Declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds, in southern England are famed for many things. The green rolling hills, charming towns and quaint little villages, all associated with a typical English landscape.
Most of the elaborate, well-preserved buildings have a fascinating history and were a result of the affluence stemming from the wool trade that developed after the industrial revolution.
If you are looking for a break, to experience life at the slower pace of country retreats, sampling afternoon tea treats next to a roaring fire, horse riding across breath taking vistas or taking in the atmosphere of country pubs then you should be heading to the Cotswolds.
Here are some places to visit in the Cotswolds to fully appreciate this magnificent place, steeped in beauty and history.
Cotswold Wildlife Park And Gardens
Set in 160 acres and boasting over 200 different species of animals, the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, near Burford, is a must-see for any visitor to the Cotswolds. It is famed for housing one of the largest snake species, the green anaconda. With a variety of animal exhibits representing species from all over the world, exotic planting in the parks and gardens and a park train with its railway, this is an experience you should not miss.
The River Windrush, spanned by low-arched bridges, runs through the main street of this gorgeous village, often voted as one of the prettiest in England. Referred to as the Venice of the Cotswolds, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do. A large number of restaurants, cafes, tea rooms and general shops offer relaxation and shopping options.
There is also Birdland Park, which is a must-see for penguin lovers. It is an incredible place if you enjoy bird watching. The kids will especially enjoy The Jurassic Journey-themed landscape.
For those who love Christmas, make a point of witnessing the transformation of this beautiful village into a scene from Christmas Card Art with the annual lighting of a Christmas tree on the River Windrush. The reflections of the lights on the River Windrush is one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see. The tree lighting is a project of the Chamber of Commerce and the tree stays lit all of December.
Located on the Fosse Way at the point where several roads meet, this historic town is the centre of the Cotswolds. Visit this beautiful town where you will find some of Britain’s best antique shops in the large Market Square along with a large number of the cosiest cafes, restaurants and English-style inns.
One of its best attractions is St Edward’s church whose famous north door is flanked by two ancient yew trees. The door is a hidden gem of the Cotswolds. The ‘Doors of Durin’ from J R R Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings is rumoured to have been inspired by it. The Porch House, dating back to the 10th Century is believed to be Britain’s oldest pub and is also found in Stow-on-the-Wold. Pop in for a break from antique shopping for modern dining in a historic setting.
Cotswold Farm Park
Cotswold Farm Park has been a sanctuary for rare breeds of farm animals for half a century. Visit especially if you are in the Cotswolds with your family. Activities include kid-friendly activities and educational activities like feeding the animals and farm tours to view and learn about the various protected livestock at the farm.
Cotswold Lavender Farm
Located in the Cotswold countryside at the Hill Barn Farm, these 70 acres holding hundreds of thousands of lavender plants is a sight any lavender lover must see. The limestone-drained soils of the Cotswolds offer the best growing environment for lavender plants.
Activities include going through the vast fields to learn about lavender farming whilst wandering through areas with aromatic air and enjoying delicacies flavoured with lavender in the tea room situated in a restored barn. Souvenirs made with lavender right on the farm are available at the gift shop. The plants bloom between May and August so that would be a great time to visit.
Always a popular spot for visitors, during the summer months you will see plenty of Cotswold lavender photos on social media such as Instagram.
You can buy your very own Cotswold lavender travel poster in our shop.
Blenheim Palace, with its impressive Baroque architecture has a fascinating history. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Blenheim is the only non-royal country house in England that holds the title of palace. Wander around the formal gardens, a park, a lake and grand buildings of this historical gem.
The palace sits on seven acres of land and is a wonder to behold from the air. Included in the over 2000 acres surrounding it is the famous Marlborough Maze set within the Walled Garden. Covering two miles, the maze will take you a few hours to figure out.
The palace has a long history and also happens to be the birthplace and ancestral home of the late Sir Winston Churchill.
Cotswold Water Park
The leisure activities at Cotswold Water Park are unique in the sense that, unlike other water parks, there are no slides or large man-made tunnels to tumble through – everything is based on nature. The park is a large nature reserve featuring 150 lakes spread out over 40 miles.
The lakes which provide great water-sports and fishing opportunities were created by gravel extraction. If you are looking to enjoy boating, water skiing and windsurfing as well as some cycling and wildlife spotting, you must include Cotswold Water Park in your places to visit in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswold Way is a treat for all who enjoy walking in the great outdoors and for fitness enthusiasts who love a challenge. The 164km long National Trail runs from the town of Chipping Campden in the north and the City of Bath in the south. Challenge yourself to walk the entire Cotswold Way and enjoy the breathtaking views that include historic sites and picturesque villages dotted along the way.
The common walking route is broken into several sections so you can choose to do a section or sections at a time or try the entire trail. Take in the natural beauty of the Cotswolds countryside as you walk the Cotswold Way and you can include having conquered one of the ‘Great Walks of The World’ in your list of achievements.
Most Romantic Street
Copse Hill Road in Lower Slaughter is known as the most romantic street in England. Lower Slaughter in general is a picturesque village that many agree belongs on a postcard. Copse Hill Road takes the charm of this village a notch higher with its natural beauty which is enhanced by a beautiful tinkling stream and limestone cottages surrounded by beautiful trees. A stroll along this street belongs at the top of your itinerary when you visit the Cotswolds.
Are you a mediaeval building enthusiast? When in the Cotswolds you owe yourself a visit to Gloucester Cathedral to see one of the best buildings in that architectural style in England. You could choose to marvel in the fantastic architecture, climb the tower to enjoy the breath taking views or visit the hidden library. Make sure to spend a few moments of peaceful reflection in the cathedral for an unparalleled experience of tranquillity. Take a break at the Monk’s Kitchen to relax and enjoy the delicacies on offer.
Part of the Harry Potter movies were shot in this magnificent building so you can also get an idea of what it feels like to be in Hogwarts!
Is Bibury the prettiest village in the whole of England? William Morris certainly thought so and declared it the most stunning village he had seen when he visited in the 19th Century. You have a chance to decide for yourself when you are in the Cotswolds and are looking for a place of interest to visit. Arlington Row also takes pride of place amongst the most photographed places in the Cotswolds. The cottages appeared on the inside cover of all UK passports between 2015 and 2020 and are considered as much an English symbol as Big Ben or other famous landmarks.
The Row comprises stone cottages converted for use by weavers as far back as the 17th century. They worked in the nearby Arlington Mill. If you find yourself wondering what feels so familiar about this charming village, chances are you will have spotted something from a film that you might have seen. It is the site chosen by many movie makers as a location for their work.
Bibury Trout Farm
Set apart a day to spend in Bibury, another of the prettiest villages in England. Fish lovers will enjoy the Trout Farm which is not only Britain’s oldest but also the best-preserved trout farm. Catch your lunch and hire a barbecue. You can then visit the wine and deli shop to gather ingredients to cook up a great meal. You can also opt to watch and feed the fish, play some golf or enjoy a leisurely walk on the beautiful grounds. There is an on-site cafe where visitors can partake in the delicious offerings of the seasonal menu as they relax.
Daylesford Organic Farm and The Wild Rabbit at Kingham
Kingham bears the signature limestone cottages and beautiful village greens that give the Cotswolds villages their stunning look. Inside this village lies two gems of the Cotswolds that are worth a visit.
Renowned for being one of the UK farms that practice sustainable organic farming, Daylesford is an experience worth adding to your Cotswold tour. On the over 2000-acre farm, you will find fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, a cookery course and even a spa! The on site creamery offers quality dairy products and from the farm shop, you will find preserves and fresh produce to take away as souvenirs of your visit.
The owners of Daylesford Organic Farm are also responsible for another must-see feature of the Cotswolds – The Wild Rabbit. Described as a ‘modern British inn’ the Wild Rabbit serves superb food made with fresh produce from the Daylesford Farm and features luxurious accommodation with a choice of rooms or cottages. You will want to add a visit here to enrich your English pub experience.
Grab a slice of history at Warwick Castle. Built by William the Conqueror, it has a history dating back to 1068 and is located next to the River Avon, it is a historical landmark that you should make a point of seeing. You can take tours of the grounds and interior where you can learn more history through the interactive shows.;
Although it’s not actually in the Cotswolds, Warwick is sufficiently Cotswolds adjacent that you can include it as part of your visit, if you are in the North Cotswolds.
Found on the outskirts of Chipping Norton, not far from Long Compton, these stones are shrouded in mystery. Visit the site to see first-hand the prehistoric megalithic monuments believed to be an ancient stone circle.
Westonbirt, National Arboretum
Westonbirt, which has been declared one of England’s Historic Parks and Gardens is an adventure you must have when you are in the Cotswolds. It is home to an estimated 15,000 trees spread over 600 acres. It makes for a beautiful walking site where one can get to see a variety of trees from all around the world. There is also the option of a treetop walkway that will give you a birds-eye view of the lush magical forest below. The Arboretum has kid-friendly activities so you can plan a family outing and enjoy a wonderful day in this beautiful park together.
Kelmscott Manor House
This limestone manor is on the Heritage List of England and it was one of the favourite places of famed textile craftsman and poet William Morris. He drew inspiration for his work from the Manor and the Cotswolds in general. Visit this historic site for the beautiful grounds surrounding it and the stream and get inspired by its charm as the great William Morris did. Get to see the well-preserved contents of the estate that include original textiles. There is a gift shop that features Morris’ designs so you can take some home with you. A tea room offers you a chance to relax and enjoy some delicious treats.
Shopping in Cirencester and Cheltenham
Fancy a spot of shopping while in the Cotswolds? You could head to Cheltenham for some of the best shopping experiences in the big shopping centres available. Not to be missed are the variety of activities at The Brewery Quarter such as cinema and bowling.
Browse through the designer boutique shops and take in the wonderful atmosphere at one of the fabulous cafes with outside sitting. Cheltenham is also famous for its festivals so grab a schedule while shopping and plan to attend one of these unforgettable events.
Cirencester offers a wide array of antiques and should be included in your schedule. If in need of a more unique shopping experience you should also try the Corn Hall indoor market.
Visit this unique folly tower which is the second-highest point in the Cotswolds. It forms part of the Cotswold Way and offers exhibitions as well as a cafe and gift shop. It is one of the foremost tourist attractions in England.
Of course there are plenty more places to go in the Cotswolds, so if you haven’t found something of interest here then keep exploring our site for more inspiration.
Otherwise, the only thing that’s left to say is, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start discovering the Cotswolds.