The Cotswolds, with its honey-coloured villages and rolling hills, is quintessential England at its best. Hard to believe the region is just 2 hours away from London; it truly feels like you’ve stepped back in time. With its traditional tearooms and cosy pubs, it’s a pretty magical place to visit. Read on to discover the most beautiful villages of the Cotswolds and prepare to fall under its spell.
1. Chipping Campden
My favourite one! Chipping Campden has more than 200 listed buildings and is an architectural gem! It’s one of the best-preserved villages of the Cotswolds, where honey-coloured buildings, made from the mellow Cotswold stone, alternate with thatched cottages. Don’t miss the Market Hall, built in 1627. It provided a sheltered place to sell cheese, butter and poultry and is still regularly used by local traders. Make sure you go for a pint in the Eight Bells Inn around the corner, a proper country pub with a traditional and very cosy setting.
2. Bourton-on-the-Water aka ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’
Its nickname might be pushing it a bit, but with its little bridges that arc over the Windrush river, there’s no doubt that Bourton is a mighty fine sight! It’s one of the most popular villages of the Cotswolds, so try to visit out of season. We visited Bourton twice on a sunny Saturday in September and it was still packed, I’d hate to imagine the crowds during peak summer season…
Crowds aside, Bourton-on-the-Water is definitely a must see on your Cotswolds itinerary. Take a stroll along the river, visit a local bakery and picnic along the banks of the Windrush, admiring the traditional cottages that have nearly all been turned into antiques shops, cafés and pubs.
From the busiest to one of the lesser known villages of the Cotswolds. Snowshill is another one of my favourites. The main square with the St Barnabas church and a row of honey-coloured cottages (what else?) looks like you’ve walked into a movie set. And maybe you have! Bridget Jones’s Diary was partly filmed in Snowshill, where a local house featured as the home of Bridget’s parents. Drop into the Snowshill Arms for a drink, a lovely English country pub that serves traditional beers and homemade food. Snowshill is also known for its lavender fields during summer. We were there in September, so I guess we’ll have to come back for that one.
With its high street sweeping downhill towards the Windrush river, its impressive St John the Baptist church and attractive 17th-18th century houses, it’s easy to see why Burford is considered one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. It looks as if little has changed over the centuries. Indulge in a classic Cotswolds cream tea with scones, jam and clotted cream in one of the town’s tearooms or visit the Cotswolds Cheese Company for… well I guess you figured that one out. Walk down from Burford Hill to admire the views over the high street and take a stroll along some of the many individual, and rather posh, shops.
One of the tinier villages of the Cotswolds and famous for one specific row of houses: Arlington Row, a street of ridiculously quaint Cotswold cottages that even made it into the British passports! If you’re in the area, you should definitely take a look, but be prepared for crowds! Please behave respectfully towards the people living there, or how would you feel if your front door served as a backdrop for everybody’s Instagram picture?
Broadway consists of a wide, tree-lined high street with ancient honey-coloured buildings. Take your time to visit the many shops, art galleries and tea rooms. We visited when the Autumn Food Festival was in full swing, which made for a vibrant atmosphere. A little bit out of the village centre, you can visit Broadway Tower, an iconic viewpoint over the nearby hills and counties. The views are lovely from the base of the tower, and you get just as nice views on some of the country walks, so we weren’t prepared to pay the steep £12 entrance price. If you are, let us know if it was worth it!
Winchcombe often gets overlooked by people visiting the Cotswolds. Don’t know why really, I found it one of the most authentic villages. A lot less touristy than Bourton-on-the-Water or Bibury! Plaques on the main street and in the surrounding alleys tell the story of this previously walled Saxon town. The Church of St Peter looks like a crossing between a church and a fortress and is known for its impressive gargoyles. Go for a pint in what might be the cosiest pub in the Cotswolds, the Lion Inn and walk along the lovely little shops on North Street and Gloucester Street. Just outside the town, you’ll find Sudley Castle and the ruins of Hailes Abbey.
8. Other towns and villages in the Cotswolds
It’s hard to come by a village that isn’t pretty to be honest, so you will no doubt find your own favourites. Apart from the above list, we also liked Stow-on-the-Wold, a town that radiates from the impressive market square, once host to some of the Cotswolds’ largest sheep fairs.
Take a short 20 minute-stroll between Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter and discover some of the glorious countryside. Or walk around Stanton to admire some of the typical Cotswolds architecture without the crowds.
Whatever you do, take your time. You can easily visit the Cotswolds in a day or 2, but that really wouldn’t do it justice. Stay overnight, go for a pint (or more) in a cosy country pub and have a chat with the friendly locals. Slow travel at its best!