The Ultimate Cotswolds Guide: 5 Cutest Villages in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is one of the nicest regions in England. The region is bursting with charming villages and streets wedged into rolling hills. It is a popular holiday destination for Englishmen, but tourists like to go there because everything looks so sweet and quintessentially “English.” I spent a few days there (see my 3-day itinerary here), and today, I wanted to share my favorite villages in the Cotswolds!
The whole area is only a few hours away from London, and can therefore easy day or weekend trip. Escape to an area full of green forests, rolling hills, culinary pubs, and nice bed and breakfasts. You can enjoy fantastic walks, just relax, or visit one of the many local festivals and activities. I was there in the spring, and the weather could not have been more perfect! I can’t wait to go back again.
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Quick Cotswolds Guide
Funnily enough, I thought the Cotswolds were universally famous, but recently my friend asked me, “What are the Cotswolds?” I figured I’d give you a little intro to this beautiful English region. Because – yes, that’s what it is. A region. It’s not a town or even a county.
The Cotswolds is a very generous 800 square miles, and stretches across five different counties. The area is known for its honey colored brick houses, the green rolling hills and its quintessential “English countryside” look. It’s very popular amongst locals that want a little weekend escape from the big cities, a romantic trip away, or a nice hiking or cycling holiday. Foreign tourists come for the picturesque views, the castles and the great pubs.
How to Get There & How to Get Around The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds roughly lies in between Bristol, Oxford, and (further up north) Birmingham. Therefore the easiest place to fly into would be Bristol, Birmingham, or London. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from London to the Cotswolds.
There isn’t any reliable public transport in The Cotswolds, so you’ll need to either come by car or get on a bus tour. Each has its pros and cons. With a car you’ll be free to move around as you please, but you’ll have to drive windy roads on the opposite side of the road (hard “no” from me!). With a bus tour, you’ll be tied to a set itinerary, but you won’t have to worry about driving. It also depends on how long you want to stay: most bus tours are days trips, but if you have a car I would recommend staying more than just one day!
Tours to Cotswolds
- Undiscovered Cotswolds Private Driving Tour – This private tour allows you to custom design your itinerary of the Cotswolds. Check prices & availability here
- Shakespeare’s Stratford & Cotswolds – Visit various Shakespeare locations in Stratford upon Avon and three villages in the Cotswolds. Check prices & availability here
- Cotswolds Tour from Oxford – This tour focuses solely on the Cotswolds region and includes Minster Lovell Hall and Bourton-on-the-Water. Check prices & availability here
- Cotswolds Tour with Lunch – From London, you’ll visit Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold. Check prices & availability here
- 1 Day Tour with Pub Lunch – In addition to visiting Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper and Lower Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-Wold, you’ll also visit Blenheim Palace. Check prices & availability here
- Shakespeare & the Cotswolds 3-Day Tour – For a more leisurely pace, this tour will go to Blenheim Palace, Stratford upon Avon, Warwick Castle, Oxford, and the Cotswolds. Check prices & availability here
How much time do you need in the Cotswolds?
If you just want to get a taste of the Cotswolds, you can easily jump on a bus tour day trip. But I would personally recommend staying longer if you have the time. Book yourself two nights in a fancy manor, and enjoy the area the way it’s meant to be enjoyed… at a leisurely pace.
Rent a bike and cycle trough the villages, visit the medieval castles, count sheep on your hike, warm up with a pub lunch, or go shopping in one of the quaint honey-colored brick shops. I think three days is the perfect amount of time in the Cotswolds, but there’s plenty to see, so you could even stay longer if you wanted to.
5 Cutest Villages in the Cotswolds
If you’re wondering where to stay in the Cotswolds, then this list should help you decide. Even if you stay in one of the other, I’d recommend visiting all of them because they all have their own charm.
Bibury has been voted several times as the most beautiful village in England, and rightfully so. On the bank of the River Coln, you will find a strip of beige stone houses that look like they came from a book by Beatrix Potter. This series of houses is also called Arlington Rowe, formerly inhabited by weavers who worked in the nearby Arlington Mill and is nowadays crowded by tourists.
You can even trace the village’s origins back to the Roman times since they found the remnants of a villa in 1880.
2. Castle Combe
The charming Castle Combe is located in the south of the Cotswolds. This small village with honey-colored houses was once also voted the most beautiful village in the country, so that should already tell you how beautiful the Cotswolds is as a region.
If you wander through this town it seems as if time has stood still in the seventeenth century. Stroll across the bridge over the Bybrook River, eat something in the local pub, or stay in a cute cottage. Visit the church, or the fourteenth-century market cross, which is a memento from the time when the village knew great wealth through the wool industry. And especially enjoy the peace! The village has only three streets, and about three hundred inhabitants!
The village of Broadway is especially famous for its broad road (“broad way”, get it?). This village is larger than the other villages on this list, and slightly less cute, but definitely worth a visit because you can find good restaurants and nice boutiques here.
If you are here anyway, it is worth a visit to the Broadway Tower. It stands on the one ridge which with its 312-meter height is the second highest point in all of Cotswolds. It does not really have a purpose, though you can climb it and get a view of the surroundings.
My personal favorite village in the Cotswolds is the idyllic Snowshill. This hamlet is only inhabited by some 164 people, and it looks absolutely magical in the snow. I really thought it was such a Bridget Jones Diary-like village. The central point of the village is the church, where a cemetery with a war memorial can be seen. In any case, the region was already inhabited in the Bronze Age, as seen in excavations that were found there.
If you visit the Cotswolds in the summer, you may be lucky. Then you can visit the Snowshill Lavender Farm. Here you will find more than 35 hectares of lavender.
Near the village, you will also find Snowshill Manor, the most famous landmark. This 16th-century mansion was once owned by an eccentric man who built a collection of interesting objects. They can still be visited, and you can see everything from toys to samurai weapons. The owner himself lived in a cottage in the garden, so there was room in the main house for his 22,000 objects.
Between the rolling hills, you will find in a valley Bourton-on-the-Water, which is especially famous for its location on (you guessed it) the water. Because the village has been built around the River Windrush, you will always find cute stone bridges that connect one side of the village to the other.
Besides just strolling through the town, shopping in the local boutiques, and stopping for a cup of tea and scones (or an ice cream in the summer), you can also visit one of the many attractions. In Birdland Park, you can see exotic bird species and if you like old-fashioned transport, you can visit the Cotswolds Motoring Museum.
If you enjoy walking, enjoy one of the many kilometers of hiking trails in the area, such as the nature reserve, Salmonsbury Meadows.
And there you have it — the five loveliest villages in the Cotswolds so you know what to expect! I hope this helps you plan your trip to this storybook region!
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe.