I love England and all its cute villages so when I was looking for the best places to visit in the Cotswolds, England you best believe I included as many as I could. I was also one of those who thought I could see all that the Cotswolds had to offer in a few days. Let me tell you now you can’t. Choose the Cotswolds activities that are the most important and know you most likely will not see it all in one trip.
However, what I will tell you is this area is stunning. If you are after quaint cottages, storybook villages, and that truly ‘English’ experience you will fall in love with this area, just like I did.
When it comes to what to do in the Cotswolds I’ve chosen my favourite places. These are all places I feel give a real sense of the area. They are also places where you can spend a few hours or all day.
Introduction To The Cotswolds
When I was researching my Cotswold vacation I somehow failed to gravitate to just how huge this area is. The area is England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and covers nearly 800 miles. Somehow the picturesque Instagram pictures and the Cotswolds travel guide failed to mention the enormity of the area.
The area covers picturesque villages, castles, country homes, market towns, and glorious public gardens. And of course, miles and miles of green rolling countryside and hills that this area is best known for. The Cotswolds England, as these hills are known, stretches from just outside Stratford-upon-Avon to Bath. They are bordered on the east by Banbury and Oxford and on the west by Cheltenham and Gloucester.
When it comes to popular Cotswolds things to do the list is endless. What I suggest is you pick an area and concentrate on seeing everything there. If you don’t you may find yourself traveling for hours.
It is also one of those places that is beautiful whenever you go with each season offering something different. If I had to pick I would go in May or June or September.
How Many Days Are Enough For The Cotswolds?
I was due a trip here in 2020 and had planned to do the whole area in 3 days. I’ve just returned and spent 2 months there and still haven’t seen everything. I think first you have to accept that when it comes to the best activities in the Cotswolds you probably won’t get to do them all.
My suggestion is to pick your top must-see place or the city you want to see the most and spend 3-5 days exploring that area. You will need a car and expect to drive as the places aren’t as close together as they seem. A lot of the driving will be on small B roads. These are not fast roads and can be challenging if you are not a U.K. driver. Getting to places may take you longer than you expect.
So when it comes to what to do in the Cotswolds choose things that are closer together and around the main area you want to be. And my advice is to not cram too much in our you be exhausted.
Best Places To Visit In The Cotswolds
Bibury For Iconic Cottages
When it comes to where to go in the Cotswolds I would suggest you put Bibury in Gloucestershire high on your list. Chances are if you have seen pictures or videos of The Cotswolds they included the iconic Arlington Row cottages in Bibury.
This row of iconic cottages was built in 1380 as a monastic wool store and converted to a row of weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. Today they are let out to private tenants.
They are one of the most photographed locations in the Cotswolds so get there early if you want that elusive photo with no one else in.
This is one of the best towns in the Cotswolds. It has all that English charm you could wish for and I loved it here.
When it comes to the best activities in the Cotswolds a visit here is a must but be warned it gets busy. I would aim if you can to get here between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. if you want the perfect photo and then perhaps move on to a different location.
This is one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds.
Stow-On-The-Wold For A Fairytale Door
Looking for fun places in the Cotswolds then may I suggest you take a trip to Stow-on-the-Wold. This market town has a lot to offer but you probably know it best for one iconic location.
Yes, this is the place where the iconic wooden church door in the trees is located. So if you go here make sure to visit St Edwards church and snap a picture of this whimsical location.
There is plenty more to do here around the historic Market Qquare including The Fosse Art Gallery, the nearby Chastleton House, a farmers market every second Thursday, and numerous antique shops, tea shops, and pubs all await.
I feel like a visit here is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds for adults. This area also makes a great base to visit other locations.
This is one of the best free things to do in the Cotswolds.
Bourton-On-The-Water For A Picture Perfect Village
Hands down a visit here is one of the best Cotswolds Tourist Attractions. I absolutely loved it here and will tell everyone I meet this is a must-see in the Cotswolds.
If you are looking for the perfect English village let me tell you this is it. Perched on the River Windrush it’s a stunning place to get lost in for a few hours.
Here you will find historical properties, cute cottages whimsical bridges over the water, and lots of ducks which were so cute. If you have time visit the model village here it really is so impressive.
This is one of the most popular Cotswolds things to do. Whenever you go expect it to be busy and arrive early to get a parking spot. Or alternatively, like us visit later in the day. Most of the towns and villages tend to empty in the evening and in Summer it is still light.
It is in my opinion one of the best towns in the Cotswolds and definitely one not to be missed.
Castle Combe For The Prettiest Village In The UK
Castle Combe for me is another must-see in the Cotswolds. It’s another one of those Instagram-famous wanderlust locations that has all the old quaint English village vibes.
Most consider this the prettiest village in the U.K. and who am I to argue? No buildings have been built here since the 1600s. Other than the cars driving around there are no telltale signs of modern life. For this reason, the town is often used as a filming location. It can be spotted in Warhorse, Robin Hood, and Dr. Dolittle to name but a few.
The pictures of this town are mainly taken from the bridge over the River Bybrook which shows the village as a backdrop. And a backdrop really is what this village looks like.
It’s a small village and doesn’t take long to explore and you will find some pubs, tearooms, and shops if you want to stop for a while.
This is one of the attractions in the Cotswolds that is worth a visit. If you want to take the iconic photo here my advice is to arrive early so you miss out on the traffic. There is even a Manor House that you can stay at if you want to stay locally.
This is one of the best parts of the Cotswolds.
Chipping Campden For Thatched Cottages
If you are looking for free things to do in the Cotswolds then may I suggest strolling around Chipping Campden. On the northern fringes of the Cotswolds area, it’s a historic market town that is very picturesque.
I know that Chipping Norton is also popular, but this is my preference for thatched cottages!
There is a lot to see here from the historic covered marketplace, the Old Silk Mill, and the Court Barn Museum. What I loved about this place though was the thatched cottages, some of the best I have seen.
It’s also close to Hidcote Manor Gardens which I love. This is one of the best places in the Cotswolds.
Snowshill For A Famous Location
If you are wondering where to go in the Cotswolds and you are a bit of a film buff then may I suggest Snowshill. Bridget Jones fans will recognize the church here instantly.
This village is quite unusual as it is set high up in the hills and has great views. It’s also incredibly beautiful and unusually set out. It’s a secluded village with a church in its center and is pretty untouched by modern life.
Once you have seen the village head to Snowhill Manor. This Tudor mansion is owned by The National Trust and has beautiful gardens and a wonderful dovecote.
This is one of the Cotswolds activities I highly recommend. It is likely to be quieter than some of the more well-known areas.
Burford For A Medieval Town
If you are looking for beautiful places in the Cotswolds then may I suggest Burford. This small medieval town sits on the River Windrush and offers stunning vistas.
The town sits in the eastern part of the Cotswold area and is similar in feel to Burton-on-Water although you will find more cars here.
While here make sure you visit Robert Reavley’s house which is the oldest pharmacy in England dating from 1734. The Tolsey Museum is also well worth a visit.
This is one of the best parts of the Cotswolds if you are looking for pretty towns in the east.
Hidcote Manor For The Best Gardens
In my opinion, Hidocte Manor is one of the best attractions in the Cotswolds. I just love it here and came back several times.
The gardens here are in the Top Ten Birsh Gardens created by the great horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston. It is a series of small gardens within a bigger garden meaning there are lots of hidden and secluded places which I just adored.
The garden is famous for its rare shrubs and trees but what I loved most were the long avenues surrounded by foliage. There are also wildflower areas, pools, water features, and plenty of places to just sit and enjoy your surroundings.
When I went the place was in full bloom and there and there were splashes of color everywhere. I especially loved the roses, they were incredible.
It is run by The National Trust and I highly recommend getting a membership as it will save you money.
This is one of the best Cotswolds places if you want somewhere a little more relaxing and different. One of my favorite places in the Cotswolds.
Stratford-Upon-Avon For All Things Shakespeare
While not actually in the Cotswolds area Stratford-Upon-Avon sits on the north edge and is, I believe one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds for adults. This Warwickshire town is of course most famous for its links to William Shakespeare.
It’s a medieval market town brimming with history sitting on as the name suggests The River Avon. It’s one of the most visited places in the U.K. so expect it to be busy whenever you go.
Places to visit include Shakespeare’s birthplace, Shakespeare Countryside Museum, Hall’s Croft, and an easy walk from the center you will find Anne Hathaway’s cottage. And of course, there is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre where if your timing is right you might be able to catch a show, one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds at night.
There is so much to do in Stratfor the list is endless but in my opinion, you should try and get here if you can. One of the prettiest places in the Cotswolds.
Bath For A World Heritage Site
Bath sits on the extreme southern tip of The Cotswolds and is a must-see on any trip to England. I’m personally of the belief that Bath is one of the cities in the U.K. that everyone needs to visit.
Bath is just the perfect mix of everything and there really is no other city like it. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Bath is one of the most architecturally pleasing places you will ever see. One of the places of interest in the Cotswolds that you simply must visit if you can.
My must-see places here are the Royal Crescent, the Circus and Pulteney Bridge, and the Roman Baths are phenomenal.
I also think a trip is one of the most romantic things to do in the Cotswolds this place just oozes romance vibes. And if you are looking for things to do in the Cotswolds at night Bath has some of the best restaurants and bars in the Cotswolds area.
This is one of the most fun places in the Cotswolds in my opinion.
Broadway Tower For An Incredible View
If you are looking for things to do in the Cotswolds with kids then I think Broadway Tower is a great option. It’s one of those places where you can leave the children to roam free a little and give them space to explore while also being relatively safe.
The Tower is an 18th-century folly near the village of Broadway. On the top of a hill, the views are outstanding. You can also climb to the top of the tower if you want to.
What I love most about the tower though is the 200-acre estate of parkland, it’s the perfect place for a family picnic. There is also a Nuclear Bunker you can visit which I know children will love.
It is the sort of place where you can spend a few minutes or a few hours depending on your needs. There is a car park on the ground just a short car ride from Broadway, which is a lovely Cotswolds town. Or you can walk up from the town but it is a rather steep climb.
This is one of the activities to do in the Cotswolds that you will have to pay for but the views alone are worth it.
Naunton For A Quieter Village
I often think while the Cotswolds villages are so pretty they can be ‘touristy’. If you are looking for something just as pretty but less well-known then head to Naunton.
On the River Windrush, it’s a perfect stop-off on the way to Stow-on-the-World. This village is old with a record of it nearly 1000 years ago in the Doomsday Book.
There isn’t really a lot there which I what I love about it, but I am told the Black Horse Inn serves one of the best roast dinners around.
The best thing about this village though is the great pictures you can take from up the hill which overlooks the village. You will get a perfect view and a great photo of the church and the village below.
One of the must-do in the Cotswolds.
Westonbirt Arboretum For Rare Trees
One of the places of interest in the Cotswolds that I think is well worth a visit is Westonbirt Arboretum. It’s not a place I see spoken about a lot but it is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids. It’s one of those places where the children can run free and there are so many activities to entertain them.
Westonbirt Arboretum houses what is one of the most important plant collections in the world. The arboretum plays a vital role in conservation and research and has over 15,000 specimens of trees with 2,500 species from around the globe. In the fall let me tell you this is one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds to see autumn colors.
It was created 200 years ago by Victorian horticulturalist Robert Holford and it’s a stunning and relaxing place to stroll around. Well, I stay stroll but there are 600 acres here and 17 miles of hard and grassy paths to explore so maybe more than a stroll.
It’s split into three areas, Silk Wood, which is dog friendly, the Central Downs, and the dog-free Old Arboretum which is my favourite.
There is also a wonderful treetop walk that you must experience. Definitely one of the fun things to do in the Cotswolds.
Despite the slightly macabre name, I think strolling around these villages is one of the romantic things to do in the Cotswolds. Slaughter is actually an old English word for a muddy place but don’t let that put you off either its muddy days are long gone.
You have Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter and both are totally picture-perfect and often much quieter than some of the other Cotswolds towns.
Lower Slaughter tends to offer more but they are both equally as wonderful. You’ll find cobbled streets a picturesque stream and bridges, wonderful cottages, and a lovely church, and the Old Mill Museum is well worth a visit.
A really interesting fact about Upper Slaughter is that is one of only 14 ‘doubly sainted’ villages in England. This means that the village lost no men in World War I or II
Parking can be a bit of a challenge here. You might have to park up further afield and walk but believe me, it is well worth it. One of the must-do in the Cotswolds, It’s a real fairytale kind of looking place and I adore it.
This is one of the best Cotswolds places to visit if you are looking for something a little quieter.
Buscot Park For Birdgerton Vibes
Another National Trust property Buscot Park is one of the most beautiful places in the Cotswolds. Near the town of Faringdon in Oxfordshire this Grade II listed building was built in a neoclassical style between 1780 and 1783 for Edward Loveden.
The house is set on grounds of over 100 acres. You could spend hours here exploring the woodland, lakes, and formal gardens.
The house is still home to Lord Farington so opening times of the house and garden tend to vary. It’s best to check opening times before you travel.
I absolutely loved it here and felt like it had a somewhat Bridgerton feel which I loved. One of the activities to do in the Cotswolds I would highly recommend.
As you can see when it comes to the best places to visit in the Cotswolds you can’t go wrong. There is so much to do in this area. This list features some of the best things to do in the Cotswolds however it really only touches the surface.
I feel these are so of fun things to do in the Cotswolds and whichever of these you choose I know you will have an amazing time. I hope you love this area as much as I do. Have fun and come back and tell me all about it.