Best Cotswolds Itinerary | 1 Day in England’s Countryside

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The best Cotswolds itinerary 1 day guide, covering everything you need to know to plan a day trip to Cotswolds from London

The charming Cotswolds is an area in the south-west and south-central England. Its rolling hills and wildflower meadows have led to its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

CHIPPENHAM

The area is unique because it is set on a bedrock of Jurassic limestone. The golden stone is featured in buildings throughout this county. You can also read my top things to do in the Cotswolds.

As a result, the churches and houses have a warm, mellow feeling to them that captures the spirit of the quintessential English village.

With its rural setting and stately gardens, the Cotswolds is a great place to visit to get away from the city.

From the colourful Cirencester with its fresh local produce to historical Burford with its old-world shops, you’ll enjoy the change of pace and scenery. Especially from the London buzz.

In this post, you’ll get the best Cotswolds itinerary 1 day guide, covering everything you need to know to plan a day trip from London by car. 

Top things you’ll need for your Cotswolds day trips


  • A camera to capture the spots you’ll be visiting in the Cotswolds, all my photos are taken with my Fujifilm X-T 4

  • A GoPro HERO 9 for cinematic videos of your travels

  • A powder bank to keep your devices juiced-up, I use this one to charge my phone, GoPro and cameras while travelling

  • A backpack to carry your snacks and a bottle of water

  • A stylish pair of walking shoe to explore in comfort


Is Cotswolds Worth Visiting?

Country house hotel in the Cotswold village of Bibury
Arlington Row at the pretty Cotswold village of Bibury, Gloucestershire, England.

Yes, without a doubt. 

6 Best Cotswolds villages to visit ...
6 Best Cotswolds villages to visit | Prettiest villages in England | Cotswolds travel guide

One of the best reasons to visit this part of England is that each village has its own identity. Yet, they all still carry the warmth of the area’s golden-coloured limestone.

You can take your pick of lively market towns and grand country houses. Explore the villages by car or walk through the scenic countryside along footpaths – 3000 miles worth of them. 

There are tons of things to do in the Cotswolds, whether you’re alone, with family or with friends. There’s art, festivals, and lively events. 

Let’s not forget about the harvest of food and drink that the Cotswolds has to offer. Local meats, cheeses, and drinks feature on the menus of old inns, gastro pubs, and gourmet restaurants. You’ll love the fresh, village fare. 

READ MY GUIDE ON THE BEST TOWNS IN THE COTSWOLDS TO VISIT

Where Are the Cotswolds?

Idyllic rural landscape Cotswolds UK
beautiful surroundings of the Cotswolds, England, UK.

The Cotswolds extend over an area of almost 800 square miles. It runs through these counties: 

  • Worcestershire 

  • Wiltshire

  • Oxfordshire

  • Warwickshire

  • Gloucestershire 

It is located between Bristol and Oxford, and below Birmingham. Day trippers from London can expect a drive of about 2 hours, give or take 30 minutes. 

Day trip to the Cotswolds | How to get from London to the Cotswolds

If you want to do a Cotswolds day trip, you can either take the train, book a tour, or go by car. Don’t have a car? Don’t stress. You can rent one for the day from an affordable car hire company.

This time a round I did my road trip to the Cotswolds via car driving from London Stansted Airport, where I collected my rental car and then pass Stonehenge to the Cotswolds. 

Keep in mind that if you do take the train or bus, you may struggle to get to all the villages and places of interest without a car. A car will give you a bit more control over where you can go and when. 

If you are planning a Cotswolds road trip by car, remember to check for road closures before your trip to save yourself the hassle of trying to re-route your journey at every other village due to road closures, like I had too. This will save you time and be less stressful. 

The distance from London to the Cotswolds is roughly 84 miles. The trip can take between 1.75 and 2.5 hours depending on traffic. One of the fastest routes you can take is the M40.

And that’s how to get from London to Cotswolds.

READ MY GUIDE ON HOW TO GET TO THE COTSWOLDS FROM LONDON

Day trip to the Cotswolds | How to get from London to the Cotswolds

Lower Slaughter in Cotswolds
Ancient village “Lower Slaughter” in the Cotswolds region

If you want to do a Cotswolds day trip, you can either take the train, book a tour, or go by car. Don’t have a car? Don’t stress. You can rent one for the day from an affordable car hire company.

This time a round I did my road trip to the Cotswolds via car driving from London Stansted Airport, where I collected my rental car and then pass Stonehenge to the Cotswolds. 

Keep in mind that if you do take the train or bus, you may struggle to get to all the villages and places of interest without a car. A car will give you a bit more control over where you can go and when. 

If you are planning a Cotswolds road trip by car, remember to check for road closures before your trip to save yourself the hassle of trying to re-route your journey at every other village due to road closures, like I had too. This will save you time and be less stressful. 

The distance from London to the Cotswolds is roughly 84 miles. The trip can take between 1.75 and 2.5 hours depending on traffic. One of the fastest routes you can take is the M40.

And that’s how to get from London to Cotswolds.

READ MY GUIDE ON HOW TO GET TO THE COTSWOLDS FROM LONDON

Cotswold tour itinerary.jpg

Some Tips Before You Hit the Road On Your Cotswolds Road Trip by Car

Before you get on the road, make sure you’ve:

  • Planned your route in advance 

  • Checked your GPS to make sure it’s working 

  • Checked for road closures 

  • Filled your tank

General Tips for Your Cotswolds Road Trip

Head out as early as you can. You’ll have more time to explore each village and the light will be better. 

The roads are narrow and not marked well. Take your GPS with you and be prepared to pull over to let cars pass. Watch the speed limit as it tends to change between the different areas in the Cotswolds. 

Mobile reception can be sketchy. Before you leave each village, type in the next destination so you have an idea of where you are going in case your data goes. 

If you are visiting you can read my guide on the best UK SIM card for tourist.

One last thing, there’s limited parking in some of the villages. If you can’t find a car park, look for street parking. Check for signs to make sure you’re parking legally and don’t need a permit. 

Below are some of the top things to do on a day trip to Cotswolds from London.

The Cotswolds Day Trip Itinerary | Cotswolds Self Drive Itinerary

What to see and do in the Cotswolds.jpg

The Cotswolds is defined by its beautiful and character-filled villages. But visiting them all in one day would be impossible and wouldn’t do any of them justice. 

This guide makes it easy for you. It gives you stops at four northern Cotswold villages for a great day trip.

Use this Cotswolds one day itinerary as a starting point. Then, you can always check out the other villages on your return trips!

Burford

AnotheroftheGreatCotswoldsHills

The best way to start your day trip is by passing through the “Gateway to the Cotswolds”: Burford.

It can be found along the River Windrush. The village is centred around one main high street, lined with 17th and 18th-century homes.

The historic feel to this village comes through in its points of interest. You’ll see the oldest chemist in England and an antique shop with an interesting past as an Inn. Let’s just say Charles II and his mistress knew the place well.

Burford is also home to the Tolsey Museum – located within a Tudor building. It displays local culture and history and includes exhibits like town maces.

You can easily spend up to an hour exploring the high street. You’ll appreciate the quaint architecture while exploring the local shops. The quirky Mad Hatters Bookshop is a must-visit with its inventory of fine hats and range of interesting novels. 

If you get hungry, pop into Huffkins tearoom. It’s been open since 1890 and offers delicious morsels like shortbread, cakes, and coffee – the ideal spot for morning tea. Forget the diet and dig in.

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll be delighted to see the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. With rhinos, crocodiles, and over 250 other species spread across a large expanse of gardens, this park offers a bit of the wild in the village countryside. 

Burford cotswolds.jpg

Bourton-on-the-Water

Head in a north-westerly direction for about 15 minutes via the A424 to reach the next stop on the itinerary: the “Venice of the Cotswolds.” This village is known for its gorgeous little bridges that cross over the gentle River Windrush. This river runs through the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water

This tranquil village seems to have something for everyone. Birders will love the Birdland Park and Gardens with its variety of exotic species and birds of prey.

Car enthusiasts will enjoy the Cotswold Motoring Museum with its vintage car collections. 

The Model Village will test your eye for detail – it’s a miniature replica of Bourton-on-the-Water’s centre. And, the local shops are suited to the eclectic taste, with a perfumery, jewellers, and pottery. It’s the perfect spot to pick up local gifts. 

Keen walkers will want to have packed their comfy walking shoes. The village’s surrounding area is covered with footpaths. You can spend an hour roaming the land and breathing in the fresh country air.

Greystones is within a mile of Bourton-on-the-Water. Its hay meadows show off wildflowers in the spring and summer. It’s a great option if you’re travelling with your family as there are easy walking trails.

The one downside of this village is that it can get crowded. If you’re not a fan of crowds, take a quick look at the village and then head out for a stroll in the village’s surroundings. 

This is just the tip of things to see in the Cotswolds.

Cotswolds driving itinerary.jpg

Moreton-in-Marsh

Heading north from Bourton-on-the-Water, you’ll drive through Stow-on-the-Wold. If you have time, park up and take a look at this village – it’s the highest of the Cotswolds towns. Otherwise, enjoy the views from the car windows as you make your way to Moreton-in-Marsh.

Set at the top of Evenlode Valley, this busy market town combines history with fantasy in a quirky way. Similar to Burford, this town is filled with impressive 17th and 18th-century architecture.

This includes buildings like the White Hart Royal – a manor house that sheltered a king in the Civil War. 

Points of interest also include the stone Curfew Tower with its old clock and bell as well as the Redesdale Hall. This town hall is the site of regular antique and craft fairs. 

For things to do, look no further than the Batsford Arboretum and the Sezincote Gardens.

The arboretum houses a large range of plants with a focus on the far east. You’ll see Japanese flowering cherries and bamboo collections. 

Sezincote Gardens is India in the middle of England. Experience a journey to the other side of the world in one large estate. It’s decorated with temples, waterfalls, and canals similar to the Taj Mahal.

If you’re big into the fantasy genre, the Four Shire Stone is a must-see. This landmark shows the old meeting point of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire.

This attraction is believed to have been the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Three-Farthing Stone in his best-selling novel, Lord of the Rings. 

Cotswolds day trip itinerary.jpg

Chipping Campden

Just a 10-15 minute drive and you’ll be at the final stop on your Cotswold itinerary, Chipping Campden. This village is full of life, energy, and history. 

Similar to Burford, the high street attracts most of the bustle. Decorated with buildings from the 14th century and upwards, it shows off several architectural styles.

In the middle of the high street is Market Hall. This iconic landmark was built by Sir Baptist Hicks to give shelter to traders selling goods like cheese, butter, and silks. 

Sir Hicks was a reputable silk merchant. When in the village, you’ll discover several monuments dedicated to him in Chipping Campden’s St James Church.

This church is famous for having the largest brasses in the country and one of the oldest altar tapestries. 

Aside from history, this town also has a fantastic calendar of events. The Cotswold Olimpicks is celebrated every year and is based on a bizarre combination of sports, games, and other festivities. 

The town also has some brilliant spots to eat and drink. If cheese and wine are your flavour, visit Toke’s Deli to top up on both. Pie and a pint more your thing? You won’t need to look far for a place with traditional pub grub. 

Finish your day in the Cotswolds with a filling, well-made meal before taking the A44 and M40 back to London. If you want to get back to London before it gets too late, aim to leave at 17:30. 

The Cotswolds Day Trip from London Schedule | Cotswolds Driving Itinerary

Cotswolds suggested itinerary.jpg

Depending on how you manage your time, you can extend or decrease your time spent in each of the villages. This can also change according to the activities you want to do.

Here is a schedule for the suggested itinerary for Cotswolds:

  • 07:00: Leave London 

  • 09:00: Reach Burford

  • 11:00 – 11:15: Drive to Bourton-on-the-Water

  • 13:15 – 13:30: Head to Moreton-in-Marsh

  • 15:30: Leave for Chipping Campden

  • 17:30: Return to London

If you are planning your trip on a weekday you may want to tweak the above outline so the departure times are traffic-friendly. 

Wondering what to see and do in the Cotswolds? Read on!

Best Villages in Cotswolds

The suggested itinerary included the northern villages of Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Chipping Campden. But there’s nothing stopping you from creating a Cotswolds one-day itinerary using the other dreamy villages in the area.

If you’ve already been to the villages named above, or you want to replace a few of the suggested ones with others, go for it. Take your pick from some of the best villages in the Cotswolds below.

Bibury

Bibury is a beautiful, picture-perfect village. Honey-stone buildings dotted along the River Coln’s banks. 

Bibury Cotswolds.jpg

The river runs through the village and is flanked by the main street on one side. The marshy water meadow, Rack Isle, is on the other side. 

Bibury has a wonderful village church called St Mary’s. It has a Saxon gravestone set into its north wall and beautiful stained glass windows.

Other attractions include:

  • Arlington Row

  • Bibury Trout Farm

  • National Trust


Castle Combe

Castle Combe vILLAGE
The quaint fairy tale village of Castle Combe at the border between the Cotswolds and Wiltshire with its characteristic bridge. Rural England at its best.

Castle Combe is a pretty village with an almost fairytale-like atmosphere with climbing ivy and colourful flowers.

This village has appeared several times in movies including Wolf Man, War Horse, Stardust, and the original Dr Dolittle.

Asides from its history in film, this village is also a great place to visit because of the 13th-century St Andrew’s Church. This church is home to what is rumoured to be one of the oldest clocks in England. 

Other attractions include:

  • Market Cross

  • Castle Combe Circuit

  • Manor House Golf Club

Read More | Things To Do In The Cotswolds

Cirencester

Cirencester
Shops and restaurants in Market Place at sunset in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK on 4 November 2020

“The Capital of the Cotswolds”, Cirencester is a market town with a warm community spirit. In the Roman age, this area was the second largest town in England. In medieval times, it grew successful as a result of the wool trade. 

If markets are your thing, you’ll love this village. Market Place holds regular markets like the Farmers Market and the Charter Market. Corn Hall also runs markets often and includes a garden bazaar, antique market, and craft market. 

There are charming courtyards to discover and special boutiques. If you want to step away from the commercial, then leave the main streets and check out the hidden gems.

Other attractions include:

  • Swan Yard

  • Corinium Museum

  • The Wool Market

  • Roman Amphitheatre

Fairford

best tings to do in the Cotswolds.jpg

Fairford is a lovely town that sits on the River Coln. It’s famous for the parish church, St Mary’s. It has a set of 28 medieval stained glass windows that walk you through the story of the Bible. 

July is a wonderful time to plan a trip to this town. Floods of people visit to see the biggest military air show in the world: the Royal International Air Tattoo. 

Fairford also holds other events like the Fairford Festival. This fun event happens during the first weekend of June. You can expect road races, fun runs, live music, art exhibits, and a parade.

For the foodies, this town offers several pubs, an Italian restaurant and a hotel. You can also enjoy some sweet treats and pastries from the local cafe. 

Other attractions include:

  • Walking trails

  • St Johns Lock River

  • Whelford Pool Nature Reserve

Painswick

Painswick

Painswick, or ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds”, received its name from the beauty of the honey-coloured stone buildings and its surroundings. It was a thriving village at the peak of the Cotswold wool trade in the past. 

The village is a great base for walkers – it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside. It also has breath-taking views of the Severn Valley. And, there are bicycle trails for cyclists.

If you’re a J.K Rowling fan, you’ll love that this village was used as a location in the TV adaptation of her novel, ‘The Casual Vacancy’. You’ll spot the opening scenes of the movie around Painswick.

15th-Century New Street is home to The Falcon Inn. Across from the Inn is the memorable St Mary’s. The church is surrounded by 99 ancient yew trees, making it a great location for photographs. 

Other attractions include:

  • Painswick Rococo Garden

  • Art Couture Painswick Gallery

  • Painswick Beacon

These are just some of the best place to visit in Cotswolds.

What to do in the Cotswolds.jpg

Where to Stay for Cotswold Breaks

If you’re a village and history fanatic, you might want to extend your time in this stunning area.

Staying longer would mean that you can see all of the villages at a more relaxed pace. If you can, plan a long weekend in the area.

I spend the weekend in the Cotswolds and found it great as I was able to visit more of the villages in a leisurely manner, which meant I could take more photos on my new camera.

Airbnb has some great options for stays. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up here.

Here are two favourites for weekend getaways.

Cotswold village of Bibury

Cotswold Grey | Moreton-in-Marsh

This spacious apartment features parquet floors and a fully-equipped kitchen. It also contains modern home comforts like a flat-screen TV with satellite for nights when the weather is miserable.

Guests will enjoy the location as it is near to cycling trails and areas like Stratford-upon Avon and Cheltenham. Find out about availability here

De Vere Water Park Apartments | Cirencester

For those who love luxury, this one’s for you. This lakeside resort is surrounded by over 100 lakes of Cotswold Water Park. It also offers a Spa and Leisure Club.

The accommodation itself is stylish with great kitchen facilities for a family or group. The hotel has its own restaurant and pub for nights you don’t want to cook. 

The location is ideal for outdoor activities like watersports and horse riding. You can check availability here

Why It’s Better to Take a Day Tour of the Cotswolds Instead of Driving

If you’re not great at sticking to a time schedule, another option is to book a Cotswolds group tour.

Booking a Cotswolds tour from London would help you to get the most out of your visit. It also removes the stress of finding routes and figuring out where to go. 

The driving and itinerary are taken care of by the tour company so you can relax and enjoy your time there.

A group tour is also a great option for those who are visiting London for a short time, and for people who don’t own a car or can’t rent one.

That being said, which tours from London to the Cotswolds should you take? Here are two great options for you.

Cotswolds Best Day Trips From London

Cotswolds Day Tour | Full-Day Tour of the Cotswolds

Villages in Cotswolds.jpg

Join this day tour to fully appreciate and enjoy the English countryside. Spend a relaxed day winding down the narrow country lanes and exploring historical towns. 

You’ll experience the following villages:

  • Burford

  • Stow-on-the-Wold

  • Bibury

  • Bampton

Perks of this tour:

  • Travel in an air-conditioned minibus

  • Learn from your knowledgeable guide about the village and area

  • Free time to explore each village

Lunch in the Cotswolds

This Cotswolds full-day trip allows you to see the rural beauty of the area and includes a delicious two-course lunch. You’ll be introduced to pretty Cotswold towns and will enjoy the old-world atmosphere.

Cotswold tour itinerary you will explore:

  • Bibury

  • Burford

  • Bourton-on-the-Water

  • Stow-on-the-Wold

The trip includes:

  • Transportation in an air-conditioned coach

  • Knowledgeable guide

  • 2-Course lunch at a local restaurant

Read More | Best Cotswolds Tours From London

Summary of the Cotswolds Itinerary 1-Day Guide

Now you know all you need to about the rural beauty that awaits you in the charming Cotswolds.

Each village has something uniquely different for you to experience. Set a date and discover the history and culture of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

London Bucketlist Sign Up Photo

Use the villages and places of interest contained in this 1-Day itinerary guide to help you plan the best trip to this stunning area. That’s everything you’ll need to know to visit Cotswolds from London.

Now you know what to do in the Cotswolds.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post, it was so helpful! We did the tour you suggested in our first day and it was wonderful. We stayed overnight and the next day we went to 4 of the other towns you mentioned for a second visit as well. Overall such a beautiful selection! I would probably say there were a couple of towns I wouldn’t have visited because there was not much to do, but I’m sure it had to do with our current situation. I’ll continue checking your website for more trip tips.

    1. Hi Lucia,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed my recommendations including the tour and happy that you stayed overnight to see even more of these beautiful towns. Yes, it’s unfortunate that some of these towns were close during your visit. But I am happy to hear you still enjoyed your visit. I’ll be going back this summer to explore more towns and what sights have remained open from my last visit so stay tuned.

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