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7 Charming Towns to Visit in the Cotswolds

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds

When we lived in London, once a year Cory and I would take a just-the-two-of-us trip while Lexie went off on her school’s annual week-long residential trip. These trips that were originally just a way to distract me from my separation anxiety, ultimately became something I began to look forward to every year. Since we were a family of three right from the start, these trips were a little glimpse into what marriage pre-kids must be like, and even though traveling as a family will always be my favorite way to travel, I can honestly say I’m not going to hate everything about couples-only travel.

Because we still wanted to be accessible in the event Lexie needed us while she was on her own trip, we always kept our couples holidays close to home by picking a new place to visit somewhere in England. Our first year we traveled to Bath and had a blast exploring one of the oldest cities we had ever been to. Our second year we spent a week hiking in and driving through western Cornwall, which is still in my Top 5 trips ever. And our third and final year, we got to visit somewhere I’d been looking forward to seeing since we moved to England – the Cotswolds.

Stretching from Stratford-upon-Avon in the north to Bath in the south, the places you’ll see in the Cotswolds are the things English countryside dreams are made of. (Or at least Hollywood ones, anyway.) Set amid rolling hills dotted with grazing sheep and cows, the towns and villages in the Cotswolds are pretty much English perfection. Thatched roof cottages, picture-perfect farmland, crumbling castles, towns made entirely of honey-colored Cotswold stone – visiting the Cotswolds is like going back in time.

There are so many great places to visit in the Cotswolds that the hardest part of our trip was deciding which towns and villages to see. Luckily, given the relatively small size of most towns and their close proximity to each other, it’s definitely possible to visit multiple places in the same day. We spent four days driving through the Cotswolds and of the many places we saw, the following were our favorites – partly because they offered more to do (walks, sights, food, etc), but also because they made the prettiest pictures. (FYI – These towns are all located in the northern and central regions of the Cotswolds. We didn’t make it down south on this trip!)

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds

Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is a small town in the northern Cotswolds that was once a popular wool-trading center back in medieval times. This is the town we used as our homebase for the duration of our trip and I couldn’t have been more pleased with our choice. We saw a lot of towns on this trip, but none of them had a High Street and city center quite like Chipping Campden. To add to its historic charm, Chipping Campden is one of those towns I mentioned earlier that was built using Cotswold stone nearly exclusively in the city center. If it weren’t for the cars on the roads, I really would have felt like we were back in ancient times here! Surrounded by farmland and offering plenty of choices for dining and accommodations, Chipping Campden was an attractive, ideal base for our trip.

Read More: Manor Farm: A Cotswolds Farm Stay In Chipping Campden

Things to Do: Take a photo-walk along Hoo Lane, one of the most photogenic streets in Chipping Campden. Walk the portion of the Cotswold Way (a 102-mile trail) that runs from the center of town up to Dover’s Hill. Check out the 17th century Market Hall which still stands in the town center and visit St James’ Church.

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


A short drive south of Chipping Campden is Stow-on-the-Wold, another small town that’s worth a (possibly quick) visit. Stow-on-the-Wold has a small, idyllic town center with lots of boutiques, antique shops, and cafes, but what drew me to this town was a door. Yes, a door. But not just any door – the gateway to the elf world…or so they say. Supposedly, this door on the rear of St Edward’s Church was the inspiration for the Doors of Durin in The Lord of the Rings. Not having read the books or seen the movies, I have no idea what that is, but I do know a cool shot when I see one and I wanted one with this door.

See more photos of Stow-on-the-Wold here!

Things to Do: Visit St Edward’s Church and take a photo of the famous door flanked by the two yew trees. Shop or grab a bite to eat in Market Square. Check out the Cricket Museum if that’s your thing. (The sport, not the insect!)

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


Just five miles south of Stow-on-the-Wold is Bourton-on-the-Water, a town quite a bit larger than both Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden. Known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds”, the River Windrush runs through Bourton-on-the-Water and a series of small bridges connect the town on either side of it. One of the most picturesque towns we visited, Bourton-on-the-Water was also one of the most touristy. We chose to avoid the touristy sights and spend our time relaxing and taking photos along the river, but if you’re traveling with kids, a stop in Bourton will probably be the highlight of their trip!

See more photos of Bourton-on-the-Water here!

Things to Do: To see the less touristy side of Bourton-on-the-Water, check out the shops and restaurants in the center of town and take a walk along the river. For touristy sights, Birdland, the Model Village, and the Dragonfly Maze all look like good options for both adults and kids.

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


Back up towards Chipping Campden is the beautiful town of Broadway. Situated at the foot of Fish Hill (where monks used to store fish), if you’re feeling up for a little exercise, one of the coolest things to do in Broadway is visit Broadway Tower and then walk the Cotswold Way through the sheep farms to the town center. (It’s an easy, downhill walk into town…but not so easy on your way back up!) The town of Broadway itself, especially the main street, looks like an English version of Mayberry. The streets are so clean and all the cottages so perfectly manicured and tidy that it hardly looks like anyone actually lives there!

Read More: Cotswold Way Trail: Broadway Tower Walk

Things to Do: Take a tour inside Broadway Tower. Walk the scenic, 1.5-mile path on the Cotswold Way into town. Check out the 16th century Shakespeare Cottages in town. Stop in the shops and buy all sorts of traditional English treats and quirky souvenirs.

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK thanks to its status as the birthplace of a famous playwright you might of heard of, goes by the name of William Shakespeare. Technically not within the boundaries of the Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon is often known as a gateway to them. An unusual mix of old English village and modern city, Stratford-upon-Avon is quite a bit larger than the other towns we visited on this trip and definitely required a full day to be able to see most of it. If you’re visiting the northern Cotswolds, but prefer to stay in a town with a bit more to do, especially at evening, I’d highly recommend staying here.

Read More: 6 Shakespeare Sights To Visit In Stratford-upon-Avon

Things to Do: Visit the sights in town associated with Shakespeare. (One ticket will get you into all of them.) Take a boat trip down the River Avon. For a little history, check out the Guild Chapel and Guild Hall. For more touristy sights or things to do with kids, visit the Butterfly Farm or Falstaff’s Experience at Tudor World.

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


So far all the towns listed here have been in the northern Cotswolds, but if you head to the center of this region, you’ll find the bustling town of Burford. The main street in Burford sits high up on a hill, so from the top of the road you’ve got a lovely view of the town plus the surrounding countryside. Of all the towns we visited, we probably spent more time just walking through the town here than we did anywhere else. We found so many lovely places to photograph in the side streets running off the main road. Besides a slew of restaurants and shops along the main road, there isn’t just a ton of things to do here, so if you’re not into photography, Burford will probably be a quick stop!

Read more about the town of Burford here!

Things to Do: Take a photo-walk down the beautiful side streets in town. Grab a bite to eat or do a little shopping. Learn about the town’s history in the Tolsey Museum and visit the Parish Church of St John the Baptist.

7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds


And finally, not too far from Burford is my very favorite place in the Cotswolds (at least from a photography standpoint) – the village of Bibury. Famous for the strip of cottages known as Arlington Row, Bibury is a must-see on a visit to the Cotswolds. Besides the famous cottages, the town itself, though very small, is pretty much how I always pictured a village in the Cotswolds would look – crumbling stone buildings lining quiet streets, cozy cottages tucked away from the town at the edge of a forest, and a peaceful river running through the center of it. This is Cotswolds perfection right here!

See more photos of Bibury here!

Things to Do: Not a heck of a lot. Besides Arlington Row and the River Coln, there is a Trout Farm (ha!) where you can catch your own trout and have it cooked for you and a couple of nice places to get an afternoon tea, but Bibury probably isn’t somewhere you’ll be spending a lot of time after you’ve seen the cottages.

As you’ve probably guessed, a trip to the Cotswolds is mainly about three things – photography, shopping, and eating. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a busy, active holiday which is probably why the majority of other travelers we met on our trip were in the 65+ crowd. :) But if what you’re looking for is a peaceful, easy-going getaway amid some of the prettiest countryside England has to offer, it doesn’t get much better than the Cotswolds!

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7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds

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  • Milenka
    February 19, 2019 at 2:55 AM

    The Cotswolds is one of my favourite area of England! There are so many lovely towns and villages to choose from. We *almost* visited Stow-on-the-Wold before Christmas but had to cancel unfortunately. I’m hoping we’ll get to see it soon!

    Milenka x

  • Kiye Sic
    February 6, 2019 at 8:56 PM

    Wonderful blog! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anjali Dave
    December 25, 2018 at 2:37 AM

    I would be visiting cotsworld for the first time and probably have just a day for cotsworld. Out of the 7 towns which are the ones you would recommend for a day trip

    • Sarah Shumate
      December 25, 2018 at 11:52 AM

      That’s a tough question to answer without knowing what exactly you prefer – whether it be history, shopping, photography, pretty walks, etc – but I think you could fairly easily fit Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and possibly even Stow-on-the-Wold into a day trip (assuming you’re coming from London). That would give you a little taste of several different types of Cotswold towns. I’d start up in the Stow/Bourton area, then drive down to Burford before ending the day in Bibury. Enjoy your trip!

  • Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels
    April 12, 2018 at 7:31 AM

    I’d love to visit the Cotswolds area

  • James Wilson
    February 28, 2018 at 3:10 AM

    Really lovely article. Having used to live near the Cotswolds many years ago, this is a great reminder for us to revisit. I highly recommend is Burfurd – it’s absolutely lovely in the summer, with lots of quaint pubs with fantastic beer gardens.

  • Mira Malasia
    September 22, 2017 at 7:08 AM

    In my opinion from all this list the most magnificient and truly looks like miracle is Bibury. Maybe i`m wrong but i`m impressed the most by this town after reading post!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 24, 2017 at 4:37 AM

      It is a super cute village! Definitely the best if you’re looking for a quiet, old-timey vibe!

  • Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    September 16, 2017 at 11:42 AM

    These are all so cute!! Bibury has been on my list for a while but I didn’t really know where else specifically was good to go! Ironically I spent much of my childhood in Stratford visiting family, but for some reason I was never really taken into the Cotswolds! Or if I was, only briefly. So I’m making it a mission to get there soon. Thanks for all the suggestions!

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 18, 2017 at 1:34 AM

      That always seems to be the case when visiting family! Only after I started blogging did I begin pressuring everyone to start visiting nearby places with me when we were all together for holidays, etc. :)

  • Rhiannon Travels
    August 7, 2017 at 6:33 PM

    Such cute little towns! Your photos are beautiful, and thess truly are charming places to visit. I love small towns. They have so much character. Great post! :)

  • Ticket to Adventures
    August 6, 2017 at 9:58 AM

    I absolutely love Stratford-upon-Avon, cannot wait to revisit! However, I have not even heard about those other towns, but they all look very charming. Broadway Tower looks very cute. Thank you for sharing this interesting post.

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 6, 2017 at 9:03 PM

      Stratford-upon-Avon was such a unique city! I loved visiting all of the Shakespeare locations there. (Writing a post about that today, actually!) Definitely check out some of these others if you ever get the chance! :)

  • Kristine Li
    August 6, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    Lovely towns! I actually like exploring quiet places like these shared in your post, it gives me a kind of peace =)

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 6, 2017 at 8:58 PM

      I definitely know what you mean. So many times when we travel, we (or the places we visit) are so busy that peaceful would be one of the last words I’d use to describe our trip. That was definitely not the case in the Cotswolds!

  • Exploring Berry
    August 6, 2017 at 7:40 AM

    You have such beautiful photographs! I need to revisit the Cotswolds at a slower pace, it is so pretty!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 6, 2017 at 8:56 PM

      The Cotswolds are perfect for slow-pace travel. Everywhere we went had such a relaxed, laid back vibe. I loved it!

  • Kate
    August 5, 2017 at 6:21 PM

    Just wow! These towns are all so quaint and picturesque! I’m practically ready to buy my ticket to London to explore all of these. Love that you spent time visiting these villages each year. Such a wonderful tradition!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:30 PM

      Well, we actually only visited the one time. We took an annual couples-trip, but we always went somewhere different in England! I’d love to find a place we wanted to return to every year, though!

  • Becky van Dijk
    August 5, 2017 at 6:15 PM

    I love the Cotswolds! What a great post! Thanks for sharing all this useful information. Becky x

  • Rachel Nicole
    August 5, 2017 at 6:06 PM

    The Cotswolds is such a picture perfect place, I used to live not too far away and I can’t believe I didn’t take advantage of this and explore all these beautiful towns! I’m still yet to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon too! xo

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:29 PM

      I think that’s true of a lot of us. It’s embarrassing how little I’ve seen of my own country, actually. Ha!

  • Jordan Beck Wagner
    August 5, 2017 at 4:57 PM

    So happy you published this because I’m headed to the Cotswolds next weekend!!!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:26 PM

      That’s so cool! I hope you have a great trip! It’s the perfect time of year to visit!

  • Haylee @ From All Corners
    August 5, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    These pictures are so pretty. I’d love to take a road trip and visit some of these places, they look like something out of a fairytale!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:27 PM

      They totally, and thank you for the compliment! :)

  • LC
    August 5, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    The Cotswolds are admittedly one of my favourite parts of England. I have a great Aunt and Uncle who live in Gloucestershire and I love visiting, as it gives me a chance to drive on to nearby villages like these! It’s England as I always imagined it, haha.

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:26 PM

      Yes, exactly! The Cotswolds is the epitome of what I imagined England would look like before I actually moved there. Such a beautiful place!

  • Maninio
    August 5, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    Your photos amazing!! Despite the fact I have lived in Scotland and visited England various times I never heard of these places. Thanks for the post!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:20 PM

      Thank you! Totally understandable – despite being relatively small countries, there are way too many cool places to visit in both Scotland and England to be able to have heard of them all!

  • Lisa Michele Burns
    August 5, 2017 at 6:40 AM

    So much prettiness in one post! These villages are going straight on my need to see list for my next trip to England…especially Bibury and Stow-on-the-Wold even if it’s just for what looks like the most magical door ever!? There’s something about the names of villages in the UK that just make them sound so quaint and old worldly, you can almost imagine the tea and crumpets inside by the fire.

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:19 PM

      I can’t get over all the hyphenated names! I love how descriptive they are, too. The Cotswolds is definitely a tea and crumpets kind of place. :)

  • Nadeen
    August 5, 2017 at 6:06 AM

    Wow!! These towns look so quaint! I would love to visit and explore them all! I have only been to London so I’m looking forward to branching out next time!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:18 PM

      Well, if you ever make it to London again, there are actually day trips you can join that cover a bunch of places in the Cotswolds in the same day! Much easier than renting a car and doing it yourself. :)

  • Pinay Flying High
    August 5, 2017 at 5:05 AM

    I’ve been to most but not all, it’s my favorite area in England. Funny though because since moving to London, I haven’t gone back there yet. I don’t get weekends off normally with my work. :-/

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:14 PM

      I totally get it! When we lived in London, we hardly ever made weekend trips within the UK. Life gets busy, and for whatever reason it seems easier to plan the big trips vs short weekends away!

  • Alexandria Iveson
    August 5, 2017 at 5:04 AM

    My husband used to go to Bourton-on-the-water every year with his family when he was a kid – and it’s so beautiful. Bibury is my favourite too!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 5, 2017 at 9:12 PM

      That is very cool that Bourton-on-the-Water was an annual tradition for them! I’d love to find a place I loved so much that I wanted to return to it every single year.

  • Katie. lacoconoire
    August 2, 2017 at 2:38 PM

    the cotswolds has gotta be hands down one of my all time fave places EVER. ???

    i loved bourton on the water (i sampled the very best red velvet cheesecake of my life there…so i’m a bit biased!). it’s such an quaint beautiful little place, would love to go back soon.

    katie xx

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 2, 2017 at 5:11 PM

      My husband had some of the best cake he’s ever had in Bourton-on-the-Water, too! What a weird coincidence…what are they putting in their cakes there? :)

  • Marina Carstens
    August 2, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    Hello! I’ve just started reading your blog recently–can’t remember if I’ve even commented much yet! What brings you to Singapore? I just recently started blogging, and I am excited to read everyone’s stories about living abroad and whatnot.

    That little area of England sounds incredibly peaceful and quaint. You mentioned a trail, and now I want to walk the entire thing. Friends of mine did the trail from Glasgow to Fort William in Scotland, and now that is my new travel goal to save up for. I lived in Scotland for a few months, but had to drop out of my grad school program because life is expensive. Have a happy week!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 2, 2017 at 5:10 PM

      Oh, man…I bet the Glasgow to Fort William trail would be beautiful! Scotland is one of our favorite countries, so much beauty there.

      Welcome to blogging! It’s such a fun hobby and a great way to connect and learn from others! I’ll go check your blog out!

  • Holly
    August 2, 2017 at 4:38 AM

    Lovely post and pictures! I like nothing more than escaping the city and spending some down time in the countryside once in a while. I am planning my next trip to the Cotswolds in a few months time and just added some things to my list :) thanks.

    Holly x

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 2, 2017 at 5:07 PM

      Getting away from the city is definitely good for clearing the head! I’m glad my post help! Enjoy your trip to the Cotswolds!

  • Jenn
    July 31, 2017 at 4:30 PM

    All the heart eyes!!!

  • Esther @ YourDutchGuide
    July 31, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    Wow, this brings back memories. My family lives not far from the Cotswolds and the first time I visited England (when I was 8 yo) we visited all these towns. So beautiful Your photos bring back a lot of memories. Thank you!

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 2, 2017 at 5:06 PM

      I’m so happy to hear that! What a beautiful place to live…your family must love it there!