The Cotswolds. Just the name itself is renowned across the world and summons the most picturesque images of quintessential British countryside to mind. From its honey toned buildings to its rolling hills, The Cotswolds is a must see part of England and really does have some of the most beautiful villages in the entire country. Located within one to two hours from London, this area makes the perfect day trip or weekend away from the capital.
The Cotswolds attract millions of tourists every year. As such you would do well to plan your visit out of peak season. Visit away from school holidays and if possible – visit midweek, as it does get busy in the summer months! To help you plan your itinerary around The Cotswolds, I have compiled a list of all the most beautiful villages it has to offer.
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Bibury is probably the most beautiful of all the Cotswold villages on this list. When you hear the saying ‘picture postcard’ it surely had to be made with Bibury in mind. It is such a renowned beauty that the famous Arlington Row is even on the British passport. The picturesque row of cottages were built in 1380 as a monastic wool store. Only later were they converted into cottages for weavers. They are now in the care of the National Trust and are private homes so you do need to respect the owners privacy (which with the amount of tourists this place gets I think people often forget). If you fancy a stay here yourself, you can rent cottage number 9. Click here to find out more!
As pretty as this village is, it wasn’t my absolute favourite purely down to the number of people. It would have been nice to have been able to enjoy it in the peace and tranquillity with which you can imagine for a small country place like this.
The village itself is very small and parking is difficult. Particularly with the coach loads of tourists that arrive by the hour. I would highly advise getting here early! Or early evening in the summer months to enjoy the soft dappled light as the sun slowly sets in this chocolate box village.
No list of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds would be complete without a mention of Castle Combe. Situated in the Wiltshire countryside (of which there are some jaw droppingly beautiful places – read more here) this village looks like it was left behind in another century. Unchanged, no satellite dishes, no tv aerials, slowly flowing stream running through the heart of it..this village makes my heart melt and I have to visit it in every season to enjoy the changes they bring. I will write a full guide to Castle Combe which will be live next month so I won’t go into too much detail here, but if I can recommend you visit just one place on this list then Castle Combe is it.
You can find this tiny little village in the Northern Cotswolds. Best to add on to a trip exploring Broadway, Stanton or Chipping Campden. Bretforton first came to my atention last year when it was entered into Channel 4’s TV programme ‘Village Of The Year’ and I knew I had to go and see it for myself. So last month, that’s just what I did. They have a fantastic village pub – The Fleece Inn (shown below) – which I can highly recommend but other than that you will have a relatively quick visit to this tiny place. Small but well worth a visit.
As a contrast to Bibury is the town of Chipping Campden. This is probably the least touristy of all the Cotswolds villages and my personal favourite. This old wool merchants town has a wonderful high street running through the centre, laden with quirky shops and restaurants all housed in the characteristic honey toned buildings you expect of the Cotswolds. My particular favourite spot to grab a meal is The Eight Bells – a brilliant, award winning country pub. And if you wander further from the high street you will be rewarded with fantastic thatched cottages.
Places I Personally Recommend You Stay To Explore Chipping Campden
If you are visiting Chipping Campden then I highly recommend making a pit stop at the tiny hamlet of Ebrington which is only a 5 minute drive away. I had the pleasure of staying at The Ebrington Arms here earlier in the year and would definitely recommend booking a room here for a night to use as your base for exploring Chipping Campden and some of the stunning country gardens nearby like Hidcote Manor Gardens and Kiftsgate Court Gardens. The rooms were so cosy and absolutely full of British countryside charm and they also do some bloody fantastic food! You can read some reviews here but honestly, this place serves really good food that I can highly recommend having sampled rather a lot of it!! I will write up a full post on my stay here shortly but I shall share a couple of images below.
Also just a short drive away is the magnificent Charingworth Manor. I would recommend stopping here for afternoon tea if nothing else! But if you can, spend a night at this 15th century manor house. With some of the most magnificent period interiors I have seen, I was certainly bowled over by its charm and would highly recommend a stay here. With roaring open fireplaces, exposed beams and antiques scattered amongst more modern luxuries, Charingworth Manor is sure to charm and impress.
Click here for prices and availability.
Broadway is situated furthest north and I often find it isn’t mentioned as often as some of the other places on this list. I find this a shame. It is certainly worthy of being on a list of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. In fact, Broadway’s beauty attracted the likes of Oscar Wilde, Edward Elgar and Claude Monet to mention but a few. Built up around the main high street, it is laden with fabulous independent shops, tearooms and places to stop for a bite to eat. Broadway Tower stands overlooking the town and if you fancy a walk up there you are rewarded with fantastic views for miles around!
The Cotswolds Lavender fields aren’t too far down the road from Broadway, only a short ten minute drive. If you are visiting between June and August I’d highly recommend paying them a visit. They are my favourite lavender fields in the country! I’ve written a post with more information on them here.
As the name suggests, Bourton-On-The-Water is another village built around the river that flows through through its centre and has adopted the name of Little Venice. This picturesque town is immensely popular with tourists so this is definitely one to visit early on in the day or later on in the afternoon. If you catch it on a quiet day then it is a lovely place for a slow amble along the waterfront, perhaps stopping for a picnic at the side if the weather is right. Follow the backstreets and there are some pretty cottages and cafes to stop for a drink. There is also the miniature museum which has a grade listed replica of the entire village!
Situated just outside of Bourton-on-the-Water you will find the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. These are two of my most visited villages in the Cotswolds. They are full of charm and tranquillity. The quaint village of Lower Slaughter is built around a stream that runs through through the centre of the village. Here, you will often find children frolicking in the peaceful waters. An ideal place to spend a quiet afternoon.
Upper Slaughter is a short ten minute walk out of the village of Lower Slaughter. My favourite part of this village is the ford which is at the very heart of the village. When I was on my drive back from my trip with Visit Wiltshire in May, I decided to stop by this village to get a few photos as it is so very pretty and I don’t think I will ever tire of it. I was snapping away when I heard the trit trot trit trot of horses, to which I turned around and saw a horse drawn carriage being pulled by four horses making its way to the ford. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was the dreamiest scene, straight out of a fairytale.
Built on the cross-roads where several major roads meet along the old Roman Fosse Way, Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the largest of the Cotswolds villages. It made it’s money from the wool trade and is famous for its annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at a time. You can wander the old market square, lined with cafes, tearooms, restaurants, traditional pubs, shops and of course the old stocks which are still on display.
Often referred to as the gateway to the Cotswolds, Burford is built up around its high street and is undeniably full of character and very beautiful. Lined with Georgian and Tudor facades, there is plenty a photo opportunity. I have to admit though, this is probably my least favourite place on this list. However, I can’t deny that it is stunning and certainly one that needs to be visited.
Stanton won’t appear on many lists of where to visit in the Cotswolds. As such it has barely a single tourist wandering its perfect honeycomb dappled streets. This unspoilt 17th century village is a short drive from Broadway and it feels as though nothing has changed here in the past couple hundred years. I love the lack of the modern day. No signs, no shops, just a small pub at the end of the road offering fantastic views. I couldn’t recommend this place enough. It gives a proper glimpse into what a Cotswolds village would have been like in days gone by.
Where To Stay In The Cotswolds
The Swan Hotel Bibury | Located in the picture postcard village of Bibury. Situated overlookingi the River Coln, this Inn is nothing short of peaceful and romantic. And I have to say, it looks gorgeous in Autumn when it’s ivy covered facade goes turns the shares of fall. For prices, availability and all other details please click here.
The Porch House – Stow-in-the-Wold | This beauty is situated in the historic market town of Stow-On-The-Wold inside one of the oldest inn’s in England. Think c.947AD. It offers thirteen stylish rooms inside this English Heritage listed building, including exposed beams. I think that ticks a box for most travellers to the UK right? I live here and I still love exposed beams and historical buildings! Stow-in-the-Wold is a fantastic location to be based as it in in the middle of all the places I listed above and the road networks to each are right on your doorstep. The perfect base. Click here to find prices and availability.
Aylworth Manor | If you want to retreat to somewhere with a little something special then a manor house will do the trick. Located in the village of Naunton, Aylworth Manor is set in a peaceful Cotswolds valley surrounded by picturesque gardens. And prices start from an affordable £110 per night. Click here for more prices, details and to check availability.
The Lygon Arms – Broadway | Located in the charming village of Broadway, The Lygon Arms has welcomed many well known names, from Charles I to Prince Phillip. Set in three acres of picturesque grounds, this hotel includes luxury spa, swimming pool, tennis court and award-winning food. Always a plus in my book. Prices start from £160 per night. For more information please click here.
Airbnb | There are numerous wonderful properties to rent here in The Cotwolds, some of which I have used myself as I absolutely love the value of airbnb properties. Sign up here and receive £25 off your first booking.
If you are planning a visit to the Cotswolds then I hope you find this list useful. And please tag @whatstacydid in your Instagram photos, I would love to see them 🙂
If you are looking for more quaint, picturesque villages I have more posts which might be of interest to you.
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