10 Delightful Villages for your Best time in the Cotswolds

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Two low stone bridges crossing a stream
Two old stone bridges crossing the river Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water

One of the best road trips you can enjoy in the UK is a tour of The Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds are one of the prettiest places to see the English countryside. As you drive between the ancient and exquisite towns and villages, you will have you stopping often.

One of the best ways to see the best of The Cotswold Villages is to book yourself a short stay. Allowing yourself the experience of Slow Travel to so many wonderful villages to explore.

Maybe you’re planning a romantic getaway, a hiking weekend or a cycle ride with friends. Then renting a Cotswold cottage with Airbnb is perfect.

You can choose from one of these ten delightful villages for your best time in The Cotswolds. So, relax as the research is done for you. All you need to do now is enjoy the experience.

We chose a housesitting assignment in Stroud, home to one of the best Farmer’s Markets in England.


Where are The Cotswolds?

It can be a little confusing knowing where The Cotswolds are, only because nearby places love to be included.

When you look on a google map, check out the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to find the villages and cities it encompasses.

We found The Cotswolds stretches over the county of Gloucestershire but also into the counties:

  • Gloucestershire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Wiltshire
  • Worcestershire
  • Warwick

From Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south, you will find some of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds.

The larger urban centres are included in the general term “The Cotswold” as they are close to the edge of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

So, we have 10 quaint villages for you to visit in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and villages and larger urban centres close by.


Booking Accommodation in The Cotswolds

An old stone building
The Porch House is an inn dating from 947AD in Stow-on-the-Wold

When choosing your village stay, we have a few favourite sites.

Hotels.com, as after your 10th night is booked, your next night is free based on your average stay rate. How cool is this?

Airbnb when staying longer.

We were lucky enough to be based in Stroud for three weeks house sitting some lovely pets. Our lovely homeowner gave us plenty of suggestions, even a car, to go out and explore The Cotswolds.

How to Plan the Best Cotswold’s Village Tour

Planning a two-day or three-day stay in The Cotswold is a great introduction to exploring the area. To learn about its history while absorbing the beauty of nature.

Having visited some of the best places in the Cotswolds, we know you will love your stay, whatever the season you visit.

But to be honest, wherever you decide to travel in the Cotswolds, you’ll find stunning beauty, quaint villages, ancient history, and an overall feeling of not wanting to leave.

Tip: Road signs can often be covered with overgrowth, so make sure you have a Navman to help you find each village.

1. Bourton-on-the-Water

Amn old stone bridge over a stream

The charming village of Bourton-on-the-Water is popular with tourists and has become known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds.”

Running through the village is the River Windrush under low arched stone bridges. These low bridges make you feel like a giant crossing over the river.

Walking alongside the river is so picturesque, with plenty of places to eat and drink along the riverbank.

But make sure to stroll through the back streets of the village to browse the quaint shops for gift ideas.

A large stone building
A home typical of the buildings in Bourton-on-the-Water

Tip: There is a large carpark only a 5-10 minute walk from the village waterway.

2. Lower and Upper Slaughter (The Slaughters)

A stone building behind a stone fence
A building in Lower Slaughter

Only a 5-minute drive from Burton on the Water is two small villages called The Slaughters.

Hmmm. Not sure if we should get out of the car in The Slaughters. Could bad things happen? I- Just kidding.

We learned the name has nothing to do with killing beasts but is an old English word, “Slohtre” meaning muddy place. Luckily no muddy shoes for us when we visited.

The Church of St Peter in Upper Slaughter dates from the 12th century. And what is interesting is there has been no new building in the villages since 1906.

The villages are small, and we found the best photo spot is by the pond and old mill.

3. Stow on the Wold

A large ancient stone church
Church in the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold is an old market town with its large Norman church prominent near the large open market area.

Make sure you stop for a drink at Porch House, England’s oldest inn dating from 947AD. It was here the surrender of the Civil War occurred back in 1648.


4. Cirencester

A large church at the end of sa row of colourful buildings
The town centre of Cirencester

Cirencester is the largest town in the Cotswolds, with a history dating back to the Romans in 150AD when the town was known as Corinium.

It also has the oldest agricultural college in the United Kingdom, the Royal Agricultural University. Wool was the money earner here in medieval times.

The town is picturesque, with the Norman Arch and remains of the Cirencester Abbey built in 1189 and demolished by Henry VIII in 1539.

And the Cirencester town church was built around the civil war in 1643.

You can visit the old Roman amphitheatre away from the town centre.

Bathurst Estate and Cirencester Park

A large gate in a stone fence with a huge hedge
Entrance to Bathurst Estate and Cirencester Park

One thing not to miss is a stop at the local bakery for a yummy Eccles cake (pastry with dried fruit with a topping of sugar). Or a small pork pie from the local butcher for later.

For us, Cirencester has a connected history to our homeland New Zealand through the Bledisloe Cup (a rugby tournament between New Zealand and Australia).

Bledisloe is the ancient name for the Lydney estate owned by the Earl of Bathurst of Cirencester, Governor-General in New Zealand, between 1930-1935.

There is also a town in Australia called Bathhurst (home of the famous annual car race  Ford vs Holden.)

Within the grounds of Bathurst Estate is the oldest Polo club in the United Kingdom, used by Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry.

5. Tetbury

A big yellow building with an open market at its base
Tetbury Market, built in 1655, still holds two markets each week

We had thought of visiting Prince Charles, who lives about a mile from Tetbury. But our curiosity for this lovely village won over instead.

We browsed the local farmers market in the old market building and a large number of antique shops. Tetbury is one of our favourite villages to visit.

6. Nailsworth

A large inn next to a waterway
The Egypt Mill Hotel in Nailsworth is a renovated riverside corn mill dating from the 16th century

From Stroud, you can walk or cycle the old railway track to the medieval village of Nailsworth. It is a great place for lunch. Try Wild Garlic for a delicious menu.

Some of the Cotswold villages have cycle tracks along the old railway lines.

The track is pleasant, with a stream and farmland running alongside the old railway track. It will take you past some very small hamlets with old stone buildings and the occasional church like St Mary’s Church of the Annunciation, built in the 1840s.

The area of Nailsworth and Stroud was once a supplier of textiles.

In Nailsworth are the Dunkirk Mill and ponds, now refurbished as apartments enhancing the area. The Dunkirk Mill museum is well worth a visit to learn more about the textile history of the area.


7. Painswick village

A row of stone buildings
In Painswick, every building in the town is made from the same stone

The small village of Painswick is one of the most beautiful old stone villages to visit on your Cotswold Village Tour.

The stone in the village was quarried from a local beacon (also known as a hill.) An abundance of stone made it an easier option for the village buildings.

If you take a walk around the village, stop at St Mary’s church.

The first church was built on this site in 1086, but the current church was started in 1377. It was damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War 1644-45 and again by lightning in 1891.

You will be impressed by the carefully manicured Yew trees throughout the church grounds. We also were intrigued by the finely carved tombs created by local craftsmen.

And for morning tea, a nice cup of coffee and scone at The Painswick Pooch Coffee House.

A building at the end of a row of trees
Yew Trees in Painswick churchyard
A handsome man drinking a cup of tea
Enjoying a cuppa in Painswick
A pretty lady on a seat
Maura is waiting to be released for her coffee

Equestrian Parks and Events

Within the Cotswolds, you have the famous Equestrian Events held at Gatcombe (home of Princess Royal) and the village of Badminton.

8. Prinknash Abbey

A large building complex behind a green lawn
Beautiful Prinknash Abbey

Prinknash Abbey for Benedictine monks is a working monastery with most buildings built around 1520.

The Giffard family, who arrived with William the Conqueror in 1096, gifted the land to the Abbot of St Peter’s in Gloucester. In 1928 the house was again gifted to six Benedictine monks of Caldey who converted Prinknash house into a monastery.

9. Chipping Camden

A stone market building
A Cotswolds favourite, Chipping Campden

Chipping Camden high street has an amazing array of well-preserved stone buildings. The old medieval buildings intermingled with later-period buildings along both sides of the High Street.

If you wander away from the High street, you can find thatched houses. Graham Greene, the writer, once owned one.

Take time to have a coffee or lunch in this picturesque town.

You may even pass by Welford on Avon, a lovely little hamlet with thatched cottages, before arriving at Chipping Campden.

10. Broadway

Large stone buildings alongside a road
Broadway Village

Broadway’s wide street with large grass verges, quaint shops and Cotswold limestone buildings is often called “The Jewel of the Cotswolds.”

For a weekend break in Worcestershire County, Broadway is only two hours from London by train.

Three more places to visit near The Cotswolds

These lovely villages or cities can be added to your tour of English villages.

1. Tewkesbury

Flags flying on buildings
Tewkesbury Coat of Arms

When you arrive at Tewkesbury, you will notice the medieval and Tudor buildings. And a unique feature of the buildings flying their coats of arms above the doorways.

But it’s the Tewkesbury Abbey, a Norman Abbey church thought to be the largest in England, which will have you spellbound.

A massive stone church
Tewkesbury Abbey

If you decide not to stay on the popular route of Cotswold Villages, your other option is to find accommodation in one of the historic places bordering the Cotswolds.

2. Cheltenham (aka Cheltenham Spa)

Cheltenham Spa has been a health and holiday spa town resort since the discovery of mineral springs in 1716.

All Terry could remember is Cheltenham had a nice cricket ground but not a lot else. So we parked and “beat the feet” to the town centre to see what was there.

Terry was right; it was a bit boring.

We were about to retreat to the car when we saw the Tourist Information Centre. Their suggestion was to walk to Montpellier. Really? But isn’t Montpellier in southern France?

But no, they meant Montpellier, a district of Cheltenham.

An old church with tall steeple behind a cemetary
Cheltenham Minster

The Montpellier Spa, built in 1817, saw the Montpellier area develop in the 1830s. And the pump room of the Spa was housed in the Rotunda, which is now a Lloyds bank.

Our walk also went past Cheltenham Minster, the only surviving medieval building in Cheltenham. It has been in continuous use for over 850 years. The site has been used for churches since the 8th century.

One claim to fame is King George III attended a number of services in the church.

As we continued our walk, we noticed the Regency architecture of many of the buildings in the town, like Bath. This style was developed in the early 19th century when George IV was Prince Regent.


3. Gloucester City

A large church seen through an arch
View of Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester City on the River Severn has a long history as a trading port.

The Romans founded it in 97AD, and it has many historic buildings as you wander through the town of medieval and Tudor gabled and half-timbered houses.

The most famous place to visit is Gloucester Cathedral, with the foundation of the abbey dedicated to Saint Peter in 681. King Edward II is also buried here in a beautiful marble tomb.

The Cloister of the Cathedral was used for corridor scenes in several of the Harry Potter films and also Sherlock Holmes.

A corridor in an ornate cloister
Cloister of Gloucester Cathedral

Visiting The Cotswolds

So which Cotswolds village is best?

Bourton on the Water is the favourite for us, but you may have your own favourite village.

The Cotswolds are famous for their beautiful villages, quaint cottages and cosy pubs nestled amongst beautiful forests and rolling green hills. Choosing where to stay only adds to the wonder of the enchantment of The Cotswolds.

With its beautiful honey-coloured stone buildings quarried from rock, it’s no wonder people fall in love with their visit to the Cotswold.