The Cotswolds is a must-see destination in the heart of England. This part of the U.K. has some of the most beautiful villages and towns in the whole of the country. The Cotswolds is huge too. It runs through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire). You could spend weeks exploring all of the best villages in the Cotswolds.
Each village, hamlet, and town has its own unique characteristics. But one thing you’re sure to see time and time again is the beautiful old, honey-stoned buildings. These picturesque buildings make the Cotswolds a postcard-worthy destination.
The Cotswolds is full of interesting history and beautiful scenery. And, you’ll also find an exceptional food scene. Expect to find cute cafes and traditional English inns hiding around every corner. There is so much to see and do here. From impressive hikes and rolling hills to historic castles and superb shopping.
You could say that the Cotswolds almost has too much to do! But that’s where we come in. We have made a list of our ‘best villages in the Cotswolds’ you should visit and the activities you can do there.
The Best villages and towns to visit in The Cotswolds
Visiting Cirencester, the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’ is a must. This historic market town is the largest town in the Cotswolds district. Cirencester (once named Corinium) was an important early Roman area. It now houses the Corinium Museum where visitors can discover the town’s history. Other things to see and do in Cirencester include:
Walk around town
Walking around Cirencester was one of our favourites things to do. There are beautiful coloured buildings and traditional Cotswold stone houses. So, Cirencester town is somewhere you need to explore to appreciate it’s beauty.
Here you can mix sightseeing with shopping. Get lost wandering around the little lanes, visiting the local shops and boutiques. Don’t forget to stop off at the Corn Hall – an indoor market with places to eat and drink. You also can’t miss the church of St John the Baptist which towers over Marketplace.
Corn Hall Deli
Corn Hall Deli & Wine Bar is open throughout the week selling fine foods and wine from local producers. We visited at the weekend for their special ‘wine flight’ and cheese tasting. The experience offers a fun and tasty treat which will leave you with happy tastebuds and a full belly.
To find out more information about Corn Hall Deli, you can visit their website HERE.
New Brewery Arts
New Brewery Arts Centre is home to some of the best craft and creativity from around the UK. You can stop by the gallery to admire the work by artists, makers, craftsmen, and designers. Or, head to the studios to meet and watch the makers at work. It’s here you’ll find jewellers, ceramicists, glass-blowers and more. Also found within the New Brewery Arts centre is a gift shop and cafe.
Cirencester Park is home to some of Englands most impressive grounds and gardens. The estate, owned by Earl Bathurst, is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. But, whilst the gardens are beautiful, Cirencester House is the main attraction. Open daily, the public is free to wander in the extensive 19th-century parkland.
Bibury was once called ‘The most beautiful village in England’. This reference came from the 19th-century artist and craftsman William Morris. Obviously, being an artist, he knows a thing or two about beauty!
Honestly, we find it hard to disagree with him.
This quintessential English village is 6miles away from Cirencester. It’s one of the best villages in the Cotswolds. We loved the quaint, peaceful feel of Bibury.
After wandering alongside the river Coln make your way to Arlington Row. The row of small, honey-coloured buildings is the main attraction in Bibury. Originally built in the 17th-century, these stone cottages were the highlight of our trip. Arlington Row makes for one of the most picturesque scenes you will find in the Cotswolds.
The Arlington Row cottages, built-in 1380, were once a monastic wool store. However, they were later converted to weavers’ cottages. Such is the beauty of these former weavers’ cottages, they now appear on the inside of UK passports. Understandably, Bibury can become very busy. But, it’s worth the visit!
Other attractions in Bibury include the Bibury Trout Farm. Here you can learn about trout, feed them or even catch your own dinner.
Stow on the Wold
Stow on the Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds sitting on an 800ft hill. The historic market square is in the centre of the town. It’s, surrounded by beautiful townhouses and independent boutique shops. Traditional inns and cosy tea rooms are also found in the area.
The market square once played host to huge annual fairs. This was when the Cotswold wool industry was at its peak. Back then, farmers could sell as many as 20,000 sheep in one go!
These days, there is one market that regularly occurs here. It’s the Farmers’ Market, which happens on the second Thursday of every month. So, if you can, try to plan your trip to Stow on the Wold around this day.
St Edwards church is the main reason we visited this delightful market town. The church was once used as a prison for the defeated Royalist troops in the English Civil war. Yet, today this magical looking church is usually visited for its doorway. Yes, you read right, a door! The north entrance of St Edwards church looks like it would fit in better in New Zealand’s town of ‘Hobbiton’. Two ancient yew trees flank the arched wooden opening. It’s also decorated with colourful stained glass windows, giving it an enchanting appearance. A great place for a photo stop!
The delightful Cotswold town of Northleach is somewhat of a secret. It’s often overlooked by tourists in favour of the more well-known villages.
Tucked away between rolling hills, Northleach’s town centre is compact and unspoiled. It’s said to have only slightly changed since the 15th century.
The best thing to do here is to take a stroll through the small alleyways that lead off from the ancient centre. The streets are home to half-timbered buildings, wide oak doors and merchant’s houses. It’s almost like you’re stepping back in time as these buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries! Northleach is full of architectural delights. And, it’s without a doubt, one of the best villages in the Cotswolds.
Church of St Peter and St Paul
The Church of St Peter and Paul, or, the ‘Cathedral of the Cotswolds’ is a must-visit. This 15th-century church is a great example of the Cotswolds perpendicular style architecture.
The Old Prison
The old prison of Northleach is a fascinating 18th Century building. Visitors can take a glimpse into what life was like in the former house of correction. You can even take a look at some of the old cells. This unique building now houses a wonderful café too. So, it’s the perfect place to stop off in the morning and is a great addition to your Cotswolds itinerary.
The beautiful village of Broadway occupies a place in the county of Worcestershire. The village gets its name from the wide street, or broadway, that runs through the centre of the village.
There is a fantastic mix of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings that line the high street. These old buildings are home to shops, restaurants, tea rooms and galleries. You’ll even find three traditional inns if you’re looking for a unique place to stay.
Broadway has many fantastic places to eat, drink and shop. This is why Broadway is one of the best villages in the Cotswolds for tourists to visit. And, besides exploring the village, you’ll be glad to know that Broadway has much more to offer.
Broadway Tower is an impressive addition to the beautiful Worcestershire landscape. It sits atop a hill and is one of the top attractions in Broadway. The roof platform offers views of up to 14 counties on a clear day. The tower itself is set within a 50-acre estate of parkland which offers more things to do. During your visit, you can walk around the gardens, see the tower museum, a deer park and the Morris and Brown Cafe. Alternatively, why not bring a picnic to enjoy on a hot summer day?
Bloomery at The Potting Shed
If you’re looking for a great indoor activity in the Cotswolds then Bloomery is a wonderful choice. You can take part in one of the many interactive floristry workshops Bloomery has to offer. Choose to create your very own floral arrangement, seasonal wreath or floral crown.
We really enjoyed this unique experience, learning a new skill and having fun in the process. Plus, it was great to have something to take home from our trip to the Cotswolds.
To find out more information about Bloomery, you can visit their website HERE.
Castle Combe is one of the most photographed and well-known villages in The Cotswolds. It even competes for the prettiest village alongside Bibury.
The narrow valley of the By Brook and Upper Castle Combe divides this small village into two parts. And, The moment you step foot in Castle Combe, you’ll feel as though you have gone back in time. This 17th-century village has a truly magical feeling to it. The old cottages, houses and buildings only add to its allure.
Castle Combe was once, like other Cotswold villages, a weaving town. So you can expect to see more cute, honey-stoned cottages in the area.
The combination of a postcard-worthy bridge and old-cottages is Castle Combe’s main attraction. This commonly photographed scene sits at the southern tip of the village. It’s just down the hill from the market place and is one thing Castle Combe is famous for. This is the classic view of Castle Combe you’ll have seen in photographs time and time before.
Does Castle Combe look familiar? It should do. This charming village was a key filming location for Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’. Also filmed in the area was a series of Downton Abbey and the 1967 musical film Doctor Dolittle.
Where to stay in The Cotswolds
The small village of Barnsley sits between two of the best villages in The Cotswolds; Cirencester and Bibury. This makes this luxury spa hotel, located in Barnsley, the perfect place to stay for your visit to The Cotswolds. The late 17th-century country house was once the home of the famous garden designer. Rosemary Verey. So, it’s not surprising that Fairytale gardens surround the country manor. Barnsley House offers a luxurious and unique escape in a historic English building.
We enjoyed our time here. It was great to relax and recharge in the outdoor hydrotherapy pool. We also spent our time eating some amazing food at The Potager restaurant which offers some of the best food in the area. However, it was the private, pink seated cinema, that really made our stay unique!
The Wheatsheaf is a traditional coaching inn but with modern-day luxuries. It’s located in the sleepy Cotswold village of Northleach. Each room features enormous beds, beautiful freestanding bathtubs and elegant period design. Perfect for a cosy weekend in the country.
You’ll also find a fantastic restaurant in The Wheatsheaf that is everything you want a country pub to be. You can almost taste how fresh their locally sourced ingredients are. The food in The Wheatsheaf was some of the best we had during our time in The Cotswolds. Their extensive gin list was also a favourite of ours!
We loved nothing more than coming back from a stroll around town and snuggling in front of the roaring fire. If you visit in the summer months, there is a beautiful blossom-filled beer garden where you can relax too.
For more accommodation in The Cotswolds, you can check the latest prices here.
Airbnb is also a great option for those on a budget! Want to save £25 off your first Airbnb Booking? Use our referral code!
Best Cotswolds Villages
There you have it, the best villages in The Cotswolds in our opinion. Obviously, we haven’t visited the entirety of The Cotswolds. But, these were some of our favourite villages to explore. We hope our post has inspired you to visit this beautiful part of the UK. Believe us when we say, after your visit to The Cotwolds, you’ll be wanting to return time and time again.
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