15 Best Places To Visit In The Cotswolds (What To Do + Map)

The Cotswold villages are an embodiment of the picture-perfect English countryside. But there’s hidden variety in these rural charmers. Here’s our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds.

LAST UPDATE: 6 Nov 2023

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The beautiful Cotswolds villages fulfill an England that exists in the dreams of many.

Honey-coloured stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs. Rolling green hills dotted with sheep. Boutique gift shops with cool country aesthetics and lavender in abundance.

Foodies and artists flock to the Cotswolds, filling cobbled roads with top restaurants and art cool galleries.

While it’s a popular destination, many of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds see few visitors. Real working towns with cramped old pubs and a great Cotswolds walk.

For more ideas on what to do, read our guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds.

Bibury, best Cotswolds villages

IN THIS GUIDE

BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN THE COTSWOLDS


1 – CASTLE COMBE

With a lack of tourist shops and a real lived-in feel, Castle Combe is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds.

Rows of honey-coloured cottages extend from a 14th-century market square up a gentle slope, framed by a green backdrop.

An otherworldly vibe has earned Castle Combe a regular appearance in the film industry and it’s easy to see why. With no cars allowed in the village, you are easily transported to another time.

With green forested hills, quaint cottages, a babbling river, and a romantic bridge, Castle Combe is a beautiful place to visit in the UK.

WHAT TO DO

Take a picnic lunch and sit on the bench by the river opposite the old weaver’s cottages. Framed by the surrounding valley walls, it’s the classic view of Castle Combe.

WHERE TO STAY?

  • Book the Manor House for a luxurious break with a Michelin-star restaurant.
  • The King’s Arms in Didmarton is a smart country pub.

2 – BIBURY

Bibury is often described as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds. It’s centred around a picturesque church and a charming village green.

The most famous feature of Bibury is Arlington Row, where 17th-century weaver cottages ascend the gradual rise in the hill. It’s the most iconic photo spot in the Cotswolds.

Bibury, and Arlington Row, in particular, is a popular spot for bus trips and it can be teeming with visitors throughout the day.

But, if you make it to Bibury for sunrise, you’ll have one of the best Cotswolds villages all to yourself.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Stroll along Arlington Row.
  • See the countryside with our Castle Combe walk.
  • Explore the Rack Isle Nature Reserve.

WHERE TO STAY

3 – BROADWAY

Broadway is at the foot of the western end of the Cotswolds escarpment. It’s one of the best destinations in the Cotswolds for shopping and modern country style.

Old-style tea rooms lure visitors with high tea and fresh scones. Antique shops styled in subtle Cotswolds grey, are crammed with unique quirky pieces.

The picturesque high street has drawn famous artists including Claude Monet. He found inspiration in what is now the Abbots Grange Manor House.

On top of the nearby Fish Hill is Broadway Tower. This folly is a great place to watch the sunset over the town.

Broadway Tower, Cotswold villages
BROADWAY TOWER

WHAT TO DO?

WHERE TO STAY?

4 – STANTON

The only sign of commercialisation in Stanton is The Mount Inn. Set at the foot of Shenbarrow Hill, the pub is perfectly positioned above the town with sweeping views.

On a clear day, see all the way to the Welsh mountains.

From the deck of the pub, the consistent architecture of Stanton is displayed in typical Cotswolds style.

Stanton manages to create a cosy feel on its own merits, without appearing specifically contrived for tourists. It is one of our favourite villages in the Cotswolds for a quiet, relaxing break.

WHAT TO DO?

Stanton is a great base for some excellent country walks. The deck on the Mount Inn overlooking the town is an excellent place to end a classic Cotswolds hike.

WHERE TO STAY?

To visit Stanton we’d recommend staying around Broadway. We have more suggestions here: where to stay in the Cotswolds.

5 – MINSTER LOVELL

Minster Lovell assumes a veiled location by the banks of the Windrush River. It’s a beautiful tiny village where you can enjoy afternoon tea while watching a game of cricket on the green.

But the main reason for visiting Minster Lovell is the picturesque ruins of a 15th-century manor house. Resting on the banks of the river, it’s an idyllic location in the English countryside.

There are plenty of picnic spots on the grassy fields on either side of the river, and a weir provides the perfect spot for a swim.

Minster Lovell is an untouched Cotswolds village in an idyllic rural setting.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Go wild swimming around the crumbling ruins.
  • Take the circular Minster Lovell walk to see the best of the area.

WHERE TO STAY?

6 – PAINSWICK

The prosperity Painswick enjoyed from the 17th century is evident. The elegant grey limestone buildings makes this one of the more regal Cotswold villages.

A maze of cobbled laneways provides plenty of spaces to explore with the village cascading down the side of a hill.

The main attraction in Painswick is St Mary’s Church and its immaculate grounds. Decorated with rows of yew trees and surrounded by tombs and monuments, it’s a popular filming location in the Cotswolds.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Take a stroll through the fanciful Rococo Gardens on the outskirts of Painswick.
  • Photograph the church grounds.
  • Have a pint in the Royal Oak.

WHERE TO STAY?

7 – BOURTON-ON-THE-WATER

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the best villages in the Cotswolds with a range of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

A picturesque canal runs down the high street with handsome stone bridges connecting either side of the road. Trendy cafes mix with quaint tea rooms and ice cream stands. Like any small village worth its salt, there are plenty of bakeries

It’s a cute and photogenic place to stroll around and jump from cafe to cafe.

WHAT TO DO?

WHERE TO STAY?

8 – UPPER SLAUGHTER & LOWER SLAUGHTER

Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are two tiny but beautiful Cotswolds villages.

Building has not taken place in the Slaughters since 1906, so they remain quintessential English rural villages.

River Eye – a tributary of the River Windrush – winds its way through the village. Honey-coloured cottages and cute churches dot the banks.

There are no shops in either village, just several places along the river to soak up the scenery.

WHAT TO DO?

Walk the 20-minute trail between the two villages. Alternatively, try our 17-kilometre walk between the Slaughters, Bourton, and Naunton.

WHERE TO STAY?

9 – KINGHAM

Kingham is a small working community and the best villages in the Cotswolds for foodies.

The local pub – The Kingham Plough – is operated under a Heston Blumenthal prodigy. It’s the perfect cosy pub to enjoy a pint and some top-quality cooking after a long day of hiking in the area.

The Wild Rabbit crafts culinary masterpieces in an impressive but relaxed setting. It’s not cheap, but it’s great for a special occasion.

WHAT TO DO?

The nearby Daylesford Organic has a farm shop with an excellent selection of local produce. Grab a few bites to take on a picnic, or have lunch in their modern cafe.

WHERE TO STAY?

Book a weekend at either the Plough or the Wild Rabbit – two of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds.

10 – LACOCK

Lacock is owned and managed by the National Trust so it lacks the lived-in feel of other Cotswold villages.

However, the protection of the trust has ensured that Lacock has been well preserved. It’s largely unchanged since it was established in the 13th century as a wool trading centre. 

Half-timber, half-stone cottages line wonky laneways that fill the village with charm and character. Shops have maintained their original simple branding.

Films such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma have filmed in this charming Cotswolds village.

WHAT TO DO?

Visit Lacock Abbey, founded in 1229 by Ela, the Countess of Salisbury. It’s a quirky country house with varying architectural styles inherited over the centuries.

WHERE TO STAY?

11 – STOW-ON-THE-WOLD

Stow-on-the-Wold is a charming market village in the Cotswolds with a reputation for a vibrant antiques scene. Situated at the top of a hill, the town centres around a large market square which is surrounded by elegant Cotswolds townhouses.  

Like many of the best villages, Stow has a wealth of tea rooms and artisanal coffee shop. Stow Town Coffee which roasts its own beans and The Hive does an excellent café lunch.

The highlight of a visit to Stow-on-the-Wold is St Edward’s Church. The old door under a tree is one of the most Instagram-able spots in the Cotswolds.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Grab a bargain in a vintage shop on the high street.
  • Have lunch at the Porch House, the Oldest Inn in England.
  • Peruse the contemporary British artwork at the Fosse Gallery.

WHERE TO STAY?

12 – CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Chipping Campden is one of the best Cotswolds villages with a grand high street, lined with handsome, golden houses. They were built by wealthy merchants between the 14th and 17th centuries.

The highlights are St James Church, a towering landmark that can be seen from miles away, and the 17th-century Campden House Gateway.

Don’t miss the Market Hall which still stands from Chipping Campden’s wool trading glory days. The Woolstaplers Hall was an important wool-buying hall.

One of the most popular attractions in Chipping Campden is the thatched-roof houses. On the side streets of the high street, you’ll find examples of grand Cotswold residential architecture

WHAT TO DO?

  • Court Barn Museum is a small museum celebrating the creative heritage of Chipping Camden.
  • Hidcote Manor is a 10-minute drive away. Read all the details here: guide to visiting the Cotswolds.
  • Stroll around looking for thatched roofs.

WHERE TO STAY?

13 – BURFORD

Burford is often considered the gateway to the Cotswolds. It’s located on the River Windrush, and it’s a great place to visit on a day trip to Oxford.

The high street which follows a hill down towards the river is one of the most beautiful places in the Cotswolds. Lined with a rambling collection of medieval houses and shops, you’ll find local antiques and delis.

There’s a great selection of galleries, bookshops, and of course, classic Cotswolds pubs.

St John’s Church is a display of Burford’s prior wealth with memorials to great families who were connected to Henry VIII.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Pick up supplies, then head to the nearby Minster Lovell for a picnic. One of our favourite day trips in the Cotswolds.
  • Admire the historic stone cottages on Burford Hill.
  • Pop into the Tolsey Museum, a small free exhibition on local history.

WHERE TO STAY?

14 – CIRENCESTER

Cirencester was the second-largest Roman centre in Britain.

A significant road structure helped it develop a thriving wool trade. Continuing from this prosperous base, Cirencester is today the largest town in the Cotswolds.

The colourful main square, Market Place, mixes Cotswolds stone with pastel-coloured facades and timber-framed architecture.

Leading off the square, the huge English Gothic Church of St John the Baptist has a stunning fan-vaulted ceiling.

Cirencester Park, just outside the town, is one of the finest landscaped gardens in England. It’s free to enter from 8 am to 5 pm each day.

WHAT TO DO?

WHERE TO STAY?

15 – SNOWSHILL

Snowshill is a small village in the Cotswolds that is often overlooked, but there are a few great reasons to visit.

Firstly, it’s set around a small church green lined with cottages overlooking the countryside. The setting is lovely.

Secondly, it’s part of one of the best walks in the Cotswolds. which stops at the Snowshill Arms.

The main attraction in the village, however, is the Snowhill Manor. This 16th-century country house is one of the most interesting places to visit in the Cotswolds. It has an enormous collection of objects acquired by its eccentric owner, Charles Paget Wade.

There are several listed buildings on the property including the brewhouse and the dovecote.

WHAT TO DO?

  • Stroll the gardens at Snowshill Manor, laid out in a series of outdoor rooms with terraces, ponds, and formal beds.
  • Walk the Stanton to Snowshill hike on the Cotswolds Way.

WHERE TO STAY?

  • Buckland Manor is a regal stay in a traditional manor house.
  • The Fish is a very cool property with cabins, tree houses, and luxury suites.

COTSWOLD MAP

The Cotswolds cover an area of 787 square miles across the centre of England. It’s located within easy access of London, Bristol, and Birmingham.

Our map contains all the places listed in this guide.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


ITINERARIES FOR VISITING THE COTSWOLDS

Many of the best destinations in the Cotswolds are close to each other making them easy to visit in one day if you have your own car. Here are some more guides to help you plan your Cotswolds itinerary.

Best Cotswold Weekends – 5 itineraries to see several of the best places in the Cotswolds over a weekend with pub and restaurant recommendations and things to do.

Cotswolds Walks – Our favourite, very achievable, walks in the area with detailed instructions and maps. All our walks are circular and most finish at a great pub.

Cotswolds Day Trips – 10 ideas for great day trips to the Cotswolds with all the information you need for a great day out.

painswick the cotswolds england

COTSWOLDS TOURS

The other way to see the prettiest places in the Cotswolds is via an organised tour. This is a great way to see some of the area if you’re pressed for time or just want to meet some other people who are up for a day out in the Cotswolds as well.

MORE UK GUIDES

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