The Cotswolds: Top Five Places to Visit for Unforgettable Experiences (2023)

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, a picturesque region in the United Kingdom, is famed for its rolling hills, honey-coloured limestone villages, and sprawling countryside.

Nestled within the southwest region of England, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spans five counties, encompassing enchanting landscapes and captivating history. In this article, we will explore five of the top must-see locations within the Cotswolds.

One of the key highlights of the Cotswolds is its perfectly preserved medieval towns and villages. Steeped in a rich and diverse history, these settlements offer visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and discover the region’s heritage. From ancient market towns to peaceful hamlets, the charm of the rural English life is captured in this scenic area.

Beyond the stunning architecture, the Cotswolds also boast an array of outdoor recreational activities, local attractions, and vibrant cultural events. The region is an ideal destination for both sedate escapes and lively excursions, offering something for everyone to enjoy.

Top Five Places to Visit

Let’s delve into the top five places to visit in the Cotswolds and uncover the delights that await.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, is a picturesque village in Gloucestershire. With its charming arched bridges and honey-coloured stone cottages, it’s a popular destination for travellers.

Top attractions in this idyllic village include the Model Village, Cotswold Motoring Museum and Birdland Park & Gardens. Leisurely strolls along the River Windrush and afternoon tea in a traditional tearoom can also be enjoyed.

For more information, read our short guide here.

Sudeley Castle

Located near Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle boasts a rich history dating back to the 10th century and was once home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VIII.

Visitors can explore the castle’s beautifully maintained gardens, ruins and exhibitions, and participate in guided tours to learn more about its compelling past.

When I visited last time, there were some wonderful animal art pieces dotting around the grounds including elephants, camels, crocodiles and hedgehogs.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden, situated in the village of Hidcote Bartrim, is a breathtaking example of an Arts and Crafts garden. Created by American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, its unique design features a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ filled with intricate planting and striking colour schemes.

A must-see for garden enthusiasts, Hidcote Manor Garden also offers a well-stocked plant centre, gift shop and café for visitors to enjoy.

Chipping Campden

With its elegant 17th-century market hall and preserved historic architecture, Chipping Campden is one of the most visually stunning towns in the Cotswolds. Steeped in tradition, the town is renowned for its arts and crafts heritage and is the starting point for the 100-mile Cotswold Way walking route.

Highlights for visitors include browsing local shops and galleries, admiring the historic St. James’ Church or enjoying local produce in one of the many cosy pubs and tearooms.

Cirencester

This is my favourite town in the Cotswolds.

Rich in Romano-British history, Cirencester is often referred to as the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. It was the second most important city in Britain during Roman times and has an array of Roman artefacts on display at the Corinium Museum.

Besides the city’s fascinating historical background, you can take in the beauty of Cirencester Park, browse independent shops and galleries, or dine at exceptional restaurants and charming cafes.

Activities and Experiences

The Cotswolds offers a wide range of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy. In this section, I’ve given five options to explore.

1. Hiking and Outdoor Adventures: The Cotswolds boasts over 3,000 miles of public footpaths, providing many opportunities for hiking and exploring the countryside. Possibilities include the Cotswold Way National Trail, a 102-mile long route offering spectacular views and intriguing historical sites.

2. Discovering Charming Villages: With its picturesque villages such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Castle Combe, and Bibury, the Cotswolds is perfect for leisurely strolls and cultural experiences. Visit traditional tearooms, cosy pubs, and ancient churches, soaking in the region’s unique heritage.

3. Wildlife and Nature: There are several nature reserves and parks in the Cotswolds, providing ample opportunities to observe wildlife and enjoy the great outdoors. From birdwatching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre to exploring the lush woodland trails of Batsford Arboretum, nature lovers will find much to enjoy.

4. Food and Drink: Immerse yourself in the local gastronomy by visiting farmers’ markets, sampling locally-produced cheeses, and indulging in traditional Cotswold dishes. Don’t miss out on a pint of real ale at one of the area’s historic pubs, many of which date back centuries.

5. Cycling: The Cotswolds offers numerous cycling routes suitable for all abilities, from casual rides along quiet country lanes to more challenging off-road trails. Rent a bike, bring your own, or join a guided tour to experience the region’s natural beauty on two wheels.

Local Cuisine and Dining

The Cotswolds offer a delightful array of local cuisine and dining options that cater to various tastes and budgets. From traditional pubs to exquisite restaurants, visitors will be spoiled for choice when exploring the region’s culinary gems.

Some must-try dishes that showcase the wonderful flavours and quality of Cotswolds produce include:

  • Double Gloucester Cheese: A classic English cheese with a distinctive orange hue and rich taste, perfect for enjoying with traditional crackers and local chutneys.
  • Old Spot pork: A renowned Gloucestershire pig breed known for its succulent and flavourful meat, often roasted or served in a hearty casserole.
  • Winstone’s Cotswold ice cream: A family-run business producing artisanal ice creams and sorbets with locally sourced ingredients, offering an indulgent treat to those visiting the area.
  • Elderflower Cordial: A refreshing non-alcoholic beverage made from fragrant elderflowers, typically mixed with sparkling water for a delicious summer drink.


Cotswolds towns and villages are home to a range of dining establishments well worth visiting, such as:

RestaurantLocationSpeciality
The Wild GarlicNailsworthModern British cuisine with a focus on seasonality and foraged ingredients. There are no menus and there are two eight course options.
Approximately £115£145 per person
Tel: 1453 832 615
The Kingham PloughKinghamGourmet gastropub dishes using locally sourced and high-quality ingredients. Menu includes grazing plates, pub classics, steaks and shellfish cooked in a modern-British style with a Mediterranean touch.
See here for a sample menu and prices.
Tel: 01608 658 327
Daylesford The Trough Organic RestaurantDaylesfordOrganic, farm-to-table fare in a beautiful countryside setting. Smart casual dress code. Open from breakfast to evening, small plate grazing, seasonal food, pizza in the main bar or at outdoor tables.
Tel: 1608 731 700
Three Ways House Hotel & RestaurantMickletonTraditional British dishes with a modern twist, famed for their delightful array of puddings.
Tel: 01386 438429
April 2023

Travel Tips and Getting Around

When planning a trip to the Cotswolds, it’s essential to familiarise oneself with various aspects of travelling in the region, including transportation options and local customs.

As the Cotswolds area spans across many charming villages and towns, having a reliable mode of transportation is crucial.

The following methods are common choices for getting around:

  • Car rental: Renting a car allows for the flexibility to visit destinations on one’s own schedule. I always drive in the Cotswolds.
  • Bus services: Catching local buses helps in reaching most villages and towns, though service frequencies may vary. Patchy services. Please check before arrival.
  • Train services: Limited train connections exist between select towns within the Cotswolds. Check before arrival. Train tickets can be pricey.
  • Cycling: Biking paths and designated cycling routes can offer a scenic and eco-friendly way to explore the region

Pack for unpredictable weather, as the Cotswolds experiences mild climate changes throughout the year. Prepare for sudden rain showers by bringing an umbrella or waterproof clothing, and dress in layers to adapt to temperature fluctuations.

Lastly, politeness and respect go a long way in any unfamiliar surroundings. Supermarkets are great for necessities, but I like to shop at independent shops and farmer’s markets too.

Where to Stay

The Cotswolds offers a variety of accommodation options for visitors. From cosy bed and breakfasts to luxurious hotels, there is something for everyone’s taste and budget. Below are five popular places to stay in the Cotswolds:

  • Old Stocks Inn: Located in Stow-on-the-Wold, this 17th-century coaching inn has been beautifully renovated and offers modern amenities with traditional charm. Guests can enjoy a delicious meal in the on-site restaurant and explore the many boutiques and cafés in the village.
    Email reception@threewayshousehotel.com. Tel: 01386 438429.
  • Calcot Manor: This historic manor house in Tetbury is surrounded by picturesque gardens and offers a luxury experience for guests. With an award-winning spa, fine dining and comfortable rooms, Calcot Manor is a perfect retreat for a relaxing getaway.
    (could only find the website)
  • The Wheatsheaf Inn: Situated in Northleach, this former coaching inn is now a stylish and welcoming country pub with rooms. The Wheatsheaf Inn is well-known for its delicious seasonal menu and inviting atmosphere, making it a popular choice for visitors exploring the Cotswolds.
  • Email: bookings.wheatsheafinn@youngs.co.uk Tel: 01451 539889
  • The Painswick: Overlooking the charming town of Painswick, this boutique hotel offers an intimate and luxurious experience. With stunning views of the surrounding countryside, guests can relax in the beautifully designed rooms or indulge in a sumptuous meal at the on-site restaurant.
    (could only find the website)
  • The Slaughters Country Inn: Set in the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter, this enchanting inn combines traditional Cotswold architecture with modern comforts. Guests can enjoy riverside dining and beautiful walks along the nearby River Eye.
    Website


Whichever accommodation option is chosen, visitors to the Cotswolds are sure to have a memorable and enjoyable stay in this beautiful region of England.

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 Travel Cotswolds website dedicated to helping others plan their own trips to the Cotswolds.

If you’re looking for other places to visit, click the following for quick guides to Poole Keynes, Rendcomb, Weston-sub-EdgeWotton-under-EdgeWitney, and many more on the main page.

Contact: hello@travelcotswolds.com

Scroll to Top