The Cotswolds is full of beautiful villages and honey-hued houses. Every village has something different to offer with its own history and identity. We visited the Cotswolds for a long weekend and were overwhelmed with its beauty and picture-perfect villages. In our opinion, it is one of the prettiest places we have been in the UK.
The Cotswolds certainly makes for a perfect getaway. With so many incredible villages it can be hard to know which ones to explore. Not sure where to start from? Check out our list to the best villages in the Cotswolds below and head over to our guide to the most unique things to do in the Cotswolds.
The Best Villages In The Cotswolds
Easily one of the best villages in the Cotswolds, Painswick, in Gloucestershire, is so beautiful and encompasses everything you expect from a Cotswolds village but with fewer tourists and near to the beautiful Rococo gardens.
This village will likely remind you of Italy, it has Tuscan vibes and views to match. As it is much bigger than other ones on this list take the time to walk around and explore. Enjoy walking through the narrow winding streets spotting cute crooked houses and watching the local life go by.
Of course, this village is home to honey baked houses typical of the Cotswolds area.
Our recommendation would be to walk downhill towards the beautiful lake full of swans and surrounded by beautiful scenery. After this, walk back up to the top of the village to explore some more. Only by exploring the slightly more residential part of the village will you be greeted with the exceptional views of rolling hills and narrow lanes!
Perhaps the best experience in Painswick is to head to the renowned Rococo Gardens! We were overwhelmed with how beautiful these gardens where. Once you understand the history of these gardens it’s clear to see why.
The word ‘Rococo’ from Rococo Gardens describes a period of art from the 1700s, defined by ornamental decoration, pastel colors and asymmetry. The garden was abandoned when the Rococo style went out of fashion. After many years, it was restored to its former beauty. To this day is the only remaining Rococo garden in the UK, earning its spot on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
Among the places not to miss in the Rococo Gardens, there’s the Cotswolds viewpoint – a secluded bench at the end of a path up a hill which provides the perfect resting spot to take in the incredible views over the Cotswolds valley.
You should also make it a point to see Woodland walk – depending on the time of year you might be lucky enough to see the thousands of bluebells that call this woodlands home in the spring
Both include an audioguide. For more information about the Rococo Gardens click here. Make sure to check online for the opening times before visiting as they can change depending on the season.
Your typical Cotswolds village, Bibury, in Gloucestershire, is located on the banks of the River Coln and full of charm and of course, delightful cottages. This is one of the most popular villages in the Cotswolds, so don’t be surprised if you find it packed with tourists – simply plan to arrive early in the day to avoid the largest groups.
One of the most fun places to visit here is the Bibury Trout Farm, where you can literally catch your own fish.
However, to most visitors the highlight in Bibury is Arlington Row, perhaps one of the most iconic Cotswolds views: a street of 14th century houses so perfect, so quaint they have been featured in films such as Stardust, the 2007 romantic fantasy film. These houses overlook still tranquil water and are backed by a rolling hill. Yep, you guessed it, this village is especially beautiful and easily one of the best villages in the Cotswolds!
Upper and Lower Slaughter
Full of tiny cute houses, this place – which you’ll find in Gloucestershire – is definitely picture perfect! Quiet, sleepy cottages made from limestone, with cute hearts in each window and perfect potted plants around every door make this small town so postcard perfect!
The village is actually made of two settlements which already existed in the 11th century (and perhaps way before then!), connected by the River Eye, a tributary of the River Windrush.
The name ‘Slaughter’ comes from old English ‘Slohtre’ which actually means ‘muddy place’ as opposed to anything to do with killing things.
This village is much more residential than the others, so it’s great for a walk around and to admire its beautiful character but there is not much more to do here beyond walking and admiring!
You will want to check out Copse Hill Road, known to be one of the most romantic streets in England. However, if you love arts, crafts and history then you should certainly visit the Old Mill. If you are interested in the history of the mill and how it works then the museum is for you. They also have an award-winning craft shop that is an unusual eclectic mix of products to buy.
If you want to spend a night here, check out the Slaughters Manor House, located in a gorgeous 17th century building.
The most perfect village with medieval vibes as if it was plucked straight from a fairy tale, Castle Combe, in Wiltshire, well deserves to be mentioned among the best villages in the Cotswolds. This chocolate box village will surprise you with its beauty. Often sighted as one of the prettiest villages in the UK this is certainly one for the top of the list. Start your exploration from the 14th century market square, and make it a point to walk around!
One thing to be aware of is this village can get busy, especially at peak season. To make the most of it we would recommend you get up early and explore before the larger group tours arrive!
There are small cafes offering breakfast and hot drinks; so take the time to enjoy this village how it should be, sleepy and tranquil before the mass tourism hits. We would recommend the Little Picnic Tea Room to allow yourself to indulge in the Castle Combe way of life with Tea Pots and Cream Cakes.
If you fancy indulging head to the Manor house for Michelin star quality food! They offer afternoon tea (it’s almost as good as that I had in Victoria after visiting Butchart Gardens!), Sunday lunch and alfresco dining. So whatever you fancy they have some incredible options! If you choose to visit make sure you leave time to walk around the front of the manor. It has such a beautiful exterior it would be a shame to not take your time.
Make sure check out the Castle Combe Clock – a medieval working clock.
There is also a beautiful walk you can do from Castle Combe – the Castle Combe Circuit. Within the village itself, there is a footpath that trails off to the right and into the woodland. The full loop is 5.5 miles, make sure to take your hiking boots!
Often described as the Venice of the Cotswolds, this village in Gloucestershire on the banks of the River Windrush is renowned for its winding river and limestone houses that reflect into the still water. With swaying willows and bridges seamlessly curving over the peaceful water, down into narrow pathways, Bourton-on-the-water is peaceful yet full of life. With busy shops and bakeries, it’s easy to get drawn into its lifestyle.
Compared to some of the other villages in the Cotswolds there is certainly more of a buzz here. Make sure to walk and explore the village before heading to one of the towns tea shops and warming up with a cup of tea – that’s how you will be able to spot the many vintage cars at the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection, a pretty impressive collection of vintage cars, caravans and motorbikes.
You should also head to the Model Village: within Bourton-on-the-Water, there is a perfectly created miniature version of the village in a model form you can visit. To find out more check out their website.
The biggest town out of all the ones on this list! This historic wool town in Gloucestershire is known for its independent shops. It is ideal for shopping and fancy dinners with cocktails to start or follow. Head there for lunch and enjoy some of the nicest pub gardens the town has to offer. It provides something different to the small villages in the Cotswolds, and can make for a welcome variation!
One of the places you should not skip in Tedbury is the Royal Gardens at Highgrove. Highgrove is the private residence of the Prince of Wales (now King Charles) and The Duchess of Cornwall. Since 1980 these gardens have been the focus of King Charles’ attention, who transformed them into some of the most inspiring and innovative gardens in the UK. The gardens are open to the public and an incredible place to experience.
Places you should not miss in Highgrove are the Cottage Garden, inspired by Tibetan silks, combining the old and the new, and inspired by English and Tibetan culture! Make sure to also visit the Sundial Gardens, with a sundial in the center and perfect box hedging and flower beds. A complimentary mix of blue, pink and purple flowers circle the sundial and playfully shows off classic country estate aesthetics.
Make sure to enjoy a Thyme walk. Lined with bold topiary, this is an avenue of clipped golden yellow yew, magically enchanting and dramatic in scale, this part of the gardens has made Highgrove especially well known.
Finally, a Champagne Tea Tour is perhaps the most sophisticated and quintessentially English way to experience the Royal Gardens at Highgrove. Be guided through the Gardens on a small tour before heading to the Orchard tea room for high tea with all the British touches: tiered cake stands, freshly baked scones and Highgroves own champagne!
Check here for further information on the champagne tea tours and to book in advance.
A small village made up of Little Badminton and Great Badminton, in Gloucestershire, the village itself has very few amenities, but it is a great place for walks. We stumbled across some of the walking paths by accident when we were driving to Castle Combe and were greeted by the brightest red blanket of poppies surrounding a castle-like farmhouse.
There are so many incredible walking routes to enjoy in this beautiful part of the countryside.
The main highlight is Badminton Estate, home to some of the most incredible gardens you will ever see. With rose gardens, walled vegetable gardens, pools and orangeries, it is somewhere you can spend a whole day exploring. These gardens only open a few times a year, so check before you go to see if you are lucky enough!
One of the lesser known villages in the Cotswolds, Naunton, in Gloucestershire and on the banks of the River Windrush, is a charming medieval town and a fabulous place to visit for a quieter and even quainter experience.
The pace of life here is a bit slower, and the offer of accommodation and dining options may be less compared to other more popular Cotswolds villages, but you are guaranteed a more authentic experience here. Just pop inside one of the local pubs and you will soon find yourself chatting to the friendly locals!
If you are visiting between July and August, Snowshill is definitely one of the best villages in the Cotswolds. What makes it so special? Well, not only this small town in Gloucestershire, offers stunning views of the in the Severn Vale; but it is also, truly, quintessentially Cotswolds (think stone cottages, cafés, small shops).
There’s more though. Snowshill is home to some of the most beautiful lavender fields in the world. To experience that, head Cotswold Lavander, and visit Hills Barn Farm to buy lavender-based product.
Back in town, Snowsill Manor and Garden, managed by the National Trust, is the main attraction. The home of Charles Wade, here you’ll be able to admire his unique collection of toys, musical instruments, and more.
You should also read my post 22 Gorgeous Lavender Fields Around The World.
Located in Gloucestershire and often referred to as the Capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is the largest village in the area, and one of the best villages in the Cotswolds. Its main peculiarity is the strong Roman heritage, so you will find it a bit different from the others.
A place you should not miss, which is however located a bit out of town, Corinium, a fantastic example of Roman architecture in England, this amphitheater dates back to the 2nd century. Try to pair your visit with that of the Corinium Museum so you can have a more insightful experience.
The main attraction in the village itself is the Anglican Parish Church of St. John the Baptist – if you have a chance, you should also climb the tower for gorgeous views of the town below.
Cirencester is a good place to base yourself if you want to explore the region a bit more in depth as there are lots of nice hotels and some excellent restaurants.
Stow-on-the-Wold, in Gloucestershire, holds the record for being the Cotswold village at the highest altitude as it is located at almost 244 meters (800 feet) above sea level). It’s actually a really small village, but a truly charming one.
The most important landmark here is St. Edward’s Church, built in various phases between the 11th and the 15th century. Make sure to spend some time in the market square, once home to a large local fair that sold the sale of thousands of sheep. Nowadays, it’s home to a farmers’ market which takes place once a month, on the second Thursday of the month.
One of the largest villages in the Cotswolds, located in Gloucestershire, Chipping Campden used to be an important town for the production and the commerce of wool. This is testified by the beautiful market square which sits right in the heart of town, nowadays surrounded by a myriad of nice small shops, cafés and the impeccably kept quaint cottages that are so typical in this part of England.
If you happen to be in England for the spring Bank Holiday, try to time your visit with the Cotswold Olimpick Games, a fun sports and games festival held in Chipping Campden on and off since the early 17th century,
This village in Gloucestershire is of vital importance to the history of the Cotswolds, although not because of the village itself but because it’s home to famous Cooper’s Hill. Cooper’s Hill is home to cheese rolling.
What is cheese rolling you ask? Perhaps the craziest British sport to have ever been invented. It dates back around 200 years and consists of participants chasing a 9-pound wheel of Gloucester cheese down the hill. The cheese can travel up to 30 mph! If you are visiting during the May bank holiday you might be able to catch this historical event.
Located in Worcestershire, Broadway often comes to mind when mentioning the best villages in the Cotswolds. This small village is home to lovely small shops, independent restaurants, art galleries and antique shops.
The highlight of your visit, however, will likely be Broadway Tower, an iconic landmark on top of the beautiful Cotswolds, in Broadway Tower Park, which has seen various uses in the past (including a nuclear bunker courtesy of the Cold War) and now houses an interesting museum but which is best known for the impressive views you can catch.
From the top you should be able to spot the resident herd of deer. It is certainly worth a visit if you want to see the Cotswolds from above.
Another of the Cotswolds villages you’ll find in Gloucestershire, Stanton is incredibly quaint and charming. Home of the 12th century St. Michael and All Angels church, Stanton is a great place to visit in the good season, when you can enjoy the many walking trails that pass right by it. You won’t find much here in terms of cafés and shops – so there won’t be as many tourists as in other places in the Cotswolds.
This village in Oxfordshire, on the banks of the River Windrush, is easily one of the most picturesque Cotswolds villages. The main landmarks to check out here are the Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecot, British Heritage sites which used to be a manor home that dates back to the 15th century.
Some visitors like swimming in the river in the summer months, but it’s honestly quite a cold spot for that! If you still want to enjoy some time by the river, perhaps just bring a blanket and a picnic for a more relaxing time.
Easily one of the most scenic Cotswolds villages, Asthall, in Oxfordshire, is located on the banks of the River Windrush. Other than the 12th century church, the most impressive attractions here is the early 17th century Asthall Manor, which used to be the home of the Mitford sisters. In fact, it’s where Nancy Mitford found inspiration for many of her novels. Inside Asthall Manor, make sure to visit the gardens: they host regular sculptures exhibits.
This Oxfordshire village is just 20 miles west of Oxford, so one of the easiest villages to visit if you are basing yourself there. The highlight of the visit to most is the Tolsey Museum, located in a 16h century building and now hosting a collection of documents and artifacts that will help you get a better idea of the town’s history.
Make sure not to miss the 12th century Church of St. John the Baptist, where you can spot the beautiful stained glass windows of the Lady Chapel.
Other than that, Burford is a great place to spend a few hours browsing the nice shops, antiques shops, and having high tea in one of the lovely cafes.
Guided Tours Of The Cotswolds
We hope you enjoyed this list to the best villages in the Cotswolds. This stunning part of the UK has so much to offer. Whether you are looking to explore, go for long walks or simply chill and enjoy the UK countryside and all that the Cotswolds has to offer, you won’t regret visiting!
If you care to visit all the best villages in the Cotswolds, you are probably better off renting your own car and driving there yourself. If you’d rather not do that, you will be happy to know that you can count on a bunch of excellent guided tours that will take you there with absolutely zero hassle. We have selected the best options for you:
Oxford, Stratford, and Cotswolds: Day Trip from London – by far the most popular day trip from London, it lasts a whopping 11 hours but you get to see loads. Considering how much you get to see, it’s great value for money.
Undiscovered Cotswolds private tour – an excellent option for a small group; the price is per group. The starting point is Oxford.
Cotswolds tour with lunch – a great option if you want to be fully pampered.
From Oxford: Cotswolds Towns and Villages Small Group Tour – a great guided tour of the best villages in the Cotswolds departing from Oxford.
The Best Time To Visit The Cotswolds
One of the great things about the Cotswolds is you can visit any time of the year and the beauty of the villages is not tainted. This is great considering the unpredictability of the English weather! Our suggestion would be to avoid summer and peak tourist times, like bank holidays.
The Cotswolds is incredibly popular with UK tourists as well as visitors from around the world. If you like to experience the villages without being surrounded by hundreds of people pick a time of year that it won’t be busy and head out early each day to capture a glimpse of the Cotswolds undisrupted by tourists!
Other Practical Information
Before you head anywhere in the Cotswolds check parking availability. Many villages have heavy restrictions! We found with a little research we were able to avoid paying for parking in most places. You might have to do a short walk, which will allow you to see more of the village you are heading to anyway!
Another thing to keep in mind is that the weather can be so temperamental as with most places in the UK. So make sure to pack for all possibilities. Most importantly, bring a rain jacket. The Cotswolds is a great place for walking, so pack your best walking boots and blister pads.
It is certainly worthwhile bringing a picnic basket and blanket. We loved going on walks and setting up for a good picnic!
This post was contributed by Katie and Jack of You Me Under The Palm Tree. They love to travel, hike, experience different cultures and vegan food. Learn how we have managed to escape the 9-5. Join the and start with their FREE eBook to learn how to Travel Longer for Cheaper, or connect with them on Instagram!
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