Best Towns in the Cotswolds | Exploring Picturesque Villages


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Here is a list of the best Cotswold towns and villages for a magical getaway in this spectacular part of the country. 

Castle Combe vILLAGE

The Cotswolds, UK, is an embodiment of quintessential English countryside. Its lush green hills, meandering rivers, and wildflower valleys have earned it the title of an Area of Outstanding Beauty and for goof reason.  The place is drop dead gorgeous.

There are so many picturesque villages and towns – all with gold-tinged Jurassic Rock architecture and a long, rich history.

This stunning area is perfect for a day trip from London or a tranquil weekend away.

Water Lane Castle Combe

You can take long walks in the country, sample local brews at quirky pubs, browse antique stores, and indulge in delicious cream teas. 

The region is so pretty you’ll run out of words of awe as you explore it. And, as you stroll through the idyllic villages, you might recognise some of the streets.

These have been the setting for shows like Downton Abbey and movies such as Doctor Who. 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a town or village in the area that isn’t utterly charming and fit for a fairytale. 

Here is a list of the best Cotswold towns and villages for a magical getaway in this spectacular part of the country. 

Prettiest Cotswolds Villages 

CHIPPENHAM

Most ‘towns’ in the Cotswolds are actually villages or are referred to as such. This means that you can expect the sweet Cotswolds village scenery even in the so-called towns of the area. 

Below is a list of the prettiest villages and the best places to visit in the Cotswolds. 

Bourton-on-the-Water 

Fondly dubbed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, this delightful place is one of the best Cotswold villages to visit. As its name suggests, Bourton-on-the-Water features storybook stone cottages peppered alongside the River Windrush.

BOURTON ON THE WATERBRIDGES

Even the river has a fantastical name to match the gorgeous village it meanders through. 

While it looks nothing like Venice, the comparison is due to the charming little footbridges that cross the winding river. This adds even more to the aesthetic appeal of this scenic town. 

It’s the perfect spot to visit if you’re looking for some typically British tearooms and inviting pubs. Many of the golden-hued riverside cottages are antique shops, pubs, and cafes. 

For motorheads, don’t forget to stop by the Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum that displays a large collection of old cars and long-forgotten toys. 

If you visit in summer, you may see a lively game of traditional river football happening in the crystal clear streams in the town.

This hundred-year-old game is a crowd-pleaser for local residents and attracts many spectators.

Just bear in mind that this town does get crowded with tour gourds as it is one of the more popular towns in the Cotswolds to visit. 

READ MY DETAILED GUIDE ON HOW TO VISIT THE COTSWOLDS FROM LONDON

Where to Stay

The Dial House is located in the heart of the village and has a peaceful garden. It’s the ideal spot to relax. The hotel dates back to 1698 and the four-poster beds and elegant bathtubs add to the historic atmosphere. 

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Burford 

It’s no secret that the Cotswolds is an antique treasure trove. Enthusiasts will have a ball rummaging through the stunning shops searching for high-quality antiques. 

Where is Burford

Burford is one of the best Cotswold towns for a spot of antique hunting. And, as a town that has made the Forbes ‘most idyllic places to live in Europe’ list, it’s well worth a visit. 

This village is also located on River Windrush, but rather than multiple tiny bridges, it has an impressive medieval bridge.

This large three-arched bridge crosses the river at the foot of the hill and is a reminder of the town’s history. 

Burford’s high street is particularly popular for it’s 17th and 18th-century buildings and sloped gradient that offers lovely views over the countryside.

The medieval atmosphere is tangible and adds to the charm of the small town. 

The thatched roof cottages, 12th-century church and the Reavley Pharmacy from the 1700s (the oldest pharmacy in England) will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

READ THE BEST WALKS IN THE COTSWOLDS

Burford  Top Cotswolds Villages.jpg

Where to Stay

The welcoming 15th-century Lamb Inn complements the surrounding countryside perfectly. Features such as log fires, flagstone floors and a garden are inviting touches in a stunning hotel. 

Painswick 

If a village is known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’ then it must deserve the royal title. This historic village is tucked into the hills of the Cotswolds and boasts some of the most beautiful surrounding countryside.

It is a popular stop for walkers who enjoy some of the best country rambles in the area. 

Painswick

The giant topiary trees, 14th-century stone buildings, and the steep winding streets are just a handful of the lovely features of this old wool town. 

A stop by the 1300s Church of St. Mary and its 99 yew trees is a must. Folk legend claims that the devil will not allow even one more tree.

Meandering through the churchyard and its not-more-than-99 trees is a peaceful activity. 

For fans of fairy tales and secret gardens, the Painswick Rococo Garden is unmissable. The 18th-century garden is the only complete rococo garden in the UK and is nestled in a hidden valley with great views.

This village is an unmissable destination for your Cotswold day trip itinerary. 

Where to Stay

The Painswick Hotel overlooks the Slad Valley and is the ultimate pamper and relaxation option. With garden views from every room, a terrace to soak up the sun and spa treatments, you’re sure to love it. 

Cirencester 

Cirencester

If a village is known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’ then it must deserve the royal title. This historic village is tucked into the hills of the Cotswolds and boasts some of the most beautiful surrounding countryside. It is a popular stop for walkers who enjoy some of the best country rambles in the area. 

The giant topiary trees, 14th-century stone buildings, and the steep winding streets are just a handful of the lovely features of this old wool town. 

A stop by the 1300s Church of St. Mary and its 99 yew trees is a must. Folk legend claims that the devil will not allow even one more tree.

Meandering through the churchyard and its not-more-than-99 trees is a peaceful activity. 

For fans of fairy tales and secret gardens, the Painswick Rococo Garden is unmissable. The 18th-century garden is the only complete rococo garden in the UK and is nestled in a hidden valley with great views.

This village is an unmissable destination for your Cotswold day trip itinerary. 

Where to Stay

The Painswick Hotel overlooks the Slad Valley and is the ultimate pamper and relaxation option. With garden views from every room, a terrace to soak up the sun and spa treatments, you’re sure to love it. 

Cirencester 

Cotswolds day trip itinerary.jpg

Keeping in line with the trend of dubbed names is the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. This lively market town was a hub in the Roman era as it lies at the crossroads of three Roman roads. This is the largest town in the Cotswolds and is unbelievably picturesque. 

Despite being the largest town, it has not been overrun by trampling crowds or commercial influence. It is still a traditional market town with a rich Roman heritage, honey-hued architecture, and impressive green spaces punctuating the streets. 

The attraction for visitors besides the aesthetic is the opportunity to shop. It’s a fantastic shopping destination with unique independent shops and a creative atmosphere.

Once you’ve tired yourself out roaming the gorgeous streets, you can rest in Cirencester Park, St. Michael’s Park, or the Abbey Grounds. 

If you’re fascinated by Cirencester’s Roman heritage, you can visit the Corinium Museum that houses an elaborate Roman collection. 

Where to Stay

What better than to stay in a 300-year-old building when you’re in the historic Cotswolds? The Fleece Hotel is warm and inviting, with an enclosed courtyard, log fires and a traditional restaurant. 

Castle Combe 

Castle Combe Town

With such a whimsical name you can be sure that this stop will be a treat. Castle Combe is something out of a postcard and should be high up on your list of Cotswolds villages to visit. 

It seems as if this Wiltshire village was frozen in time and it comes straight out of your favourite storybook. In fact, no new houses have been built in the village for hundreds of years. 

Expect to see limestone cottages adorned with colourful flower baskets and stone-tiled roofs. For foreign visitors to England, it is a delight because it is everything that people imagine an English village to be. For local visitors, it is an embodiment of all the things you love about England. 

You can start by exploring the valley of the Bybrook river and look out for the beautiful bridge that crosses it. Then move on to Upper Castle Combe to discover the sleepy streets.

The Town Bridge is a popular spot to snap a picture with stunning views and the old weavers’ cottage. 

But the best thing to do here is simply walk through the village soaking up the charm, history, and nostalgia.

Where to Stay

Dating back to the 12th-century, The Castle Inn is an elegant hotel with touches of quirkiness throughout. You’ll love the location in the Castle Combe marketplace. 

Bibury 

Bibury Cotswolds

The famed William Morris once referred to Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’ and he was definitely on to something. 

Perched on the banks of the River Coln, it is home to Arlington Row, which is probably one of the most photographed streets in the Cotswolds. The ramshackle road is lined with 17th-century weavers’ cottages and the quaint scene is symbolic of the area. 

Nature enthusiasts will love the wildlife that congregates at Bibury’s water meadow, Rack Isle. Expect to spot water voles and kingfishers among colourful flowers. 

If your tummy starts rumbling while exploring this fantastical village, stop by one of Britain’s oldest trout farms.

You can enjoy the ‘catch your own’ fishery and peruse the deli, which is stocked with local treats. You can even barbecue your own trout. 

If you’re coming from London, you can book a Cotswolds villages day trip that includes a stop at Bibury.

Where to Stay

The ivy-covered Swan Hotel sits on the banks of River Coln at the centre of Bibury village. You won’t want to leave the cosy library, riverside garden and scrumptious Swan Brasserie. 

Bibury Town.jpg

Naunton

This tranquil little village is a little bit off of the well-trodden tourist trail. It is incredibly peaceful and devoid of tourist touches, such as museums and tearooms.

Naunton sits alongside the pristine River Windrush and is the perfect place to stop and have a picnic. 

There are many footpaths that wind their way through the village and the countryside. Heading off on a walk here is a great way to explore the Cotswolds. You can also climb up the hill that overlooks the village and get a phenomenal view of Naunton. 

The history of the village is palpable and goes back almost 1000 years. The village itself is unspoiled and is a true relic of days gone by. 

Naunton is the main attraction, but if you’re hoping for a little bit more than that, check out St. Andrew’s Church. It’s a fabulous historic building made almost completely from golden Cotswold stone. It features a beautiful medieval sundial and gargoyles. 

Where to Stay

Aylworth Manor is an excellent option in Naunton. It is country accommodation at its finest, in a rambling old manor house. The rooms are tasteful and comfortable and the shared terrace is a wonderful place to enjoy the afternoon sun. 

Old Minster Lovell

Stanton 

Quaint villages go hand-in-hand with old, beautiful churches. And scenic Stanton boasts several historically-significant churches.

It is also the perfect location to head off on a country walk – one of the most popular activities in the Cotswolds. From the village, you can access a number of walking trails to enjoy the natural scenery. 

The entire village is built almost completely from the golden Jurassic limestone. It is an authentic gem of the area where you won’t find garish tea rooms or souvenir shops. 

The Church of St Michael and All Angels sits on a site where the original church was built in 1100.

The structure, which you can see today, still has the original Norman towers dating back to the year 1200. It is literally steeped in history and is a beautiful sight. 

Once you’ve tired yourself out roaming the walking trails and discovering the lovely little village, head over to the Mount Inn. It’s the local watering house and is every bit as charming as Stanton. 

Where to Stay

Another historic hotel dating back to the 13th-century, Buckland Manor is only 2 miles outside of Stanton and an antique delight. You can enjoy a spot of croquet in the immaculate gardens or feast at the award-winning restaurant. 

Stow-on-the-Wold


Perched on top of a hill with dreamy views is this small market town. The Cotswolds has no shortage of antique stores, but this village might just be the crème de la crème of antique shopping. 

Stow on the Wold
The Cotswold town of Stow on the Wold

And for those who aren’t interested in old treasures, Stow-on-the-Wold has more than one fabulous pub to feast in. This is truly a lively little town with a bunch of things to do, in an idyllic setting. 

The market square should not be missed and is especially atmospheric on a Saturday. Look out for the ancient cross and the medieval town stocks that flank the square on either side. 

You can pop past St Edward’s Church, which is renowned for its impressive architecture and tree-framed doorway. The stained glass windows are a real cherry on top. 

Cricket is central to English culture and if you’re a lover of the sport, you’ll be delighted to know about the Cotswold Cricket Museum.

If that’s not really your cup of tea, then why not find one of the best cups of tea in one of the many tea rooms? 

Where to Stay

The oldest inn in England, with roots back to the 10th-century, is the amazing Porch House. It is a spectacular blend of heritage and modern comforts and is the ideal place to stopover in the Cotswolds. 

Discovering the Cotswolds for Yourself 

If you’re looking for a UK city break with a sprinkle of tranquillity and a bucketload of beauty, then this is one of the best areas to choose. 

The greatest thing about the Cotswolds is that you don’t have to choose just one of these villages or towns to visit. You can spend an entire day, or even a few, hopping from one dreamlike destination to the next. 

And, if you’d prefer to have a hassle-free day discovering these villages, you can always book a full-day Cotswolds tour. This includes visiting Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold. 

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