One of the most famously beautiful places to visit in England, this protected area is so-called due to the resident cottages being made from the very distinctive honey-coloured Cotswold stone. The Cotswolds is the kind of place that lingers with you long after you leave and has even been officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Expect to see impossibly gorgeous golden villages, pretty thatched cottages, miles of green unspoilt landscapes, and fine historic mansions. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds…
1. Castle Combe – one of the prettiest villages to visit in the Cotswolds
Castle Combe is a quaint village in the Cotswolds in Wiltshire, England. Visiting this civil parish village feels like entering a time capsule and traveling back in time. With no new houses built in since the 1600s, Castle Combe preserves its old-school charm and cozy honey-toned stone cottage look. The town offers scenic valley views against a winding river and a Manor House from where you can boat out into the river.
There is also a lovely marketplace with trails into the woodlands, the beautiful St Andrew’s church that was featured in the original Doctor Dolittle movie and a nearby golf course. Along with a rich history and picturesque scenery, the village is home to the Castle Combe Circuit, where drivers can test out different cars and bikes on the rally course. Listed as one of the UK’s prettiest villages, Castle Combe and its neighbourhood are a real-life fairytale.
2. Cotswold Way – one of the most stunning spots to explore in the Cotswolds
The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile long foot trail, along the Cotswold Edge escarpment of the Cotswold Hills in England. This beautiful path was officially inaugurated as a National Trail in 2007.
Displaying the quintessential English countryside, this scenic trail passes through pristine woodlands, green grasslands and picturesque pastoral farmlands. Apart from the awe-inspiring views, you can also find stunning churches, historic castles, ancient battle sites, Neolithic burial grounds, and lovely villages on this route. This route offers unique itineraries to customize your journey through the stunning English countryside.
3. Cheltenham – a large and very beautiful spa town to visit in the Cotswolds
Located in Gloucestershire, England, Cheltenham is known as a Regency Town and one of the few traditional English towns where cultural and contemporary architecture complement each other. The amazing architecture includes Regency Buildings, the Wilson Fine Art Museum, and the Victorian Everyman Theatre and Auditorium, broad streets and lovely parks. This inland spa town is renowned for its medicinal waters that can be enjoyed at the Pittville Pump Room, whose blue dome rises above the lakes of Pittville Park. The lake is the only source of natural alkaline water in England!
Cheltenham, often known as ‘The Western Gateway to the Cotswolds’, also hosts the famous Cheltenham Festival horse jump and racing festival. This iconic town with its interesting farmer’s markets, elegant restaurants and boutique shops has even been voted one of the top five shopping streets in Britain in 2011.
4. Broadway Hill and Tower – a wonderful place to walk in the Cotswolds
This beautiful place to visit in Cotswolds is located near Broadway village. The gorgeous Broadway Hill is the second-highest point in the Cotswold and a popular spot with walkers.
Head for the iconic landmark Broadway Tower which stands at a height of 65 feet and once visited offers truly wonderful views of the Cotswolds countryside.
5. Cirencester – a lovely town and one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds
Situated to the west of London, on the banks of River Churn, in Gloucestershire, England, Cirencester is the largest town in Cotswolds. Cirencester is a beautiful market town with an impressive history. Often referred as the Capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester was once the second-largest city after London. This flourishing town is filled with charming culture, cobble-stoned footpaths, honey-hued stone houses, and unique craft shops and antique boutiques. The main market place holds different markets like a farmers market, antique market, home and garden bazaar, and craftsman’s market on different days of the week.
Other attractions include the Corinium Museum, Roman Amphitheatre, Victorian brewery, and Cirencester Park and Abbey Grounds. Besides its picturesque setting, Cirencester’s central location makes it a great base for travelers to visit nearby villages and areas.
6. Bourton-on-the-Water – a very pretty village in the Cotswolds
Located in a small valley in rural Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is a truly breathtaking village. This popular village is commonly called the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ because of its lovely low bridges that cross the River Windrush that flows through the village.
The Cotswold Motoring Museum features a collection of vintage cars and children’s toys. Birdland Park and Garden consists of exotic bird species including parrots, owls and king penguins, and life-size model dinosaurs. The Model Village is a 1/9th scale replica of the village. Model Railway Exhibition, The Dragonfly Maze, Cotswold Perfumery, and the nearby Salmonsbury Meadows wildlife nature reserve are some other sights to see and enjoy. With an unusual tradition of playing football in the river in summer and a beautiful ceremony of placing the town’s Christmas tree in the river, Bourton is charming all year round!
7. Crickley Hill Country Park – for wonderful walking and gorgeous views
This gorgeous beauty spot is managed jointly by the National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. It’s a wonderful place that offers beautiful countryside, great walking trails, and wonderful views over the Severn Vale, the Brecon Beacons, and Black Mountain as well as facilities in the form of a picnic area and a cafe.
It’s also recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it’s home to a variety of wildflowers as well as many birds, reptiles, and mammals. Also don’t leave without visiting the Iron Age Hill Fort which you can still see today.
8. Gloucester and Gloucestershire Cathedral – a cathedral city known for its wonderful architecture
The beautiful cathedral city of Gloucester lies on the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, between the River Severn and the Forest of Dean. As the country’s most inland port, Gloucester’s history and progress date back over 2000 years to Roman times. Gloucester boasts of a rich heritage and numerous historic architectural sights.
The most remarkable is the Gloucester Cathedral, formerly called the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, which was built in 678 and dedicated to Saint Peter.
9. Moreton-in-Marsh – a thriving market town located at the head of the beautiful Evenlode Valley
Moreton-in-Marsh is a small but prominent market town in the Evenlode Valley, in Gloucestershire, England. This thriving market town dating back 1000 years, is made up of a wide main street, and numerous back lanes. The main high street contains exquisitely designed 16th to 18th-century buildings including the king’s manor (White Hart Royal), a curfew tower with its original clock and bell, Parish church of St. David, and the town’s main public hall. The street is also lined with houses, shops, tearooms, and cafes, all in custom Cotswolds stone buildings.
Nearby attractions include Batsford Arboretum, Cotswold Falconry, and Bourton House Garden & Sezincote Gardens, with its well-known the Moreton Eight walking trail. At the edge of Moreton-in-Marsh is the Four Shire Stone that marks the ancient meeting point of four English counties.
10. Gloucestershire Steam Railway – a popular family attraction in the Cotswolds
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a heritage railway line that runs along the border of the Cotswolds, England. This volunteer-operated service is a 28-mile round-trip route that takes 1.5 hours for a return journey from Cheltenham to Laverton.
Also called ‘The Friendly Line in the Cotswolds’, the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Steam Railway offers spectacular countryside views and an opportunity to ride in a historic rail car, drawn by steam or diesel.
11. Tewkesbury Abbey – known for being one of the UK’s greatest examples of medieval architecture
Tewkesbury Abbey is the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin, Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, England. This present Parish Church dates back to the nearly the 10th century, when it was originally founded as a Benedictine monastery.
The glorious church is larger than 14 British cathedrals and its interiors furnished with elegance fabric and furnishings. The Abbey also contains chantry chapels of some of the most influential families from the time and a Norman tower made in refined Norman architecture from the 15th century, with stained glass and unique roof bosses.
12. Broadway – often known as the ‘Show Village of England’
The gorgeous village of Broadway located in the county of Worcestershire, England is a popular and pretty destination throughout the year. As its name suggests, Broadway is primarily built around one broad main street that is lined with restaurants, cafes, delis, stores and antique shops. The magnificent main street offers an array of shopping and eating options.
The natural beauty of Broadway can be witnessed in the valley of Evesham Vale. The St Eadburgha’s Church and Broadway Tower are must-see attractions in Broadway, and the views of the town landscape from the 312 mt high tower are simply beautiful.
13. Robinswood Hill Country Park – a gorgeous hilltop park with great walking trails
This is a large 250-acre park and a fantastic place to walk in the Cotswolds. Located on a hill, it’s a fairly steep climb but once you have reached the top the views are well worth it. Once at the top you can see Severn Bridge to the South, the Malvern Hills to the North, and the Black Mountains to the West.
It’s a great place to visit with the family as there’s also a traditional orchard and this area also provides a habitat for resident foxes, badgers and red kites.
14. Chipping Campden – a beautiful Cotswold town full of character and history
One of the prettiest small towns in the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden is a market town in Gloucestershire, England that comprises a refined High Street, from the 14th to 17th century. The village main street is lined with unbroken ancient stone houses and the town is known for its craftsmanship of limestone.
“Chipping” means market from the old English “Ceping”. As the name suggests, Chipping Campden was an important and famous medieval wool town throughout Europe.a gilded masterpiece of limestone and craftsmanship. “Campden” draws its name from the Saxon “Campadene”, meaning a valley or enclosure of cultivated land.
The attractive town of Chipping Campden is home to St James Church, the finest ‘wool’ church in the Cotswolds. The church has a remarkable 120 ft. tower and is known for its luxurious interiors and for having one of the oldest altar tapestries and largest brass in England. The Court Barn Museum and Old Silk Mill display the craftsmanship of the Cotswolds.
This fine town, with its well-preserved history and architecture, is full of bustle, colour and lively events.
15. Westonbirt Arboretum – a picturesque place which is home to a renowned tree collection
Managed by Forestry England, the National Westonbirt Arboretum is an arboretum in Gloucestershire, is the most well-known arboretum in England. It consists of 15,000 trees and plants of over 2,500 unique tree species, where each specimen tree is individually labelled. Planted during the Victorian plant hunting in the mid-19th century, this 600 acres area includes 12 miles of marked nature trails, studded with Gruffalo sculptures, that lead to rare and exotic global plants.
There are also other walking and running routes, trails for plant sightings and bird watching, and a treetop walkway. A unique experience is the Silk Wood trail that showcases many exotic plantings but is mainly a traditional working woodland, dating back to the 13th century. Westonbirt Arboretum is truly a magical tree garden, where you can explore trees from all over the globe.
16. Berkeley Castle – an ancient fortress dating from the 12th century
Built in 1153 by the Berkeley family, whose 27th generation still live here, Berkeley Castle was originally a historic fortress. Over the centuries, it has changed from a fortress to a welcoming family home. This ancestral property includes plenty of rooms, a dungeon, a medieval kitchen, and gardens with a tropical butterfly house.
The drawing-rooms are decorated with antique furniture, elegant fabrics, upholstery, chandeliers, silver lamps, and paintings. There is a unique spider’s-web ceiling. The 8-acres of terraced gardens with exclusive plants also has a lovely tea room, gift shop, and plant sales area. Discovering the fascinating history of the Berkeley family definitely makes this beautiful sight a must-visit!
17. Upper and Lower Slaughter – two impossibly pretty picturesque typical Cotswolds villages
Sharing an intriguing name, Upper and Lower Slaughter are connected by the tiny River Eye, tributary to the River Windrush. The villages in Lower Slaughter are one of the prettiest in the area. With unrivalled natural beauty, they are often used in filming and production.
An interesting sight is Lower Slaughter Mill & Café that began as a Slaughter Mill in the 14th Century and is recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Equally delightful is Upper Slaughter, which is a short walk from Bourton-on-the-Water. This beautiful area is a ‘sainted village’ because it lost nobody in the First World War.
18. Painswick Beacon – a gorgeous Cotswolds beauty spot
The Cotswolds village of Painswick is a beautiful village to visit home to a pretty church and very typical Cotswolds cottages. I’d recommend visiting here first and then donning your walking shoes and heading to nearby Painswick Hill.
It’s a lovely spot to walk offering gorgeous Cotswolds scenery and when you reach the top fantastic views of the Cotswold Hills, the Severn Vale, the Forest of Dean, and even the Brecon Beacons mountains. It’s also the site of an Iron Age hill fort.
19. Highgrove Gardens – the private residence of Prince Charles
The Royal Gardens at Highgrove in the Cotswolds are the private residential gardens of their royal highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Located near Tetbury, is this Gloucestershire royal residence, and these elegant gardens were creatively designed by the Prince over the last 38 years. The beautiful landscape of organic gardens and extensive variety of exotic plants reflects his commitment to sustainable gardening and preserving natural beauty. Tours of these manicured grounds include a visit to a charming tea room and the gift shop.
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My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.