Our Cotswolds Travel Guide includes recommended places to go and things to do, accommodation options, tips and photos from one of the most beautiful regions of England. Everything you need to plan your visit and essential reading for any visitor to the region!
LET’S PLAN YOUR VISIT TO THE COTSWOLDS!
The Cotswolds are one of the most popular destinations in the south of England for both UK residents and visitors from abroad.
Spread across an area of 2000+ kilometres and several English counties including Gloucestershire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire the Cotswolds region was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966.
Famous for its English market towns and villages with quaint honey coloured houses, the Cotswolds are the perfect destination for walkers, cyclists and those simply wishing to explore a quintessentially English destination.
In this guide you will find links to all our articles about the Cotswolds to help you plan your visit to the Cotswolds and have the best time possible in this beautiful area of England.
Good to know – If you are visiting the UK and are located in London the Cotswolds are perfect for a day trip (though I highly recommend exploring the area for a few days if you can) You can find out more below.
- LET’S PLAN YOUR VISIT TO THE COTSWOLDS!
- Map of the Cotswolds
- When is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?
- What to see and do in the Cotswolds
- How to get to the Cotswolds
- Best tours to the Cotswolds from London
- Where to stay in the Cotswolds
- Best experiences in the Cotswolds
- Best travel books about the Cotswolds
- Common questions when planning your visit
- Related reading
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Map of the Cotswolds
When is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds are a popular destination throughout the year. High season is from June to August and the area is crowded with visitors. If you are planning to visit Oxford this is the time of year when students are on holiday and a great time to wander the different colleges.
During the winter months (December to February) the Cotswolds are at their quietest. Expect cooler temperatures with the possibility of snow! If you are planning a winter trip check the weather and visit on cold, crisp days when the sun is out and the skies are blue. The days are shorter in winter so plan your itinerary carefully.
Spring and autumn months (March to May and September to November) are ideal times of year to visit the Cotswolds. Enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves on the trees or the spring flowers as you explore the villages and countryside.
What to see and do in the Cotswolds
There are so many beautiful towns and villages to visit in the Cotswolds that one is really spoilt for choice.
If you are planning a Cotswolds visit the best way to organise your trip is to decide which villages and towns you want to see in the different areas.
The Cotswolds can be divided into northern (Gloucestershire) eastern (Oxfordshire) and southern areas (Gloucestershire and Wiltshire) each with their own must-see villages and towns.
Lets not forget that some of the towns and villages that border the Cotswold region are also worth including in your itinerary.
The beautiful town of Stratford-upon-Avon is located on the edge of the northern Cotswolds region.
Blenheim Palace a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace of Winston Churchill and the historic university city of Oxford are both located to the east of the Cotswolds. And the stunning city of Bath is located to the south of the Cotswolds.
Read more about these attractions below:
How to get to the Cotswolds
Option 1 – Cotswolds by car
The Cotswolds are in (my opinion) best explored by car (though parking can be an issue during the summer) as public transport options are limited.
There are excellent links to the area via the national motorway network and the M4, M5 and M40.
The Cotswolds are located about 100 miles outside of London. Allow around 2 hours depending on traffic.
Option 2 – By train
London to Cotswolds
If you wish to take public transport it is possible to catch a train from London’s Paddington Station to Moreton in the Marsh in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Alternatively travel from Paddington on the Gloucester line alighting at Kemble Station in the southern Cotswolds region. Here you can pick up a bus outside the station to Morton in the Marsh, Stow on the Wold, Bourton on the Water and Tetbury.
Check timetables and train prices at the trainline.
Option 3 – Take a tour
There are many day tours to the Cotswolds from London and other English cities. You will find more information below.
Best tours to the Cotswolds from London
If you prefer to take a tour to the Cotswolds and avoid the hassle of driving or public transport there are a few options to choose from.
Unfortunately you will only scratch the surface of the area but if you are pushed for time this may be your best option.
Often the tours combine visits to other popular destinations too. I have curated a selection of the best tours to the Cotswolds below from Get Your Guide who are our tour operator of choice.
We book the majority of our day tours and organised activities through Get Your Guide when we travel. Their cancellation policy is very good and customer service exceptional and we have only ever had positive experiences when we book tours with them.
Full day tour of the Cotswolds from London – Visit 4 of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages during this 9 hour tour from London. There is plenty of free time to explore and even to enjoy a traditional pub lunch at Stow-on-the-Wold!
Blenheim Palace, Downton Abbey Village & the Cotswolds – A must for Downton Abbey fans this full day tour includes visits to 2 Cotswolds villages as well as Blenheim Palace the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
Oxford, Stratford Upon Avon, Cotswolds, and Warwick – Another full day trip with lots to see. This tour is perfect for those with limited time as it includes a number of the top sights in the Cotswolds.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds
There are many wonderful accommodation options in the Cotswolds from quaint cottages, glamping and B&B’s to luxury 5 star hotels with spas.
Budget £75 – 130 for a double room in a B&B and £130+ per night for a boutique hotel.
Click the link below to book the perfect Cotswolds accommodation for your trip.
UK TRAVEL PLANNING QUICK PICKS
- Most romantic hotel in the Cotswolds – Mad Molly’s Cottage
- Best hotel with hot tub in the Cotswolds – The Manor House Hotel
- Best hotel with spa – The Lygon Arms
- Best Country House Hotel – Ellenborough Park
- Best pub with rooms in the Cotswolds – The Swan Hotel
- Best thatched cottage in the Cotswolds – Bells Cottage
- Best pet friendly hotel – The Old Stocks Inn
- Best Cotswolds hotel for foodies – The Slaughters Country Inn
Tip – Use the map below to compare hotels and short-term rentals in the Cotswolds. Add your travel dates and group size and zoom in and out on the map to find the best deals for your stay.
For other stays in England click here for my England Accommodation Guide
Best experiences in the Cotswolds
There are lots of fabulous experiences to have during your visit to the Cotswolds. These are my top choices:
- Explore Downton Abbey Filming Locations & Highclere Castle on a day tour from London.
- Join a walking tour through some of the prettiest villages of the famous Cotswolds, including Minster Lovell and Burford
- Take part in a Geo scavenger hunt of the Cotswolds Using a smartphone app and GPS technology follow a series of map pins which guide you to secret destinations and challenges.
- Cycle the Cotswolds Starting and finishing at the pretty market town of Moreton-in-Marsh this spectacular guided group Cotswolds cycle tour offers something for everyone (electric bikes are available).
Best travel books about the Cotswolds
If you are looking for more information to plan your trip to the Cotswolds there are a number of books which you may find helpful.
- Short walks in the Cotswolds – All the walks are five miles or under in length and can easily be completed in less than three hours. 20 walks are included and use clear maps to show the route plus easy to follow walk descriptions.
- Cotswold Way: Chipping Campden to Bath – All-in-one hiking route guide and maps to the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile National Trail that runs from Chipping Campden to Bath, following the beautiful Cotswold escarpment for most of its course.
For those who love discovering hidden gems
- Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds – A captivating portrait of 20 of the greatest British gardens and the lords, ladies and gardeners who own and manage them.
- Secret Houses of the Cotswolds – A personal tour of twenty of the UK’s most beguiling houses in this much loved area of western England.
Best travel guide books
- Lonely Planet Pocket Oxford & the Cotswolds – Get to the heart of Oxford & the Cotswolds and begin your journey with Lonely Planet’s guide!
- The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford – Discover this exquisite region of England with the help of this rough guide!
Common questions when planning your visit
- What should you not miss in the Cotswolds?
Check out my guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds which has all of the top things to do and places to visit.
- Which is the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds?
There are so many pretty villages to visit in the Cotswolds that it is impossible to choose just one! My favourites are Bibury, Bourton on the water and Lower Slaughter. Read more in my Cotswolds Travel Guide to the most beautiful villages and towns.
- How many days do you need in the Cotswolds?
You can see some of the Cotswolds in a day but I recommend at least 2/3 days to explore the area.
- When is the best time of year to visit the Cotswolds?
If possible avoid visiting during the summer school holidays (July/August) as the Cotswolds can be extremely busy.
Parking can be even more difficult at this time of year too. I recommend booking your accommodation as much in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.
Also book restaurants ahead of time or you may struggle to get a table at popular pubs and eateries.
- What other places are there to visit near the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds are located in the South West of England. Read more about the best things to do in this area of the UK here.
Looking for more inspiration for your travels in England? Check out my England Travel Planning Guide which has loads of ideas, tips and resources to plan your itinerary.
Find more inspiration for your travels in my England Travel Guide which includes information about what to see, where to stay, how to get around, travel tips, recommended reading and more to make the most of your trip.