The Cotswold villages are an embodiment of picture-perfect English countryside. But there’s hidden variety in these rural charmers. Here’s our list of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds, each offering something a little different.

Against the soundtrack of delicate china clinking in cosy tea rooms, beautiful Cotswolds villages fulfil an England that exists in the dreams of many.

Honey-coloured stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs backed by rolling green hills conjure a scene of English delight. Lace shops waft with the scent of lavender; art galleries beacon the well-heeled and cobbled streets rumble to the sound of tourist coaches.

But many of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds see few visitors. Real working towns with minimal signs of commercialisation except for a cramped old pub. Tiny places whose only objective is to provide the starting point for a great Cotswolds walk.

Our guide to the best villages in the Cotswolds includes not only the most iconic places to visit but also historic towns and hidden hamlets that offer something a little different.

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Bibury, best Cotswolds villages



















The Cotswolds cover an area of 787 square miles across the centre of England, conveniently located within easy access of London, Bristol and Birmingham it’s a popular place for a weekend getaway in the UK.

At the northern end, the Cotswolds starts just south of Stratford-upon-Avon and the southern section ends at Bath. The western edge of the Cotswolds is marked by a steep escarpment at the Severn Valley and the eastern edge is the university town of Oxford.

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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. Surrounded by wooded hills, 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, it takes little imagination to be transported back to another time.

But it’s the setting that steals the show. With green forested hills, quaint cottages, a babbling river and a romantic bridge, Castle Combe is a beautiful place to visit in the UK.

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 and a great day out in the Cotswolds.


Often described as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds, Bibury centres itself around a picturesque church surrounded by a village green.

It is most famous for Arlington Row, a collection of 17th-century weaver cottages that form one of the most picture-perfect visuals in the Cotswolds. It’s hard not to be seduced by the iconic English cottages with their steep-pitched roofs, elegantly ascending up the gradual rise of the hill. A watery meadow in front of Arlington Row is perfect for catching the early morning light.

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.


Set at the foot of the western end of the Cotswolds escarpment, Broadway is one of the best destinations in the Cotswolds for shopping and modern country style. Old-style tea rooms encourage visitors into their lace-lined doors with the allure of high tea and high society. Antique shops styled in subtle Cotswolds grey, are crammed with well-heeled urbanites keen to pick up a unique piece.

But it’s the art galleries that feel most at home in Broadway. Lured by the picturesque high street, famous artists including Claude Monet, have called this place home.

Visible from the high street on top of the nearby Fish Hill is Broadway Tower – a popular endpoint for a great hike from the village.


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: steeply pitched roofs and honey-coloured stone. But Stanton manages to create a cosy feel on its own merits, without appearing specifically contrived for tourists.

Stanton is one of our favourite villages in the Cotswolds. Apart from feeling like a real lived-in town, it’s also 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.


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.

If the weather is warm enough, the river that meanders past the ruins is one of the best places to go wild swimming in the Thames. A bit further downstream, more picnic opportunities reveal themselves in the grassy fields either side of the river and a weir provides the perfect spot to leap in for a reed-fringed swim.

Minster Lovell is one of the best Cotswolds villages for an interesting and atmospheric experience in a beautiful rural setting.


The prosperity Painswick enjoyed from the 17th century is evident in the rows of elegant grey limestone buildings that make this one of the more regal places to visit in the Cotswolds. A maze of cobbled laneways provides plenty of spaces to explore with the village cascading down the side of a hill.

The real drawcard is the central church and its immaculate grounds. Decorated with rows of perfectly trimmed yew trees and surrounded by tombs and monuments, it’s one of the most photogenic spots in the Cotswolds.

Take a stroll through the fanciful Rococo Gardens on the outskirts of Painswick complete with magical follies and surprising views of the surrounding countryside. 


Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the best Cotswold villages 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 – our pick is Bakery on the Water. 

At the end of the high street, the Cotswolds Motoring Museum houses Brum, the star of the 90’s BBC children’s TV show about a small radio-controlled car. If you’re not happy with seeing the village once, Bourton enthusiasts can check out the Model Village which is an exact (but miniature) replica.

On the outskirts of town, the Cotswolds Brewing Company is open to the public every weekend for tastings of their homegrown lagers.


Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are two tiny villages that perfectly capture the aesthetic of the prettiest Cotswolds villages. With no building taking place in the Slaughters since 1906, they remain quintessential English rural villages.

River Eye – a tributary of the River Windrush – winds its way through honey-coloured cottages and cute churches with little bridges dotted along the brook. There are no shops in either village, just several places along the river to soak up the scenery and plenty of photo opportunities.  

There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of the area than on a meander between the two. The path follows the river from Lower Slaughter over an easy 20-minute walk. Grand hotels and manner houses, bucolic English countryside and lush green meadows cut a dreamy scene.


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

The local pub – The Kingham Plough – is operated under a Heston Blumenthal prodigy who has reinvented classic dishes on their innovative menu. 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. Their recent Michelin star has given the prices a whack but for fine dining in the Cotswolds, it’s difficult to go past. 

The nearby Daylesford Organic has a farm shop with an excellent selection of local produce, a bewildering array of cheeses, and a modern café with on-trend lunch options. Book a weekend at either the Plough or the Wild Rabbit – two of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds.


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 beautifully preserved; 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 and films such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma have been lured in by authentic facades.

The main attraction in Lacock is the Abbey, founded in 1229 by Ela, the Countess of Salisbury. It’s a quirky country house with varying architectural styles inherited over the centuries. The medieval rooms contain a clock house, a brewery and a bakehouse, all enclosed in naturally wooded grounds.


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.  

Grab a bargain in a vintage shop or peruse top-quality antiques from one of the many dealers in the town. Like many of the best Cotswolds villages, Stow has a wealth of tea rooms and artisanal coffee including Stow Town Coffee which roasts its own beans and The Hive which 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.


Chipping Campden is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the UK with a grand high street lined with handsome, golden Cotswolds houses that were built by wealthy merchants between the 14th and 17th centuries.

The highlights are St James Church, a towering landmark which can be seen from miles away in the surrounding countryside, and the 17th-century Campden House Gateway. Don’t miss the Market Hall which still stands from Chipping Campden’s trading glory days and the Woolstaplers Hall, an important wool-buying hall.

One of the most popular attractions in Chipping Campden is the thatched houses. Carefully maintained by the owners, the side streets contain some of the most charming examples of Cotswold residential architecture.


Located on the River Windrush, Burford is often considered the gateway to the Cotswolds and a great place to visit on a day trip to Oxford, just 18 miles away. 

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 mediaeval houses and shops, you’ll find local antiques, picnic fillers and some excellent coffee (we like Lynwood Café.)

There’s a great selection of galleries, books shops 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.


Cirencester was the second largest Roman centre in Britain with a significant road structure that help it develop a thriving wool trade. Continuing from this prosperous base, Cirencester is today the largest town in the Cotswolds and an interesting place to visit.

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 is one of the most regal places to visit in the Cotswolds with a stunning fan-vaulted ceiling.

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

The Corinium Museum, which will take you on a journey through Cotswolds history from prehistoric times to the modern day, is also worth a visit.


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

Firstly, set around a small church in the middle of a triangular green and lined with charming cottages that overlook the surrounding countryside, it’s one of the prettiest places to visit in the Cotswolds.

Secondly, one of our favourite English country walks makes a pitstop at the Snowshill Arms, an unspoilt 15th-century inn and one of the coolest pubs in the Cotswolds.

The main attraction in the village, however, is the Snowhill Manor, a 16th-century country house with an enormous collection of objects bequeathed to the National Trust by its eccentric owner, Charles Paget Wade.

The traditional Cotswolds Manor house made from local stone is one of many listed buildings on the property including the brewhouse and the dovecote. The gardens, laid out in a series of outdoor rooms, has terraces, ponds, formal beds, and picturesque fields with sheep.  


There are a host of wonderful things to do in the Cotswolds from visiting imposing stately homes to hiking the Cotswolds way.

We’ve divided the area into 5 main regions to help you decide where to stay. All the details are in our guide to the best places to stay in 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’s 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


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.



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The Cotswolds villages fulfil an idolised English dream. But there’s hidden variety in these rural charmers. Here’s our list of the best Cotswolds villages, each offering something a little different. | Visit England | Visit Cotswolds | Pretty Cotswolds Villages | Castle Comb | Broadway | Bibury | Stanton | Painswick Minster Lovell Burton-on-the-Water | Upper Slaughter Lower Slaughter | Kingham | Lacock