Walk the lanes of pretty villages and the trails of bucolic countryside; have a proper pint in a real pub and discover the very best activities in the Cotswolds, England.

There’s an unmistakable charm about the Cotswolds. Dreamy honey-coloured cottages, impossibly cute villages and some of the most idyllic English countryside on offer. It is, rightly so, one area of the UK firmly on the radar of tourists and day-trippers from London.

Although much of what draws the busloads of crowds to the Cotswolds is not our cup of tea, scratch under the surface and there’s a host of interesting things to do for all types of travellers.

There are things to learn – like the Victorian-era brewing methods still in use today at the Hook Norton Brewery. There’s intriguing history – like the famous monarchs who have stormed in and out of Sudeley Castle and the legacies that have created all the wonderful things to do in Oxford.

And there’s walking – sublime country tracks over beautiful rolling countryside.

Despite being a popular tourist spot, the Cotswolds can be surprisingly quiet in some of the less-visited areas. So, if you’re curious, outdoorsy and slightly adventurous, then some of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds might be yours as well. 

It’s not an exhaustive list of everything you could do in the Cotswolds, but it’s some of the best activities for your next weekend away.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

cotswolds village aerial

IN THIS GUIDE

BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS


01 – VILLAGES

02 – COTSWOLDS WAY

03 – LOCAL PRODUCE

04 – MINSTER LOVELL

05 – CHEDWORTH

06 – RESTAURANTS

07 – BATH

08 – OXFORD

COTSWOLDS, ENGLAND MAP

We’ve captured all these fantastic things to do in the Cotswolds on the below map so you can start planning your next getaway. If you’re planning a mini-break, read our guide to the best Cotswolds day trips.

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.  


1 – VISIT THE COTSWOLDS VILLAGES

The Cotswolds villages are the embodiment of English charm. Steeply pitched roofs, honey-colour cottages and wonky cobbled lanes. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss, but you can find more on our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds.

Castle Combe // Thanks to a lack of tourist shops, Castle Combe has a real lived-in feel. Framed by the surrounding wooded hills, it’s an unspoilt village in a beautiful setting.

Bibury // Bibury is popular for Arlington Row – the small row of weaver cottages set behind a wild meadow. Early in the morning, with mist rising from the water, the honey-coloured cottages shimmer in the haze. It’s the perfect base for a weekend in the Cotswolds.

Bourton-on-the-Water // A picturesque canal runs down the high street with handsome stone bridges connecting either side of the road. With a car museum, a model village and a local brewery there is plenty to do in Bourton.

The Slaughters // The duel villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are two of the most scenic in England. The River Eye winds its way through honey-coloured cottages and cute churches with little bridges dotted along the brook.

2 – HIKE THE COTSWOLDS WAY

One of the best things to do in the Cotswolds is to a stroll in the beautiful countryside. With rolling green meadows and charming pubs to stop at, it’s a delightfully British activity. Here are a few of our favourites, for more, read our guide to the best Cotswolds walks.

Broadway Circular // This 7-kilometre hike over an easy-to-follow path starts and ends in the beautiful village of Broadway, collecting the strange folly of Broadway Tower on the way.

Stanton to Snowshill // The route from Stanton to Snowshill climbs to the top of the Cotswolds escarpment providing great views over the surrounding countryside. If you are wondering where to go in the Cotswolds for the best post-hike pint in a lovely setting, it doesn’t get much better than the Snowshill Arms.

Cleeve Hill // The unusually desolate environment at Cleeve Hill makes a great contrast to the typically green Cotswolds scenery. This walk visits Belas Knap, a Neolithic burial mound and the village of Winchcombe. It’s a wonderful day out and one of the walks in the Cotswolds for sweeping views.

3 – DEVOUR THE COTSWOLDS PRODUCE

There’s an artisan edge to the Cotswolds that bestows tasty morsels, craft spirits and local ales on visitors intent on seeking out the best the area has to offer. Here are our picks.

Cotswolds Distillery – Learn about the production techniques of the award-winning whiskies, gins and liqueurs at this sleek and modern distillery in Stourton.

Daylesford Organic – The organic farm cafe at Daylesford has a Michelin Green Star for its commitment to sustainability and animal welfare. Enjoy excellent local produce, a mindblowing cheese room, plus spa treatments and cooking classes.

Hook Norton Brewery – Located in a beautiful Cotswolds location, the Hook Norton Brewery still uses a Victorian brewing tower to craft their handmade ales. Tours of the brewery take place daily where you can learn their artisanal techniques and sample a drop or two.

Cotswolds Cheese Company – While they stock a few international varieties, the focus is firmly on locally produced cheeses and deli staples. They have outlets in Burford, Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold.

4 – PICNIC AT THE MINSTER LOVELL RUINS

In various states of decay, the Cotswolds contain a plethora of ruins and follies that span the region’s history and offer great spots for a picnic in rural England.

The most scenic is Minster Lovell – a tiny village with the ruins of a 15th-century manor house resting on a grassy field beside the River Windrush. It’s a beautifully atmospheric scene and the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic.

There is also a small reed-fringed weir pool about 5 minutes’ walk upstream which is perfect for a refreshing wild swim. All the details are in our guide to wild swimming in the Thames.

Broadway Tower is another popular spot for a picnic with panoramic views across the Cotswolds.

5 – VISIT CHEDWORTH ROMAN VILLA

Built between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, the Chedworth Roman Villa was the largest Roman village in England consisting of bathhouses with ornate mosaics and underfloor heating.

Today it’s little more than the remaining foundations, but it’s worth a visit for the extraordinarily well-preserved mosaics alone. Walk along suspended walkways to examine the ornate work which is the most complete Roman mosaics in England that remain in their original position.

The onsite museum displays various objects found at the site and there’s a cafe serving basic snacks and ice cream which you can take out to the lovely picnic area.

6 – ENJOY A QUIRKY COTSWOLDS RESTAURANT

The food scene in the Cotswolds is perhaps best known for traditional English pubs. However, there’s a diversity just waiting to be untapped. Here are some great ways to get culinary in the Cotswolds.

High Tea, The Manor House – The Manor House in Castle Combe delivers a decadent homemade high tea in one of their sumptuous lounges or on their outdoor terrace. The setting is beautiful, the sandwiches dainty and the champagne free-flowing.

Pudding Club, Three Ways Hotel – Intent on preserving the tradition of the great British pudding, Pudding Club at the Three Ways Hotel in Mickleton parades around 7 traditional puddings on a trolley for a decadent selection.

Wild Rabbit, Kingham – For culinary masterpieces in an impressive but relaxed setting, the menu at the Wild Rabbit is constructed from locally farmed produce.

The Fox Inn, Oddington – Our favourite traditional pub in the Cotswolds, The Fox has a daily changing menu comprising comforting classics and a few dishes nudging into gastropub territory.  

Best Cotswolds villages

7 – AMBLE CHARMING BATH

The Romans first built a temple in the valley of the River Avon around 60 CE, but 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 town with a vibrant independent retail sector and dreamy streets you could easily spend a day exploring.

Wander around the ancient Roman baths, visit the Georgian Royal Crescent and relax at the renowned Thermae Spa.

All the details are on our day trip to Bath.

8 – TAKE A DAY TRIP TO 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. To this day, history seeps from the laneways where massive contributions have been bequeathed to the world.

As one of the most famous university cities in England, Oxford is an interesting thing to do in the Cotswolds.

Visit exquisitely decorated libraries, have a pint in a historic pub and tour some of the most remarkable colleges in the country.

More Oxford reading –

9 – ADMIRE THE GARDENS AT HIDCOTE MANOR

The manor houses of the Cotswolds provide an opportunity to explore immaculately manicured gardens. Some are quirky, some are shrouded in mystery; but Hidcote Manor is a combination of both.

Using intricate topiary, the cottage gardens at Hidcote Manor are segmented into different outdoor spaces, each with its 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 by the creative layout and beautiful spaces.

10 – VISIT THE WESTONBIRT ARBORETUM

Westonbirt is the National Arboretum of England located just outside Tetbury.

Across the 600-acre site, there are 17 miles of marked hiking paths which provide access to a wide variety of tree and plant species from all over the world. In total there are 2,500 different species of trees at Westonbirt.

One of the best things to do at Westonbirt is wildlife spotting. Their free app allows you to take part in their conservation efforts by recording wildlife found in the forest habitats on your visit.

Make sure to visit the Old Arboretum, a beautifully landscaped area with avenues framed by exotic trees, and the Silk Wood, a traditional working woodland area.

11 – TRY A TRADITIONAL ENGLISH PUB

One of the best things to do in the Cotswolds is to visit a traditional English country pub. After several years living in the area, here are our favourites.

Falkland Arms, Great Tew – For a proper English pub in the Cotswolds it’s hard to go past the Falkland Arms. The relaxed rustic mood is accentuated by the warm banter resonating from friendly locals and their dogs snoozing by the fire.

The King’s Head, Bledington – Set in front of a small green with an ice cream van operating throughout summer, the King’s Head is a perfect country pub for a lazy Sunday lunch. Book in advance and ask for a table in the bar area. 

The Ebrington Arms, Ebrington – This 17th-century country inn has a buzzing atmosphere and an excellent beer garden. They’re renowned for their award-winning food elevates the traditional pub classics.

12 – VISIT BLENHEIM PALACE

Blenheim Palace is the kind of opulence that makes you wonder why you weren’t born into a different family.

As the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim is an imposing, grand building and the only non-royal residence called a palace.

Stroll through the sumptuous palace state rooms with 300 years of history and rich baroque architecture that has earned the palace a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Outside, a stroll around the 2000 acres of landscape parklands is a wonderful things to do in the Cotswolds on a crisp morning before exploring the landscaped English garden.

Explore yourself or join a tour that includes a couple of Cotswolds villages and Bampton, where Downton Abbey was filmed.

blenheim palace the cotswolds england

13 – ADMIRE LACOCK ABBEY

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

The medieval rooms contain a clock house, a brewery and a bakehouse. Outside, walking paths meander through the parkland which includes a beautiful Rose Garden and a botanic Garden created by Henry Fox Talbot who invented the photographic process.

Many parts of the original 13th-century building remain untouched making the Abbey a favourite location for movies including Harry Potter and The Other Boleyn Girl.

Lacock Abbey, a large ornate building through green trees

14 – SHOP FOR ANTIQUES IN STOW-ON-THE-WOLD

Outside London, the Cotswolds has the highest concentration of antique shops in England.

Cheltenham and Cirencester are renowned for their excellent antiques scene, but for something more local and charming, our pick of the Cotswolds antiques destinations is Stow-on-the-Wold.

This lovely market town is located at the top of a hill and has a walkable main street and large market square.

The antique shops in Stow include everything from galleries with faithfully restored pieces to rambling arcades with battered treasures and colourful sellers. It’s the perfect place to pick up a quirky item or interesting art piece.

15 – ENCOUNTER 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’ Garden contains over 80 different types of roses, while 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 – one of the most evocative must-visit attractions in the Cotswolds.

sudeley castle cotswolds

16 – GO TO A COTSWOLD FESTIVAL

The Cotswolds has turned itself into a venue for some of the country’s biggest festivals. For the foodies, musos, bookworms or party-goers, here’s a selection of events in the Cotswolds.

Cheltenham Literature Festival // Over 10 days, the Cheltenham Literature Festival brings together the biggest names in publishing. Hear talks by award-winning authors, attend spoken word performances and join in discussions about everything from travel and adventure, lifestyle, art history and religion.

Charlbury Beer Festival // Organised entirely by volunteers, the event raises money for causes both locally and in the developing world. It features live music, plenty of food, talks and of course, beer.

Wilderness Festival // features a programme of music, theatre and comedy, supported by excellent food and plenty of drink, the Wilderness Festival is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds. The lakeside woodland setting at Cornbury Park is ideal for luxurious glamping.

Big Feastival // The Big Feastival includes food demonstrations, a cheese disco and table sessions with notable chefs. Take a cooking lesson, enjoy a huge variety of food, or just party into the wee hours with one great act after another.

Beer pumps in an old country pub

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE COTSWOLDS

The versatility of these great things to do in the Cotswolds makes it a great year-round destination.

In summer, enjoy a walk in the Cotswolds over undulating landscapes dotted with sheep as the sun lights up the fields. Timeless villages similarly come alive when bathed in sunshine. However, summer is the busiest time of year, so accommodation will be more expensive and some of the villages will be bursting with tourists.

Few other areas in the country display rusty autumn colours quite like the Cotswolds when a stroll on a crisp day is food for the soul. In winter, be captivated by the pretty stone villages frosted in snow as you curl up in front of an open fire with a glass of red in a country pub.

But it’s spring when the Cotswolds really comes alive. The gardens are at their most beautiful; the hiking trails are full of blossom and wild garlic, and the villages are still quiet and relaxed before the summer rush.

HOW TO GET TO THE COTSWOLDS

BY CAR

Being centrally located in the heart of England, the Cotswolds are an excellent weekend destination. The best way to visit is in your own car, which will give you the freedom to collect many of these wonderful things to do at your leisure.

BY TRAIN

There are train stations at Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Evesham (near Broadway), Bath, Charlbury and Oxford, but the buses that connect the villages can be rather infrequent. We have more information about getting around the area in our guide to the best villages in the Cotswolds.

BY TOUR

With villages spread around a large area and buses infrequent joining a tour is an excellent way to see the highlights.

WHERE TO STAY

The Cotswolds is an area that is as diverse as it is beautiful. From sleepy hamlets to cities with imposing stately homes; bucolic rural countryside to the dramatic landscape of the escarpment, there are plenty of interesting things to do in the Cotswolds that make it a great place to visit for a weekend.

If you are thinking of staying over, read our guide covering the best places to stay in the Cotswolds to help you settle on the perfect area and find the right accommodation.

Best Cotswolds villages

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Discover pretty villages, bucolic country hiking trails, proper country pubs and artisanal suppliers on our guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds. Cotswolds, England | Cotswolds English Countryside | England travel ideas |