Visiting The Cotswolds Without a Car: A Comprehensive Guide (2023)

Visiting the Cotswolds without a car
Photo: Travel Cotswolds

Looking for a peaceful escape to the English countryside? Say hello to the Cotswolds – an idyllic destination with rolling hills, picture-perfect villages, and charming cottages that attract millions of tourists.

But if you’re wondering whether you can explore this wonderland sans car, the answer is an ecstatic ‘YES!’

Visiting the 800 square mile Cotswolds without a car sounds impossible but we’re going to show you how to plan the journey so you can enjoy the picturesque landscapes, the charming villages and cozy pubs.

Visiting The Cotswolds Without A Car

Planning a trip to the enchanting Cotswolds but unsure if you need a car?

Guess what: you don’t! Discovering this stunning region can be achieved through various modes of transport, and ditching the car can enrich your experience in so many ways.

By leaving the car behind, you can slow down and savor the breathtaking surroundings. The Cotswolds boasts rolling green hills, old-fashioned villages, and historical spectacles around every nook and cranny.

Opt for public transportation or take a scenic walk to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve this stunning location for generations to come.

Plus, ditching the cost and stress of car rentals, gas prices, and parking fees will make for a budget-friendly and relaxed adventure.

Best Place to Base Yourself in the Cotswolds

While the Cotswolds is home to many small villages, not all of them are well-connected by public transport.

To help you out, we’ve rounded up the best places to set up camp and venture out into the stunning surroundings.

Visiting Cotswolds Without a Car - Cheltenham

First up, we have Cheltenham, the perfect base for exploring the north of the Cotswolds.

Think stunning Regency architecture, picturesque parks, and festivals galore – including the legendary Cheltenham Literature and Jazz festivals.

With great transport links, you’ll be able to hop on a train to London or Birmingham in no time.

If you’re more of a southern explorer, Stroud is the place to be. This quirky market town is surrounded by rolling hills and valleys, and boasts a buzzing arts and crafts scene.

With direct trains to London and Bristol, you’ll have easy access to all the region has to offer.

Want to discover the heart of the Cotswolds? Look no further than Moreton-in-Marsh. With a weekly market, charming high street, and great transport links, this small market town is the ideal base for exploring the central region.

And with popular destinations like Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold just a stone’s throw away, you won’t be stuck for things to do.

Last but not least, we have Cirencester – this historic market town has Roman roots and a fascinating wool trade heritage. There are some great shops to explore, restaurants, cafes, pubs, markets and quaint streets to wander.

But that’s not all – with direct trains to London and buses to other parts of the region, you’ll be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from unmissable sites like Bibury and the Cotswold Water Park.

Trains, Buses, and Bike!

There are plenty of transport options to explore the Cotswolds, and here’s to give you a rundown.

First up, trains. The quickest and easiest way to get to the Cotswolds without a car is hopping on a train.

There are many stations to choose from, including Cheltenham Spa, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Stroud. Paddington Station in London provides a direct line to the Cotswolds.

Or, many people opt for a bus because it’s cheaper and the schedules are more flexible.

The Stagecoach bus company and National Express operate several routes throughout the area, you’ll be sure to find a bus that fits your needs.

Sit back and take in the stunning views while enjoying the convenience of not having to drive.

For those looking for a more challenging and adventurous trip, exploring the Cotswolds by bike could be perfect.

There are several bike rental companies for you to pedal power your way across 800 square miles of truly spectacular countryside.

The Cotswolds is well served by taxis and limousine services, making every attraction, sight seeing opportunity, town, village and hamlet accessible.

Cotswold 3 Day Itinerary

With a little bit of planning, you can explore the beautiful countryside and charming villages of the Cotswolds.

Here’s a three day itinerary purposely suited for those visiting the Cotswolds without a car and packed with exciting activities.

You can probably squeeze two or three different locations. However, it is very important to check bus schedules before setting out.

Day 1

Get ready to be transported to another world as you take the train to the picturesque market town of Moreton-in-Marsh in the heart of the Cotswolds.

From there, hop on a short bus ride to the postcard-perfect Chipping Campden, where stunning architecture and rich history await you.

As you wander through the village, marvel at the historic market hall and the beautiful St. James’ Church.

You won’t want to miss checking out the Old Silk Mill, which now houses a variety of shops and galleries.

Hop on the bus back to Moreton-in-Marsh and kick back with a leisurely evening in one of the town’s cozy pubs or top-notch restaurants.

Day 2

Make sure you’re well-rested for day two as you take the train to the vibrant town of Stroud, known for its artistic vibes and the weekly farmers’ market.

From there, it’s a short bus ride to the quaint village of Painswick, boasting beautiful gardens and rich history.

Explore the village’s stunning St. Mary’s Church and wander through the enchanting Rococo Garden.

Wrap up your adventure with a bus ride back to Stroud, where the town’s many independent shops and galleries await your enjoyment.

Day 3

On your last day, hop on the train to Cheltenham – a beautiful spa town featuring Regency architecture and a happening cultural scene.

Next, take a quick bus ride to Winchcombe, a charming village boasting a rich history and stunning architecture that will make you want to stop and stare.

Wander around the village, feast your eyes on beautiful St. Peter’s Church, and check out the incredible Sudeley Castle allowing at least three hours to explore the grounds and castle.

Then board a bus or taxi (pre-booking is recommended) to Cheltenham and treat yourself to a relaxing evening spent exploring the town’s many shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

With this three-day itinerary, you’ll get to experience visiting the Cotswolds without a car.

Thanks to the top-notch public transportation and breathtaking walking trails, exploring this region’s charming villages and stunning countryside at your own pace is an absolute breeze.

Other Ways To Explore The Cotswolds

Even if you’re carless, there are tons of ways to discover this charming area.

How about a leisurely stroll? Or a challenging hike? You can try walking one of the famous trails, like the 102-mile Cotswold Way, passing through picturesque villages and amazing countryside.

If you’re looking for something new, check out the Diamond Way – a 65-mile circular route through some lesser-known parts of the Cotswolds, like the stunning Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley.

Or, how about The Windrush Way – a 14-mile stretch along the River Windrush from Bourton-on-the-Water to Burford. You’ll wander through delightful villages and see the sights along the way.

Walking, cycling, tours, and public transport are all great options readily available to take you to most places in the region.

There are plenty of places to stay ranging from glam glamping sites to cozy B&Bs, and luxury hotels, many of which are near public transport.

Overall, visiting the Cotswolds without a car can be a rewarding and memorable experience.

With a bit of planning and flexibility, you can explore this beautiful region at your own pace and on your own terms.

So why not give it a try?

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

Here are some other villages to consider visiting during your trip to the Cotswolds.

BiburyBourton-on-the-WaterCirencesterCompton AbdaleCondicoteLower SlaughterMiserdenSomerford KeynesStroud, and Yanworth.


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