Walk the halls of English history; hike paths through bucolic countryside; have a proper pint in a real pub and discover some of our favourite places to visit in the Cotswolds.

The best places to visit in the Cotswolds are steeped in English tradition, set in stunning countryside, or have the local heartiness of a real fire and local ale. Yet it is the dreamy honey-coloured cottages set in impossibly quaint villages that steal the show. It is, rightly so, a popular destination for day-trippers from London.

However, much of what draws busloads of crowds to the Cotswolds is not what gets us excited. Quaint tea rooms aren’t our cup of tea; we’re not people who could spend hours popping in and out of cute looking shops, and lavender and lace souvenirs aren’t for us.

But, surprisingly there are many things to do in the Cotswolds that are in sync with the way we like to explore. There are things to learn – like the Victorian era brewing methods still in use today at the Hook Norton Brewery. There’s history – like the famous monarchs who have stormed in and out of Sudeley Castle. And there’s hiking – sublime country tracks that head over beautiful rolling countryside making for great circular Cotswolds walks.

So, if you’re curious, outdoorsy and slightly adventurous, then some of our favourite places to visit in the Cotswolds might be yours as well. 


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THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS

Cute Villages & Bucolic Walks


From the honey-coloured cottages with steep-pitched roofs to walking the dramatic Cotswold’s escarpment, there’s no better way to start exploring the Cotswolds than by strolling through town and country. Discover mediaeval ruins, pretty villages and beautiful countryside.

1 / AMBLE THE PRISTINE VILLAGE OF CASTLE COMBE

Thanks to a lack of tourist shops, Castle Combe has a lived-in feel that makes it one of the most interesting places to visit in the Cotswolds. Framed by the surrounding wooded hills, Castle Combe is an unspoilt village in a beautiful setting. Pick a spot by the bridge overlooking the old weaver’s cottages in front of the small river, and you’ll experience once of the best settings the Cotswolds has to offer.

It’s a beautiful setting that quickly became one of our favourite villages in the Cotswolds. If you’re feeling active there are also some beautiful easy walks heading out along the river.

2 / WALK ALONG THE ESCARPMENT ON THE COTSWOLDS WAY

On the western side of the Cotswolds, the escarpment (a steep hill about 200 metres high) marks the boundary between the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Severn Valley. The escarpment itself is excellent hill-walking country and the views from the top are outstanding.

The Cotswolds Way covers a distance of 164 kilometres; however, our favourite section is the easy 6.6-kilometre circular walk to Broadway Tower which we cover in detail in our article on the best hikes in the Cotswolds.


3 / PHOTOGRAPH THE WEAVER’S COTTAGES AT BIBURY

Bibury is often described as the most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds. These credentials come mostly from the small row of weaver cottages perfectly positioned on a gentle hill in front of a wetland.

Arlington Row is possibly one of the most visited and photographed spots in the Cotswolds and it’s easy to see why. Early in the morning, with mist rising from the water in front of the cottages, it forms the quintessential Cotswold’s aesthetic. But there’s more to the area than one Instagram shot. Visit Bibury on a weekend in the Cotswolds for great pubs, stately homes and country walks.

4 / PICNIC AND SWIM NEXT TO THE MINSTER LOVELL RUINS

Minster Lovell is a tiny village where the ruins of a 15th-century manor house peer over a field beside the River Windrush. Resting on the grassy banks under wistful trees, it’s the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic in the Cotswolds. Weather permitting, there’s a small weir pool about 5 minutes’ walk upstream from the ruins. It’s refreshing, it’s atmospheric and it’s one of our favourite places to go wild swimming in the UK.

5 / TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE SLAUGHTERS 

The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter have remained untouched for over a century with the last building work taking place in 1906. Set on the charming River Eye, the short stroll between the two villages is one of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds.

Alternatively, you can take an even longer walk by follow our 17-kilometre hike that visits both the Slaughters, plus two other villages nestled in the rolling English countryside. All the details and maps are in our article all about hiking in the Cotswolds.


THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS

Historic Towns


The Roman’s loved the Cotswolds as much as we do today, building villas, elaborate settlements and constructing extensive paths. But with excellent sheep grazing pastures, the Cotswolds rose to prominence in the 14th century thanks to the very prosperous wool trade. Here are some of the best historic spots in the Cotswolds not to miss.

6 / EXPLORE THE ROMAN TOWN OF BATH

The Roman’s first built a temple in the valley of the River Avon around 60 CE. However, the beautiful honey-coloured buildings that fill Bath today were built in Georgian times to house the wealthy who were drawn to the medicinal properties of the natural springs.

Bath is a beautiful place to visit in the Cotswolds with a vibrant independent retail sector. Stroll dreamy streets looking for a quirky bargain. Bath Abbey and the 18th century Pulteney Bridge with the shops crammed on top is like walking through history.

7 / UNCOVER ROMAN INFLUENCES IN CIRENCESTER AND CHEDWORTH

Cirencester was known as Corinium by the Roman’s when they first settled in the area. It was used as an important hub in their network of roads. The Corinium Museum in Cirencester houses an extensive Roman collection. Appreciate the influence they had on the area through the artefacts on display. Just a few miles away is Chedworth. This village contains the ruins of one of the largest Roman villas in England. The highlight being the excellently preserved ornate mosaics of the original bathhouse.


8 / BE AWESTRUCK BY AMAZING ARCHITECTURE IN OXFORD

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold called Oxford, the ‘city of dreaming spires’ after the stunning architecture used to construct the oldest university in the English-speaking world. History seeps from the laneways. Massive contributions have been bequeathed to the world here making Oxford a wonderful place to visit in the Cotswolds.

From exquisitely decorated libraries to trendy hipster pubs, spending just one day in Oxford will reveal a long history of blending in with the times.

9 / INSPECT THE VAULTED CEILINGS OF GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL

Since the foundations were laid in the 2nd century, Gloucester Cathedral has been blessed with additions from every style of Gothic Architecture. It’s a stunning building that has been used in film and TV regularly including the Harry Potter movies and Doctor Who. But it’s the incredible fan-vaulted ceiling that has visitors straining their necks and gasping with awe. It covers every style of Gothic architecture making it an enthralling place to visit in the Cotswolds.


THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS

Stately Homes & Gardens


From imposing palaces to classic cottage gardens, the Cotswolds has stately homes and gardens firmly planted in the area’s psyche. Follow in the footsteps of royalty and the aristocracy; wander lavish hallways and country manors; enjoy pristine gardens and evoke pop culture on famous film sets. Experiences worthy of a great day out in the Cotswolds.

10 / ROAM THE LANDSCAPED GARDENS OF BLENHEIM PALACE

Blenheim Palace is the kind of opulence that makes you wonder why you weren’t born into a different family. It’s an imposing, grand stately home and the only non-royal residence called a palace. It was also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

The immaculate grounds consist of formal gardens, a pleasure garden and an excellent example of a proper English landscaped garden. It is simply one of the most extravagant places to visit in the Cotswolds.

11 / FIND HARRY POTTER FILM LOCATIONS AT LACOCK ABBEY

Lacock Abbey was founded in 1229 by Ela, 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. Many parts of the original 13th-century building remain untouched leaving a quirky, but authentic vibe.

For film buffs, the Abbey is a wonderful thing to do in the Cotswolds. It has been used as the location for period pieces such as The Other Boleyn Girl, and Hollywood blockbusters such as Harry Potter.


12 / FOLLOW THE FOOTSTEPS OF ROYALTY AT SUDELEY CASTLE

Sudeley Castle is a voyage through English royal history. The commanding residence was home to heavyweights such as Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles I. While the building is fascinating enough, the 10 gardens that surround the castle grounds are an evocative stroll through English horticultural styles. The Queens’ Gardens contain over 80 different types of roses. The Physic Garden still produces herbs once used to cure royalty of their ailments. The star, however, is the wild unkempt garden in the old ruins.

13 / POKE AROUND A CLASSIC COTTAGE GARDEN AT HIDCOTE MANOR

With a use of topiary bordering on obsession, the gardens at Hidcote Manor are segmented into different outdoor spaces. Each has their own character. Created by American Lawrence Johnston, Hidcote is now owned and run by the National Trust. The gardens have been maintained in their original design which showcases Johnston’s skill. Even if gardens aren’t your thing, it’s hard not to be impressed. The creative layout and beautiful spaces in Hidcote Manor are worth a look.

Spend an afternoon strolling to get a taste for one mans obsession with gardening. The Pillar Garden and the Bathing Pool Garden are two in particular that are well worth checking out.


THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS

The Artisanal Side of the Cotswolds


It’s not all cream tea and lace doilies in the Cotswolds. Step out of the stereotypes and find modern fine dining, proper ales, crafty farm shops and cutting-edge distilleries. The food and booze scene in the Cotswolds still has a few surprises up its sleeve.

14 / ENJOY A REAL ALE AT THE FALKLAND ARMS IN GREAT TEW

The Falkland Arms is a proper English pub in the Cotswolds. The ambience is accentuated by the warm banter resonating from friendly locals and their dogs snoozing by the fire. An impressive selection of old beer jugs hanging from oak beams, give the place a relaxed rustic mood. Worn wooden tables with mismatched chairs feel like they’ve been part of the furniture since the 16th century when the building that today houses this traditional local inn was built. It’s one of the most atmospheric places for a pint in the Cotswolds.

15 / TUCK INTO LOCAL PUB FOOD OR MICHELIN CREATIONS IN KINGHAM

The Plough in the village of Kingham is operated under a Heston Blumenthal prodigy. They have 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 hiking in the Cotswolds.

For a more upscale affair, in the same tiny village, The Wild Rabbit craft culinary masterpieces in an impressive but relaxed setting. Their recent Michelin star has given the prices a whack. But for fine dining using local Cotswolds ingredients, it’s worth the splurge.


16 / TAKE A TOUR OF THE COTSWOLDS DISTILLERY AT STOURTON

The Cotswolds Distillery produce a small range of craft whiskies, gins and liqueurs. Using traditional methods and quality raw ingredients there’s a craftsmanship in each drink. Learn about their production techniques on a tour of the distillery at Stourton to fully while enjoying an award-winning liqueur.

Their Gin Blending Masterclass is one of our favourite thing to do in the Cotswolds. It’s also one of the best ways to enjoy a creative drink with a local artisanal product.

17 / STEP BACK IN TIME AT THE HOOK NORTON BREWERY

The Hook Norton Brewery is a passionate family-owned business. It still uses a Victorian brewing tower to craft their handmade ales. Set in a beautiful little village, each day they still deliver beer to the local pubs via horse and cart. Their award-winning beers range from crisp ales to hearty stouts and feature in many of the pubs in the Cotswolds

Tours of the brewery take place daily. Learn about their techniques, discover the brewery’s chequered past and of course, sample a drop or two.


HOW TO SEE THESE PLACES TO VISIT IN THE COTSWOLDS

The Cotswolds is the one area of England we’ve visited the most. There are few hiking trails we haven’t walked or villages we haven’t explored. We’ve spent long afternoons inside cosy pubs, worked our way through local ales, compared the best Sunday roasts and sampled local bakeries.

We have several guides to help you plan an unforgettable trip. Here is more of our writing to help you collect these amazing places to visit in the Cotswolds.

STAY / Our guide on where to stay in the Cotswolds has a breakdown of the different areas that make up the Cotswolds along with our hotel recommendations.

WEEKENDS AWAY / We’ve curated some of our favourite weekend in the Cotswolds including where to stay, what to do and some top pubs you shouldn’t miss.

VILLAGES / The most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds are a highlight for many visitors to the region. But, there’s a surprising amount of diversity in these tiny towns.

WALKS / There are few better ways to enjoy the great outdoors than on one of the amazing circular walks in the Cotswolds.

DAY TRIP / Pressed for time, spending day in Oxford is enough to get a feel for the grandeur and majesty of this compelling university town.

DAYS OUT / For more suggestions of things to do, we’ve put together 10 great days out in the Cotswolds with great hikes, interesting history, medieval ruins and perfect picnic spots.


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