London to Cotswolds: The Best Way To Travel (2023)

There are many ways to get from London to Cotswolds, but there is one mode of transport that should be avoided: the train.

Before we explain why, here’s a quick overview about the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds in the UK is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covering an area of around 800 square miles, spanning five counties.

If you’re looking on a map of England, the Cotswolds lies to the left of London and just beyond Oxford.

Here you’ll find an idyllic region with an abundance of glorious countryside treats including walks, gardens, horse riding trails, picnic spots, golf courses, and places to fish, birdwatch, and find peace and tranquility.

As a frequent traveler to the region, I can tell you first hand that the Cotswolds’ tranquility is the perfect tonic for resetting, relaxing and recuperating. Countryside life with vibrant towns and villages, a foodie heaven, fresh, local produce and a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There’s plenty to see and do in this historically rich area with landmarks, churches, castles, and wonderfully exquisite traditional villages, and ways of life at every turn.

Added to this are food, music, and literary festivals, an annual airshow, and many other usual and unusual events taking place throughout the year giving the opportunity for everyone to enjoy something.

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London To Cotswolds

There are plenty of travel options from London to the Cotswolds.

Coach

Since the Cotswolds is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, there are scheduled bus services taking roughly 2.5 hours from Victoria Bus Station to Cheltenham and Cirencester by National Express.

The following are screenshots taken from the National Express’ website for information only to show departure times and cost.

This is perfect if you want to look around a large town in the Cotswolds, have lunch, see buildings made from the famous honey-colored stone, and then return to London. Or, maybe, Cirencester is the first stop on your visit to the region.

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Advantages

  • Coach travel is more affordable than the train
  • There are several coach lines from London
  • A great way to see England from the comfort of your seat

Disadvantages

  • Pre-planning required for peak hour ticket purchase
  • On-board services are generally poor
  • Scheduled travel means an inflexible itinerary

Rental Car

Every time I’ve visited the Cotswolds, I’ve gone by rental car from Heathrow Airport to wherever I’m staying. In Britain, the manual cars (mostly) have central gear transmissions so I always opt for automatic.

Unless you intend to go off-road, there’s no need to rent a 4-wheel drive, with air conditioning, and non-electric because charging stations are rare in the Cotswolds.

My booking strategy is to use www.rentalcars.com to see what’s available and then navigate to the website of Enterprise ( my favorite provider) and book the smallest car available. Then when picking up the car, ask about upgrades.

Sometimes you can get a bigger car by spending a little extra. It’s risky because you might get stuck with what you ordered!

Remember, the UK drive on the left hand side of the road.

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Advantages

  • Greater freedom to explore and experience the Cotswolds in all its glory
  • Free parking can be found everywhere
  • Plenty of space for people, luggage and local produce shopping

Disadvantages

  • Driving can be challenging night and day due to the narrow roads, blind corners, and oncoming traffic
  • Hiring a non-electric car is environmentally unfriendly
  • Can be an expensive to rent in the peak seasons

Limousine

A chauffeur picks you up at your hotel, and drives you to the doorstop of your dream holiday cottage in the heart of the English countryside.

For the journey, there is a well stocked hamper filled with Cotswold cheese, bread, handmade chocolates and rounded off with a bottle of the finest champagne.

At the end of your romantic weekend, the chauffeur returns to take you and partner back to London. Or, might book a car with a driver for a longer period.

This gives you the freedom to explore the region, always have a designated driver on hand, and the ability to set your own schedule.

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Advantages

  • Limousines are driven by professional drivers
  • They provide a luxurious and comfortable travel experience
  • Means you can avoid driving in the Cotswolds

Disadvantages

  • Can be expensive when compared to other modes of transport
  • Demand is higher on the weekends and holidays, with higher rates
  • Fixed timetable with potential surcharges for delays

Train

On paper, the easiest way to reach the Cotswolds is to take a train from London’s Paddington station to Bourton-on-the-Water, Kingham, Cheltenham and the few stations.

However, the UK’s railways are in a mess. Years of underfunding, alleged profit over passengers, and greater focus and investment in the road network, has reduced the once mighty rail network into a patchwork of crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded carriages and ever-increasing ticket prices.

Ticketing is complex with multiple permeations, making the process of buying a ticket from A to B a difficult and confusing experience for everyone.

This will be made worse by the planned closure of all ticket offices, which currently play a vital role in determining how to get anywhere and also act as a valuable lifeline for all, including the elderly.

Working out the ticket required, the cost, the special offers, single and return fares, is something no one should have to go through.

See below for a single way ticket to Cheltenham using www.trip.com.

Screenshot 2023 09 06 at 4.21.26 PM
London to Cotswolds by train

Recently, train strikes have disrupted travel and when they do run, are rarely on time or canceled without warning, and weekend schedules are replaced with temporary bus services in some places.

Therefore, don’t rely on the trains to get from London to Cotswolds. For stress-free travel, consider coach, renting a car, or hiring a car and driver.

The Cotswolds region of England is a perfect example of rural beauty combined with English charm, that offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The region has something to offer for everyone, from history buffs, literary enthusiasts to outdoor explorers.

So, if you want to get away from the noise of the city and explore the idyllic English countryside, then pack a bag and head to the Cotswolds for a truly memorable trip.

Just don’t go by train, otherwise it will be memorable for all the wrong reasons!

Enchantment Awaits
Enchantment Awaits

The Cotswolds region is home to many charming villages and towns, churches, historic landmarks, outdoor activities, in a beautiful part of England. After visiting the region many times, we created the TravelCotswolds website dedicated to helping others plan their own trips to the Cotswolds.

Quick guides: Compton Abdale: A Village With Great Walks To Explore, , Daglingworth: A Peaceful Village With Traditional CharmBagendon: A Quaint Village in the Cotswolds, and Avening: Stunning Views Across Rolling Hills

Contact: hello@travelcotswolds.com

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