Make your way around this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with our guide to the best towns and villages in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Gloucestershire, England, is a tapestry of picturesque towns and villages that encapsulate the essence of the region’s rich history and stunning landscapes.
In this article, we’ll explore the top ten Cotswolds towns and villages that beckon visitors to immerse themselves in the idyllic beauty and timeless charm of this region.
The World Bucket List’s top tips for visiting the Cotswolds:
- Choose a central base like Burford to easily explore the Cotswolds’ diverse towns and villages.
- Take in panoramic views from the highest point in the Cotswolds at Stow-on-the-Wold.
- Embrace the Cotswolds’ cycling routes for an active and immersive experience, exploring charming villages at your own pace.
- Book accommodation well in advance to secure the best rooms and the best value.
- Embrace the regional charm by trying locally brewed ales, each offering a unique flavour and character.
10. Painswick – the Queen of the Cotswolds
Painswick, often dubbed the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds,’ captivates visitors with its impressive Rococo Garden and St. Mary’s Church. The town’s quaint streets and historic architecture make it a hidden gem in the region.
9. Bourton-on-the-Water – the Venice of the Cotswolds
Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water features low stone bridges over the River Windrush. The model village and the impressive Broadway Tower are key attractions in this charming locale.
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8. Lower Slaughter – a tranquil riverside retreat
Nestled along the River Eye, Lower Slaughter is a peaceful village adorned with honey-coloured stone cottages. The Old Mill and the idyllic churchyard make it a perfect destination for those seeking tranquillity.
7. Upper Slaughter – quaint charm and swans
Just upstream from Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter continues the tradition of charming Cotswold villages. Swans gracefully glide along the River Eye, adding to the village’s serene ambience.
6. Bibury – a postcard-perfect village
With its iconic Arlington Row of cottages and the Bibury Trout Farm, Bibury is a postcard-perfect village. The Swan Hotel adds to the village’s romantic allure.
5. Castle Combe – the quintessential village
Often hailed as the prettiest village in England, Castle Combe’s timeless beauty has made it a favourite location for film and television: scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here. The medieval market cross and the Castle Inn contribute to its enchanting atmosphere.
4. Stow-on-the-Wold – the Cotswolds’ highest market town
Perched atop the highest point in the Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The town’s market square and charming streets make it a delightful stop for Cotswold explorers.
3. Cirencester – Roman influence in the Cotswolds
Immerse yourself in the rich history of Cirencester, a town with Roman origins. The Cirencester Abbey and the picturesque Church of St. John the Baptist are must-visit attractions, showcasing the town’s historical significance.
2. Chipping Campden – a market town gem
Known for its quaint market square and elegant terraced High Street, Chipping Campden is a market town that exudes charm. The town is a haven for visitors seeking a taste of the Cotswolds’ architectural beauty and cultural heritage.
Address: Chipping Campden
1. Burford – gateway to the Cotswolds
Burford, often called the gateway to the Cotswolds, boasts a high street lined with antique shops, manors, and charming cottages.
The town’s medieval architecture and the iconic Burford Priory add to its allure. Discover the historic wool trade roots as you stroll through its enchanting streets.
Whether you’re captivated by the medieval architecture, enchanted by the tranquil riversides, or drawn to the allure of market towns, the Cotswolds beckon with open arms, inviting you to explore its most beautiful corners.
Winchcombe: Explore the historic town of Winchcombe, home to the majestic Sudeley Castle. The town’s proximity to the Cotswold Way walking trail and its quaint shops make it a delightful stop for visitors.
Snowshill: With its iconic manor and stunning views of the surrounding countryside, Snowshill is a hidden gem in the Cotswolds. The manor’s eclectic collection of artefacts adds a unique touch to this village.
Lacock: Lacock, known for its preserved medieval architecture, is home to Lacock Abbey. The village’s charm has made it a popular filming location where you can explore streets frozen in time.
Chipping Norton: This market town on the edge of the Cotswolds offers a blend of traditional charm and modern amenities. The town’s vibrant atmosphere and cultural events make it a lively destination for visitors.
Stanton: With its honey-coloured stone cottages and picturesque surroundings, Stanton epitomizes the quintessential Cotswold village. Discover the beauty of its High Street and immerse yourself in the timeless allure of this hidden gem.
Your questions answered about the best towns and villages in the Cotswolds
What town is best as a base for the Cotswolds?
Burford is often considered the ideal base for exploring the Cotswolds due to its central location, charming atmosphere, and proximity to key attractions. Known as the gateway to the Cotswolds, Burford provides a convenient starting point for a Cotswold adventure.
What is the main town in the Cotswolds?
While there isn’t a singular main town in the Cotswolds, Cirencester holds significance with its Roman influence, historical importance, and central location within the region.
Which towns make up the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds encompass a range of charming towns and villages, including Burford, Chipping Campden, Cirencester, Stow-on-the-Wold, Castle Combe, Bibury, Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Painswick, Winchcombe, Snowshill, Lacock, Chipping Norton, Stanton, and more, collectively forming a mosaic of beauty and history.