The Cotswolds, ah… This English region, known as an area of outstanding natural beauty, ought to be at the top of everyone’s bucket list for the UK. There’s plenty to see, including lavender fields, charming villages, stunning vistas, and much more.
Everyone can find something to enjoy in this well-liked English destination, from the historic Arlington Row street to the numerous hiking trails across the countryside of the United Kingdom.
It can be difficult to choose just one beautiful location to visit, particularly if you’re pressed for time. Here is a list of the top Cotswolds towns to visit to make the most of your journey, to aid in your decision-making!
THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN THE COTSWOLDS:
1 | BIBURY
Bibury, a picturesque village in Gloucestershire, is definitely worth a visit. For good reason, it’s one of the most well-liked destinations in The Cotswolds.
Renowned creative and textile designer Willaim Morris, who happens to be my all-time favorite designer, once referred to Bibury as the nation’s most picturesque village. Do I concur? Almost entirely.
Though I believe there are many beautiful villages in England, I do find this well-known location to be very charming. Nevertheless, if you’re traveling through the area on a Cotswolds road trip, you absolutely must visit this location.
Any trip to the village should start with a stroll along Arlington Row. Arguably the heart of the village, this street is without a doubt one of the most charming spots in the area, making it one of the best Instagram spots in The Cotswolds. The charming homes make a lovely backdrop for your travel snaps, trust me!
However, please be aware that this is a residential street. You should respect the privacy of the locals who live here by not peeking through their windows or touching the structures.
Want to know something cool about this pretty residential street? It dates back to the 14th century when it was constructed as a wool store. Many years later, it became a row of weavers’ homes.
These days, people live inside each home, except one. Number 9 Arlington Row is a holiday home that can be rented out through the National Trust. It’s an ideal place to rest your head if you want to stay in the heart of one of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages.
There are a few other things to do in Bibury besides strolling down the town’s most charming street. You can visit the village’s trout farm if you enjoy fishing. You can stroll the grounds, go fishing, and feed these adorable creatures here.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can go for a stroll beside the river, stop by St. Mary’s Church, or get some food.
There are a few locations nearby if you want to do the latter.The highly regarded Swan Hotel provides a large selection of food and drink options in a warm, traditional setting.
2 | LAVENDER FEILDS
Consider scheduling a visit to the nearby lavender fields if you are in the area in July. If you visit at the right time, it’s one of the best things to do in The Cotswolds because of the breathtaking photo opportunities and serene atmosphere.
Accessible by car, the Cotswolds Lavender is situated only two miles away from Broadway. Because of this, it’s a worthwhile stop on any Cotswolds road trip. More so if you’re looking for places to take Instagram-worthy photos because this place is incredibly gorgeous!
3 | STROUD
Shopping enthusiasts will find Stroud to be a treasure trove of charming independent stores. Thanks to The Malthouse Collective, a sizable antiques store that carries everything from exquisite furniture to unusual ornaments, it’s a must-visit if you love antiques.
This quaint Cotswolds town also hosts a well-attended Saturday and Friday market.Not to be confused with York’s charming street, the Shambles Market is a great place to get organic food, books, home goods, and much more.
Weekends are ideal for exploring Stroud because the market is at its busiest. But keep in mind that this is also the busiest time of year to go there.
As such, nearby attractions could be particularly crowded. If that’s something you prefer to avoid, visit during the week instead.
If you’re looking to get out in nature, go for a stroll along the Stoudwater Canal. It’s a lovely spot for a walk, allowing you to take in the fresh air as ducks and swans swim alongside you.
The Museum in the Park is another thing you can’t miss in Stroud. It’s a super informative (and free) museum offering lots of cool exhibits about history in the local area. It’s also home to a gorgeous garden which is the perfect spot for a serene stroll.
4 | CASTLE COMBE
Castle Combe is one of the most sought-after locations in The Cotswolds when making travel plans. This town is very charming and is arguably the most well-known village in The Cotswolds.
I’ve traveled a lot within my own country, and it’s also one of my favorite spots in England. I adore everything this village has to offer in terms of classic English charm.
You really must not miss a few amazing activities at Castle Combe, which is in Wiltshire! Seeing the Market Cross, going to St Andrew’s Church, and nosing around in an honest store (how cute!) are a few examples.
If you’re into cars and motorbikes, you won’t want to miss the Castle Combe Circuit. This unique Cotswolds attraction offers vehicle enthusiasts the chance to enjoy track races, passenger rides, driving experiences, and much more.
Furthermore, Castle Combe is home to some great traditional English pubs that offer a cozy environment to grab a drink. If you’re in the area on a sunny day, enjoying a pint with a view at The Castle Inn is a must.
You can also enjoy delicious food at many locations in town. For example, The Bybrook at the Manor House Hotel is a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Located inside the luxurious five-star hotel, it’s an ideal place to treat your tastebuds surrounded by a bit of luxury! Go on, you know you want to (wink wink).
Before you leave the village, don’t forget to walk around town with your camera. With so many photo opportunities, Castle Combe boasts some of the best Instagram spots in The Cotswolds.
One place you can’t miss is Water Lane. With its historical bridge standing over the River Bybrook, it’s a famous photo spot in the heart of the village. As before, just remember to respect the locals as you snap away.
5 | TETBURY
Although it’s not as popular as the likes of Castle Combe or Burford, Tetbury is still worth visiting during your trip to the region. It’s home to some of the prettiest streets in The Cotswolds.
It’s also one of the best places to visit for picturesque gardens. Highgrove House and Gardens are situated around a five-minute drive from the centre of town making it one of the best places to visit in Tetbury.
Not only that, but this is the private home of the King and Queen of England. Although you can’t go inside, you can join a guided tour of the extremely impressive landscaped garden. The knowledgeable (and super friendly) guides take you to all the best spots so you can take in the true beauty of the stunning grounds.
Alternatively, The National Arboretum boasts perhaps the most impressive plant collection worldwide. Due to this, it’s one of the best outdoor activities in The Cotswolds. If you’re a nature buff, this place is simply a must-see!
If you fancy a bit of wine tasting in the English countryside, Larkhill Vineyard has got you covered! Here you can sip on delicious wines surrounded by beautiful scenery and a bustling atmosphere.
With so many lovely things to do in the area, you could easily spend a few days in Tetbury itself. However, its proximity to other Cotswolds villages is fantastic!
6 | BROADWAY
Another one of the best places to see in The Cotswolds is Broadway. This beautiful Worcestershire village not only boasts some of the most picture-perfect homes in the region, but it also houses one of the region’s most visited attractions.
To admire the views from one of the highest points in The Cotswolds, head to Broadway Tower. Here you can discover the history behind the tower (which dates back to 1799) and view some work by world-renowned textile designer William Morris.
Next up, end your visit at the top of the tower where you can enjoy countryside views for miles. Simply put, it’s one of the best things to do in The Cotswolds. Especially if you’re visiting in summer.
Once you’re done at the tower, head into the village. Expect to find art galleries, pubs, cute places to eat, and charming residential areas.
If you’re on the hunt for the best things to do on Broadway, consider visiting the village’s museum and art gallery or the Gordon Russel Design Museum. If you’re into art and design as much as I am, you’ll be in your element on Broadway!
Prefer to get a little more hands-on? Then there are a couple of creative classes to get involved with. For example, you can attend a pottery class at Honeybourne Pottery Studio or make your soap at The Little Soap School.
For something a little different, you can also go horseriding on Broadway. Just a short drive from the center of the village, Jill Carenza Equestrian offers riding lessons in one of the most picturesque spots in the region.
You’ll be treated to stunning countryside landscapes as far as the eye can see. How lovely does that sound?
7 | PAINSWICK
Nestled between rolling hills and picture-perfect fields, Painswick is surrounded by breathtaking views of the English countryside. If you’re wondering where to visit in The Cotswolds, this spot is a worthy addition to your itinerary.
Situated in the heart of Gloucestershire, it’s just a short drive away from Stroud. You can travel between both destinations in less than 10 minutes.
Dubbed the Queen of The Cotswolds, Painswick is famous for its stunning architecture, beautiful landscapes, and unique heritage. Across town, you’ll find Cotswold stone homes and Tudor timbers which just adds to the character of this beautiful town.
While on the hunt for things to do in the area, St Mary’s Church is a must! This impressive Grade 1 listed building dates back to 1040. How cool is that?
As you admire the exterior and explore the inside of the church, you can learn all about its interesting past. The church graveyard is also worth visiting to check out its many yew trees.
Another one of the most popular things to do in Painswick is stroll around the beautiful Rocco Garden. Designed in the 18th century, it’s one of the most stunning gardens in The Cotswolds (and trust me, there are a lot).
As you explore the gardens, you’ll find floral blooms, architectural delights, and interesting sculptures. There are also lots of lovely little viewpoints offering aerial views of the surrounding areas.
Before you leave, take some time to walk around town with your camera. Similarly to other destinations in The Cotswolds, Painswick is bursting with typical English charm which makes it incredibly photogenic.
8 | BURFORD
If you’re on the hunt for a lunch spot, make sure you head to Burford! This medieval town located in Oxfordshire offers a great selection of bakeries, cafes, and restaurants.
In a rush? Then grab a delicious sandwich from Bakery on the Hill to eat on the go. Alternatively, consider dining at The Lamb Inn, Priory Tea Rooms, or Spice Lounge. These places are all highly rated by locals and tourists alike making Burford one of the best places to eat in The Cotswolds.
However, great restaurants are not the only reason to visit Burford. It’s also a great spot to visit if you enjoy shopping. You’ll find several shops selling everything from clothes and homeware to souvenirs and postcards. Some of the best shops in Burford are:
- Elm of Burford
- Three French Hens
- The Sweet Shop
- Burford Antiques Centre
Once you are all shopped out, treat yourself to a drink at one of the much-loved pubs on the high street. With its gorgeous ivy-covered exterior, The Cotswold Arms is perhaps the most popular.
Next up, spend some time visiting some of Burford’s top attractions. Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens and Crocodiles of the World are a must-see if you’re into animals and wildlife. Both a family-friendly activities offering fun for all ages.
If you prefer art, pay a visit to the Brian Sinfield Art Gallery. Offering an ever-changing selection of amazing art, this is one of the best free things to do in The Cotswolds (in my personal opinion).
Before you leave, make sure you catch a glimpse of the three-arch bridge and spend a few moments admiring St John the Baptist church.
9 | BOURTON ON THE WATER
Unlike many popular locations in The Cotswolds, Bourton on the Water offers much more beyond pretty residential areas, eateries, and picturesque views.
Known as the Venice of The Cotswolds, the River Windrush runs throughout the whole village and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year. Enjoying a picnic next to the river is a popular thing to do in town. Especially if you’re visiting on a nice day!
This well-loved Cotswolds village is also great for shopping. You can shop for perfume, jewelry, pottery, and much more.
Beyond shopping, eating out, and drinking at the village’s top pubs, there are many other things to do in Bourton on the Water. For example, you can discover the history behind its famous bridges. Alternatively, there are several Cotswolds attractions worth visiting in town including:
- Cotswold Motoring Museum: A must-see for lovers of classic cars and rare vehicles. It also welcomes furry friends which gives it some brownie points!
- The Dragonfly Maze: Spending some time outdoors is a must if you’re treated to nice weather in England. It’s quite a rarity after all! If you’re exploring Bourton on the Water in summer, spending an hour or so at The Dragonfly Maze is a great way to pass some time.
- Cotswolds Model Village: As another one of the top tourist attractions in The Cotswolds, the model village offers an interesting look into the unique craftsmanship of local creatives.
- Birdland Park and Gardens: Home to several impressive birds, this place is worth visiting if you’re interested in nature and wildlife.
10 | STOW ON THE WOLD
Nestled amongst the rolling hills of the English countryside, Stow on the Wold is one of the prettiest places to visit in England. It’s also one of the best spots to explore in The Cotswolds if you’re into art or antiques.
With several galleries such as the Peter Martin Gallery, Fosse Gallery, and Stow Art House, you’ll find a range of styles on display. Art lovers will truly love this charming Cotswolds town thanks to its diverse art scene. I know I did!
In terms of antiques, the Tara Antique Centre in the middle of town is a treasure trove of stunning trinkets, furniture, and interior delights. No matter what you’re looking for, you are bound to leave this spot with a bag in hand!
To visit perhaps the most Instagram-worthy church in The Cotswolds, stop by St Edward’s Church. Unsurprisingly, this place is one of the most photographed spots in the region thanks to its exterior. It’s like something out of a fairytale!
After snapping your perfect shot, stop for tea and cake at Lucy’s Tearoom. This family-run establishment offers handmade cakes baked from locally sourced ingredients in a traditional English setting.
You’ll also find a wide mix of drinks on offer. During the warmer months, you can even choose to sit outside to enjoy the rare English sunshine!
11 | MORETON IN MARSH
As one of the best market towns in The Cotswolds, Moreton in Marsh is one of the most convenient places to get to in the region.
With a centrally located train station, you can easily get to this part of The Cotswolds from London (and many other places across England).
This makes the town one of the best spots to base yourself on your adventure through the English countryside. With lots of lovely places to stay in Moreton in Marsh, it’s a strong contender as a Cotswolds base.
Although it’s over an hour away from the likes of Castle Combe, it’s close to Chipping Norton, Broadway, and Stow on the Wold. All places that are well worth exploring on a Cotswolds road trip!
If you’re looking for things to do in Moreton in Marsh, there is a wealth of options. It’s a haven for nature and wildlife enthusiasts with several gardens, parks, and animal centers. Some of the most popular are:
- Cotswolds Falconry Centre: A must-see for bird lovers, the falconry center is home to many birds of prey including owls, falcons, and eagles.
- Bourton House Garden: Boasting a beautifully landscaped garden, nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss Bourton House Garden. Located just a five-minute drive from the center of town, it’s super easy to explore!
- Sezincote House and Garden: Another breathtaking garden in The Cotswolds, Sezincote House and Garden also houses an incredible architectural gem.
- Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre: An ideal place to enjoy beautiful views and shop for plants on a relaxing sunny day. Try not to fill your car with lots of new plant babies!
More into art? Then pay a visit to The Moreton Gallery. This lovely spot displays lots of beautiful pieces including paintings, textile art, and ceramic treasures meaning there’s something for everyone at this beautiful gallery.
If you have an interest in planes and aviation, you can also pop into the Wellington Aviation Museum. Despite being small, this unique Cotswolds attraction is bursting at the brim with intriguing exhibits. You’ll discover lots of information about the RAF and the local WW2 Wellington airfield.
Lastly, there are lots of fab places to eat in Moreton in Marsh including Restaurant Henne, Redesdale Arms, and Sakura Bistro.
12 | BATH
Whether or not Bath is in The Cotswolds is debatable. However, it’s a short 30-minute drive from Chippenham making it easy to visit on a Cotswolds road trip. It’s also a beautiful city bursting with historical attractions, great bars, and stunning architecture.
If you can, I highly recommend spending a day or two in Bath to truly appreciate what the city has to offer.
When I visited Bath, I spent two days admiring the lovely buildings, exploring the sights, and checking out the best cocktail bars. In my opinion, it’s one of the top places to visit in England!
Steeped in history, one of the must-see destinations in the city is The Roman Baths. Built-in 70AD, this unique attraction is thousands of years old! That makes it all the more impressive as you admire the views from the balcony and discover more about its intriguing past.
I highly recommend grabbing one of the free audio guides to take a deep dive into this historical attraction.
The baths are incredibly well preserved which allows travellers to truly appreciate the the sheer beauty that they have to offer. If you’re heading to Bath, you simply can’t miss it!
Aside from the city’s top attraction, there are many other things to do in Bath, such as:
- Admiring Pulteney Bridge: Constructed in the 18th century, Pulteney Bridge is an architectural gem in Bath. It’s also one of the most photographed spots in the city. If you’ve been, you’ll understand why.
- Dining at Sally Lunns: For a quintessential English lunch, head to Sally Lunns for a bite to eat in a beautifully charming setting. Make sure you try the Sally Lunns buns! It’s also one of the oldest buildings in Bath (which is pretty cool).
- Strolling down Bath’s prettiest streets: The streets of Bath are a haven for Instagram addicts and photographers. Some of the must-see streets are The Circus and The Royal Crescent. They’re the perfect spot for a stroll and are located just a stone’s throw away from each other.
- Exploring Bath Abbey: You simply can’t visit Bath without spotting Bath Abbey. This impressive structure is centrally located making it easy to admire the exterior and wander inside. Tickets for adults cost just £6.50 making it one of the cheapest things to do in Bath.
- Enjoying a spa day at Thermae Bath Spa: If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Bath, don’t miss this spot! Thermae Bath Spa is a fab place to chill out after a busy day of sightseeing. They’re also open until 9 pm so if you wish, you can even enjoy a stunning sunset view from their rooftop pool.
In terms of places to eat, there are several highly-rated restaurants in Bath including Noya’s Kitchen, Olive Tree Restaurant (which is a Michelin-starred establishment), and Ole Tapas.
I ate at Bandook, but if I’m honest, I was a little underwhelmed. I recommend trying somewhere else instead.
If you’re looking for a little tipple after a busy day, treat yourself to a cocktail (or five) at one of Bath’s best cocktail bars. My personal favourite is Opium Bar thanks to its unique interior and fab cocktail list. It also has a super chilled-out vibe making it easy to relax after a day of sightseeing.
13 | CIRENCESTER
Despite being known as the capital of The Cotswolds, Cirencester isn’t as popular as the likes of Castle Combe or Bibury. However, this picturesque market town is still well worth a visit.
In terms of things to do, you can spend some time exploring Cirencester Park, Abbey Park, New Brewery Arts Museum, and the Cirencester Amphitheatre. There is also an open-air swimming pool if you’re looking to get a little active on your Cotswolds getaway.
Next up, the Corinium Museum is a must-see as you explore the town. It houses a unique collection of historical artefacts that date back thousands of years You’ll also discover more about Cirencester as you visit this well-loved museum.
Cirencester is also a great option when considering where to stay in The Cotswolds. Thanks to its central location, it’s easy to drive to many must-see locations in less than an hour. How convenient is that?
During my trip to The Cotswolds, I stayed at Patricia’s Retreat. Located inside Cotswold Water Park, this beautifully decorated holiday home had everything we needed for a lovely countryside getaway!
The park’s on-site facilities boast both indoor and outdoor pools, water slides, a gym, a bar, a restaurant, and fishing opportunities. This is ideal if you’re all exploring and fancy a day of relaxing activities.
14 | OXFORD
Another one of England’s most beautiful cities, Oxford is also one of my favourite spots in the country. Having gained a whole new appreciation for my own country during the pandemic, I truly fell in love with this incredible English gem.
Not only does the city boast impressive architecture, tons of history, and some fab art galleries, but there is a charm to Oxford unlike anywhere else in the country.
Also, as a photography enthusiast, I was truly in my element as I wandered the picture-perfect streets with my camera.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Oxford, don’t miss the city’s medieval castle and the breathtaking countryside views from the top of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. They’re truly amazing!
Harry Potter fan? Then you’ll love Oxford! The city is home to several Harry Potter filming locations. Many are located within Oxford University buildings such as the Bodleian Library and Christ Church.
If you like, you can join a complete guided tour of some of the best Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford. Your knowledgeable guide will share in-depth stories about each spot and you’ll have plenty of time to snap some photos.
If you’re on a budget, you can check out the exterior of Radcliffe Camera and stroll around Christ Church Meadow.
If museums are more your thing, you can wander the halls of the Pitt Rivers Museum and explore the Museum of Natural History. All without spending a penny! How good is that?
On the hunt for a traditional English pub? Then check out Three Goats Heads! They have a no phones policy which encourages visitors to chat with their pals (or the staff). Although I didn’t completely stick to it as a solo traveler, I did think it was quite a nice touch.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE BEST PLACES IN THE COTSWOLDS
Now that you know the best places to visit in The Cotswolds that can not be missed, here are my top tips to consider.
Before finalizing your ideal trip to the English countryside, you need to keep these things in mind:
TRAVEL BY CAR
Traveling around The Cotswolds is best done by car. Although it is possible to visit via public transport, frequent train and bus services can be hard to come by in some areas.
For ease and the ability to see more locations in a shorter time frame, I recommend driving. This way, there would be no need to worry about infrequent buses and potentially getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.
On the topic of driving, there are quite a lot of free parking spots in The Cotswolds. This makes it easy to stop off at many charming towns and villages without worrying about extra costs. However, please be mindful that you should not park in residents’ private driveways.
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
Whilst exploring The Cotswolds, you’ll likely do a lot of walking. There are many hills, cobblestoned streets, and uneven surfaces. Due to this, you should wear shoes that will leave you feeling comfortable.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT YOUR CAMERA!
With photo opportunities around each corner, you won’t want to leave home without your camera.
This region in England is incredibly photogenic and a haven for photography enthusiasts. With so many beautiful views in The Cotswolds, make sure you travel prepared!
Charge your devices and batteries overnight and travel with extra memory cards. That way, you won’t end up frustrated if either dies on you.
BOOK ATTRACTIONS IN ADVANCE
If you plan on visiting tourist attractions in The Cotswolds, it’s best to book in advance. If you turn up unannounced, you may be left disappointed.
Plus, booking attractions in advance means you can plan your time better and make the most of every single minute in The Cotswolds. Trust me, you’ll want to do that!
FAQS ABOUT THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN THE COTSWOLDS
What should you not miss in The Cotswolds?
If you’re on the hunt for the best Cotswolds attractions, you need to visit Broadway Tower, Painswick Rococo Garden, and Kelmscott Manor.
What is the best village to visit in The Cotswolds?
Some of the very best villages in The Cotswolds are Castle Combe, Burford, Broadway, Stow on the Wold, and Bibury.
What is the most beautiful part of The Cotswolds?
Deciding on the most beautiful part of The Cotswolds is impossible. It’s named an area of outstanding beauty for a reason… It’s all stunning!
What town is best as a base for The Cotswolds?
If you’re looking for a base for your Cotswolds adventure, some great options include Cirencester, Bibury, and Stroud. Due to their central location in the region, you can get to most villages within an hour.
What is the big town in The Cotswolds?
Often dubbed the capital of The Cotswolds, Cirencester is the largest town in the area. This is another reason to base yourself here as you road trip through The Cotswolds.
What is the prettiest street in The Cotswolds?
There are many pretty streets in The Cotswolds including Water Lane in Castle Combe, High Street in Burford, and Arlington Row in Bibury.
What is the most famous Cotswolds street?
Winning the title of most photographed street in England, Arlington Row in Bibury is also the most famous street in the region. It’s also the most photographed spot in The Cotswolds.
Is Bibury worth visiting?
Of course, Bibury is worth visiting! As one of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds, it’s a haven for tourists and photography enthusiasts.
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE BEST TOWNS IN THE COTSWOLDS
So there we have it; the very best places to visit in The Cotswolds! From the majestic city of Oxford to the picture-perfect village of Bibury, there are many beautiful places to explore in the region.
Dubbed an area of outstanding natural beauty, it’s somewhere that everyone should visit at least once!