Lower Slaughter, one of the prettiest places in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a beautiful part of Southern England, with picturesque villages and towns full of quaint cottages, gift shops and tea rooms. The Cotswolds as a region is popular with both local and international visitors, but where are the best places to visit in the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds makes for a great day out, wandering around the beautiful towns and villages, stopping for tea and cake in a little tea room, or maybe a hearty Sunday lunch in one of the many pubs.
There are so many great places to visit in the Cotswolds, but I've narrowed it down to 9 of my favourite towns and villages and created this short, handy guide to help you choose where to visit in the Cotswolds, covering the best things to see and do in each place. If you’ve got more time, why not make a weekend of it and visit several of the best places the Cotswolds has to offer over a couple of days or combine it with a longer break to the nearby Roman city of Bath?
9 beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds, England
Read on to see which 9 places I've picked as the best places to visit in the Cotswolds...
Broadway is one of the most popular towns in the Cotswolds and is most famous for the Broadway tower, an English Heritage Tower envisioned by 18th-century landscape designer, “Capability Brown”. The tower sits on Beacon hill, which is just a short walk uphill from the main street of Broadway, and from the top of Beacon hill, you get great views over the surrounding area. From the Broadway tower, take the path for a short stroll around the deer park, before stopping back at the cafe. If walking up the hill to Beacon hill is not an option for you, you can drive there and there is parking by the cafe.
The Broadway Tower
What is there to do in Broadway?
One of the best things to do in the Cotswolds is to explore the beautiful countryside, and lucky for you if you are staying in Broadway, as the Cotswolds way National trail runs past the pretty town.
From Broadway, head South along the Cotswolds way to the villages of Snowshill, stopping at Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property with beautiful gardens. From Snowshill, you can continue onto Stanton, before completing the full circle back to Broadway. Or, from the Broadway tower pick up the Cotswolds way in the opposite direction and walk to the town of Chipping Campden. Both of these are lovely walks and I would really recommend them - I used this website to download walking routes, which is really useful.
Broadway village itself is predominantly made up of a wide high street, lined with independent shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants, so if walking isn't your thing, don't worry! You will still find plenty to do in Broadway to enjoy a couple of hours wandering in the shops and enjoying a drink in one of the cafes.
Where to stay in Broadway?
The Lygon Arms hotel sits in the centre of the high street and is a great place for a romantic getaway, however there are plenty of alternative accommodation options, including many guest houses and cottages. I booked a guest house right off the high street on booking.com
Are there plenty of places to eat in Broadway?
Broadway has some great cafes, restaurants, and pubs to choose from. If you fancy something more upscale, the Lyon Arms Grill and wine bar is a good choice. If it’s a sunny day, The Broadway hotel has a great outside seating area so you can watch the world go by. The Swan pub and The Broadway Indian are also great choices for evening meals. I can also recommend Russell's fish & chips for a takeaway option!
Broadway High Street and the war memorial
Winchcombe is a small Anglo-Saxon town, sat between the lively town of Cheltenham and Broadway, and is known for being a great base for walkers! Not only does the Cotswold Way pass through the town, but there is also the 42 mile Winchcombe Way and the shorter 14 mile Isbourne Way, which follows the river. The Windrush Way, The Wardens Way, and The Gardens Way also all cross through the town and each May there is an annual 3 day walking festival which comprises many different walks, all led by local guides.
Walking in Winchcombe
One of the best things to do in Winchcombe is to walk the Cotswolds Way to Cleeve Common - the largest common in the Cotswolds. The 455 hectare common is a biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are two car parks on either side of the common if you prefer to drive here instead of walk. We picked a spot along the Cotswolds Way for a picnic - just watch out for the sheep poo! The golf club near the quarry is open to the public and a great place to grab a drink or bite to eat (and use the toilet!).
From Cleeve Common, continue along the Cotswolds Way until it eventually meets Isbourne Way - follow the Isbourne Way back to Winchcombe to finish the 15km circular walk and a great day out!
What else is there to do in Winchcombe?
The town of Winchcombe is pretty small, but there are a couple of nice cafes and pubs for a drink and if you fancy a break away from walking, then visit the impressive Sudeley Castle and wander around the beautiful gardens.
Winchcombe high street and the impressive Sudeley Castle and Gardens
3. Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden is one of the most popular and picturesque Cotswolds towns, and it's not hard to see why. Despite the lively calendar of events and many restaurants, the town has retained its historic charm, making it a great place to base yourself whilst staying in the Cotswolds.
What is there to do in Chipping Campden?
The high street is full of delis, cafes, pubs, and restaurants as well as small boutiques selling gifts and items for the home. In the centre of the high street is the iconic market hall, built in 1627 and at the end of the same street is the 17th century St James’ church, famous for having the oldest tapestries and brass artefacts in England.
Walking in Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden marks the start of the 104 mile Cotswold way and from here you can walk along the Cotswold way to Broadway tower. To pick up the Cotswolds way, walk to the end of the high street, past the church, and follow signs for Dover’s Hill. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic with a view and enjoy a stroll around the park here. If you wanted a longer walk, from Dover's Hill, you can continue along the Cotswolds Way and follow the signs until you reach Broadway Tower, in the town of Broadway. From Broadway, you can either retrace the route to get back to Chipping Campden, or hop in a taxi to save your legs!
Where to stay in Chipping Campden?
There is an abundance of guest houses and hotels to choose from in Chipping Campden. We stayed at the Noel Arms hotel and had a lovely dinner at the restaurant that evening after a long day of walking.
Chipping Campden high street and the Market Hall
Bourton-on-the-water is most known for its series of low bridges straddling the River Windrush, which runs through the centre of the village. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ (why is there always a 'Venice of...' in beautiful places?!)
What is there to do in Bourton-on-the-water?
Bourton-on-the-water is one of the most popular villages in the Cotswolds, and it can get very busy with visitors, particularly in the summer months, when the river is surrounded by families enjoying a picnic or ice cream and children and dogs paddle in the shallow stream. There are many traditional tea rooms and pubs to choose from as well, but again these do get very busy. If you can, I would try to avoid weekends and public holidays, especially in the summer.
As well as many cafes, Bourton-on-the-water has several gift shops selling clothes, jewellery, and homeware. Other attractions in and around Bourton-on-the-water are the Birdland Park & Gardens, the Dragonfly maze as well as the Motoring and toy museum, and the Cotswold brew company.
Walking in Bourton-on-the-water
If you fancy getting out of the village, follow this 10 mile walk which takes you through the pretty villages of Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, and Naunton. The Slaughters Country Inn pub at Lower Slaughter is a great place to stop for a coffee and has a lovely large garden.
The River Windrush running through Bourton-on-the-Water
5. The Slaughters
There is limited parking at both Upper and Lower Slaughter but, as I mentioned above, it is a pretty walk from Bourton-on-the-Water, so you could easily walk there, stop for a coffee or lunch and return along the same route, following the river.
What is there to do in The Slaughters?
Both villages are considered to be two of the prettiest places to visit in the Cotswolds. Although they are both very small, I definitely think it is worth a visit, especially if you are visiting from Bourton-on-the-water, as they are so cute. Lower Slaughter is slightly bigger than Upper Slaughter and the best thing to do in Lower Slaughter is to go for a short wander along the stream, it is really idyllic. After your stroll along the river, visit the Lower Slaughter Mill and Cafe or The Slaughters Country Inn for lunch.
From Lower Slaughter, you can also walk the short path across fields to Upper Slaughter for a little wander around the quiet village.
Stroll along the river at Lower Slaughter and the walk towards Upper Slaughter
Stow-on-the-Wold is a pretty market town, and together with Moreton-on-the-Marsh, it is considered to be one of the smallest towns in the Cotswolds. It is dominated by its large market square, which is a throwback to the town’s importance as a significant trading point, being at the junction of seven major roads.
What is there to do in Stow-on-the-Wold?
Nowadays, Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the best places in the Cotswolds for shopping, with many cafes and independent shops in the main square. It’s also a great base for which to explore the surrounding area and is within 20 minutes of Broadway, Bourton-on-the-water, and Morten-in-Marsh.
Stow on the Wold Market square and one of the shopping streets
Possibly the smallest of the Cotswolds towns, Moreton-in-Marsh is a lovely little place to stop for lunch, with plenty of coffee houses and tearooms to choose from.
Is Moreton-in-Marsh worth visiting?
There are not a huge amount of shops in the small town, but it still has a thriving market, the largest of which is on a Tuesday, where up to 200 stalls take over the market square, so if you can, try and time your visit with a trip to the market!
The centre of Moreton in the Marsh comes alive on Tuesdays when this square is full of stalls
8. Chipping Norton
Chipping Norton is a lively market town, which lies between Banbury and Oxford. This larger town has more of a modern feel to it and is perhaps not quite as charming as some of the other smaller towns and villages in the Cotswolds.
What is there to do in Chipping Norton?
Chipping Norton feels more ‘lived-in’ and mainstream than its more traditional neighbours, and for that reason it does not attract as many visitors. However, it is a great place to base yourself and you might find some better deals here on accommodation than in some of the more sought-after Cotswolds towns.
Chipping Norton is a good spot for a bit of shopping, with well-known high street brands occupying the market square and high street. It also has many pubs and restaurants to choose from, which is great if you are staying overnight.
The town of Chipping Norton is more built-up with high street brands in the high street
9. Castle Coombe
Castle Coombe is one of those places that has found new fame on Instagram in recent years, due to its old, historic-style houses and rustic charm. Don't get me wrong, it really is a very pretty village, perhaps the prettiest village in the Cotswolds, but in the summer months, it can get busy.
What is there to do in Castle Coombe?
Wandering through the village of Castle Coombe feels like stepping back in time, and you can see why it is so popular. Park at the car park on the outskirts of the village and follow the road down the hill to the centre of the village.
Take a stroll through the old church grounds before wandering down the main road in the village to the iconic bridge over the stream. There are also a couple of great pubs and cafes in Castle Coombe, but if you are visiting on a weekend, I would recommend booking ahead.
Castle Coombe's iconic bridge and the cute houses on the main street
There are so many beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds, but this is just a snapshot of my favourites. Depending on where you are travelling from, the Cotswolds make a great day out, but my recommendation would be to stay overnight if you can and spend a long weekend here, so you can really appreciate everything the Cotswolds have to offer.
Where's the best place to stay in the Cotswolds?
I love the Cotswolds and have enjoyed several short breaks in the area. My personal favourite places to stay are Chipping Campden and also Broadway. These towns are, in my opinion, two of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds. They both have great places to eat, cute little shops, and are also right on the path of the Cotswolds way, which if you enjoy walking is a great bonus!
What's the best way to get around in the Cotswolds?
The best way to get to the Cotswolds is by car. If you are planning on staying for a few days to explore the area and you don't have your own car, I would recommend hiring one. This will give you full flexibility to combine several stops at different towns and villages in the Cotswolds during your visit.
Most of the car parks are located just outside the town or village centre and they are normally pay and display, so just bear that in mind, although most of the car park machines do take cards or have the option to pay by phone.
Found this useful? Save this pin for later!
All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.