The Cotswolds is the quintessential English country side, located NW of London. It is a vast region including five different counties and spanning nearly 800 square miles. It is full of small towns, rolling hills, and cute country houses.
The easiest way to get to the Cotswolds is by car. Depending on what part of the Cotswolds you plan to visit first, the drive time may vary, but on average you can plan for a 2-hour drive from London. If you are a frequent driver in the UK, the drive will not be an issue. However, if you are used to driving on the right side of the road, you may be in for more of a challenge. The toughest part will be getting used to the left side of the road.
Driving allows you to reach both the larger and smaller towns within the Cotswolds. Alternatively, you can take the train to one of the stations in the Cotswolds. Then either rent a car or plan to stay in the same area for your visit. The main train stations accessible in the Cotswolds are Banbury, Cheltenham, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Kingham. Other towns with stations near the Cotswolds include Oxford, Bath and Stroud.
It is tough to visit multiple areas of the Cotswolds without a car. There are buses running between towns which can be used, but a car provides the most flexibility and allows you to make your own schedule. When in any of the cute towns, it is easy to explore on foot as most of the towns are very small.
A few tips if renting a car – be sure to rent a car with the drivers seat on the opposite side (right side). This is normal, but sometimes cars can have the steering wheel on the left side still which makes the switch more confusing. Additionally, plan to get an automatic car. Even if you know how to drive manual, it makes the transition to the left side of the road easier; trying to use the clutch with the opposite hand adds an unnecessary challenge. Finally, be sure to ask what type of fuel (petrol or diesel) the rental car takes.
Since there are countless towns spread across the Cotswolds, picking where to stay can be challenging. Below are a few towns within the Cotswolds tailoring to different itineraries and desires.
For folks who do not want to drive to the Cotswolds, staying here is a good home base as there are trains from London to Moreton-in-Marsh which is at the heart of the Cotswolds. It gives visitors the real Cotswolds feel without a car
This town is a hidden gem. Like many of the towns, it is small, but has enough to be a good home base location. There are a few different pubs and restaurant options, numerous antique shops, small boutiques, and a bunch of cafes. It is also ideally located to visit some of the key spots in the Cotswolds and is home to the pub known for serving the best Cotswolds Sunday Roast.
Often referred to as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the bigger towns that still feels like a town. The town is in a prime location with other smaller quaint towns nearby. It offers more options for accommodations, dining, and shopping than some of the nearby villages.
Another moderately sized town in comparison to others in the Cotswolds, Broadway is a cute town not far from the Broadway Tower.
The Slaughters consists of the Upper Slaughter and the Lower Slaughter. These tiny little towns are very picturesque, but also very quiet. If you are not concerned with having a town, this can be a good option. It is located close enough to Bourton-on-the-Water that you can easily drive for meals, just note there are very few options in the Slaughters themselves.
Cute town with lots of antique stores, boutique shops, and cute cafes and pubs. Pop into the Cotswolds Chocolate Company for some locally made chocolate (you can even see them making the chocolate in the back of the store). Spend some time shopping in the local stores for crafts, local Cotswolds goods, clothing and more
Consisting of two parts, Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter, these are little towns. Lower Slaughter has a little more going on than Upper Slaughter, but both are quiet. Stop through for a short walk and a drink outside at the Slaughters Country Inn. Walk along the little canal in Lower Slaughter to the mill for a picturesque Cotswolds town
Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds as it sits on a little river, Bourton on the Water is one of the more commonly visited towns in the Cotswolds. It is larger than some of the tiny towns, providing more options for shopping, dining, accommodations, and activities. Stop by the Cotswolds Brewing Company for a pint of a locally brewed beer.
Noted as one of the main market towns in the Cotswolds, Moreton-in-Marsh is the only town in the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) with a mainline train station. The town has nice pubs, shops, and cafes to explore.
Similar in size to Stow on the Wold, this little village is nice for a stroll, shopping, or snack
This Cotswold village feels like a fairytale and is one of the most photographed spots in the region. Plan a stop in Castle Combe to take in the charming village houses. There are a few pubs in the small town where you can stop for a bite or a drink. Alternatively, drive up the road 5 – 10 minutes and sit down for a nice meal at the Salutation Inn
This sleepy town is a quick stop, good for a coffee and checking out Arlington Row. Arlington Row is another one of the more commonly photographed spots in the Cotswolds
Quaint Cotswolds village with shops, pubs, and cute houses
Tower sitting on the top of a hill with a panoramic view of the surrounding area and a deer farm right next to the Tower. You can go up to the Tower itself and enjoy the views around. If interested, there is a museum inside which includes a rooftop platform.
Sustainable farm in Moreton in Marsh. It includes the farm itself, along with stores to purchase the goods from the farm, local products, home goods, seasonal plants, antiques, wine, and more. It also includes a Cookery School, and the Bamford Wellness Spa where visitors can stay for a visit. Plan a few hours to visit Daylesford to have a drink, enjoy a meal, shop and explore.
Take a stroll through the smaller roads or hiking paths near any of the Cotswolds towns to enjoy the rolling hills in the Cotswolds.
Located south of the Cotswolds, so technically outside the Cotswolds region, Stonehenge is worth adding as a stop in your itinerary before returning to London. The stone structure is quite impressive to see in person as the size of the stacked rocks is shocking. The rock structure can be seen from a nearby highway, but is worth stopping at the museum and purchasing a ticket.
The ticket allows you entry to the small museum to learn about the history of the Stonehenge. Interestingly, Stonehenge is a mystery and it is not clear to historians on how the structure was built. There are many theories, but origins remain unknown. After visiting the museum, take a 5 minute shuttle bus (running every 5 mins) and walk around the historical site. You can also walk to Stonehenge from the museum, but will take about 30 minutes as it is about a mile from the museum.
Known for having the best Sunday Roast in the Cotswolds, this cute pub offers a nice atmosphere and traditional British cuisine
Cute pub and inn with traditional British food. On a warmer day, they have nice picnic tables outside to enjoy a drink on the terrace
Operated by the owners of Daylesford Farm, the Wild Rabbit is an upscale restaurant not far from the Farm itself. Book a reservation in advance for an exquisite meal, noting the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday evening. If visiting on a Monday or Tuesday, you can stop by the pub for a drink as an alternative.
Daylesford is a sustainable farm in the UK. Daylesford Organic has a few different restaurants within the premise including The Trough Café (michelin green star dining room and courtyard), The Old Spot Restaurant (menu focused on sharing plates and pizzas), The Legbar (spot for drinks & small plates – coffee or cocktails)
Restaurant with a wider drink selection including cocktails
Nice Inn restaurant with tasty food and a more expansive menu than some pubs
Cute little wine bar
Stop here for a late afternoon drink in the courtyard
Sit down for a small breakfast in the morning
Good option for a morning or afternoon snack including pastries, sandwiches, and take-away prepared salads
Café for coffee and quick bites
Café with takeaway coffee or sit down options available
Small café a short walk from Arlington Row with some delicious, homemade cakes
A trip to the Cotswolds will be a very relaxed, slow paced, low key trip. It is a great long weekend trip from London, enabling visitors to get away from the city life and enjoy a break in the countryside. Many of the towns will have similar vibes so pick a few and do not try to hit everywhere. Check out a sample itinerary here for a long weekend
Time of Year
The Cotswolds are especially nice to visit in the summer when there are long summer days and warmer weather. However, even when visiting at the beginning of July, temperatures stayed fairly cool. The autumn is also a nice time to visit with the changing leaves around the area.
Note many shops will be closed by 5 / 5:30 pm and restaurants are not open past about 10 pm.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks