The Cotswolds has always been on my list of areas in England to visit. With cute villages, nature, and country pubs, what more could you ask for out of a weekend trip? Unfortunately, my dislike of driving and time constraints kept me from visiting this AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) until this winter.
While I naturally wanted to visit every village in the Cotswolds, I quickly realized I had to narrow down my list. We visited the below villages in the Cotswolds over a long weekend trip to the north and central parts of the Cotswolds. Each one would make a perfect stop on a weekend trip to the Cotswolds!
Situated atop a hill at the junction of some of the main roads in the Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold can trace its origins back to an Iron Age fort on the hill. The town was founded by Norman lords who wanted to take advantage of trade along the adjacent roads; the town has remained an important fixture of the Cotswolds since. In fact, fairs have been held in Stow-on-the-Wold by royal charter since 1330, with those at the height of the Cotswold wool industry seeing up to 20,000 sheep sold at one time!
What to do in Stow-on-the-Wold:
Visit the Instagrammable St. Edward’s Church, whose door is flanked by two ancient yew trees; walk around the market square; peruse the variety of independent shops; have tea at Lucy’s Tearoom; grab a pastry at Le Patissier Anglais; dine or stay in the charming Old Stocks Inn.
Note: There is free visitor parking in the car park next to the Tesco on Fosse Way, about a 5-minute walk to the center of town.
Not too far from Stow-on-the-Wold lies Lower Slaughter. Despite its somewhat violent sounding name (which derives from the Old English slothre, meaning muddy place), Lower Slaughter is quite possibly the prettiest village in the Cotswolds. Divided by the small River Eye that flows through the village, you’ll find yourself admiring every single cottage you come across as you wander the streets of this village that dates back to the Middle Ages.
What to do in Lower Slaughter:
Stop by the Old Mill, a mill, museum, and café dating to the 19th century; visit the Slaughters Manor House, 17th-century mansion formerly owned by the descendants of Sir George Whitmore and now a luxury hotel; dine at The Slaughters Country Inn, the main pub of the village (and also a hotel).
One mile from Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter is an even quieter village sat atop a hill. Upper Slaughter is a “Double Thankful” village, meaning that it did not lose any men during either World War. You’ll find that Upper Slaughter is practically devoid of tourists, making it the perfect place to stroll around an adorable village in the Cotswolds without the crowds.
What to do in Upper Slaughter:
Visit the 12th century Church of St. Peter; admire the beautiful honey-colored architecture dating back to the medieval times; stroll past Upper Slaughter Manor, an Elizabethan manor house under private ownership that is open for a few weeks every summer.
Tip: If the weather is decent, I recommend parking in Lower Slaughter and walking to Upper Slaughter. Because of the mud and lack of proper shoes, we walked alongside the road, but there are trails you can take that will lead you between villages.
Bibury is one of those villages that you’ve seen in just about every blog or Instagram post featuring the Cotswolds. Famous for its particularly picturesque Arlington Row (a row of cottages built in 1380 to store monastic wool and converted to cottages in the 1600s), Bibury has repeatedly been named one of the most beautiful villages in England.
What to do in Bibury:
Walk along Arlington Row (being mindful of the residents that live in the cottages); visit the exterior of Arlington Mill (dating to the 17th century and now a private residence); stop by the Bibury Trout Farm (one of the oldest trout farms, founded in 1902); walk from Arlington Row, uphill on the road, and through the neighborhood, making a large loop that will lead you past beautiful cottages and take you by the Trout Farm.
Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is quite possibly the most unique village in the Cotswolds to visit. Bisected by the river Windrush across which you can traverse on a multitude of footbridges, Bourton-on-the-Water is a Cotswold village with plenty to offer in terms of entertainment.
What to do in Bourton-on-the-Water:
Visit the Model Village, a one-ninth scale replica of the village dating to the 1930s; take a tour of Cotswold Brew Co., one of the oldest independent larger microbreweries in the UK; discover the wonders of birds and dinosaurs at Birdland Park & Gardens; dine at one of the many restaurants, pubs, or tearooms; and peruse one of the many local shops in the village.
Close to the Cotswold gem Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe is an Anglo-Saxon town whose name means ‘valley with a bend’. From the early 1600s until 1619 when it was banned, the town was known for its tobacco production. Today, Winchcombe is home to about 4,500 people and features plenty of shops and restaurants to entertain locals and visitors alike.
What to do in Winchcombe:
Spend the morning at Sudeley Castle, the burial site of Catherine Parr; visit the 13th century St. Peter’s Church; learn about the town’s history at Winchcombe Museum; stroll down Vineyard Street, formerly called Duck Street, where suspected witches were placed on a ducking stool and plunged into the river.
Evidence of a settlement at Chipping Campden dates back to at least the 7th century. The name Campden comes from the Saxon ‘campadenu,’ meaning ‘a valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures.’ Chipping (from the old English ‘ceping,’ meaning market or marketplace) was added to create the name Chipping Campden when the town became known as one of the most important medieval wool towns. Today, Chipping Campden is a thriving town of about 2,000 residents that has plenty to offer visitors on their trip to the Cotswolds.
What to do in Chipping Campden:
Walk along the high street, which was designed in the 12th century; visit the 17th century Market Hall that was built to shelter the cheese, butter, and poultry sold at the market; marvel at Grevel House, built in 1380 by William Grevel and the oldest house in Chipping Campden (and one of the first houses to have chimneys and not just holes in the roof); visit St. James Church, a beautiful ‘wool’ church that was largely completed in the Gothic style in 1490; walk by the Alms Houses, built in 1612 and still used by pensioners today.
Another beautiful village in the Cotswolds, Broadway is perhaps best known for its nearby Broadway Tower that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Broadway itself is a village that features one of the longest high streets in England (hence its name, ‘broad way’). In the 17th century, it became a major stopping point as the main route between Worcester and London. Today, Broadway has a multitude of shops and restaurants, green spaces, and plenty to offer for a trip to the Cotswolds.
What to do in Broadway:
Drive (or hike, if you’re feeling ambitious) to the nearby Broadway Tower, the second-highest point in the Cotswolds built by Capability Brown just before the 19th century, to take in the stunning views of the surrounding countryside; visit the nearby Sudeley Castle; stroll the High Street and shop at the multitude of art, antique, and clothing shops; take a break at one of the many tea rooms – we particularly enjoyed The Tea Set.
With a picturesque High Street flanked by old stone and half-timbered houses, Burford is a must-visit village in the Cotswolds. It was the first town in the Cotswolds to be granted a market charter in 1088. The town became famous through its wool productions as well as being an important stop on the route from Oxford to Gloucester. Today, Burford has several restaurants, antique shops, pubs, and tea rooms.
What to do in Burford:
Walk to the top of the High Street and take in the beautiful views; visit England’s oldest pharmacy, Reavley’s, which dates to 1734; stop by the Tolsey Museum, housed in the old market house and built in the 1500s; visit the Paris Church of St. John the Baptist, dating to the 15th century and featuring a Norman tower; walk by the Burford almshouses, built between 1455-1456 for eight pensioners; walk to the three-arch medieval bridge at the end of the High Street.