Oozing old-world charm, the honey-hued sandstone villages of the Cotswolds are unapologetically quaint. Tucked away in the rolling hillsides two hours west of London, this postcard-perfect corner of Britain is quintessential English country living. Roadside stands selling honour system cake and jam, Sunday roasts by the fireside, and delightfully long country strolls are all part of the DNA of this region. The largest of the UK’s 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds are marvellous, whether you’re looking for a day trip, weekend break, or something a little longer. To help you navigate the many towns and villages that are peppered throughout this handsome pocket of the UK, we’ve collected 10 of the best.
One of the larger towns within the region, Broadway is an essential stop on a trip to the Cotswolds. Distinguished by its wide main road that runs through the centre of town, pubs full of character, cosy tea houses, and shops offering local fare trim it on both sides. Often sporting vintage classic cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped back in time as you while away the afternoon. For views from above, head outside of town to Broadway Tower where you can climb to the viewing platform before exploring some 50-acres of grounds that are home to free-roaming deer.
One of the Cotswolds’ most whimsical hamlets, Lower Slaughter straddles the slow-moving River Eye with honey-hued cottages dressed in blooms on either side. If peace and quiet is your motivation, then this is the spot to do it. Cows call the paddocks behind The Slaughters Country Inn home, and it’s the ideal place to perch up for a cold cider in the summer sun. Amble across the stone footbridge and you’ll find yourself in front of the Old Mill, which makes for the perfect Instagram snap!
Similar in size to Lower Slaughter, Snowshill is located just beyond Broadway and offers sweeping views across the nearby hillsides and Severn Vale. Centered around St. Barnabas Church, Snowshill is a sleepy village with fewer than 170 residents. In the summertime, fields flush purple with fragrant lavender at Cotswold Lavender, a family-run operation producing beautiful lavender oil and gifts. The best time to visit is mid-July when the lavender is in full bloom.
Regularly topping lists as one of the ‘prettiest towns in England,’ Castle Combe has retained its charming appeal for some 500 years. Built in the 17th century, this village has escaped urbanisation to stay true to its cosy chocolate-box character. Stroll the main street skirted by sandstone cottages, explore St. Andrew’s church set across from the main square, and stop by The Rectory Team Room for cake and a cuppa. For a truly English lodging experience, spend the night at The Manor House: a stunning hotel draped in ivy and wisteria.
A town once famed for its wool trade, Painswick now welcomes visitors with its 99 yew trees planted at the parish church and the nearby Rococo gardens. A sleepy hamlet with exceptional vistas overlooking the valley, it has become known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’. For a premium culinary experience, The Painswick Restaurant offers a seasonal menu using locally sourced ingredients to create imaginative and confident dishes that alight your tastebuds with incredible flavours.
Just thirty minutes’ drive from Oxford, Burford is a gateway town to the Cotswolds and a delightful one at that. A small medieval town built on the River Windrush, it features a sloping high street that overlooks the Windrush Valley. An excellent place to pick up some local produce, an array of antique shops and boutiques flank the tree-lined streets. For a comprehensive selection of locally produced goods, don’t miss a visit to Mrs. Bumbles Delicatessen, which offers Cotswolds gins and wine, chutney, jams, and more.
The heart centre of The Cotswolds northern region, Stow-on-the-Wold is a great town to use as your base. With neighbouring towns and villages just minutes away, it is also worth exploring in its own right. Boasting several points of interest, our favourites are St. Edward’s Church with its stained-glass windows and hidden door that is reminiscent of something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien book, and an afternoon spent at Lucy’s Tearoom, one of the best tea houses in the UK.
Perhaps one of the Cotswolds most famed towns is Bibury. Renowned for its row of weavers cottages built along the river Coln dating back to 1380, Arlington Row has even scored itself a feature on the pages of the British Passport. The cottages have been listed as a heritage site and are a drawcard for visitors year-round. Foliage lovers rejoice! In autumn The Swan Hotel transforms into a vibrant shade of red as the ivy turns. It’s also a great spot to grab some lunch or dinner with a twist on plenty of pub-grub classics.
Market towns are commonplace throughout the UK, and Chipping Campden is a fine example. Complete with a terraced high street that dates back as far as the 14th century, there are several wonderful tea houses peppered throughout town. If you’re looking to lap up a little luxury with some well-deserved R&R, The Cotswold Hotel and Spa is the perfect place. Tranquillity is the top priority and is complemented by fine dining at the hotel’s Fig Restaurant.
Straight out of a postcard, Bourton-on-the-Water is a must on your visit in The Cotswolds. Distinguished by a series of low stone bridges and traditional Cotswolds cottages, the town offers a wealth of activities for visitors. From The Cotswolds Motoring Museum to The Model Village, a miniature replica of the town you can walk around, or simply ambling through the nature paths just outside town, you’ll never be short of things to see and do.