The Cotswolds is a gorgeous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in south central England. Famous for its honey coloured cottages, sprawling countryside, and historic pubs, it’s dotted with adorable villages to explore. I may be biased having been born and raised in the Cotswolds, but it’s one of the best places to visit in the UK. With the arrival of exclusive brands like Soho House and Daylesford in recent years, it’s becoming a more and more popular destination. If you’re looking for a weekend break in the Cotswolds, it can be difficult to work out which is the best place to visit. Without further ado, here are the best Cotswold villages to visit.
Often dubbed ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton-on-the-Water is popular as one of the best Cotswold villages to visit, and with good reason. It gets its name from the pretty River Windrush that flows gently through the village. The river is surrounded by adorable stone footbridges and Cotswold stone teashops and pubs. You’ll have fun walking around and picking out your dream cottage – I certainly have a few! There are several museums in Bourton-on-the-Water, too. The Model Village boasts an adorable replica of the village itself, with incredible detail. Fans of kids TV star Brum may want to visit his home at the Cotswold Motoring Museum.
Also known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’, Painswick is a beautiful Cotswold village in Gloucestershire. With charming streets lined with honey coloured houses, it’s one of the Cotswolds’ best kept secrets. Painswick is centrally placed on the Cotswold Way, so you can expect some spectacular walking trails through the nearby countryside. Take a wander through the gorgeous churchyard and see how many of the iconic yew trees you can count. Rumour has it that no more than 99 trees can ever grow there. A top attraction in Painswick is Rococo Garden, an eighteenth century space designed as an English country gentleman’s garden.
Undoubtedly one of the best Cotswold villages to visit, Castle Combe is simply stunning. It’s located in the southern Cotswolds, in Wiltshire. Visitors will likely recognise the iconic images of the village’s bridge and historic streets. Castle Combe is a chocolate box village, packed with picture perfect cottages, shops, and hanging baskets. It’s such a pretty village, in fact, that is has been used as a beautiful backdrop for movies including Warhorse and Stardust. Castle Combe really is the quintessential English village. Don’t forget to take your own feature snap of the village before you leave. The best spot is on the bridge over the Bybrook river near the old weavers’ cottages, with a view up towards Water Street.
Thanks to its gorgeous scenery, Lower Slaughter is one of the prettiest and best Cotswold villages to visit. The charming village has the River Eye babbling through it. Check out the historic mill which takes you back in time as it turns in the water. You can visit and learn all about the corn mill and its fascinating history of breadmaking. Elsewhere in Lower Slaughter, you’ll discover beautiful Cotswold stone cottages and winding roads. Head over to the Lower Slaughter Manor Gardens for the beautifully manicured gardens all year round. If you’re visiting at the weekend, don’t miss the delicious Sunday lunch in the Manor’s wonderful restaurant.
Legendary designer and literary genius, William Morris, once described Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. And it’s not hard to see why Bibury is one of the best Cotswold villages to visit. Head to Arlington Row, possibly the most recognised image of the Cotswolds. It’s a beautiful row of fourteenth century weavers’ cottages. You’re even able to stay in one of the National Trust cottages on the row. Elsewhere, ramble towards the stunning River Coln, and stop for a drink in the wonderful Swan Inn. The Bibury Trout Farm is well worth a visit – you can catch your own fish and even barbecue it onsite among gorgeous views.
Kingham is a beautiful, upmarket hamlet and one of the best Cotswold villages to visit. In recent years, chic establishments including Soho House and Daylesford Farm have popped up in the area. It’s easy to get to with direct trains from London, making it perfect for exploring without a car. There are dozens of picture perfect Cotswold houses to walk past, and sprawling stretches of countryside to ramble. Wander around Kingham’s village shop, and enjoy a pint in the country pubs. You can’t visit Kingham without enjoying dinner at The Wild Rabbit, with its hearty seasonal meals and draft pints.
A truly charming destination, Burford is one of the prettiest Cotswold villages to visit. The village spans the River Windrush, and it has a beautiful medieval bridge. Head to Burford High Street for its antique shops, and stunning seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings. You can wander among the cafes, pubs, and boutique stores including the old fashioned sweet shop. You’ll discover the beautiful Burford Church, and England’s oldest pharmacy, Reavley’s. It’s a lovely spot also for window shopping your dream Cotswold house.
Broadway in Worcestershire is one of the best Cotswold villages to visit. A picture perfect destination, the High Street is beautiful. It’s lined with gorgeous boutique shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Broadway Deli, a true delight with a fresh display of fruit and vegetables on its cart each day. Stay or dine at the beautiful Lygon Arms. It’s a luxurious hotel that dates back to the fourteenth century, and has hosted famous guests from Oliver Cromwell to today’s celebrities. To stretch your legs, the walk to Broadway Tower is a must-do. You’ll ramble across acres of beautiful countryside to discover the iconic tower in its incredible Cotswolds surroundings.
Stow-on-the-World has an important heritage as a market trading centre. It also happens to be one of the best Cotswold villages to visit, thanks to its beautiful scenery and key attractions. Head to Stow-on-the-Wold’s Market Square, surrounded by historic Cotswold houses, shops, and antique stores. It’s where huge amounts of sheep used to be sold each day. See if you can spot the medieval market stocks. Other things to discover in Stow-in-the-Wold include England’s oldest inn, The Porch House, as well as St Edwards Church. At the church, you’ll discover its Tolkienesque North Door, a unique door surrounded by old yew trees.
Beautiful Tetbury is another of the best Cotswold villages to visit. You may have heard of the gorgeous village thanks to its close proximity to Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’ country estate. Tetbury itself dates back to 681, and it has an important history as a trading place for wool. It’s a unique place in the Cotswolds as many of the wool houses look just as they did in the past. Discover the charm of Tetbury by browsing its 25 antique shops. There’s also a wonderful range of tearooms, cafes, pub, and restaurants to enjoy as you wander around.
Thanks for reading my guide to the best Cotswold villages to visit. Are there any other places in the Cotswolds you’d recommend visiting?
Love the Cotswolds – did you take that photo of Broadway Tower? It’s absolutely stunning!
Haha no – I wish I did!
Linda Kouwenhoven says
Aren’t the Cotswolds lovely! I did a day tour from bath last August. Castle Combe was perfection and we got there early so no tourists were about. Unfortunately by the time we got to Bourton it was jam packed! Stow on the Wold is pretty special too and we also got to Malmesbury. Just love this area!
Glad you love them as much as I do, Linda! That’s impressive – you saw alot! Great idea getting there before the crowds as it definitely gets busy in the summer. I haven’t yet been to Malmesbury, guess I’ll need to add it onto my list! Thank you for reading 🙂