Bibury is a small village in the south Gloucestershire Cotswolds.
This charming and popular Cotswold village has a population of just over 600 inhabitants, although this number is dwarfed by the annual influx of visitors.
The name is pronounced like Buy-bury not Bee-bury or even Beebry (in case you were wondering). There was a village recorded here in the Domesday book in 1086, although then the name was Becheberie.
Bibury was described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England” and it is arguably one of the most famous and popular spots in the Cotswolds.
Were his words responsible for the influx of tourists each year?
A tale of two villages
Technically Bibury is actually two small villages, separated by the river Coln.
On the one side of the river is Bibury & on the other, Arlington, with its famous Arlington Row of former Weavers’ Cottages. These cottages are next to Rack Isle, a name earned from the fact that wool was hung out to dry on racks here after it had been washed in Arlington Row.
The history of Bibury dates back to at least the Iron Age & there are remains of a hill fort above the village.
Akeman Street, the Roman road from Cirencester to St Albans is close by & the ancient Salt Way from Droitwich to Lechlade can be followed just up the hill towards Burford.
Every year this tiny village is squeezed to bursting point with visitors. People jostle with each other (not so much since social distancing) for the best views to take with their cameras or standing like a winding snake along the path as they wait patiently to be served by the man in the ice-cream van.
St Mary’s Church
The local church of St Mary contains some signs of Saxon origins and is a Grade I listed building. The churchyard itself is also notable and has been described as being “of special interest, because of the remarkable survival of so many excellently carved table tombs with bale tops, and headstones with cherubs and symbolic figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries”
Close by is the former Bibury Court Hotel, built in 1633. This has been reverted back to being a private residence.
The small, boggy water meadow across the river is known as Rack Isle. This small parcel of land is not accessible, only wildlife free to enter, although the Swan Hotel owns the fishing rights. The river is well stocked with plump, brown trout, thanks to Bibury Trout Farm and the land is owned by the National Trust, as is Arlington Row.
The island was once used to dry the cloth from Arlington Mill (now also a private residence) the workers who were responsible for making the cloth lived in the nearby row of weavers cottages at Arlington Row during the 17th Century.
These cottages started life as monastic wool stores, dating back to the 13th Century.
Bibury is on the B4425 than runs from the A40 to the A417 (at Cirencester) and is a short drive (about 7 miles) from the Cotswolds capital. There are bus services to the village from Cirencester.
Perhaps owing to its popularity, Bibury does have public conveniences, unlike many other small Cotswolds villages. Be prepared to pay as there is a charge for entry.
There is free parking in the village, primarily along the edge of the river, although on busy days demand usually exceeds supply.
Places to stay in Bibury
Despite its diminutive size, there are a number of hotels and other places to stay in the ever popular village of Bibury.
19th Century craftsman, designer and writer, William Morris, crowned Bibury ‘the most beautiful village in England’. Today, this picturesque Cotswold hamlet continues to evoke such reactions.
It is often regarded as the quintessential country village, with beautiful Cotswold stone buildings surrounded by meandering rivers and sporadic, overgrown birch trees.
If you are looking for a country weekend getaway then read on for recommendations on the top 4 places to stay in the village (in no particular order).
Swan Hotel Bibury
In the heart of Bibury sits the iconic 4 star Swan Hotel, overlooking the River Coln and the arched stone bridge that crosses its shallow waters. The Swan has become renowned as an excellent country hotel, serving superb cuisine.
There are 22 cosy rooms at the hotel, each providing all the essentials to ensure a comfortable stay. Honeymoon suites are also available.
Frequently photographed, this charming former coaching inn sits on a bend in the road, next to the crossing point over the river and adjacent to Bibury’s trout farm.
A beautiful Cotswold stone bed and breakfast. Commended with a Four Diamond Gold Rating by the AA, it assures quality similar to a Mayfair hotel, but maintains a personal touch expected from a family run business.
If you prefer a more flexible stay, you can stay in one of the self-catering spacious cottages. The Cotteswold House is definitely a place for the luxurious country getaway.
Bibury Holiday Cottages
If you prefer a traditional 17th century country cottage then this may be for you. These highly sought after cottages (there are only four) are situated on the edge of the river separating the two villages.
They may have been built over 300 years ago but the interior is very much modern fitted with modern day heating! Each cottage sleeps up to 4 people. In the summer, the glorious sun shines on the neatly kept gardens surrounding the cottages.
A few minutes down the road and you can reach 2 fantastic restaurants serving only local produce and a picturesque country pub serving local beverages.
No. 9 Arlington Row
The iconic and much photographed cottages of Arlington Row are owned by the National Trust.
One of these cottages (number 9) is available to rent as a holiday cottage.
For more information visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/9-arlington-row-the-cotswolds