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Want to take a day trip from London to Cotswolds?
You’re in luck!
I’ve put together a complete guide based on my own experience planning a day trip to the Cotswolds from London, so you’ll have all the information you need for one day in the English countryside!
The charming Cotswolds is an area in south-central England, just two hours west of London. Its rolling hills and wildflower meadows have led to its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The area is unique because it is set on a bedrock of Jurassic limestone. The golden stone is featured in buildings throughout this county, creating a warm, mellow feeling that captures the spirit of the quintessential English village.
Here are 3 ways to take the perfect day trip from London to Cotswolds, plus which towns to visit, where to stay, and a one-day Cotswolds itinerary to help plan your journey!
Day Trip from London to Cotswolds: What to Know
With its rural setting and stately gardens, the Cotswolds is a great place to get away from the London buzz.
From the colourful town of Cirencester with its fresh local produce to the old-world shops in Burford, you’ll be thankful for a change of pace and scenery.
Where Are the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds extend over an area of almost 800 square miles in the United Kingdom between Bristol and Oxford and Birmingham.
It runs through the counties of Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Gloucestershire.
If you are taking a day trip from London to Cotswolds, expect a drive of about 2 hours.
London to Cotswolds Distance = 100 miles on average
Top Things To Bring to a Cotswolds Day Trip From London
Here is a quick list of the essentials you’ll need to bring with you for the perfect London to Cotswolds Day trip!
A camera – all my photos are taken with my Fujifilm X-T
A GoPro HERO 9 for cinematic videos of your travels
Reliable Power Bank to keep your devices juiced up, I use this one to charge my phone, GoPro, and cameras while travelling.
- A small backpack (I love this KALIDI Laptop Backpack for day trips around London)
- A Water Bottle
- A stylish pair of walking shoes to explore in comfort
Is a Day Trip to Cotswolds Worth it?
Yes, a day trip to Cotswolds is definitely worth it!
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.
How to Get from London to Cotswolds (3 Options)
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? You can always rent a car in London for a fair rate!
When I day trip to the Cotswolds from London, I did a road trip to the Cotswolds, driving from London Stansted Airport. I was able to collect my rental car from the airport and swing by Stonehenge on my way to the Cotswolds.
1. Book a Cotswolds Day Tour from London (+ Best Full-Day Tours)
If you’re not great at sticking to a time schedule, another option is to book one of the many small group tours to Cotswolds from London
Booking a London to Cotswolds tour removes the stress of finding routes and figuring out where to go, so you can get the most out of your visit.
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 London–Cotswolds tour is best? Here are two great options for you.
Book this full day Cotsworlds Tour to fully appreciate and enjoy the English countryside. Spend a relaxed day winding down the narrow country lanes and exploring historical towns.
In addition to seeing the wonderful villages of the Cotswolds, you’ll get complimentary transportation in an air-conditioned minibus, free time to explore four Cotswolds villages and awesome insights from a local tour guide!
You’ll experience the following villages:
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.
Similar to the first tour on this list, you’ll get transportation to/from the Cotswolds in an air-conditioned coach bus and an expert guide will accompany your group during the trip!
Cotswold tour itinerary you will explore:
There are also more extensive overnight tours to the Cotswolds from London and even a Cotswolds 3 day tour from London.
Furthermore, you can combine the Cotswolds with other areas in England. For example, there’s an Oxford and Cotswolds Tour from London, a Bath and Cotswolds Tour from London, and even Birmingham + Cotswold Tours.
You can read about all the best Cotswolds Tours From London in this post.
2. Day Trip from London to Cotswolds – Public Transportation
Another way to take a Cotswolds-London day trip is by using public transportation – specifically the train – but honestly, I don’t recommend it.
Tours and rental cars are much faster and offer more flexibility for where you can go and when.
But if you do plan a Cotswolds day trip from London by train, keep in mind that you may struggle to get to all the villages and places of interest in a timely manner.
Not all, but most of the towns and villages in The Cotswold150 s have a train station, including Banbury, Bath, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, and Charlbury.
You can check train tickets and availability on Trainline.com or book in person at the station!
London to Cotswolds Train Time = 50 minutes – 1h 40 minutes (depending on which village you visit)
3. Self-Drive from London to Cotswolds
If you are planning to get from London to Cotswolds by car, remember to check for road closures before your trip to save yourself the hassle of trying to re-route your journey to every other village due to road closures, like I had to. 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.
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
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 tourists.
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.
A Cotswolds Day Trip Itinerary | Cotswolds Self Drive Itinerary
A day trip from London to 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 itinerary as a starting point. You can always check out other villages on your way back from The Cotswolds to London!
- 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 day trip to Cotswolds from London on a weekday you may want to tweak the above outline so the departure times are traffic-friendly.
Where to Go in The Cotswolds: Best Towns and Villages
Wondering what to see and do in the 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.
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 centered around one main high street, lined with 17th and 18th-century homes.
The historic feel of 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.
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.
Also, the local shops are suited to the eclectic taste, with a perfumery, lots of jewellers, and pottery shops. 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.
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 a taste of 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.
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.
Bibury is a beautiful, picture-perfect village. Honey-stone buildings dotted along the River Coln’s banks.
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 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 famous stop on many Cotswold day trips from London 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
- Blenheim Palace (a great alternative to Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle)
“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, an antique market, and a 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 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, 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 and now it’s a common place to visit on a London day trip to Cotswolds! The village is a great base for walkers – it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside. It also has breathtaking views of the Severn Valley. Plus, 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 places to visit in Cotswolds.
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.
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.
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.
Day Trip from London to Cotswolds: FAQs
Which Cotswolds are Closest to London?
The closest Cotswolds to London are Banbury, Charlbury, and Chipping Norton. These towns are on the far east border of The Cotswolds and take about 1 hour to get to from London
Is There a Train from London to Cotswolds?
Yes, there are trains from London to the Cotswolds. Towns and Villages with a train station include Banbury, Bath, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, and Charlbury.
How Much Time Do You Need in The Cotswolds?
You need at least one full day to visit the Cotswolds, which is enough time to see 4-5 villages. Although many people choose to spend a full weekend exploring the villages and towns across the English countryside.
Final Thoughts: Day Trip from London to Cotswolds + 1 Day Cotswolds Itinerary
Now you know all you need to about the rural beauty that awaits you in the charming Cotswolds.
Since the distance from London to Cotswolds is only 100 miles, you won’t need to pack much on your day trip from London to Cotswolds – just remember a power bank and a small backpack to hold your belongings and souvenirs.
I highly recommend booking this Full-Day Tour with Lunch in the Cotswolds, but you could also rent a car and create your own itinerary like I did!
All of the Cotswold towns and villages mentioned at the end of this post are well worth adding to a 1 Day Cotswold itinerary guide.
I hope you have a grand time on your day trip to the Cotswolds!