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Want to visit the best Cotswold villages? You’re in the right place. After many years living nearby, I know all the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds from the tourist favourites to the hidden gems.
Since there’s more to say about the Cotswolds than I can squeeze into one blog post, I decided to keep this post on the topic of beautiful Cotswold villages to visit. For more Cotswolds content, check out:
- The best places to visit in the Cotswolds (the must-see highlights: towns, villages, stately houses and other attractions)
- Complete Cotswolds weekend itinerary (how to spend 2 days for first-timers including where to stay and eat, plus tips for your visit)
- 10 perfectly planned Cotswold day trip itineraries (your ultimate guide to day trips from London including by public transport)
- Things to do in Burford (not a village but one of the favourite Cotswolds towns)
- What to do in Tetbury (as above, a gorgeous Cotswold town)
What defines Cotswolds villages vs towns?
While there are some gorgeous towns in the Cotswolds, this blog is about the villages which are (in my opinion) more charming and idyllic. For any non-Brits around here, I’ll clear up the definition:
- Hamlet: a tiny settlement usually with no central place of worship or meeting point
- Village: usually somewhere with a ‘centre’ and place of worship
- Town: in the past, this meant ‘market town’ AKA somewhere with shops and public facilities
- City: traditionally these were places with cathedrals but this is no longer a requirement. You won’t find any in the Cotswolds!
Tips for visiting these pretty Cotswolds villages
- You need a car! If you don’t have one, use Rentalcars.com to pick one up in Cirencester or Oxford.
- Remember these are people’s homes. Be mindful taking photos when locals are in the shot, and never snap photos of the houses if you can see into their living rooms.
- In peak season, book your accommodation well ahead of time. Things get booked up and prices rise in school summer holidays.
What to pack for the Cotswolds
- An umbrella because you never what the British weather is going to do next!
- Comfortable shoes. Many of these Cotswold villages have cobbled streets and a few are on hills
- A guidebook. I recommend a Rough Guide to the Cotswolds
- A picnic if you don’t fancy paying Cotswold gastropub prices!
Best season for visiting the Cotswolds villages
Summer (June-August): In terms of weather, this is the best season for visiting the villages in the Cotswolds. Just prepare for it to be busy!
Spring (March-May): This is my personal favourite time to visit the Cotswolds. Lambs are jumping and daffodils and bluebells are in bloom. The villages are less crowded although it’s still best to avoid weekends if you hate crowds.
Autumn (September-November): As the leaves turn brown and the summer tourists fade away, prices drop in the Cotswolds making it a lovely time to visit.
Winter (December-February): While the winter months in England can be cold, wet and rainy, the Cotswolds is the perfect place to indulge in cosy pubs with mulled wine and a hearty roast. With lots of luxurious accommodation options, you can stay snug and enjoy the beautiful Cotswold villages with a warm coat and an oh-so-necessary umbrella!
Cotswolds villages map
Best Cotswold villages – North Cotswolds
To make organising your trip easier, I’ll start with the prettiest villages in the North Cotswolds, the area you’ll drive through when arriving from the Midlands.
These places are also accessible from London as you’ll arrive via the northeast Cotswolds (providing you take the M40 past Oxford rather than the M4 via Swindon).
These are the best Cotswold villages to visit…
1. Minster Lovell
Right on the very edge of the Cotswolds towards Oxford is the tiny Cotswold village of Minster Lovell. It’s best known for Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote, a set of ruins dating back to the 12th century. They’re free to enter.
Picnic beside the river (or swim if you can handle the cold!) and try to visualise how this stately hall would have looked in its heyday.
After you’ve explored Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote, wander through Minster Lovell, easily one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds. Stop at the Old Swan, a pub with a huge garden. They serve all manner of ales, wines and gins, as well as English pub dishes and roast dinners.
2. Blockley (hidden gem)
I recently had the pleasure of visiting this pretty Cotswold village. There’s not a lot to do in Blockley but if you’re visiting nearby Chipping Campden or Moreton-in-Marsh, it’s one of the best Cotswold villages to visit and escape the crowds!
The Church of St Peter and St Paul (a filming location in TV show, Father Brown) is a central feature with a small cafe at the front.
Take 30 minutes to an hour to wander the pretty streets, spotting wisteria in the spring months and paddling in the babbling brook at the bottom of the hill. This is where silk mills would have washed their product when Blockley was the heart of the industry.
We spotted some people filling up their water bottles from a tapped natural spring. Perhaps it’s a mystic healing spring, or maybe they were just thirsty?
Where to park: On the road near the church (free).
Where to stay: Nearby in Chipping Campden. Bantam Tea Rooms & Guest House is a cosy guesthouse with fantastic afternoon tea served downstairs.
3. Broad Campden
Despite being lesser-known by tourists, quaint Broad Campden is one of the prettiest Cotswolds villages to pass through. It’s on the road between Chipping Campden and Blockley with a distinctive church and several Cotswold cottages with impressive topiary.
St Michael & All Angels Church is a central feature of the village. If you’re in the mood for a pint or hearty roast, stop at the Bakers Arms before you leave.
Where to park: There’s free on-street parking.
With just under a thousand residents, this charming Cotswold village lies four miles from Chipping Norton.
Although idyllic, Kingham is perhaps a better place to live than visit. There aren’t a huge amount of must-dos but it’s certainly worth a visit for gourmet foodies. Describing itself as a modern British inn, the White Rabbit serves Michellin-starred locally-sourced seasonal food, curated by renowned head chef, Nathan Eades.
Other things to do in Kingham including visiting the Norman church and sampling homemade bar snacks at Kingham Plough.
Finally, Daylesford Organic is a short drive away. This gorgeous farm shop sells organic veg, fancy cheese and homemade cakes. In the spring, they offer lambing tours for those wanting to experience the magic of the English countryside.
Where to park: The free car park beside Kingham Primary School.
Where to stay: The Kingham Plough is a cosy British pub with rustic bedrooms and luxurious details. Includes free English breakfast. Check availability here.
5. Lower Slaughter
Straddling the River Eye is another of the Cotswold’s prettiest villages, Lower Slaughter. While wandering across low footbridges over the river, you’ll experience all the charm of Bourton-on-the-Water without the crowds.
Don’t worry, the name ‘Slaugher’ isn’t as ominous as it sounds; it derives from the old English ‘slough’ meaning wet land. Inhabited for over 1,000 years, this is one of the oldest villages in the region.
Visit the Old Mill Museum to learn about the history of the area and indulge in a spot of tea and cake overlooking the river.
Nearby Copse Hill Road has been voted the most romantic street in Britain by a Google Street View poll. Why not take a wander and see if you fall in love with Lower Slaughter?
6. Upper Slaughter
Just up the hill from Lower Slaughter is another of the nicest villages in the Cotswolds, Upper Slaughter, once owned by the rich Slaughter family of the 12th century. This settlement is smaller and quieter but an equally pretty Cotswold village to visit.
Park yourself on the bench at the top of the hill and look down over the ford, preferably with a picnic or thermos of tea. Before you leave, take a wander around Grade II* listed St Peter’s Church.
Upper Slaughter is known as a ‘sainted village’ or a ‘thankful village’ because it lost no one during WWI. After losing no one in WWII either, it became one of 14 ‘doubly sainted villages’ in the UK.
Where to park in the Slaughters: There’s free on-road parking on the left-hand side as you approach Lower Slaughter from Bourton-on-the-Water. You can easily walk between Upper & Lower Slaughter (over the fields from the mill).
Another option is parking and walking 1 mile from Bourton-on-the-Water.
Where to stay in the Slaughters: The Slaughters Country Inn. With 4 acres of grounds and a riverside location, it’s worth the £200 price tag! Check availability here.
7. Adlestrop (hidden gem)
Although Adlestrop is lesser-known, it’s one of the best Cotswold villages to visit for literature lovers.
It’s known for the poem of the same name written by Edward Thomas in June 1914 when his train passed through the station. Although the line is now closed, the tiny station platform has been preserved and the poem etched onto a metal plaque inside.
After checking out Adlestrop station, wander the pretty village, visit St Mary Magdalene Church and stop for ice cream at Adlestrop village shop.
Where to park: The Village Hall car park (free, donations welcome).
Where to stay: The Old Post Office has cosy, colourful rooms inside a period Cotswold cottage. Check availability from £130.
8. Church Enstone (hidden gem)
I believe Church Enstone is a six-minute drive outside of the Cotswolds but hopefully no one is going to quibble. This contender for the prettiest village in the Cotswolds is full of stone cottages with roses growing around the doorways.
Down the road in Enstone is Hoar Stone burial chamber which may of interest to historians. Stop afterwards for a cuppa at Artyard Cafe.
Where to park: There’s free on-street parking.
Where to stay: Crown Cottage.
9. Westwell (hidden gem)
Although this tiny village won’t make many lists of Cotswold villages, it’s worth a visit if passing through. It’s just a 10-minute drive from Burford, set around a small pond. If you don’t fancy paying Cotswold pub prices, pack a picnic and eat it on the green.
Where to park: There’s free on-street parking.
10. Taynton (hidden gem)
Taynton makes for a pretty pitstop nearby Burford and Bourton-the-Water. Admire St John The Evangelist church with examples of early stonemasons’ art inside.
Where to park: There’s free on-street parking.
11. Bourton-on-the-Water (the busiest Cotswold village!)
Leaving all talk of hidden gems behind, enter the most famous Cotswold village!
If you’re keen to dodge the crowds, it’s safe to say this isn’t the place for you. However, if you’re keen to tick off the top Cotswold villages and snap photos in the most iconic places, you can’t miss Bourton-on-the-Water.
The River Windrush trickles through this village below low-hanging bridges made with golden Cotswold stone. Another appealing factor of Bourton is its traditional Cotswold cottages.
There are also plenty of guesthouses, pubs and cafes, my favourite being Bakery on the Water. Grab coffee and pastries here before a quick stroll of the village. Aim to move on by mid-morning when it gets busy.
Where to park: You can park at Station Road car park (£5.50 for two hours), Burton Vale Car & Coach Park (£2.50 for two hours) or Rissington Road car park (£2.30 for two hours but a 15-minute walk into town).
Where to stay: The 16th century Dial House beside the river is made of golden Cotswolds stone with individually decorated rooms. Double ensuite rooms start from £95pn; check availability here.
Broadway is one of the best Cotswold villages in terms of activities. These include visiting Broadway Museum and Art Gallery, taking a sneak peek at the Millennium Garden and admiring gorgeous houses on Upper Street.
Shoppers can browse a wide array of bookshops and antique shops such as Cheltenham House Antiques (collectables) and Whatever The Weather (homeware and gifts).
Indulge at award-winning restaurant, Russell’s Of Broadway, or grab a cheaper lunch at Russell’s Fish & Chips beside it. Then there’s No32 Broadway (serving Tuscan food with a modern twist) and Broadway Indian restaurant (no prizes for guessing what cuisine they serve!).
It’s worth incorporating Broadway Tower into your visit which is a 7-minute drive away. This historical landmark was designed in the 18th-century by architect, James Wyatt, and landscape designer, Capability Brown. Entry is £4.80 for adults and £3 for children.
Where to park: Broadway High Street Car Park or Short Stay Car Park Broadway. See all Broadway car parks.
Where to stay: The Lodge at Broadway is a mix of new and old: a Cotswold-stone building with modern, bespoke bedrooms. Check availability from £89pn.
13. Snowshill (don’t miss the lavender fields!)
If you’re visiting Broadway, take a detour to Snowshill. It’s best known for Snowshill Manor and Gardens, a 16th-century manor house managed by the National Trust.
There are a few other features of the village including Barnabas Church and dog-friendly pub, the Snowshill Arms. As well as full pub lunches, they serve paninis and baguettes from £6. A budget-friendly lunch on the go!
In the early summer months, Cotswold Lavender comes into bloom at the edge of Snowshill village. Not only is wandering the purple fields an idyllic way to spend an afternoon, but you can shop for luxurious lavender-scented body products at the shop, and sample lavender-flavoured teas and cakes at the cafe.
Cotswold Lavender entrance: £7 for adults, £3 for children (5-15); free for under 5s.
Best time to see lavender: June and early August. Early to mid-July being is peak.
Where to park: There’s a car park at Cotswold Lavender, otherwise you can park in town.
Where to stay: Nearby in Broadway – check out the Lodge at Broadway.
Naunton is yet another of the prettiest Cotswold villages and, with almost 1,000 years of history, one of the most historic too. Admire the quaint cottages, visit St Andrew’s Church and stop for a roast at The Black Horse Inn.
This Gloucestershire village can be found close to Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Where to park: There’s on-road parking in the village.
15. Sherborne (hidden gem)
Not to be confused with Sherborne in Dorset or Sherbourne in Warwickshire, this Cotswold village can be found near Burford.
My favourite part of visiting Sherborne was visiting this micro-library full of books. Just donate one to borrow one!
From Sherborne, you can take a circular walk around the watermeadows (currently closed in 2021). I recently stopped for a picnic on this huge fallen tree pictured below.
Reward you walk with a trip to Sherborne Village Shop & Tea Room (order the hot chocolate!), and take a quick wander around St Mary Magdalene Church before you leave.
Where to park: There’s free on-street parking in the village. If taking the watermeadows walk, use the National Trust car park.
Best Cotswolds villages – Central & South Cotswolds
The Southern Cotswolds are home to several beautiful Cotswold villages, easily visited from Swindon, Bath or Bristol.
These are the best Cotswold villages down south…
You can’t talk about pretty Cotswold villages without mentioning Bibury. It’s best known for Arlington Row, a street of ridiculously quaint Cotswold cottages that feature in British passports.
William Morris voted Bibury not just the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds but the whole of England!
Rather than snap Arlington Row and move straight on, explore a few of the other things to do in Bibury which include crossing the bridges over the River Coln, wildlife-spotting around Rack Isle, and tickling your own trout dinner at Bibury Trout Farm.
Bibury can be found halfway between Cirencester and Burford on the east side of the Cotswolds.
Where to park: Park for free on-road or in the spaces beside Bibury Trout Farm.
Where to stay: The Swan Hotel, a period 17th-century inn with river views, decadent rooms and fantastic food. Check availability here.
17. Coln St Aldwyn
Two miles from busy Bibury is a tiny Cotswold village that receives far fewer tourists. With a quaint village shop and a couple of pretty guesthouses, you have the feeling you’ve stepped back in time 100 years.
Since there isn’t a great deal to do in Coln St Aldwyn, I’d only recommend visiting if you’re passing. For a quick look around and a delicious lunch at the highly-rated restaurant at New Inn, it’s a real gem.
Where to park: Park on-road in the village.
Where to stay: The New Inn.
Within walking distance of Coln St Aldwyn is tiny Hatherop. This is another picturesque Cotswold village that’s worth a stroll if you’re passing through.
On the banks of the River Coln, this sleepy village has a church (St Nicholas’s) and several red phone boxes and post boxes. Even the adorable bus stop is made from golden Cotswold stone.
19. Castle Combe (THE prettiest Cotswold village!)
Castle Combe is often voted the most beautiful Cotswold village. It’s not hard to see why!
No new houses have been built in this tiny settlement since the 1600s making it one of the best-preserved villages in England. It was used in filming for Stardust (2007) and Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse (2011).
Whilst in Castle Combe, stop by St Andrew’s Church to see the faceless clock used in the Doctor Dolittle films. Foodies can enjoy afternoon tea at The Old Rectory Tearoom or a Michelin-starred meal at The Bybrook.
My top tip is to visit as early as you can to beat the crowds… especially if you want a photo on Market Place bridge without 100 Instagrammers waiting in turn (no shade intended for I am one of them)!
Where to park: Castle Combe Free Visitor Car Park. Note that it’s a steep walk up the hill from Combe. There’s street parking in town on West Street but on a busy summers day, you’re more likely to find a place in the car park.
Where to stay: The Castle Inn right in the heart of town. Check availability from £147.
Right at the southern base of the Cotswolds is this adorable village where little has changed for centuries.
Lacock Abbey is a National Trust property at the heart of the village, most famous for past resident, William Fox Talbot, credited with inventing part of the photography process.
Learn about photography at the Fox Talbot exhibition and spot Harry Potter filming locations around the Abbey, before strolling the Lacock village’s antique shops and open-air produce stands. Purchase jams and confectionary, leaving your money in an honesty box.
Related read: Harry Potter movie locations in Lacock, England
Where to park: The National Trust car park close to the Abbey. It costs £4.50 per day for non-members (free for National Trust members).
Where to stay: The Sign of the Angel Inn (the black and white building pictured above). This cosy pub and hotel is so quaint it was used in Harry Potter filming. Check availability from £130.
Which are the most famous Cotswold villages?
Certainly Bourton-on-the-Water! It’s usually packed. In the north, Broadway is also popular. Down south, Bibury is the most famous Cotswold village due to the appeal of Arlington Row. The same goes for Castle Combe with its Instagrammable photo spot on the bridge.
How many villages can you see in a day?
If you’re visiting the bigger villages with museums and other things to do, I’d say 3-4 per day. If you’re doing a road trip of the smaller villages, you could probably squeeze in 5-6.
Can you visit the Cotswolds as a day trip?
Sure, although you won’t have time to see all 20 places in this blog! Several tour companies offer Cotswolds tours from London or you can drive and do it yourself. Use Rentalcars.com for UK car hires and my Cotswolds day trip guide for tips.
Take a full-day, small-group Cotswold tour from London.
Take a Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold tour with lunch from London.
If you’re in the Cotswolds already, take a day trip from Moreton-in-Marsh.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a good idea of the best villages to visit in the Cotswolds. It’s truly (busy) heaven down here!
Don’t forget to use my Cotswold villages map to help plan your route & itinerary.
Visiting the UK?
These are my trusted resources…
Guide books – LP always get my seal of approval. Use the latest copy of Lonely Planet England.
Getting there & around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Flights (international and domestic): I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use Busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
I use GetYourGuide for tours & activities when I don’t want to travel solo. The guides are knowledgeable and you can’t beat the prices. I also check Viator as they often have fun and unique offerings.
For food tours pairing travellers with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!