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Upper Slaughter is easily one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds yet it somehow manages to escape the crowds that descend on Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
It’s somewhere I’ve been visiting since I was a child (which is getting rather a long time ago now) and I have many happy memories here. I hope you create some of your own with help from this blog!
Why visit Upper Slaughter?
There aren’t realms of things to do in Upper Slaughter. Don’t visit if you’re looking for an atmospheric place with sights and activities; there are better places in the Cotswolds for that.
This quaint village on the banks of the River Eye is an utterly peaceful place for a picnic or to dabble your toes in the babbling brook at the bottom of the hill.
In Lower Slaughter, you can forget the modern day and visualise the Cotswolds as it would have looked 100 years ago (minus a few Range Rovers belonging to the locals and occasional burst of photo-happy tourists).
Quick history of Upper Slaughter
With over 1,000 years of history, the two Slaughter villages were mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). At one point, there was even a castle here! No one is sure of the exact dates as it didn’t appear in the Doomsday Book (commonly castles didn’t) but some think it was built for defence by Matilda, daughter of Henry I, during the 12th-century civil war known as the Anarchy.
Another fun fact about Lower Slaughter relates to its strange name. ‘Slaughter’ has some gruesome connotations!
Actually, ‘Slaughter’ is a derivation of the Old English word ‘slothre’ meaning muddy place. It’s not the most glamorous of names but it’s a relief to learn nothing violent happened here (well, apart from a civil war). In fact, quite the opposite…
A ‘doubly sainted’ village
A sainted village or thankful village is one that lost no soldiers during WWI. As you can probably deduce, a ‘doubly sainted’ village is one that lost no residents to WWII, either. The only Cotswolds village (and one of just 14 UK villages) to hold this title is Upper Slaughter
Where is Upper Slaughter?
Upper Slaughter is located in Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, approximately 3 miles from Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. It can be reached easily from Oxford, Cheltenham, the Midlands and even as part of a Cotswolds day trip from London.
How to get to Upper Slaughter
By car: Take the A429 and turn off onto Copse Hill Road close to Fosseway Services.
By public transport: this is a little tricky because no direct transport connects the Slaughter villages. Your best bet is taking a bus to Bourton-on-the-Water and walking to the Slaughters (approx 25 minutes’ walk). The 801 bus takes 20 minutes to Bourton from Moreton-in-Marsh, a larger Cotswolds town with direct trains to London.
Where to park in Upper Slaughter
There are a few parking spaces around The Square (postcode GL54 2JE) otherwise you could park in Lower Slaughter on the street outside the Slaughters Country Inn and walk 20 minutes to Upper Slaughter. If the meadow is muddy, follow the road along Becky Hill.
What to do in Upper Slaughter
Despite being a tiny village, there are a few places in Upper Slaughter of interest. These include…
The ford – perfect for paddling
From the centre of the village, walk downhill towards Lower Farm. Here you’ll find an idyllic scene awaiting: a section of the River Eye, a tributary of the River Windrush, shallow enough to paddle in.
Dip your toes in the summer months or, in bad weather, wade through wearing wellies (for anyone not English, rubber Wellington boots are worn by farmers and attendees of Glastonbury Festival!).
The ford is encircled by a cluster of traditional Cotswold cottages. Apart from the odd TV aerial, I can’t imagine this scene has changed much in 200 years! It’s simply idyllic.
If you’re driving, the only way across is through the watery ford.
Picnic at the top of the hill
This bench at the top of the hill offers a lay of the land, doubling up as the perfect picnic spot. There are no shops in Lower Slaughter so I would advise bringing your own food and drink unless you’re planning a pub lunch elsewhere.
The smaller bridge crossing
Tourists often miss this picturesque spot because it’s slightly away from the road. This footbridge is another crossing point over the River Eye, offering views of the water and surrounding characterful cottages.
Find it to the left of the first bridge (after walking down the hill).
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Church has stood at the heart of Upper Slaughter since at least the 12th century; possibly the 11th. This central point of worship was undoubtedly the beating heart of the village in times gone by. It’s well-kept and worth visiting regardless of your religious views.
See the stained glass window
For a small, modest church in a tiny village, I was impressed by the interior of St Peter’s. Don’t miss the detailed stained glass window at the back.
Although it’s undeniably intricate, this traditional window can’t compete with the one found to its left…
Thomas Denny’s modern stained glass art
I automatically recognised this alternative stained glass window from my adventures the previous summer finding Harry Potter filming locations at Gloucester Cathedral. As well as the movie locations, I’d been impressed with the Cathedral’s stained glass art by British artist, Thomas Denny.
His modern approach to stained glass may not suit everyone’s tastes but I think it’s a brilliant take on a traditional craft. He completed this window in 1995, just a few years after his larger Gloucester Cathedral ones.
At St Peter’s Church, there’s also a book sale with the prices listed beside the shelves.
Naturally, St Peter’s Church is free to enter but if you take a pamphlet (with some information about the windows) or a bottle of water, pop £1 in a donation box.
Spot quaint details
Don’t leave Lower Slaughter without wandering through the pleasant back lanes potting small details. I spotted this chicken statue beside the village noticeboard and this pretty tractor wind ornament elsewhere.
See movie scenes
The quaint nature of Upper Slaughter has put it on the map as a filming location. With very few indicators of the modern-day, it’s an ideal setting for period dramas.
The following movies have been filmed in Upper Slaughter:
- Father Brown (2013)
- Our Mutual Friend (1988)
- The Sailor’s Return (1978).
If you’ve seen any of these productions, try and spot the filming locations around Upper Slaughter.
Typical architecture – Upper Slaughter Almshouses
Edwin Lutyens was a British architect known for his imaginative style that adapted traditions to meet the times. Best known for his sumptuous country houses, his work ranged from the grandeur of New Delhi and the last ‘castle’ built in the country (Castle Drogo) to these more humble cottages.
The Almshouses found in Upper Slaughter were purpose-built as low-cost community housing for those in need. Ironically, the residents who live there now must be wealthy as the Upper Slaughter postcode is an expensive one!
Completed in 1907, nothing new has been built in Upper Slaughter since, surely making it one of the best-preserved villages in the Cotswolds.
Although you wouldn’t think it now, Upper Slaughter was once home to an impressive motte and bailey castle. Not much remains but the Castle Mound, supposedly built in the 11th century as overspill from the royal manor of Lower Slaughter.
Some suspect it was built for defence during the civil war of 1139 to 1153, while the pottery found there suggests it was inhabited during the 12th and 13th centuries.
It’s not the most impressive attraction in Upper Slaughter but it’s worth swinging by since it’s right beside the central square.
Walk to Lower Slaughter
There are several walks around Upper Slaughter but, to combine a second charming village into your day out, you can’t do better than the meadow walk to Lower Slaughter.
From Upper Slaughter, walk past the Lords of the Manor hotel and through a gate on the right. Follow footpath signs along Warden’s Way through a wide-open meadow. If you walk straight, you’ll come out on a road near the centre of the village.
A summer option is to veer right along the meadow and walk along the banks of the River Eye. Use the Old Mill with its distinctive chimney to guide you. Beware that the riverwalk can be muddy in winter or anytime it’s been raining.
In case of bad weather, leave Upper Slaughter via Rose Row, turn left onto the main road then turn left onto Becky Hill. This route isn’t particularly scenic but it’s your best bet if the weather’s bad and you don’t have suitable footwear.
Both routes should take around 20 minutes on foot.
Walk from Bourton-on-the Water
This lovely walk is a great way to see more of the Cotswolds. If beginning in Bourton, follow the Heart of England Way to Lower Slaughter then take the Wardens Way described above to Upper Slaughter.
Simply reverse the route if starting in the Slaughters and finishing in Bourton. The distance is 1.3 miles from Bourton to Lower Slaughter.
If you’re feeling energetic, take a 4 mile walk from Stow-on-the-Wold, through the Slaughters and finishing in Bourton. You’ll deserve a pub lunch after all that country air!
Where to stay – Upper Slaughter hotels
Lords of the Manor Hotel – as one of the most acclaimed hotels in the Cotswolds, this luxury 17th-century manor house is the perfect peaceful getaway, plus it’s dog-friendly! The rooms showcase the history and character of the area, while the restaurant has been voted in the Top 100 restaurants in Britain by the Sunday Times.
Check availability and prices at the Lords of the Manor Hotel.
Where to eat and drink in Upper Slaughter
Well, here’s a very short list! The only place to eat in Upper Slaughter is the Lords of the Manor Hotel, mentioned above. You don’t need to stay overnight to eat here but you will need to book well in advance if it’s the Atrium you wish to dine at. This AA rosette fine dining restaurant is in high demand!
The second restaurant, the Dining Room, is a better bet for a budget meal. With mains from £16, it’s pretty cheap for the Cotswolds!
If this is too pricey for you, there are lots of places to eat in Bourton-on-the-Water, not far away.
What’s the best time of year to visit Upper Slaughter?
Well, as we all probably know, the weather in England can be atrocious any time of year! Your best bet for good weather is the summer months between June and August. However, prepare for the Cotswolds to be busy.
My personal preference for visiting Upper Slaughter would be spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November). These are lovely times to observe the changing seasons and not too busy.
All the photos in this blog were taken during January so, if you get a dose of winter sun, make the most of it!
Considerations for visiting Upper Slaughter
- Don’t photograph the locals and leave the drone at home! Upper Slaughter isn’t the busiest place in the Cotswolds but I’m sure it’s still annoying for the locals if tourists act carelessly.
- Parking – I noticed a sign on the village noticeboard saying that, in 2020 and 2021, there had been an increase of visitors parking inconsiderately or illegally. Make sure not to block local’s drives or road junctions.
- Driving – narrow roads lead into the village so make sure to go slow, especially if people have parked badly around the corners.
Thanks for reading!
Use my Cotswolds blogs to plan your trips. If you like Upper Slaughter, I think you’ll also enjoy the following charming towns:
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