feel like I’ve time travelled a few hundred years when I watch the turning of the water.

Do: The Old Mill and Cafe are worth a visit. A mill is recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 on the site of The Old Mill. In the 14th Century it had begun to be known as Slaughter Mill and is open to the public today.

Eat: The homemade organic ice cream parlour is not to missed at The Old Mill.

Where to Stay in the Cotswolds

Romantic Getaway

Barnsley House
picture of Barnsley house surrounded by grassed gardens, tall brick built walls and shubbery in The Cotswolds

A few miles outside the Roman town of Cirencester lies a stylish country manor in an imposing Grade II listed property. This haven of tranquility, calm and serenity with its 11 acres of exquisite gardens seamlessly blends the old with the new. Beautifully renovated interiors, a contemporary spa and 30 seat cinema makes it a hideaway you’ll never want to leave.

Family friendly

Calcot Hotel & Spa
image of the outside of Calcot Hotel & Spa in The Cotswolds with a christmas tree, shrubbery and parking spaces out the front in

Three and a half miles west of Tetbury in Gloucestershire is the sister hotel to Barnsley House. The family friendly luxury retreat Calcot Hotel and Spa set in 220 acres of Cotswold countryside is a dream come true for overtired parents and a weekend break away. Enjoy modern cooking in the Conservatory restaurant, superior pub fare in the Gumstool Inn and relax in the knockout spa!

Chic luxury

Soho Farmhouse
image of the lake near the Soho Farmhouse

Soho Farmhouse is part of the phenomenally popular Soho House Group situated in Oxfordshire. A mix of rustic charm and modern touches, the mini village is made up of 40 spacious log cabins.

Larger groups have the option of booking the cottage of farmhouse. Expect Marshall speakers in your bedroom, kitchen stocked with fresh loaves of bread and bags of granola and of course the house’s signature Cowshed toiletries in your cabin. And the best bit…fancy a drink or breakfast in bed? Don’t worry, just dial the number and a cocktail or breakfast milk float will drive up to your door and settle your cravings.

Soho House members can book a stay directly through their House Seven accounts, while non-members need to inquire directly with the property.

Back to Nature Luxury

The Fish Hotel
picture of route towards hideaway huts at the Fish Hotel

Located in one of the most magical spots in the Cotswolds. The Fish Hotel is a collection of suites, shepherd huts and treehouses set within 400 acres of the Farncombe Estate. Back to nature luxury is the order of the day at this hotel. It has its own boot room in partnership with the Original Muck Boot Company to prepare guests for all manor of walks and hikes. Find Smeg fridges and wood burners in the rooms and an elegant restaurant The Hook serving all kinds of deliciousness. Plus it manages to be a dog, kid and romance friendly.. something for everyone during your relaxing weekend in the Cotswolds.

Traditional Pub Stay

The bell at stow
picture outside of the bell at stow in The Cotswolds

Set at the edge of Stow-on-the-Wold this quaint Cotswolds inn offers luxurious en suite rooms. The cosy bedrooms at The Bell at Stow boast quirky designs, hotel-style comforts and seriously good food. Think red wine and roaring fires in the winter or basking in the summer sun with a cool pint in the beer garden.

How to get to the cotswolds

By Tours

Day trips from London are very popular, but if time allows I’d always recommend staying a night to two and heading to the Cotswolds for a weekend. These trips are perfect if you are under time constraints when visiting this stunning region:

Discover the beauty of the Cotswolds on a drive through the English countryside. Visit the picturesque villages of Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold and enjoy a 2 course lunch at an old coach inn.

Travel by luxury mini-coach through the scenic English countryside to The Cotswolds. Spend plenty of time off the bus, enjoying a guided tour of Oxford and its centuries old university, and Stratford-upon-Avon, with an optional Shakespeare’s house visit.

Enjoy a full day escorted tour with visits to Blenheim Palace the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, two beautiful Cotswold villages plus a walking tour of ‘Downton Abbey’ village.

By Rail

Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds are served by main line trains from London, the Midlands and the North and the South West of England. There are main line railway stations at Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble (serving Cirencester), Moreton-in-Marsh, Stonehouse, Stroud and Ashchurch (for Tewkesbury).

By Bus

National Express runs bus travel throughout England. The main route to Gloucestershire & the Cotswolds from London starts at Victoria Coach Station.

By Road

The Cotswolds is served by excellent links to the M4, M5 and M40, providing easy access to and from London, Birmingham the rest of the UK. Need to hire a car click the link below

Where would you like to visit in the Cotswolds?
Let me know in the comments box below.

sima

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20 Comments

  • kerry 7th April 2020 at 8:49 am

    Well I may not have got on my trip to The Cotswolds this month, but had a little bit of a journey through via this post. We were heading to Bidury, but planned to explore the surrounding area a little. Still, it will happen when all the madness is over. At least I got a little virtual look!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 7th April 2020 at 9:23 am

      A Bidbury stay will be so lovely when you get there and even more special after we’re out of lockdown x

  • Brian Neale 7th April 2020 at 7:40 pm

    I Know the Cotswolds fairy well as one of my aunts lived in Barnwood on the edge of the Cotswolds near to Stroud which has a lovely park and Cirencester is not to far away and the town has a lovely Sheep Church which there are a few in the Cotswolds built by wealthy gentry who dealt in wool from sheep

    • Sima Sthanakiya 14th April 2020 at 9:30 am

      One of the prettiest regions is England. You must have some lovely memories of the place? Love Cirencester too, been to teh food festival there a few times.

    • Brian Neale 18th May 2020 at 8:06 pm

      Cirencester is a very nice town and it has a lovely “Wool” Church. Well worth a visit is Cirencester

      • Sima Sthanakiya 19th May 2020 at 1:09 pm

        Yes, I’ve been a very long time ago when I was younger. Thanks Brian.

  • Angie Silver 8th April 2020 at 11:46 am

    I love The Cotswolds! I can’t wait to visit after this bloody thing is over.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 14th April 2020 at 9:27 am

      You and me both. Fingers crossed it’s not too long.

  • Laureen Lund 11th April 2020 at 8:42 am

    It’s been 15 years since I visited the Cotswolds and Ive always wanted to go back. Your post has inspired me! One of my favorite things are the fun names of the villages. It is a very unique place. I plan to get back there as soon as all this crazy virus business is over.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 14th April 2020 at 9:24 am

      Wow Laureen a return is a must! And yes when this whole thing is over, I’m off there again too x

  • Catherine Boardman 11th April 2020 at 9:18 pm

    We stayed in Bibury when I was the size of a house just before the boys were born, we keep on saying that we should return and walk.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 14th April 2020 at 9:24 am

      Oh wow, you really must go and reminisce.

  • Londonferne 17th April 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Love the look of that Fish hotel. Think I’ll explore it when this is all over. Nice post with great pictures. Thanks

    • Sima Sthanakiya 21st April 2020 at 11:16 am

      Thank you Ferne, it’s a beautiful part of the world. I hope you do make it there.

  • Stuart Forster 17th April 2020 at 1:49 pm

    I’d love to visit the Cotswolds. I’d love to visit anywhere right now after the umpteenth day of the coronavirus lockdown

    • Sima Sthanakiya 21st April 2020 at 11:15 am

      I know exactly how you feel Stuart. Stay safe.

  • Anna 24th April 2020 at 5:36 pm

    I have been to a couple of these places such as Castle Coombe, Broadway and Boughton-on-Water but I want to go to more! Such a pretty place in the UK! Bookmarking this for after lockdown!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 26th April 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Hopefully you’ll be able to someday soon.

  • Bea Adventurous 15th March 2022 at 7:52 pm

    This is a really informative post! Amazing info and some brilliant ideas for your guide of this fantastic part of the world!
    I’m a resident of the cotswolds and I still haven’t explored everything yet!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 16th March 2022 at 11:14 am

      Thank you Bea, so glad you found it useful. Hopefully, this will get you exploring more soon.

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    I'm Sima, join me as I explore, experience and eat my way around the globe. Inspiring you to escape the everyday through my adventures... Read More

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