Once upon a time, there was a magical fairy tale village where time stood still and the only tangible proof of hours passing by were the lazily moving clouds high in the sky. Well, in case you’re fiercely nodding your head at the screen, you’ll be delighted to learn that this place actually exists.
Life contains a certain amount of magic. True, maybe not the type depicted in Harry Potter books (which is a shame, we know), but a different kind. Mix the brilliance of an iconic movie, the elaborate details of a romantic novel, and the rich history of an archaic culture, and abracadabra!, you’ve got the Cotswolds.
Assuming you’ve chosen England as your next place to visit, after you’ve relished the flashing lights of London, with all its elegance, glamour, and aristocracy, one of the best places to loosen up and feel the classic English countryside is this idyllic site. On top of that, it’s only 80 miles west of London.
With countless gentle golden hills ahead and picture-perfect stone villages straight out of an Emily Bronte novel, the Cotswolds is the type of place you’ll want to go back to again and again. Spectacular settlements, mesmerizing country houses, miles of untainted green rural areas, and perfectly preserved historic manors await you, giving one the sensation of walking through an artist’s painting, if that were possible.
Why Should You Visit the Cotswolds?
If you take a trip to the Cotswolds and have a peculiar feeling of deja vu, it’s because you might have already seen some of these locations. We bet you’re wondering where. The truth is, these astonishing areas have captivated the creative minds of filmmakers seeking the ideal scenario for their work. Cinephiles will definitely recognize different places from British masterpieces like “War Horse” or from fantasy movies like “Harry Potter.”
Having times past right on the doorstep of your guesthouse seems to be what makes the Cotswolds the most astounding spot in the UK for a vacation. Furthermore, with an abundance of nature trails and picturesque villages to discover, there is always something to do.
But the cherry on top of visiting this area is that you can do as many or as few as you want and still have a spellbinding holiday. With such an incredible natural backdrop and a slower pace of life, there is no reason to rush. Just stroll around, soak up the atmosphere, and get lost in the narrow side streets.
Finding the great frozen-in-time majestic village has become a popular hobby, particularly for those attempting to avoid the city’s smog. If you’re coveting a bite of your own quaint rural paradise, here are our picks for the best and prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Buckle up and enjoy! We’ll take the scenic route, of course.
20. Stanton, Gloucestershire
We do not have exact information about when the first settlement at Stanton was set up, but farmers have been in the area since 2500 BC. However, we do know that a village existed here by the 9th century, and most likely much earlier.
The village is almost completely made of Cotswold stone, with a main street and a pub, The Mount, just at the end, providing pleasant views of the Bredon Valley. It is a quiet place, and there is little to draw tourist hordes, which is preferable for those who seek to have Stanton all to themselves. The only thing perturbing the peacefulness is the occasional horseback rider slowly moving along the street.
19. Blockley, Gloucestershire
There should be a law prohibiting villages from looking as lovely as this! With its Georgian stone mansions, silk milk architectural style, and spectacular surrounding hills, Blockley is a pleasant English village, and it continues to be a highly appealing place to visit. In fact, it was the primary location in the BBC’s world-famous drama series, “Father Brown.”
To be fair, we are all charmed by great looks, wit, and charisma, and Blockley wields all three in spades. The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is dominantly located in the village’s center, where you can also encounter a splendid café/restaurant, which morphs from a typical coffee shop in the light of day to an haute cuisine bistro in the evening.
Apart from the undeniable scenic beauty of the village and its iconic architecture, the only other tourist attraction in Blockley is Mill Dene Garden, an exquisite 2.5-acre garden established upon a series of thin terraces.
18. Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
Nostalgia aficionados will adore the historic market town of Winchcombe.
One of its delights is, without a doubt, the eclectic blend of whimsical vintage shops, including antique stores, clothing, home décor, souvenir shops, art galleries, and a broad mix of tea houses, pubs, cafeterias, and restaurants. Unwind with a meal and drink in an old wooden inn, or take midday tea in one of the various cozy coffee shops.
One of the high points of visiting Winchcombe is a meander around Sudeley Castle, found on the edge of town. Built in 1442, it is the only residential castle in Britain where a queen is entombed.
17. Lacock, Wiltshire
Despite being a small town, Lacock promises a lot in terms of history, culture, and places of interest. You could easily spend an entire day sauntering around and taking in everything this idyllic place has to offer, simply abandoning yourself to the streets lined with magical cottages.
As one of the oldest rural communities in England, it still preserves the image of 200 years ago, as if it has been frozen in time. Due to its majestic streets and iconic cottages that have managed to stay untouched by contemporary innovation, Lacock village has been used as a mainstream site for movies. Even if it was showcased in “Wolf Hall” and “Fantastic Beasts” as well, this hamlet is mainly remembered for “Harry Potter.”
16. Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
Legends from centuries ago have been passed down through generations in this picturesque English village. Supposedly the most haunted settlement in the area, if Minster Lovell is popular for anything, it is for the impressive ruins that remain in place of the manor that belonged to the Lovell family.
If you’re looking for peace and serenity with a dash of history and sweet charm, this is the place for you. You can glide through its quiet streets, spend some peaceful time amidst the walls of St. Kenelm’s church, picnic alongside crystal clear waters, or simply embrace this soothing experience hard to find anywhere else. You should definitely consider The Mill and the Old Swan Inn for that.
15. Snowshill, Gloucestershire
First mentioned in 821, Snowshill is a serene Cotswold village with few visitors. But its vibe, with its peaceful atmosphere and small trees, will easily capture your attention. While it is widely regarded for the emblematic Snowshill Manor, the village and all around it are well worth a glimpse.
Since discovering this hamlet will take little time, there are dozens of other sights nearby you could combine with your visit. Broadway is close at hand, only a ten-minute drive away. If you plan a visit to Snowshill during summer, don’t overlook the scented Cotswold Lavender fields, located less than a mile away and featuring over 40 lavender varieties and 500,000 plants.
14. Tetbury, Gloucestershire
From feudal streets to endearing churches, royal boutiques, police museums and historic market centres, there is something for everyone in Tetbury. There is no such thing as boredom when it comes to exploring this diverse town.
Tetbury is also famous for its extensive mix of antique shops, attracting a large number of visitors each year. You could easily pass a day or more perusing the bundle of shops, taking a break for afternoon tea along the way
13. Naunton, Gloucestershire
You will obviously not find tourist sites such as royal palaces, museums, or gardens here. As is the case with many of the Cotswolds’ regions, the village itself provides sufficient grounds to visit. Naunton offers pristine views of the British countryside but is a little less popular among tourists than most of the Cotswold’s towns.
The River Windrush, which flows across town, sets up a picture-perfect setting, and a brief climb up the hills delivers quite spectacular views of the village. If you’re looking for some insane photographs, don’t skip it!
12. Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Cirencester completes our Cotswolds journey with plenty of history, going all the way back to Roman times, serene coffee shops, and a magnificient 12th century church. This town, regarded as the Coltswolds’ capital, is easily accessible via train from London. It has an abundant and well-preserved legacy, making it an ideal place to start for first-time travelers to the Cotswolds.
The Corinium Hotel, built in the 16th century as a wool trader’s residence, features a locally prestigious restaurant and a pleasant bar, both of which are brimming with the Cotswolds’ charisma. Cirencester does not make a big deal of its ace card either: the Church of St. John Baptist, located in the town’s heart since the 12th century, is famous for its perfectly straight porch.
11. Kingham, Oxfordshire
Photogenic cottages with blooming gardens and crackling fireplaces do not exist beyond Hollywood films, correct? False. And Kinghman stands as proof, nestled in an almost unfairly breathtaking corner of Oxfordshire. This charming village is endowed with small streets and peaceful lanes teeming with the prettiest homes. That being said, we might have just arrived in Wonderland. And there is no journey in Wonderland without a rabbit.
The Wild Rabbit Inn has accomplished what many pubs dating all the way back to 1750 have not: combining typical British country cuisine with more contemporary, urban influences. If you’re here just for a drink, there are more than enough choices, but the actual reason to come is the food, mostly prepared with the unofficial mantra “butter makes everything taste better.”
Moreover, if you fancy farm-fresh goods, Daylesford would be your foodie paradise. Therefore, do not hesitate to stop by as well. The Kingham Plough is also an excellent location for a bon vivant like yourself.
10. Asthall, Oxfordshire
When talking about Asthall, the first thing that comes to mind is Asthall Manor, an enthralling and romantic place, surrounded by forests and grasslands that seamlessly blend into the magnificent Windrush valley scenery beyond.
In the past, it was the private residence of the Mitford sisters, but now it is open to the public, allowing visitors to wander its winding pathways, uncover hidden secrets and connect with both nature and art.
9. The Slaughters, Gloucestershire
Do not judge a book by its cover. Or by its name, in this case. Don’t fret; you’re not heading into a bloodbath. Actually, the term derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word “slough” or “slothre,” which means wet and sticky soil that is difficult to move through. In other words, a swamp.
Today, the area is no longer a miry place and it is exceedingly popular among tourists as it has persisted unchanged since the 19th century. Although the sibling villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are relatively smaller than their neighbors, part of the magic of visiting them is exactly the lack of things to do.
You can wander down Britain’s most romantic street, discover the Old Mill, and access various country strolls. At the village’s entrance, alongside the river, is a magnificent 17th-century mansion that has been turned into a luxury hotel, named the Slaughters Country Inn. It looks like a wonderful stopover.
8. Broadway, Worcestershire
From ancient times, Broadway has drawn travelers from all over the world, and with its chocolate-box appearance, you might think you’ve stepped onto a film set. Once again. It is as wonderful as it is full of history, flawlessly located for discovering the awe-inspiring countryside of England.
The scenery of Broadway nowadays remains unchanged from centuries ago, a vivacious antithesis of serenity and exuberance. Flaunting a wide range of special local attractions, high-end shops, and multi-cultural culinary delights, Broadway will spoil you for the entire time you spend here.
Any visit to Broadway should also include a visit to Broadway Tower, which, due to its vantage point atop a Cotswold hillside, boasts incredible views spanning 62 miles and 16 counties.
7. Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
Highly regarded for its eloquence and history dating all the way back to the 14th century, this market town has attracted a large number of wealthy merchants, much as it now draws tourists seeking a blissful getaway. If you are a keen lover of historic architecture, this vivid site will keep you engaged and interested. You will simply be crazy about St. James Church.
In the case you have a sweet tooth, go for the full afternoon tea adventure, which includes a glass of prosecco. Or, if you’re looking for a quick caffeine fix, Campden Coffee Company provides a cozy setting. They’re tucked away in a corner of The Guild on Sheep Street, so make sure you don’t miss them.
6. Burford, Oxfordshire
Often referred to as the “gateway to the Cotswolds”, since it’s the first stop on the route from London, Burford seems to have emerged directly from a postcard. This dreamy place boasts some cool stuff to do, and for such a small town, it has several awesome locations perfect for your Instagram feed.
Clearly, Burford is not a spot for an action-packed day, but rather a chance to celebrate an authentic English town that has been unchanged for decades, if not centuries. It comes with a ton of pubs where you might warm up by the fireplace in winter, or bask in the heat of summer, with a glass or two of locally brewed beer.
Nonetheless, Burford is in the limelight for its lardy cakes, a local delicacy, most commonly appreciated in the afternoon with tea or coffee. Huffkins on the High Street is the perfect source for lardy cakes in Burford.
5. Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire
One of the most energetic of the Cotswold villages, hilltop Stow-on-the-Wold is a popular attraction, home to an extensive range of hotels, shops, and dining options. Explore the Market Square to experience the buzzing mood of the area. Wonder at the history of St. Edwards Church. Take a break at one of the copious tea houses or eateries.
Grab a bite at The Sheep, located in a picturesque Cotswold building embellished in a vibrant modern style, serving fabulous, crunchy wood-fired pizzas. Likewise, there is The Old Stocks Inn, which delivers newfangled modern British cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Outdoor enthusiasts can pay a visit to nearby Hidcote Manor.
4. Painswick, Gloucestershire
Spotlighted in J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” on BBC television, the “queen of the Cotswolds,” Painswick, is the ideal place for a snug escape in the countryside, where you can simply freely wander, taking it all in, from exceptional landscapes to heritage architecture.
Nevertheless, there is plenty to do in Painswick, from discovering the iconic St. Mary’s Church with its 99 yew trees, to visiting the famous Rocco Gardens, or indulging yourself at the village’s restaurants.
Savor expertly prepared local cuisine and views of St. Mary’s Church at St. Michael Bistro. For fine dining, The Painswick, with its roaring fires and sink-into-me sofas, is a must-visit. The food here is outstanding—start with the Cornish mackerel, marinated Isle of Wight tomatoes, and oyster, before moving on to Cornish day boat fish with crisp potato terrine, Wye Valley asparagus, and chive butter sauce.
Mouthwatering, isn’t it? Should we mention desserts as well? Not at all. We’ll stop!
3. Bibury, Gloucestershire
Whether or not it’s the most beautiful village in England, this small hamlet captivates thousands of tourists each year. To be fair, you shouldn’t overlook this place, famous for its trout farm and a scenic row of huts, referred to as Arlington Row.
The Catherin Wheel, located right in the village’s heart, is a 15th-century pub worth paying a visit to. Aside from being the subject of a plethora of Cotswolds postcards, calendars, and photographs, Bibury was also used as a shooting location for the 2007 blockbuster Stardust.
2. Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire
No matter if you already know that Bourton-on-the-Water is named also “the Venice of the Cotswolds,” with five stone bridges crossing the River Windrush, it’s easy to see why. Let’s go for a walk through the village, shall we?
A trail alongside the river leads directly to one of Bourton’s most popular spots, Birdland, home to a diverse range of birds from all over the world. Next, stop by The Model Village to get a glimpse of a one-ninth miniature version of the village. Get lost in The Dragonfly Maze, a traditional garden maze with nothing but a surprise ending.
The Mousetrap, an authentic 18th-century inn, should be your next destination. Grab a bite and move forward. Travel back in time by exploring the Cotswold Motoring Museums & Toy Collection of vintage cars. Last but not least, if you’ve had your fill of British food, venture to L’Anatra (the duck) for entirely Italian cuisine.
1. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Meet our celebrity, Castle Combe. Do you feel as if you’ve visited this location previously? Well, it seems that is not only our superstar. You may already be familiar with it as the set of many films, such as “Downton Abbey,” “Stardust,” and “Poirot.”
An interesting fact: this village is devoid of wires. They are all below ground in order to preserve the area’s heritage. Furthermore, it may shock you to discover that no new buildings have been constructed here since the 17th century. It’s no wonder film studios adore this place!
Castle Combe is indeed the most otherworldy village in England, and each step you take here will lead you to something wonderful. It’s truly difficult not to fall deeply in love with it. Just imagine a row of thatched cottages sitting atop a fairly rolling riverbank.
You can visit the historic 14th-century Market Cross, proceed down to the bridge over the Bybrook for majestic photos with the sunlight reflecting off the water, and end your journey at The Castle Inn Pub, the ideal spot for a pint.
When mentioning the Cotswolds, it’s easy to run out of words to describe how enchanting they are. The magnificent, honey-hued villages of the Cotswolds simply seem to have escaped from another era into the 21st century, don’t you think? Which one was your favorite?
- Why Should You Visit the Cotswolds?
- 20. Stanton, Gloucestershire
- 19. Blockley, Gloucestershire
- 18. Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
- 17. Lacock, Wiltshire
- 16. Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
- 15. Snowshill, Gloucestershire
- 14. Tetbury, Gloucestershire
- 13. Naunton, Gloucestershire
- 12. Cirencester, Gloucestershire
- 11. Kingham, Oxfordshire
- 10. Asthall, Oxfordshire
- 9. The Slaughters, Gloucestershire
- 8. Broadway, Worcestershire
- 7. Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
- 6. Burford, Oxfordshire
- 5. Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire
- 4. Painswick, Gloucestershire
- 3. Bibury, Gloucestershire
- 2. Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire
- 1. Castle Combe, Wiltshire