3 Alternative Ways to Travel to the Cotswolds

St James' Church in Chipping Campden

The Cotswolds – fantastic views, endless displays of culture, and rich history, a place that has established itself as one of the must-visit locations for travellers visiting the UK.

Regardless of whether you’re a nature lover, or someone who’s looking to explore the parts of the UK further afield than just London for the first time, this is an area that you should not miss.

A view along the river Eye in Lower Slaughter, in winter
Lower Slaughter is one of the many beautiful villages in the Cotswolds

As amazing as it may be to travel to the wonderful area of the Cotswolds, whether for your first visit or a returning trip, it’s worth noting that going by car isn’t always the optimal choice.

Anyone who has visited during the summer months, or who lives locally and is merely trying to go about their daily business, will know that the roads struggle with the high volume of traffic.

Many of the roads in the smaller towns and villages were never intended to cope with the volume of modern day traffic and, sadly the UK’s traffic situation is only getting worse.

This begs the question: are there any other ways to reach the Cotswolds from starting points around the UK?

Yes, absolutely!

If you want to approach your next trip to the Cotswolds differently, by leaving the car at home and going for something more exciting, or just different, here are three other ways you could potentially reach the area:

1. By train

For travellers who fancy a quick and scenic journey

The romance of travelling by train might not be quite what it was in the golden age of steam.

However, when compared to most other ways to get to the Cotswolds, taking the train has been proven to be the fastest and easiest method available (although with the ever increasing cost of rail fairs, certainly not the cheapest).

This makes it perfect for first-timers and impatient travellers who can’t wait to get to the area, and for whom budget is less of a concern.

Travelling by rail to the Cotswolds makes for a far less stressful and generally much quicker journey than driving, as you essentially skip the entire experience of being stuck in frustrating holiday traffic and wasting your time, energy, and fuel in the process.

If you’re looking to travel to the area by train, there are a certain number of towns and villages that have stations, either on the main lines, or ones that can be reached by connecting services, including but not limited to Kemble, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, and Bath.

For more information on the train stations you can use visit https://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/visiting-and-exploring/cotswolds-train-station/

Be prepared to have to change trains, depending on your ultimate destination.

Try this handy travel planner to explore different options to get to the area:

You will also still need to seek alternative means of travel locally once you arrive (maybe by horseback?)  at your destination.

2. By bus

For travellers who are looking for a cheaper way to get to the area

Another quick and convenient way to reach the wonderful Cotswolds area is taking a direct bus from various further flung regions of the UK.

While it may not necessarily be as fast as taking a train, going by bus to the Cotswolds is still a great, cost-effective, and comfortable option that’s perfect if you’re looking to save a few £s and relax, without the stress of driving yourself.

Before you head out and travel to the Cotswolds by bus, however, it is worth noting that you’ll need to be a bit prepared and do the necessary research on which stations and price points are most applicable to your needs and budget. Aside from the element of preparation, another important reason you should do the necessary research is that buses going to the Cotswolds are not necessarily available all the time as they don’t run frequently.

(A piece of advice: If you’re keen on travelling to the Cotswolds by bus, make sure that you avoid making the trip on public holidays and Sundays to ensure that you don’t end up running late!)

3. By foot

For travellers who trust their feet and want to lower their carbon footprint

This one might come as a bit of a surprise but given that the Cotswolds are England’s walking and exploring capital, why not set off on foot?

Admittedly, this is not the option to go for if you have limited time.

You will also need to be in reasonably good shape, with a sturdy pair of walking boots but what better way to explore an area famed for its walking routes?

Although it may not nearly be as quick as taking the train or as comfortable as taking the bus (possibly depends on the bus), travelling to the Cotswolds by foot is an absolute treat worth considering because of all the available routes that you can take.

For example, the Great West Way route could take you all the way from London to Bath. The Cotswolds Way is a little over 100 miles of walking route starting (or ending) in Bath and stretching up through the Cotswolds escarpment as far as Chipping Campden.

St James' Church in Chipping Campden
St James’ Church in Chipping Campden

What this approach lacks in comfort and speed it more than makes up for in experiences.

Making the journey on foot affords travellers the time to take in the views on trips through villages and other paths in the region that might otherwise be missed.

You’ll understand why the region is an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty.’

In Summary

If life is about the journey, not the destination, then perhaps the same could be said of travelling to the Cotswolds. This is especially true if you choose a more intriguing and less direct way to get to the area.

By following the tips listed in this article, you can bring yourself to the Cotswolds in more ways than one—exciting!

Unique Homestays Near Cheltenham Festival

Midsummer Wood indoor swimming pool

For those of you not yet decided on where to retreat to after a day of races and entertainment at Cheltenham Festival, you’re in luck.

We got Unique Homestays to round up their collection of hand-picked private homestays nearby. You can thank us later.

From a stylish farmhouse sleeping up to 18, to an enchanted thatched cottage, there are options to suit all who covet luxury, style and comfort.

All images supplied by and copyright of Unique Homestays.

Anthology Farm

Whittington | 6 miles away | Sleeps 18

Anthology Farm dining room
Unique Homestays, Interiors by Run For The Hills

Resurrected from 18th century barns, this rustic-luxe homestay welcomes large groups with nine sumptuous bedrooms in which to recoup after a day’s sporting antics. Welcome mornings with a wander around the 500 acres of surrounding farmland, or a rejuvenating dip in the indoor swimming pool, and spend evenings hunkered down in the cinema room.

View more details or book

The Find

Cranham | 10 miles away | Sleeps 12

The Find

For lovers of modern architecture and simple design, this Cotswolds cottage shows how old and new can work in perfect synergy. Gather together by the fire in the contemporary living area and hire a private chef if you want every whim catered for, promising outstanding dishes awaiting your return.

View more details or book

Pollyanna

Birlingham | 23 miles away | Sleeps 6

Pollyanna living room

Brimming with olde-worlde charm, this thatched cottage offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of festival life, so you’re ready to do it all again the next day. Think roll-top bubble baths and lazy mornings in the garden…

View more details or book

Midsummer Wood

Bourton-On-The-Water | 16 miles | Sleeps 8

Midsummer Wood indoor swimming pool

This fairy-tale mill house, filled to the brim with charm and antiques, is sure to rekindle childhood fantasies, leaving all grown-up responsibilities at the gate. Stroll through the 11 acres of eden-esque grounds and when the weather turns, the indoor swimming pool offers a tropical paradise.  

View more details or book

Filly Island

Filly Island

South Cerney | 23 miles away | Sleeps 2

For couples in search of a private haven, this luxury cottage is accessed only by a quaint humpback bridge and surrounded by verdant greenery. Avid walkers might be tempted to extend their visit after the festival to explore the nearby picturesque villages via the Cotswolds Way.

View more details or book

The Flower Press

Bibury | 22 miles away | Sleeps 4

The Flower Press living room

This charming creeper-clad cottage is set in the quintessential village of Bibury, adorned with elegant furnishings and gentle tones inside, promising a peaceful space in which to unwind. Enjoy a roll top bath, crackling wood burners and a quiet garden for al fresco breakfasts.  

View more details or book

The Polo Farm

Stroud | 16 miles away | Sleeps 10

The Polo Farm contemporary living room

A polo farm turned elegant country home, this luxury retreat encourages guests to embrace the outdoors with the Cotswolds most-loved walks on its doorstep, all the while offering a welcoming space to sink into squishy sofas by the fire, G&T in hand.

View more details or book

Discover the full collection of Unique Homestays and secure your accommodation for Cheltenham Festival 2021.

Off the Beaten Track in Burford

Burford is a lovely Cotswolds wool town, but head off the pretty (and always busy!) High Street to St John’s Church for some offbeat sights and stories.

The Unwanted Tomb

Tanfield Tomb in Burford Church
The Tanfields’ tomb

Lawrence Tanfield was a politician, judge, and a highly unpopular local lord of Burford Manor because of his arrogant and mean behaviour.

When he died in 1628, both Westminster Abbey and Burford church refused to put up a memorial.

But his wife Katherine decided he should get one anyway and marched a team of workmen to the north chapel. 

The result was a huge, garish shrine depicting the Tanfields lying below six Corinthian columns surrounded by arches, obelisks and the family coat of arms.

Underneath the couple rests a skeleton carved in stone apart from one real, human thigh bone (origin unknown). 

Spirit in a Bottle

The townspeople tolerated the grand tomb (well, it was hard to shift), but burned an effigy of the unlovely twosome every year for a couple of centuries to show the hate lived on.

The vengeful ghosts of the Tanfields were said to haunt Burford by hurtling round the town in a blazing coach and a priest was hired to exorcise the town of these unwelcome visitors.

He captured their spirits in a bottle and hurled it into the nearby River Windrush. Locals were so concerned that the ghastly pair would escape if the river ran dry that they topped up the water during hot summers. 

Pioneer Playwright

Elizabeth Cary in Burford Church
Elizabeth Cary

Standing by the Tanfield tomb is a ‘weeper’ effigy of their only daughter.

Elizabeth Cary (her married name) taught herself several languages and was such an avid reader that she bribed her maid for extra candles so she could study at night, defying her mother’s instructions to get some beauty sleep.

The reading paid off: Elizabeth Cary penned the first published play by a woman, ‘The Tragedy of Mariam’, in 1613.

She also found time to produce eleven children and learn a few more languages. 

Not Civil

Scratched into the font of Burford’s church is ‘Antony Sedley 1649 prisner’: He was one of 340 Parliamentarian soldiers locked inside.

Inscription on Burford Font

The group were known as the Levellers and had demanded reforms (and pay) after the victory of their Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell in the Civil War against the king-supporting Royalists.

Cromwell decided to teach them a lesson.

The group were ordered onto the roof of their church/prison to watch as three of their leaders being shot – the bullet marks scar the church wall. Sedley and his friends were then released.

The rebellion was over.

Three ‘A’s: Arts and Crafts, Americans and an Antique

Stained glass window designed by Christopher Whall

Other highlights in the church include a memorial with the earliest known English images of American Indians, and stained glass windows by Arts and Crafts designer Christopher Whall.

Oh and one of Britain’s oldest mechanical clocks has been ticking away here since 1685. 

… and watch out for that blazing Tanfield carriage battling through the permanent traffic jam on the High Street!

A Bit About the Author

Sean Callery in front of Bliss Mill in Chipping Norton

Sean Callery is a Blue Badge guide for the Heart of England and the author of Offbeat Cotswolds.