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These day trips to the Cotswolds from London are designed to help you see the best of the region in just one day. Whether you want to check off the famous villages or find the hidden gems in England, I’ve compiled 10 itineraries including some by public transport. Enjoy!
These itineraries are designed to be taken from London but you can pretty much take them from wherever (just ignore the London to the Cotswolds train details).
Rough Guides The Cotswolds
Car hire – Rentalcars.com
Looking for UK day trips? Read my 1 day itineraries for Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Margate, Liverpool and Cardiff.
Taking a day trip to the Cotswolds from London will allow you to soak up a few highlights when you’re short of time. It’ll be a relatively long day depending on which side of the Cotswolds you visit. Stay east if you’re not down for a long drive.
How to take a day trip to the Cotswolds from London
By car: This is the best option for flexibility. If you’re visiting the UK and don’t have a car, you could catch a train to Oxford or Cirencester and hire one with Rentalcars.com.
By public transport: Although this isn’t the best option for the Cotswolds, it’s possible due to stations in Moreton-in-Marsh and Kingham. Use Trainline to book tickets for your Cotswolds day trip by train.
By day tour: Several companies like Viator and GetYourGuide take day trips to the Cotswolds from London, some including Oxford, Blenheim Palace or Bath.
A few of the best Cotswolds day trips include:
- Small group villages tour (Minster Lovell, Bibury and Burford), £65
- Famous villages tour (Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water & Stow-on-the-Wold) with lunch, £96
- Oxford and Cotswolds villages (Burford and Bibury), £65
- Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds inc. Downtown filming locations, £65
My Cotswolds 1 day itineraries #2, 7 and 10 are public transport-friendly and #6 can be easily adapted.
Tips for 1 day in the Cotswolds
- Don’t pack in too much! You’ll end up rushing. It’s better to pick 2-3 places and explore them fully.
- Budget enough. The Cotswolds is a boujee region of England and food & drink is not cheap. Saying that, it won’t shock you if you’re coming from London!
- Visit the more popular locations early. Bourton-on-the-Water gets crowded by mid-morning and stays that way.
#1 – The big names (Bourton, Bibury, Stow and Moreton)
This first itinerary hits up the big names. If you’ve just got a day in the Cotswolds and want to visit the most popular places, this is the itinerary for you.
It works well as a Cotswold day trip from London because these attractions are mostly in the mid-north Cotswolds, easily accessible from the capital.
No car? Visit these famous villages by return day tour from London or make it to Moreton-in-Marsh by train and take this Cotswolds tour from there.
Morning: Begin in Bourton-on-the-Water. As the most famous village in the Cotswolds, it can get crowded during weekends especially in the summer so visit early if possible.
Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water:
- Marvel at a tiny replica of Bourton at the Model Village
- Cross bridges over the River Coln tributaries
- Visit Birdland home to more than 500 species
- Take a tour and sample local beverages at the Cotswolds Brewing Company.
Where to park: 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).
Late morning: Drive 10 minutes to Stow-on-the-Wold. Located on the meeting point of several Roman Fosse Way roads, this is one of the most historic places to include in a Cotswolds day trip from London.
Things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold:
- Marvel at the ancient tree roots growing around St Edward’s Church doorway
- Stop for tea at the Old Bakery Tearoom or Lucy’s Tearoom
- Visit historic Market Square
- Sink a pint at England’s oldest inn, the Porch House
- Browse art at Fosse Gallery.
Where to park: The Fosseway and Maugersbury car parks are free and a 15-minute walk to town.
Alternative option – for an idyllic day, you could skip the larger towns like Stow & Moreton, instead taking a 1.3-mile country walk from Bourton to the Slaughters villages. Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter haven’t changed for decades!
Afternoon: Drive 15 minutes to Moreton-in-Marsh. As one of the few Cotswolds towns with a train station, this is a Cotswolds hub of shops and cafes.
Things to do in Moreton-in-Marsh:
- Visit the ancient Curfew Tower
- Browse Moreton-in-Marsh Market (from 9am-3pm on Tuesdays)
- Stop for a pint at The Bell Inn (supposedly J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle Earth’s pub, the Prancing Pony)
- Have lunch at White Hart Royal Hotel
- Browse for homeware at the Cotswold Grey.
Where to park: Park for free at Old Market Way car park or for £2.30 at Moreton-in-Marsh station.
Late afternoon: If you have time, take a 30-minute drive to Bibury before ending your day trip to the Cotswolds. Bibury is most famous for Arlington Row, a street of charming cottages featuring in British passports.
After you’ve snapped photos here, you can take a quick tour of the village, crossing the many bridges and spotting wildlife on Rack Isle.
#2 – Cotswolds day trip from London by train
Although the Cotswolds aren’t renowned for public transport connections, there are a few options. For this Cotswolds day trip by public transport, book your tickets on the Trainline.
Morning: Catch a train to Kingham. This village offers a pretty introduction to the Cotswolds. Visit the Norman church, explore the charming backstreets, take a countryside walk or tuck into a hearty pub lunch at Kingham Plough.
Book London to Kingham trains here.
Lunch: Catch the train to Moreton-in-Marsh. For everything to see and do here, check my itinerary #1 above.
Book your Kingham to Moreton-in-Marsh train here.
Afternoon: Catch a 30-minute bus or hail a 15-minute taxi to Bourton-on-the-Water. Check my itinerary #1 above for what to see and do.
Finally, catch a return bus or taxi to Moreton-in-Marsh and board the train back to London. Book your ticket here.
#3 – South Cotswolds day trip (Castle Combe & Tetbury)
Although this region is slightly harder to reach as a Cotswold day trip from London, don’t let that deter you: there are some beautiful spots down in the Southern Cotswolds.
If coming from Bath or the South of England, this is one of the easiest day trips to the Cotswolds.
Morning: Arrive early in Castle Combe (pictured above) before it gets busy. This idyllic village is often voted the most beautiful in England. After snapping photos on the iconic bridge, enjoy coffee and cake at the Old Stables.
Afternoon: Take a trip to Tetbury. Larger than many of the Cotswold villages, there’s plenty to keep you busy during an afternoon in Tetbury.
Catch an independent movie at the Goods Shed Arts Centre, walk the iconic Chipping Steps and spot dolphin statues, Tetbury’s quirky mascot.
Refuel over speciality coffee at Veloton or sample the local cuisine at one of the pubs or cafes. Shoppers can browse handpicked items at Prince Charles’ shop, Highgrove, as well as the many antique shops.
Attractions in the surrounding region include Highgrove Gardens and Chavenage House.
Read next: things to do in Tetbury
#4 – Painswick & Slad Valley
Although this is the longest Cotswolds day trip itinerary from London, the sweeping Slad Valley is worth the distance. With its dense woodland and dramatic hills, the east of the Cotswolds differs visually from the rest of the region. At times, I hardly felt I was in England!
Morning: arrive in pretty village, Painswick, and park up at the Rococo Gardens. This gorgeous pleasure garden is built in rococo style popular in Europe in the 1700s. There are a few distinctive buildings scattered around the grounds including the pink summer house above (now a book exchange).
The gardens comprise fruit and veggie plots, sunflowers and endless beds of scented flowers.
After spending a couple of hours wandering, enjoy lunch or tea and cake in the cafe. Entrance to the Rococo Gardens is £9.50 for adults or £4.25 for children.
Early afternoon: Take a walk or short drive into Painswick village. If you didn’t eat lunch already, head for a hearty pub lunch at the Falcon Inn.
In Painswick, you’ll find a couple of art galleries and St Mary’s Church known for having 99 yew trees in its grounds. Rumour has it that when a 100th tree is planted, it never survives. Spooky!
Afternoon: Head for a walk in the Slad Valley. The Laurie Lee Wildlife Way is a 5-mile circular walk crossing streams and traversing through woodland.
The walk has a literary connection: author Laurie Lee wrote Cider With Rosie here. Chapters of the novel are engraved upon signposts dotted along the walking trail.
#5 – North Cotswolds day trip (Bourton, Blockley, Chipping Campden)
During this Cotswolds day trip itinerary, we’ll explore the northwest. Here, you can escape the more touristic villages as you road trip between idyllic places you may not have heard of before.
Morning: Beat the crowds and visit Bourton-on-the-Water early. For parking info and things to do, see itinerary #1 above. Don’t spend too long; I recommend getting off-the-beaten-track…
Mid-morning: Visit Blockley. This charming village 20 minutes from Bourton is relatively unknown but worth a quick stop. Wander the charming backstreets and spot Father Brown filming locations including the Church of St Peter and St Paul.
Lunch: Arrive in Broadway. This is one of the more popular Cotswold villages thanks to its art galleries, antique shops and homey pubs. Pay a visit to Broadway Tower just up the road.
Afternoon: Explore Chipping Campden. In this well-known historic town, you can visit The Court Barn for arts and crafts, and learn about the history of the region at the Silk Mill. Stop for tea and cake at Badger’s Hall Tea Room.
Before ending your day trip to the Cotswolds, pay a quick visit to Broad Campden. This idyllic village is a hidden gem. There’s not much to do but it’ll give you a real feel for the charm of the Cotswolds.
#6 – Oxford and the Cotswolds day trip from London
For this day trip to the Cotswolds from London, I’ll share my suggested route then give a public transport-friendly alternative.
As a born and bred Oxfordian, I may be biased but I do encourage you to visit Oxford. It’s best to spend a full day here or stay overnight but, if time’s tight, it’s possible to visit Oxford and the Cotswolds in one day.
Read all my Oxford blog posts here. Your best bet is checking out my Oxford day trip itinerary and picking 2-3 of the activities you’re most keen on. See these in the morning before heading to the Cotswolds after lunch.
To save time, take this Oxford and Cotswolds villages tour (inc Burford and Bibury)
Morning: Arrive in Oxford early and visit the key attractions including Radcliffe Square, the Bridge of Sighs and Bodleian Libraries. You can also go inside one of the prettiest Oxford colleges or better yet, one with an Oxford Harry Potter connection.
Grab a tasty lunch with the help of my Oxford food guides.
Afternoon: Get on the road to the Cotswolds. Arrive into Burford, the gateway to the Cotswolds on the Oxford side. It takes around 45 minutes to reach Burford from Oxford when following the A40.
There are plenty of things to do in Burford including browsing speciality shops like the Cotswolds Cheese Company, the Sweet Shop and Madhatter Bookshop. Pay a visit to St John The Baptist Church, the open garden centre on Church Lane, and spend a while wandering the charming backstreets.
Late afternoon: Take a 20-minute drive to Bourton-on-the-Water or Bibury. See my #1 itinerary above for everything to see and do in these places. Bibury is smaller but prettier, in my opinion.
Make this itinerary public transport friendly: For day trips from London to Cotswolds without a car, catch a train from London to Oxford in the morning. Then, catch a train from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh in the afternoon (rather than Burford).
From here, you can get the train directly back to London. For things to see and do in Moreton, see itinerary #1 above.
#7 – Blenheim and Cotswolds (public transport-friendly)
Morning: Blenheim Palace is a spectacular stately home on the edge of the Cotswolds. It can be reached by car or public transport.
If taking a London to the Cotswolds day trip by public transport, book a Paddington to Oxford train (50 min) then catch the 500 bus (50 min) to Woodstock. Alternatively, book a Paddington to Long Hanborough train (1 hour) and bus to Woodstock (10 min).
For convenience, take a Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds day tour inc. Downtown filming locations (£65)
Blenheim Palace entry fees and free gates: Officially, it costs £26 to visit the house and grounds, or £16 for the grounds alone. However, I know a few sneaky free gates which will gain you entry to the grounds.
If you’re coming by car, the best free gate is Combe and if coming by public transport, the best is in Woodstock village. Get all the details in my guide to the Blenheim Palace free gates.
Afterwards, enjoy lunch in Woodstock village or head straight to…
Afternoon: The Cotswolds. You have ultimate flexibility if your day trip to the Cotswolds from London is by car. If not, I recommend Moreton-in-Marsh. From Blenheim Palace, catch the 10-minute bus to Long Hanborough station then a 20-minute train to Moreton. See things to do in my #1 itinerary above.
Use Google Maps to check bus departure times, and book Hanborough to Moreton trains here.
#8 – Cotswolds day trip for foodies
There are numerous food experiences in the Cotswolds. Why not spend a day exploring them? The below locations are fairly close to one another in the north Cotswolds with ample parking.
Here’s the ultimate foodie Cotswolds itinerary for 1 day!
Morning: Start your day at the Cotswold Food Store and Cafe (Moreton-in-Marsh). Tuck into a locally sourced breakfast before picking up goods at the farm shop. Tour pretty Moreton using my #1 itinerary above before moving on.
Afternoon: Visit Cotswold Brewing (Bourton-on-the-Water), the birthplace of Cotswold lager. Book a brewery tour to learn about the production process, taste the local beers and stock up at the shop. Brewery and tasting tours take place at 12pm and 3pm.
Late afternoon: Pay a visit to Daylesford Organic, an enormous garden centre, cafe and retail space. Eat a sustainable, local meal or snack at the Trough Cafe. For a fun addition to your Cotswold day trip, take a cooking class. See what courses & events are coming up.
Evening: If you’re not already stuffed, dine at Michelin-starred White Rabbit Kingham. British cooking and fine dining come together with dishes like steak, poussin, tortellini and fresh seafood.
If you’re on a tighter budget, eat around the corner instead at the Kingham Plough. Main dishes cost around £15; far cheaper than the White Rabbit.
#9 – Cotswolds movie locations tour
To see where famous movies and TV shows have been shot in the Cotswolds, take this London day trip to the Cotswolds.
Morning – Harry Potter movie locations: Visit either Lacock (south Cotswolds) or Gloucester (west Cotswolds). If you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, ditch my afternoon suggestion and do both.
Lacock: this scenic village is home to famous Lacock Abbey. Both the ancient Abbey and the village were used as filming locations for Harry Potter as well as other productions including The Other Boleyn Girl and Downtown Abbey.
Related read: Self-guided Harry Potter tour of Lacock & Lacock Abbey
Gloucester: Although the city of Gloucester doesn’t exhibit much Cotswold charm, the Cathedral is one of the most impressive in the country. The Harry Potter producers clearly agreed as they filmed scenes from Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Chamber of Secrets (2002) and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) here.
Related read: Harry Potter at Gloucester Cathedral guide
Afternoon: Head over to Bibury to continue your movie locations day trip in the Cotswolds. Scenes from Bridget Jones and Stardust were filmed near idyllic Arlington Row.
Late afternoon: If you have time, visit Bampton on your way back to London. This charming Oxfordshire village just outside the Cotswolds featured in Downtown Abbey. There are several Downtown Abbey filming locations in Bampton you can tour freely.
#10 – Bath and the Cotswolds day trip (public transport-friendly)
Another historical city near the Cotswolds is Bath, just south of the region. Why not take a Cotswolds one day tour, dedicating half the day to Bath and half to the Southern Cotswolds?
Morning: Arrive in Bath by train or car. There are countless things to do in historic Bath, some of the best being:
- Visiting the Roman Baths dating back almost 2,000 years
- Touring the Royal Crescent and the Circus
- Shopping and stopping for tea on Pulteney Bridge
- Admiring Bath Abbey
- Supporting independent shops
- Taking a Bath boat trip.
Book London to Bath train tickets here.
Related read: How to take a day trip to Bath
Afternoon: Visit Castle Combe or Lacock. If coming by train, book a ticket from Bath to Chippenham and catch a 10-minute bus to either village. From Chippenham, catch a direct train to London.
Castle Combe is an Insta-friendly idyllic village (see itinerary #4) while Lacock is famous for its Harry Potter movie locations (see itinerary #9).
Thanks for reading my Cotswolds day itineraries!
I hope you have a better idea of how to see the Cotswolds in a day. Of course, you won’t see everything but you can at least catch the highlights.
A day trip to the Cotswolds from London will be a quick intro to the region. Maybe it will inspire you to return and spend longer at a later date. Use my Cotswolds blogs when you do!
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING THE UK
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.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals and campers in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices with other modes of transport.
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.
Browse UK tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Pack the latest copy of Lonely Planet UK.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
See all my suggestions on my resources page.