Things to Do in The Cotswolds | England’s Underrated Natural Beauty
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Offering eight hundred square miles of pure bliss, The Cotswolds is a magical area that spans over five different counties. Fringed by quaint towns, natural hot springs, rolling hills and stone-built villages, The Cotswolds things to do are so numerous it can be a little overwhelming.
The good news is that the Cotswolds has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff keen to explore Neolithic tombs or a photographer armed and ready to snap pictures of the sun rising over sleepy English towns.
Nature lovers will enjoy walking each county flat through windy country paths. No matter what you’re into, The Cotswolds has so much in store for you.
This guide will help you decide exactly what to see in The Cotswolds during your getaway. And the best part? It’s only a short trip from London, so you don’t have to spend hours on a plane. Ready to find out about all the best things to do in The Cotswolds? Let’s dive right in!
What to Do in The Cotswolds | Activities & Adventures
Looking for what to do in The Cotswolds, England? Boy, has this area got a lot on offer! Depending on how long your trip to the region is, you may have to pick just a few of these activities to take part in.
But if you’re spending a few weeks in The Cotswolds, see if you can tick all of these adventures off your list.
Hike The Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way is a path that leads you through 100 miles of unspoilt countryside. You can be sure that some of the best viewing points in the UK are located along this route.
The walk starts at Bath (a great weekend getaway option) and winds its way through to Chipping Campden. There are a few noteworthy stops along the way, including Snowshill, Winchcombe, Cleeve Common, and Stanton.
If you’re not up for a 100-mile trek through the English countryside, you can always do a portion of the walk.
Sometimes this can be a little more enjoyable, especially if you have a taste for the finer things in life, like a warm bed to lay your head on at night.
Take a Ride on the Gloucestershire Rail
Previously the Gloucestershire Rail route belonged to Great Western Railway’s and acted as their main route. It runs from Birmingham to Cheltenham, but not before passing the famed Stratford-upon-Avon.
It’s now a 28-mile round-trip heritage railway that allows passengers to engross themselves in the captivating views of The Cotswolds countryside.
If you want to absorb sights of sleepy English hamlets and take in views of the Malvern Hills and beyond. Then this train ride will be a memorable experience on your trip through The Cotswolds.
Shop ‘til You Drop in Cheltenham
If there’s one thing that every holiday needs, it’s a shopping trip – they don’t call it retail therapy for nothing. The best place to blow off some steam and burn a hole in your pocket all at the same time, is Cheltenham.
With every kind of shopping experience at your fingertips. Designer boutiques can be found lining The Promenade, but if you’re looking for a hip mix of shopping and bars, The Brewery is where you’ll need to be.
For a High Street shopping experience, Beechwood Centre and Regent Arcade in combination will have everything you’re looking for. The Suffolks are a great place to explore independent shops and antique stores.
But if you’d like to shop like a local, then head straight to Bath Road for organic local produce. It’s a crime not to take advantage of these fresh goods when you’re in the area.
Do the Five Valleys Walk
Ready for a full day of walking? Then the Five Valleys Walk will be right up your alley. It’s a circular route, so there’s not much to plan in the way of logistics, and there are some spectacular views to appreciate along the trail.
You’ll walk through Painswick, Slad, Toadsmoor, Nailsworth, and Chalford Valleys as the path winds its way through each basin.
The 20-mile-long route has stops along the way where you can purchase refreshments and snacks. If you’d like to do this route with a group of fellow comrades, you should consider taking part in the ‘Meningitis Now’ fundraising walk. This takes place along the trail every September.
Track Down Antiques and Collectables
If you’re a collector of any kind, or you just love the quality that old items provide, then antique shopping in The Cotswolds seems like a fitting activity.
Although hunting for antiques can be done throughout the region, Cirencester seems to be home to more old gems than its neighbouring towns. As the largest town in The Cotswolds, it only makes sense that it has the most to offer.
Every Friday you’ll find antiques on sale at Corn Hall. Here you can bargain with stallholders, but if you simply want to browse collectables then there are permanent shops to explore.
Paul Reeves Furniture & Artefacts, Hares Antiques, Cirencester Antiques Centre, and Stokes William H Antiques are the most promising stores.
Be sure to keep a budget in mind before heading out for the day, it’s easy to get carried away on this kind of excursion.
Take Part in Watersports at Cotswold Water Park
The Cotswold Water Park is not a waterpark in the general sense. It’s 40 square miles of wetlands containing 180 different lakes.
This is the ideal place to go birdwatching as it’s home to thousands of species of birds. Some of which call the Cotswold Water Park home, others of which visit just for breeding during certain times of the year.
If you’re the adventurous type, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of watersports to take part in during the summer months.
Paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, boating, and windsurfing are some of the more popular watersports.
If you prefer to stay with your feet firmly planted on the land, there are lovely walking and cycling trails that wind their way through the park and provide views of unspoilt nature.
Walk The Gloucestershire Way
Are you a person of incredible stamina? Then a 94-mile walking trail that leads you from Chepstow to Tewkesbury might be just what the doctor ordered.
The path will lead you along the Welsh-English border providing views over neighbouring Wales.
You’ll walk through the ancient Forest of Dean before crossing the River Severn which is located in Gloucester.
For anyone craving a bit of adventure, and looking to rid themselves of excess energy, The Gloucestershire Way is sure to be a memorable experience that you’ll be telling your friends about for years to come.
Off-Road Cycle at Flyup 417 Bike Park
If you’re looking for an adrenal spike during your trip around The Cotswolds, Flyup 417 Bike Park offers just that. Mountain biking becomes even more thrilling with the downhill tracks and jumps that will get your heart pumping.
The Cotswolds is a great region to explore on two wheels because of its flat landscape and abundance of off-road trails. But there’s nothing quite like the rush from engaging in high-speed activities.
Walk the Leckhampton Loop
There have been a few hikes and walks mentioned on this list of things to do in The Cotswolds, but if those have seemed a little too long, here’s a stroll that might tickle your fancy.
Just 4.5 miles long, this looped walk allows you to witness the varied landscape of The Cotswolds without spending too much time doing it.
The loop is walkable for people of all fitness levels and ages, so don’t get ready to exert yourself too much. Along the way, you’ll walk through green grassland, mysterious woodlands, and Victorian quarries.
You’ll also get to witness a few remains from the Iron Ages. It really is all you could want from a day out in The Cotswolds.
Pick Your Own at Hayles Fruit Farm
A truly English activity if there ever was one! Picking your own fruit is oddly satisfying and gives you the small-town feel you’ll be after during your time in The Cotswolds.
Hayles Fruit Farm was started in the late 1800s and is a family-owned enterprise that’s continued to thrive over the years.
Starting out as an apple and Cobnut farm, it’s now expanded to include gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, pears, and plums.
After picking your very own punnet of fresh fruit, you can set up camp on the premises and fish in the river. Or enjoy the on-site cafe for a delicious homemade meal.
Enjoy a Traditional English Tea at Tisanes Tea Room
Traditional English tea rooms used to be abundant in just about every town in England. But they’ve quickly become a thing of the past, making them fairly hard to find.
Tisanes Tea Room will take you straight back to the 1940s, with pretty garden views and a traditional menu.
Enjoy scones and jam, with your choice of over 40 different types of tea. If you’d prefer, opt for a sandwich with freshly made bread, or if you’re in the mood for something sweet, a slice of cake is sure to go down well.
During the summer, spring and early autumn, the garden is open as a seating area, allowing you to nibble on some tasty treats while lapping up the warm sunshine.
Stock up on Local Cheese at The Cotswold Cheese Company
If you’re a cheese lover, or willing to be converted, then a stop at The Cotswold Cheese Company is an absolute must! Located in Moreton-in-Marsh, this cheese company stocks 50 different varieties of cheese.
You can find everything from Charles Martell’s Stinking Bishop to Simon Weaver’s Organic Cotswold Brie.
But cheese isn’t the only thing they stock, you can also get your fill of air-dried Lake District mutton, or delicious asparagus from the Vale of Evesham.
The Cotswolds Attractions
The Cotswolds tourist attractions are just as plentiful as the ones found in more populated areas such as London. They’re steeped in history allowing travellers to learn so much along the way.
You’ll want to pack a camera for these excursions to capture the unbelievable sights you’ll be privy to on your journey.
These are without a doubt, some of the prettiest places in The Cotswolds. Set your expectations high, these locations will sweep you off your feet.
Explore Warwick Castle
If a medieval castle sounds like something that might pique your interest, then Warwick Castle is a not-to-be-missed stop along your trip through The Cotswolds.
Located at the bend in the River Avon, just outside the town of Warwick, this medieval castle is a sight to behold and a history lesson all in one.
This fascinating castle was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and has since become an iconic landmark in The Cotswolds.
For a memorable day, spend some time exploring the premises, and if you have kids to bring with you, you’re in for a treat. During the half-term break, the castle hosts interactive shows that are educational and fun – and not just for the little ones.
Visit Sudeley Castle
Sudeley Castle is a must-visit for any history buff, with a past that stretches more than 1000 years, there’s a great deal to learn.
It’s also incredibly beautiful if you like old-school charm, with ten different gardens just waiting to be explored.
After you’ve ventured around the Sudeley Castle premises, be sure to stop for afternoon tea at the on-site cafe. Here you can soak up panoramic views of the garden from the outdoor terrace. If you’re looking for a blissful way to spend an afternoon, this is surely it.
Traverse Snowshill Manor and Garden
Snowshill Manor is a gorgeous old estate located in Snowshill, Gloucestershire. A visit to the property will see you strolling around the lush green gardens and exploring the ground floor of the cottage. It’s there that you’ll find dated memorabilia from years gone past.
There is also a shop, second-hand bookstore, and cafe on the property. So, you can really spend a good few hours traversing the establishment before heading on your way. With so much to take in, the last thing you want to do is rush your visit.
Drink a Pint at Britain’s Oldest Pub
Stow-on-the-Wold is home to Britain’s oldest pub – The Porch House. While there may be many Inns and pubs claiming to be the oldest in the country, they don’t have much proof.
What The Porch House does have, is actual evidence that part of its building dates all the way back to the year 947 – that’s proof enough for me.
If you’re looking to do more than just sip on a pint of delicious beer at this historic pub, you can stay the night.
Rest assured, the restaurant serves a full English breakfast, so you won’t be left wanting when you rise in the morning.
Spend Time at Blenheim Palace
The Blenheim Palace wasn’t named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for nothing. This palace has a 300-year history and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. It’s also the place that the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough call home.
Paying a visit to the Blenheim Palace means you’ll get to explore the immaculately manicured gardens and meander around the Great Lake.
Every so often, the palace holds exhibitions – in which case, you’ll be allowed to venture inside and admire the intricate Baroque architecture.
See Beautiful Trees at The Batsford Arboretum
If you’re a plant lover, this destination will send shivers down your spine – the good kind. The Batsford Arboretum is located in Moreton-in-Marsh and is home to 56-acres of lush parkland.
Once home to the famed Mitford family, the land is now covered in unique and wonderful varieties of trees.
Spring is by far the best time of year to visit the arboretum if you’re looking for a splash of colour. As all the flowers come into bloom, it makes for a truly spectacular showing.
Be sure to stop by the on-site cafe for a bite to eat or get a takeaway coffee from the outdoor coffee stand if you’d rather sip on a hot drink while you explore the arboretum.
Stroll Through the Gardens of Abbey House
Abbey House is located in Malmesbury, England’s oldest town which dates back to the Iron Ages. Although the house is Grade I listed, it’s still privately owned by two of the locals.
They are avid gardeners and happy to show off their stunning property – so they allow guests to explore the garden for just a small admission fee.
It’s worth noting that the owners sometimes hold “clothing optional” days, which might mean that you get a little more than you bargained for. If this is something you’d rather avoid, you might want to call ahead of time to find out when the clothed viewing days will be.
There’s a cafe on the premises where you can stop for refreshments and a bite to eat during your tour of the garden.
Explore Kelmscott Manor
Kelmscott Manor was Willam Morris’s favourite country retreat; in fact, he loved the property so much that his wife purchased the land after his death in 1896.
His daughter then went on to spend a good portion of her adult life in the home. The manor acted as inspiration for much of Morris’s designs, and it’s easy to see why.
The beautiful Kelmscott Manor has lush gardens, old barns, and a meadow. As well as a stream to explore as you meander the premises.
You can also venture into the house which is filled with old furniture, original textiles, paintings, metalworks, and ceramics that act as a sort of museum. The on-site gift shop is where you can pick up a souvenir or two in the form of cushions or throws, displaying some of Morris’s famous designs.
Venture into Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle is a remarkable fortress originally built in the 12th century, although it has been added to quite substantially over the years.
The Berkeley family has lived within the walls of the castle for over 900 years, each generation swearing to keep the historical Norman fortress within the family.
You can book your visit on the Berkeley Castle website, or opt to see the castle during one of their events.
These include ghost hunts which take place at night or candlelit castle nights which happen over the Christmas period.
A tour of the castle will teach you about its fascinating history and the intriguing and mysterious events that have taken place within the castle walls.
See the Historic Hailes Abbey
Founded in 1246, Hailes Abbey was a Cistercian abbey that became a commemorated pilgrimage site.
The abbey was eventually dissolved on the Christmas Eve of 1539, but what was left behind has been put on display for all to see in the on-site museum.
You’ll see stonework, sculptures and other objects used by the nuns of the time. Although not much remains of the abbey itself, seeing the ruins is a site that almost breaks your heart.
You can learn all about the goings-on at Hailes Abbey in the on-site museum if 13th-century history fascinates you.
Visit the Chedworth Roman Villa
Chedworth Roman Villa is the most elaborate villa ever discovered in Britain and was accidentally found by a gamekeeper in 1864.
The villa was first built in the 2nd century, before being further modified in the 4th century. Although much of the villa is in ruins, there are still a few hidden gems to be discovered.
The dining room with its detailed mosaic flooring, and two separate bathing suits – one of which was used for dry heat, and the other for damp-heat.
The interesting thing about this villa is that it proves that Romans were still occupying Britain in the 5th century, after the end of Roman rule in Britain.
This can be seen in the many Roman coins found around the premises which date back anywhere from 564 to 585. Any history buff will be blown away by an excursion to Chedworth Roman Villa.
Admire Northleach Church
Northleach Church has a history that stretches back over 1200 years. It’s unclear whether the church or the town came first, but one thing is certain, much of the church’s development is due to the funding of wealthy wool merchants in the 15th century.
The church is a magnificent work of art with points of interest located all over the building. Look out for the handiwork of the 14th-century East Anglian craftsman who carved beautiful fonts into the south aisle.
The stone pulpit, built in the 15th century, is another notable feature of Northleach Church, but the stained-glass windows really steal the show, casting colourful shards of light onto the pews.
Places to Visit in The Cotswolds | Villages You’ll Love
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make during your trip, is where to visit in The Cotswolds.
There are so many stone villages and cute-as-a-button towns scattered throughout the area that making up your mind can be difficult.
Here is an extensive list of the best towns in The Cotswolds for those agonising over each and every detail of this decision. For those wanting a brief summary of what you can experience in each of these wonderful places, this is for you.
Painswick is an old town covered in lush greenery, with a skyline punctuated by the spire of St Mary’s Parish Church.
This landmark can be seen from just about anywhere in the town, but you’ll have to pay the churchyard a visit to see their vast collection of ancient yew trees.
If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane, then a visit to the Rococo Garden with its 14th-century buildings would be a fitting activity.
Stanton is the perfect summary of what The Cotswolds are all about. With beautiful walking trails that provide panoramic views of the countryside, throw in a few historical churches, and you’ve got yourself all The Cotswolds charm you can handle.
Honey-coloured limestone cottages line the country lanes, making you feel like you really have stepped back in time – in the best way possible.
Stow-on-the-Wold is now a hilltop market town with a hustling and bustling small-town feel. But back in the day, it was home to an Iron Age fort.
In the centre of town, you’ll now find antique shops and art galleries perfect for browsing. And if you feel like a lengthy stroll, the lush green hills will be calling your name.
The picturesque Castle Combe has acted as the backdrop to movies and TV shows like Doctor Dolittle and War Horse, and it’s easy to see why.
Limestone cottages line the quiet roads, with trees and hedges bringing plenty of greenery and old-town charm.
It’s often named the prettiest village in England, so don’t miss this unspoilt beauty of a town on your journey through The Cotswolds.
Burford is a medieval town that acts as the “Gateway to The Cotswolds”. In fact, it’s so charming that Forbes listed it as one of the most “idyllic places to live in Europe” back in 2009.
Its High Street is lined with ancient buildings that are now used as shops and restaurants. There’s a beautiful church to explore, just like many of the old towns in the area.
With views of the rolling countryside from just about anywhere in the town, you can’t help but feel at peace.
Why is Bourton-on-the-Water referred to as the “Venice of the Cotswolds”? Activities and attractions are scattered around the town, separated only by charming bridges that cross the River Windrush.
This is another gem that’s often referred to as the prettiest village in the UK, so it’s worth not overlooking it.
The Cotswold Motoring Museum with its vintage cars, and Birdland with its wide variety of bird species, and The Model Village. These are just a few of the reasons visiting Bourton-on-the-Water is worth your while.
Best Tours in The Cotswolds
Experienced travellers often like to tackle new adventures all on their own. But if you’d like someone to show you the ropes so that you don’t have to decide where to go in The Cotswolds, how about booking a few tours?
These guided tours will show you the best of The Cotswolds and give you peace of mind, knowing all logistics are being taken care of.
Cotswolds: Full Day Private Walking Tour with Local Guide
On this full-day private tour, you’ll explore some of the most charming villages in The Cotswolds on foot.
A local guide will show you around while chatting to you about the history of each town.
The guide will give you an off-the-beaten-track experience, while still taking you to the attractions that make The Cotswolds so famous.
From London: Full-Day Tour of The Cotswolds
If logistics aren’t your favourite thing to figure out, then a tour that takes you from London, gives you a taste for The Cotswolds, and delivers you right back home is a convenient option.
This tour will give you a feeling of the beautiful countryside, let you explore quaint country lanes, and take you to historical villages.
From Stratford-Upon-Avon | Moreton-in-Marsh Cotswolds Tour
On this tour of The Cotswolds, a local guide will show you around most villages and with their area knowledge, take you to the hidden gems that many tourists miss.
Enjoy picturesque views of the breathtaking countryside and Dover’s Hill, as well as many other stunning country scenes.
Downton Abbey Filming Locations and Highclere Castle Tour
If you’re a fan of the famed Downton Abbey series, then visiting the breathtaking filming locations will be right up your alley.
Travel from London to The Cotswolds in a large and comfortable coach, enjoying free access to all of the stops along the way.
Among them will be Yew Tree Farm, Highclere Castle, Downton Village, and Downton Church as well as many others.
Read More | Best Tours in The Cotswolds
Where to Stay in The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is one of the easy trips from London. But you’ll still need to book accommodation for the duration that you’re exploring the area.
The North Cotswolds offers a different look and feel to The South Cotswolds, but both should be visited during your stay. Here’s a brief overview of where to stay while you’re in The Cotswolds.
Lords of the Manor
For luxury accommodation in The Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is an elegant hotel that was once a rectory back in the 17th century.
The hotel is located on 8-acres of peaceful gardens. Comfortable rooms and a fine dining restaurant on the premises make this a wonderful stay for anyone with extra cash to spend.
Burleigh Court Hotel
This 18th-century stone manor is located on the hillside, overlooking the Golden Valley. The hotel has a large garden, pool, restaurant, and bar allowing for the ultimate relaxation during your stay.
Sip a drink on the terrace while enjoying views of the immediate garden and valley beyond.
This is a great place to stay if you’re looking for pampering and seclusion, while not being too far away from The Cotswolds best attractions.
New Inn at Coln
If you’re looking for a traditional English stay, why not stay at a pub/inn? New Inn at Coln offers modern amenities, comfortable bedrooms with flatscreen TVs and WiFi, as well as views of either the terrace or the meadows.
The inn’s old village charm carries through to its restaurant and bar area that serves hearty traditional English pub food.
The Kings Head
The Kings Head is located along the fringe of Lincolnshire Wolds Area, providing stunning views of the surroundings.
The rooms are comfortable with a TV and WiFi, and in the summer months, guests have an option to make use of the beautiful terrace.
Included in your stay is a full continental breakfast to enjoy each morning as you watch the sunrise over the stunning countryside.
Read More | Where to Stay in The Cotswolds
Final Thoughts on Best Places to Visit in The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds region isn’t lacking in awe-inspiring locations, fascinating history, or truly magical natural wonders.
So, if you didn’t find something that excites you on this list of things to do in The Cotswolds, then I’m quite certain you never will.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites and bubbling hot springs punctuate the landscape, leaving your imagination running rampant. After a week or two in The Cotswolds, you’ll be all adventured out, but your mind will be filled with scenes that took your breath away.
Famed author Lisa Kleypas once wrote “Although Beatrix considered Hampshire to be the most beautiful place in England, The Cotswolds very nearly eclipsed it.” – I’m convinced you’ll feel the same.
If you liked this guide and want real-time London/UK travel information, make sure you follow me on Instagram @huesofdelahaye and subscribe to my Youtube channel for weekly travel videos.