Are you considering a visit to the beautiful Cotswolds? Are you unsure of how to get from London to the Cotswolds? In this article, we explain every option plus provide practical tips to help you organise your visit.
With its rolling hills, honey-coloured stone cottages, quaint villages, market towns, some of England’s most popular cities plus spectacular scenery at every turn it’s no wonder a visit to the Cotswolds is a popular destination that features on many UK visitor’s bucket lists.
Luckily the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds are easily accessible from London. In this article, we explain each of the different options available to travel from London to the Cotswolds. By the end of the article, you will know the best method for your trip whether that is travelling from London to the Cotswolds by car, bus, train or tour and start planning your visit to the Cotswolds with ease.
At the end of the post, you will also find useful information about getting around the Cotswolds by car, public transport, bicycle and, for those of you who enjoy walking, on foot.
Planning a few days or longer in the Cotswolds? Read our guide to the best places to stay in the Cotswolds
⭐️ If you are considering a tour to the Cotswolds from London we recommend this full-day tour which includes 9 hours of exploring charming scenery, travelling along narrow country lanes, and visiting historic towns and villages.
- FAQ’s – Planning your trip from London to the Cotswolds
- How to travel from London to the Cotswolds
- How to get around the Cotswolds
- Visiting the Cotswolds and beyond
FAQ’s – Planning your trip from London to the Cotswolds
What makes the Cotswolds countryside so special?
Known for its picturesque rolling hills, large tracts of unspoilt and tranquil countryside dotted with classic English villages, thatched cottages and mansions, this rural part of England is just two hours from London which is just one reason the Cotswolds make a perfect day trip from London.
If you dream of visiting the quintessential English village often portrayed in movies or written about in storybooks then the Cotswolds is the place to visit!
What destinations should I include when visiting the Cotswolds?
To understand which places to include in your itinerary it is useful to know a little of the geography of the region. The Cotswolds is actually an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and covers a large portion of the south west region in England. The Cotswolds covers a large area spanning 6 counties including Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire
The Cotswolds can be divided into three areas – the Northern Cotswolds, Central Cotswolds and the Southern Cotswolds.
In the northern Cotswolds, you will find the spa town of Cheltenham plus the market towns of Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold and Winchcombe. The area is also home to the popular Cotswold villages of Bourton on the Water, Broadway and Snowshill.
In the central Cotswolds area are the towns and villages of Cirencester, Painswick and Tetbury.
The Southern Cotswolds is home to tourist destinations like Bath as well as quaint villages such as Lacock and Castle Combe.
Read – Cotswolds Travel Guide
Popular Cotswold towns
Popular towns in the Cotswolds include Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, Burford (known as the gateway town to the Cotswolds) Painswick, Broadway and Winchcombe.
Stow-on-the-Wold is considered to be the oldest town in the Cotswolds with many historic buildings of great note including its main street which has more listed buildings than any other comparably sized settlement in England outside London. It is well known for its farmers market which is held once a month on the second Thursday of the month from 9 am to 1.30 pm.
Chipping Campden is one of the most popular of the Cotswold towns with its gorgeous honey-coloured houses and is the highest town in Oxfordshire.
Burford is another popular market town boasting an impressive array of traditional architecture including timber-framed buildings which date back to the 15th century.
Winchcombe is a small picturesque Cotswold town that was once a centre of woollen production and is known for its history, heritage and beautiful surrounding countryside.
Popular Cotswold villages
Some of the most popular villages in the Cotswolds are Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter, Bibury, Snowshill, Castle Combe, and Broadway. But you will find lots of other villages which are just as beautiful to explore.
Bourton on the Water is nicknamed “Venice of the Cotswolds” due to the 5 stone arched bridges which span the River Windrush. Other attractions include the model village and motor museum.
Stroll the picturesque villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter where the houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The water mill in Lower Slaughter is not to be missed.
Bibury is another popular Cotswold village famous for its pretty stone cottages, Swan Hotel and Grade 1 listed Arlington Row.
Broadway (the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’) is a beautiful and historic village with a strong artistic heritage. If you enjoy history pop into the Lygon Arms Hotel – it is reputed to have hosted Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War!
Near Broadway is the lovely village of Snowshill. It has some wonderful walks around it and spectacular views over rolling hills and fields on high ground. Attractions include Snowshill Manor a National Trust property that belonged to collector Sir Charles Wade.
Castle Combe has been called the prettiest village in England. It has also featured in numerous movies and TV series including Poirot, Dr Doolitle (1967 version) and War Horse.
What are the most popular Cotswold attractions?
- Blenheim Palace is a fantastic stately home and was built between 1705 and 1722 as a gift to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough from Queen Anne for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
- Warwick Castle is also a historic gem and one of the best-known attractions in the Cotswolds. Live entertainment events are held throughout the year including falconry displays, jousting and medieval weaponry displays.
- Gloucester Cathedral is another of the most popular attractions in the Cotswolds. Based around a Norman cathedral it is known for its beautiful Gothic architecture and wonderful stained glass windows, including the Great East Window – one of the world’s finest examples of 16th century English medieval stained glass.
- Stratford upon Avon is a must-see for all those who love Shakespeare with plenty to see including his home, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church where he was baptised.
- Sudeley Castle is a beautiful castle with a long and eventful history that was founded in the 15th century and since then has been home to queens and kings, including Catherine Parr who is buried there.
How to travel from London to the Cotswolds
London to the Cotswolds by train
There are plenty of trains from London to the cities of Bath and Oxford including direct routes from Marylebone and London Paddington to Oxford or Bath. Journey time varies from 1 hour to Oxford and around 1 hour 30 mins to Bath.
In addition to Bath and Oxford, the main Cotswolds train stations are Banbury, Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble (for Cirencester) Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Charlbury, and Kingham.
- London Marylebone to Banbury railway station (northeastern edge of the Cotswolds) – 51 mins direct.
- London Paddington to Kemble (southern part of the Cotswolds) 1 hour 11 mins, Stroud (1 hour 29 mins) or Stonehouse (1 hour 32 mins).
- London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh (heart of the Cotswolds) journey time is 1 hour 37 (with stops at Kingham and Charlbury)
London to the Cotswolds by car
If you decide to explore the Cotswolds at your own pace by car we would recommend picking up a hire car outside of London rather than driving from the city.
Plan at least a couple of hours for the London to Cotswolds drive. We recommend taking the M40 which is the main route into the Cotswolds from London. The M40 runs to Oxford and onward to Birmingham.
London to the Cotswolds by coach*
National Express operates bus routes between London Victoria Coach Station and Cheltenham, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Norton, Gloucester, and Stratford-upon-Avon.
* Note that due to operating a reduced timetable at present some of these routes are temporarily suspended.
London to the Cotswolds – Best guided tour options from London
If you prefer to avoid the hassle of driving or jumping on public transport to the Cotswolds then taking a tour may be just the ticket!
Luckily there are a few options to choose from including many which offer small group tours.
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.
How to get around the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds AONB is a great destination to explore by car.
Parking however can be an issue in some of the towns and villages during the busy summer months. Cash is at present still accepted at the machines (they do not give change though so carry plenty of coins.
Alternatively, contactless payment is available through the paybyphone app.
There are regular bus services that operate across the area meaning you can get between towns without having to drive but you will need to plan carefully when choosing a base.
While there are bus services that operate across the Cotswolds the buses are not frequent and tend to run between the larger towns rather than villages.
There is a bus and rail pass available called the Cotswolds Discoverer which you can buy to explore the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire parts of the Cotswolds without a car. You can find out more about the pass including when are where it can be used at any mainline train station in the UK (the pass can be purchased up to 3 months in advance of travel)
It is possible to walk from Chipping Campden to Bath (100 miles/ 161 km) on the Cotswold Way. It is a popular walking route that takes in lots of the finest sights in the Cotswolds.
Read more about walking the Cotswolds Way.
The Cotswold way is part of the National Cycle Network and there are lots of beautiful cycling trails which take you through the English countryside. Read more about the National Cycle Network
Visiting the Cotswolds and beyond
If you are planning to explore the cities and regions of England around the Cotswolds read these posts too!