If there was ever a place that could make putting down your camera seem like an impossible task, it would be the Cotswolds. Towns in the Cotswolds are like little fairy tale villages, each one a little different from the one before, but all fitting together to create one perfect storybook kingdom. I can’t write about all of the towns and villages we visited on our trip or I’d be writing about the Cotswolds all the way to Halloween, but I would like to share a few photos from each of our favorites, starting with Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water. These two towns are very different, but I’ve included them together here because they are so close to each other that you can easily visit both in the same day and still have time to check out some other villages if you want!
Usually, the things that inspire us to visit a certain place are pretty conventional – maybe we want to try a certain food that a place is known for or do or see something in a place that we can’t do or see anywhere else, but this time the thing that motivated us to make a stop in Stow-on-the-Wold was a door. Or more specifically, getting a picture of a door. Definitely not your average reason for making a trip. But then again, this is no average door.
At the rear of St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold is a door that looks more like something you’d find on a medieval castle than the back of a church in a busy Cotswolds town. Flanked on each side by an ancient yew tree and framed in varying shades of green moss, you’d think a door like this would lead into a church with dark rooms and lantern-lit secret passageways, but the inside of St Edward’s Church, while clean and pretty, isn’t really anything you’d write home about. The so-called “doorway to the elf world” is definitely the highlight here!
Even if you’re not into old doors or magical superstitions, Stow-on-the-Wold is still worthy of a spot on your Cotswolds travel itinerary. With side streets featuring stone cottages just begging to be photographed and a bustling main street with plenty of cute shops to explore and tea rooms to choose from, spending a couple hours in Stow-on-the-Wold is easy to do. The only thing that ruins the magic here a little is the cars. That was the case in most of the towns we visited since only a few Cotswolds towns actually restrict where cars can drive, but because Stow-on-the-Wold was so busy, it just seemed more noticeable here. If a more peaceful (albeit also more touristy) town is what you’re looking for, then you’ll definitely want to check out this next place!
After having been in busy Stow-on-the-Wold for a few hours, Bourton-on-the-Water was a welcome change of pace. The main attraction (at least of the natural variety) is the part of town where the River Windrush flows through with tree-lined walking paths on either side of its banks. Ducks playing in the water, children tossing bread and laughing when all the ducks would come running at once, couples walking hand-in-hand, people having tea at one of the many tea rooms along the water – I am not lying when I say walking through Bourton-on-the-Water was like walking through a painting by an artist trying to capture the essence of idyllic simplicity. Bourton-on-the-Water was so peaceful and so unbelievably picturesque that even the torrential rain that came on suddenly while we were walking along the river path (and completely soaked us through our clothes) didn’t stress us out or ruin our day. FYI – In case of rain, the best choice is to duck into a tea shop and ride it out. You will find no shortage of good choices along the river!
There is another more touristy side to Bourton-on-the-Water that we didn’t have much of an interest in seeing on this visit. Instead, we spent all of our time in Bourton-on-the-Water either along the river or the main street since that’s where all the best photo ops are. However, if you’re a family traveling with kids, Bourton-on-the-Water is the perfect place to visit since the other side of town has all sorts of kid-friendly attractions.
Of all the Cotswolds towns we visited (except Chipping Campden where we stayed), we spent the most time in Bourton-on-the-Water. Something about this town just makes you want to sit on a park bench and watch the hours pass by (or read a book like that smart guy above). I recommend allowing yourself at least a half-day if you plan to visit Bourton-on-the-Water, and definitely don’t leave without having a cream tea by the river. Nothing beats a good cup of tea and a scone with a pretty view!
For more great places to see in the Cotswolds, check out 7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds.
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