Walk the halls of English history and the trails of bucolic countryside; have a proper pint in a real pub and discover some of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds.

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.

However, much of what draws busloads of crowds to the Cotswolds is not what gets us excited about exploring a new area. 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, one of the biggest surprises for us was the number of interesting things to do in the Cotswolds that are in sync with the way we like to explore the world. There are things to learn – like the Victorian era brewing methods still in use today at the Hook Norton Brewery. There’s complicated history – like the famous monarchs who have stormed in and out of Sudeley Castle. And there’s walking – sublime country tracks over beautiful rolling countryside. We were spoilt for choices when pulling together a few itineraries for the Cotswolds.

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. It’s our kind of list.

Things to do in the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace
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, pristine villages and beautiful countryside.

1 / AMBLE THE PRISTINE VILLAGE OF CASTLE COMBE

Thanks to a lack of tourist shops, Castle Combe has a real lived-in feel that makes it an interesting thing to do 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. It’s a beautiful setting that quickly became one of our favourite villages in the Cotswolds.

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.

Best Cotswolds villages

3 / PHOTOGRAPH THE WEAVER’S COTTAGES AT BIBURY

Often described as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds, Bibury has earned its credentials 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. Read more about how to see Bibury over a weekend in the Cotswolds.

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, a short stroll between the two villages is a relaxing way to take in these two picture-perfect villages. Or you can take an even longer walk, and follow our 17-kilometre hike that visits both, two other villages and explores the rolling English countryside. All the details and maps are in our article all about hiking in the Cotswolds.

Swimming in the Thames
Things to do 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, 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 stroll around for hours.

7 / UNCOVER ROMAN INFLUENCES IN CIRENCESTER AND CHEDWORTH

Cirencester was known as Corinium by the Roman’s when they settled in the area as an important hub in their network of roads. The Corinium Museum in Cirencester houses an extensive Roman collection which is a great way to understand the influence they had on the area. 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.

Things to do in the Cotswolds, Bath

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 where massive contributions have been bequeathed to the world, 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.

Things to do in the Cotswolds, Gloucester Cathedral
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. As the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim is an imposing, grand stately home and the only non-royal residence called a palace. 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, 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, all enclosed in naturally wooded grounds. 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.

Things to do in the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace

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, 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.

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 with 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 showcase Johnston’s skill. Even if gardens aren’t your thing, it’s hard not to be impressed by the creative layout and beautiful spaces in Hidcote Manor.

Things to do in the Cotswolds
THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS

Historic Towns


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 whose ambiance 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 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 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 in the Cotswolds, it’s difficult to go past.

Things to do in the Cotswolds, Falkland Arms

16 / TAKE A TOUR OF THE COTSWOLDS DISTILLERY AT STOURTON

The Cotswolds Distillery produce a small range of craft whiskies, gins and liqueurs via traditional methods with top quality raw ingredients. Learn about their production techniques on a tour of the distillery at Stourton to fully appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into their award-winning liqueurs. Their Gin Blending Masterclass is one of the best ways to enjoy a drink in the Cotswolds.

17 / STEP BACK IN TIME AT THE HOOK NORTON BREWERY

The Hook Norton Brewery is a passionate family-owned business that 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. Tours of the brewery take place daily where you can learn their artisanal techniques and sample a drop or two.

Things to do in the Cotswolds

WHERE NEXT?

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There’s so much to explore in the Cotwolds there’s enough to fill many great weekends away, each offering something slightly different. But, with close proximity to Wales, venture future afield to enjoy the many delights of this excellent part of the UK

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