Updated on March 2, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

The Cotswolds are a collection of mediaeval villages that can be found throughout Southern England. These villages run through five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire.

Due to their heritage, they were deemed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the government, so they needed to be protected for conservation. Looking at the Cotswolds, we can understand why they would need to be protected.

Many of these mediaeval buildings look like they came from a fantasy story or even a fairy tale. Visitors go to the Cotswolds every year, but there are dozens of villages in this region.

So how do you know where to visit? To help you, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Cotswolds villages that you need to visit when you’re travelling the area.

10 Villages You Need To Visit

The Cotswolds contain dozens of villages, but how can you narrow down where to visit? To help you, we’ve compiled a helpful list so you can prepare for your trip with ease.

If you’ve never been to the Cotswolds before, don’t worry. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about the most popular villages and towns to visit.

1. Bibury

Bibury is only a short car drive away from “The Capital of the Cotswolds”, which makes it one of the most accessible villages to visit.

This village is renowned for its natural beauty and has been described by the writer and artist William Morris as the most beautiful village in England.

Many other writers have agreed with this assessment, with photographers visiting the village every year to get a shot of the magnificent landscape. One of their favourite places to visit is Arlington Row.

Even if you’ve never been to Bibury, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen Arlington Row. This collection of weavers’ cottages is some of the most photographed buildings throughout the Cotswolds.

Even though Arlington Row was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store, they were converted into weavers’ cottages in the 17th Century. Since then, visitors from all over the world have come to see this place.

In fact, Arlington Row was actually used to film some scenes from the 2007 fantasy-romance film Stardust, based on Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel of the same name, starring Charlie Cox and Claire Danes.

They have been included in many other films, too, with many recognising them from Bridget Jones’ Diary. People don’t only visit Arlington Row, either. Many visit Bibury Trout Farm, which is England’s oldest working trout farm.

Founded in 1902, they have been breeding and rearing Rainbow and Brown Trout for years. You’ll find that they also supply this same trout to local hotels and restaurants.

You can even purchase your own at the farm shop. In the summer, customers can even catch their own trout with the guidance of the trout farmers. Bibury Trout Farm is also home to the village’s only café.

Along with the café, you can visit the Swan Hotel for food and drinks or even The Catherine Wheel Pub. If you’re looking for a scenic trip, you can also visit St. Mary’s Church, which was built sometime in the 11th century.

If you want to enjoy a relaxing and scenic journey, we recommend visiting Bibury to relax.

2. Bourton-On-The-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is renowned for its tranquil river, which flows from a source only ten miles from the village. Above the river are five signature stone bridges that the village is known for.

Naturally, this is a village that is known for its beauty, so it should be no surprise that there are so many walking and cycling paths to follow. There are plenty of maps available at the local Information Centre for any guests.

When staying at Bourton-on-the-Water, you’ll find a lot of accommodations to choose from. Included here are hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and cottages.

These are perfect for when visiting, as there are so many different activities to do while you’re here. Bourton-on-the-Water is home to Birdland Park & Gardens, which is the only breeding colony of King Penguins in England.

As it was established in 1957, it is home to over 500 birds. Birdland Park & Gardens isn’t the only place to observe nature.

Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre is the perfect place to take horseback riding lessons, with resources available to teach you how to jump and ride in different conditions.

There is also Greystones Nature Reserve, which is home to the Wildflower Meadows and several Iron Age Ramparts. If you’re interested in learning about nature and history, this is a perfect place.

In the village, you’ll find the Cotswold Clubhouse, which is both a children’s play zone and a gymnastics facility. Not only can the children play here, but parents can enjoy a drink and snack in the café.

There’s also the Motoring and Toy Museum, which is home to plenty of vintage vehicles for motoring fans of all ages to enjoy.

Lastly, we have Hawkstone Brewery, a locally run business where you can enjoy beer brewed right here in the Cotswolds. One of the most interesting things you’ll find here, though, is The Model Village.

This is a one-ninth-scale replica of the village, which was officially opened on the Coronation Day of King George VI. Included in this scale replica is a flowing river with a water wheel and another smaller model village inside it.

3. Broadway

Broadway is a beautiful and historical village which is known for being lined with horse chestnut trees. In this village, you will find a mixture of both period and stone cottages.

Known as the Jewel of the Cotswolds, it has inspired numerous artists, including William Morris and J.M. Barrie, of whom both grew up here.

The inspirational beauty has been a source of joy for the village, who have worked tirelessly to commemorate both their history and art.

Art lovers will adore the Broadway Museum & Art Gallery and the Gordon Russell Design Museum. While history lovers will flock to the Heritage Railway and Broadway Tower.

However, you’ll also find there are a host of homes and gardens available to view, showcasing the village’s beauty. Broadway Tower has a significant history, as it was built by the Earl of Coventry in 1798 in honour of his second wife.

Not only does it signify his love, but it also is a landmark that is surrounded by the magnificent nature within the Cotswolds.

Surprisingly, you may also find that close to Broadway Tower is a nuclear bunker too, combining two different facets of history.

Naturally, there are many hotels, bed and breakfasts, cottages, glamping sites, and caravan parks for guests to stay in. Visitors can shop to their heart’s content and also explore the culinary wonders that are within Broadway.

4. Burford

Burford is known as the Gateway to the Cotswolds and the first you’ll reach upon travelling east. The Windrush River winds through this idyllic mediaeval village.

There are many different activities to take part in while you’re here. It’s a wonderful place to visit, as there’s just so much available to do. If you enjoy dining, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, pubs, and tea shops to choose from.

Shoppers will also be thrilled to find a range of buildings for some retail therapy too. Of course, if you want to explore, you can always attend one of the many tours available, whether private or by e-bike.

You’ll no doubt find a tour which will satisfy your own curiosity. Inside an early Tudor market building is the Tolsey Museum, which was refurbished recently.

Within the museum, you’ll find a beautiful archive of history on Burford’s social and working culture. Delving into the history of the village and how it came to be, you’ll appreciate how much things have changed throughout the years.

Not only will you enjoy the Tolsey Museum, but fans of contemporary art will appreciate the Brian Sinfield Gallery. The Gallery was opened in 1972 and celebrated its 50th anniversary.

When visiting, you’ll find so many different areas to choose from, so don’t hesitate to visit.

5. Castle Combe

Castle Combe is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in not only the Cotswolds but England. This village is so beautiful that it has made appearances in films such as War Horse and the original Dr Doolittle.

Located on the Edge of the Bybrook River, this is a must-see stop when you’re exploring the Cotswolds. Many people enquire about the castle in the name of Castle Combe.

Named for a castle that no longer exists, the remnants may still be found if you visit the luxury golf course. However, as it’s on private property, we recommend appreciating the ancient paths that trace where the castle once was.

There are many walking routes to explore, and you’ll also be able to take a tour around St. Andrew’s Church.

One of the most interesting facts about St. Andrew’s Church is that it’s home to a faceless clock which is one of the oldest working faceless clocks in the country. If you enjoy historical places, then you must visit this church.

If you’re visiting Castle Combe, don’t forget to stop by the local pubs to grab a bite to eat or have something to drink. In some places, you’ll be able to purchase homemade cakes or freshly grown flowers.

So why not come down for a visit and enjoy the scenic views available?

6. Chipping Campden

If you’re thinking of a central point to start your trip to the Cotswolds, there is no better place to start than Chipping Campden. Located on the Cotswolds’ northern border, Chipping Campden is close to a number of other villages.

With the amount of accommodation available, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are bed and breakfasts, inns, and plenty of hotels to choose from while you’re here. Chipping Campden began life as a thriving trading centre.

In fact, Woolstaplers Hall, which was built in 1340, used to attract a wide range of merchants from around the world. Now the only remnant of this thriving market town is the Market Hall, which was built in the 17th century.

The Market Hall was the perfect place for traders to meet and purchase their wares. Now, it is carefully preserved by the National Trust to commemorate Chipping Campden’s trading legacy.

This isn’t to say they don’t have a bustling market now. Nowadays, there are plenty of eateries to explore, from cafés to pubs, to a collection of brasseries.

Of course, what makes Chipping Campden perfect is that it’s also a great start and finish point for anyone who wants to walk 100 miles the Cotswold Way to bathe.

However, there are also numerous other walks to go on if you prefer a more leisurely stroll.

7. Lacock

Film and TV fans have to visit Lacock Abbey, a beautiful location that has been used for filming scenes in Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, and Downton Abbey.

Lacock Abbey was originally built and founded by Countess Ela, who commemorated it to her late husband, William Longsworth.

When she built Lacock Abbey, it was used to house the Augustinian Nuns, who would live there for many years. After leaving the Augustinian Nuns, Lacock Abbey would come into the hands of the Talbot family.

Of the Talbot family, William Henry Fox Talbot would become known for his innovations that helped with the invention of photography.

Even now, you can see Fox Talbot’s legacy in this village, and you can even visit the Fox Talbot Museum, which houses a collection dedicated to his life and the early days of cameras.

In 1944, Fox Talbot’s daughter would put the Abbey into the hands of the National Trust. Nowadays, villagers live there as tenants to the National Trust instead of the Talbot family.

Of course, it’s not only these two areas that you need to pay attention to. The villagers look after Lacock and Lacock Abbey closely, so as you walk through the village, you’ll be able to appreciate the way each house is preserved.

In fact, you’ll even be able to look closer at the village church and see the mediaeval Tithe Barn that was built hundreds of years ago. If you want to feel like you’re in a movie, then you should visit Lacock.

8. Painswick

Referred to as the Queen of the Cotswolds, Painswick is possibly one of the best-preserved towns in the Cotswolds. Known for its narrow streets, Painswick is also known for having the oldest building to house a post office.

If you’re interested in history, then Painswick is a town that you have to visit. As you explore the town, you’ll see so many spectacular sights.

If you come across it on your journey through the Cotswold Way, you’ll discover that you’ve reached the midway point of your trek. However, we can also suggest many different places for you to visit while you’re here. 

If you’ve never seen a Rococo Garden, you’ll be able to see one in person here. Combining formal and informal elements to create a stunning view, this is a must-see for any guest.

Not only are there plenty of gardens and the architecture of homes to see, we also recommend visiting the Falcon Inn.

While there are many places to eat and drink, The Falcon Inn is unique because it is home to England’s oldest bowling green. Of course, we also can’t forget a visit to St. Mary’s Church.

This church has unique architecture, and it’s also the home of a cemetery which contains the tombs of many famous Englishmen. If you’re curious about this, then you should feel free to make your way down to Painswick for a visit.

9. Stow-On-The-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold began its life as a humble market town located at the highest point of the Cotswolds. The market was one of the most impressive built, and to this day, it continues to be one of the most impressive we’ve seen.

Along this market square, you’ll find some of the best tea shops in the Cotswolds. If you don’t like tea, you’ll be relieved to find a selection of different cafés to choose from.

Shoppers will be relieved to find beautiful antique shops and more while they’re visiting. Thanks to the bustling market square, this town is much busier on the weekend. Ideally, we recommend visiting during less busy hours.

If you want to escape the crowds, you could always visit St. Edwards Church. In fact, this church was said to be a significant inspiration to the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, when he first invented the Doors of Durin.

Naturally, there are many different things to do, but if you want a bit of retail therapy and relaxation, then Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the best places to visit.

10. The Slaughters

The Slaughters refers to both Upper and Lower Slaughter, but despite their names, they are known for their picturesque imagery.

These two villages are connected and brought together by a stream, so it’s easy to travel between these two villages. Due to this, we believed it would be unfair to separate the two as both Slaughters are so close together.

If you’re visiting, you should know that The Slaughters are known for their romanticism. Upper Slaughter is home to Eyford House, a romantic home which was said to have inspired John Milton to write Paradise Lost.

Likewise, Lower Slaughter’s Copse Hill Road was deemed the most romantic street in England for its picturesque views. There’s no doubt that both Upper and Lower Slaughter are magnificent villages to visit.

In fact, Lower Slaughter is a perfect entry point to reach Upper Slaughter, as you can visit the Old Mill Museum on the way to the Upper village.

There are also plenty of places to enjoy a good meal, so you won’t have to worry about getting hungry on your trek.

Tips For The Cotswolds

Before visiting the Cotswolds, you need to consider a few aspects before you go. To help you, we’ve compiled a handy guide for everything you need to do before and during your visit.

Plan Your Itinerary

There are dozens of villages in the Cotswolds, and not all of them are near one another. Not only are there distances to consider, but you also need to consider which places to go and when.

You can’t just guess when the best time to visit is. Do plenty of research and plan for what you want to do. If you don’t plan, you may be disappointed by your trip.

Find Out When Is The Best Time To Visit

If you’re going to visit, you should consider when the best time is. Check the weather forecast ahead of time so you know that you won’t be disappointed by wet and cold weather.

You also need to consider when the summer holidays are, as there’s no doubt it will be busy then. Instead, focus on when it won’t be school holidays, but it won’t be too cold.

Ideally, if you can head over before the kids all finish school for the year, you’ll be guaranteed good weather and fewer busy crowds.

Book Your Accommodation In Advance

The Cotswolds are incredibly popular, so when you’re planning your trip, you should book your stay as soon as possible. You don’t want to book too late and then miss out on the exciting walks you had planned.

You also need to remember to book in an area that allows you to fit your entire itinerary in.

Consider Where You’ll Park

There isn’t much parking in the Cotswolds, so you need to consider how you plan to travel. Public transport isn’t a great option, as buses struggle up the narrow roads. Ideally, the best of both worlds is when you hire a car.

This way, you can access the other villages with fewer problems. However, you don’t want to rely on public transport to get to and from your destination, as bus times can vary.

Book Your Restaurant Ahead Of Time

Not everyone is guaranteed a seat at a restaurant by showing up. Instead, you should reserve your spot in advance and ring the restaurant ahead of time, so they know you’re on the way.

There’s nothing worse than being unable to make your booking or being excited about a meal only to discover the restaurant is fully booked. Instead, book in advance to avoid that disappointment.

Plan For The Weather

English weather is unpredictable, regardless of when you visit. While it’s often hot in the summer, there’s still a pretty high chance of rain.

Likewise, the autumn months can still be warm at times, but otherwise, it’s better to keep a raincoat on you.

Budget For Your Trip

While the Cotswolds are known for their scenic views, you may still want to spend some of your money. Regardless of when you’re visiting, you need to consider the price of food, drinks, and any souvenirs you want.

Ideally, you should plan to bring enough to not have to worry about any of these things.

Wear Appropriate Shoes

Some of the roads in the Cotswolds, especially those on ancient paths, might not be suitable for all types of shoes.

When heading out for a hike, we recommend that you find some comfortable shoes that you won’t mind spending a lot of time walking in. Ideally, you should also ensure to dress appropriately when you visit.

Be Mindful Of Your Surroundings

Cotswolds villages have existed for hundreds of years, so you should ensure you take care of your surroundings. Many people choose to litter or forget that the Cotswolds are also people’s homes.

You should always respect the people who live in the village and don’t get tempted to look in anyone’s window. Instead, you should respect the boundaries of any villagers who would prefer people not to look in their windows.

Respect The Local Wildlife

Not only are there many people who live in the Cotswolds, but there are many animals native to the area as well. Don’t harm any of the wildlife or frighten them in any way.

These animals have lived here for years and may not appreciate strangers in their territory.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of different things available to do in the Cotswolds. We hope that this guide of ten of the best villages you’ll visit in the Cotswolds.

When visiting, you should always be aware that these villages are in use by local villagers, so you shouldn’t look into their homes, especially without asking.

While they may be happy to answer any questions, you shouldn’t pressure them into anything. We hope that with the help of our guide to 10 of the best villages in the Cotswolds, you won’t have any issues with planning your itinerary.

There’s plenty available to do in these villages, so you should have plenty to do while you spend your time here. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We hope you enjoy your trip to the Cotswolds, and? don’t be afraid to ask the villagers about the history of the area.

The Most Beautiful ENGLISH villages in the COTSWOLDS - Part 1