A street in the village of Castle Combe after rain
travel guide

A day trip to the Cotswolds, the heart of England

Simran Raju

Contributing writer

The Cotswolds is a region in south-central England that spans six counties and is famous for its enchanting countryside, prehistoric barrows and pretty, medieval towns. Also known as the "Heart of England", the Cotswolds evokes visons of cobblestone streets and lush, green rolling hills. The name comes from ’cots’ meaning sheep - as it was known for its wool trade - and ‘wold’ meaning gentle hills... and you’ll see plenty of both when you visit!

Below we’ve described a few of our favourite towns in the Cotswolds. For a day trip, pick two or three of these to visit. If you’d like to spend some time seeing ancient sites or hiking in the area, we suggest you visit a maximum of two of the villages. Or, if you want to explore the area in more depth (particularly if you’re interested in archaeology), you can also choose one of the below towns to base yourself for a few days.

Lavender fields in the Cotswolds, England

Getting there

You can easily get to the Cotswold Hills by train, bus or car from London and your journey will offer some stunning English countryside views. Saying that, if you are planning to visit the Cotswolds as a day trip from London you may find it better you arrange for your own transport or take an organized tour, as navigating public transport between the towns can be challenging. It takes about two hours to get to the Cotswolds from London and probably closer to three by train.

The tours are usually 9-10 hours long and cover 2-3 villages and a handful of other tourist attractions. The advantage of visiting independently is that you can take your time and enjoy this beautiful part of the country at your own pace.

Picturesque old stone houses of Arlington Row in the village of Bibury, Cotswolds, England

Bibury

Situated on the banks of river Coin, Bibury is one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds and is heaven for photographers. Tourists love walking down the Arlington Row, a popular street in Bibury which is believed to be the most photographed street of the Cotswolds - so much so that it appears on the first page of the British passport. 

The street is lined with houses dating back to the 14th century, giving a peek of how people lived in the Middle Ages. At Bibury trout farm and gardens, you can catch fishes, try your hand on golf and explore the farm. Choose any restaurant with outdoor seating to enjoy some fresh delicacies with a view.

Lacock Abbey in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire, on a cloudy day

Lacock

A Harry potter fan? Head to Lacock. Full of picturesque English cottages, visiting is like walking through a period drama. Lacock has many ancient buildings dating back to the 14th century and now protected by the National Trust. Spend your time here visiting St. Cyriac’s church, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and the Lancocke Tithe Barn.

Don’t miss the popular Kings John Hunting Lodge tea room offering good food with the perfect ambience. The Cotswolds is known for its traditional cream tea and some lovely tea rooms, so be sure to visit one on your trip.

Willow trees and waterways in Bourton-on-the-Water on a sunny day

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is a charming village surrounded by rivers and lakes. It is also referred to as ‘Venice of England’. Attractions here include the Cotswolds Motoring Museum, where on display is a good collection of vintage cars and motorcycles. Nature lovers can head to the Birdland Parks and Gardens to view some 500 birds which include flamingos, pelicans, cranes, and king penguins.

Other places of interest in the town include a model village and railway exhibition, the Dragonfly Maze and the Cotswold Perfumery. The shops in Bourton-on-the-Water are extremely cute and browsing through them is always fun. Don’t forget to eat some freshly-baked treats available in the cafes and bakeries when visiting this quaint town.

The chapel on the grounds of Sudeley Castle, England

Winchcombe

Winchcombe flourished in the medieval times and still retains its olde-worlde charm. It is home to one of most beautiful castles in England: Sudeley Castle, surrounded by lush green gardens. The Cotswolds Farm Park is a delight for animal lovers and children and if you visit in the spring you can see the young animals up close.

Take your time exploring the town and be sure to drop by Stanway Watermill, St. Peter’s church and Winchcombe Museum. For more stunning period architecture, visit Hailes Church, a 12th Century church just across the street from the ruins of Hailes Abbey. Winchcombe pottery is also very well known and you might come across some beautiful pottery pieces from medieval times here.

Cottages in the village of Chipping Campden at sunset

Chipping Campden

Known as ‘The Market town’ for its 17th Century marketplace, Chipping Campden is popular with hikers, with some great trails starting just outside the village. Or, if you’d rather spend your time in town, visit the Old Silk Mill to browse through fine workmanship of the craftsman.

Stroll along the high street of Chipping Campden and be sure to visit Court Barn Museum and the Old Campden House. Four miles away from Chipping Campden is the Hidcot Manor, where you’ll find one of the finest gardens in the Cotswolds. Head to Dover’s Hill not far from the village for beautiful views of the countryside.

Looking down hill into the Cotswold Town of Burford

Burford

The most popular thing to do in Burford is walking up the sloping high street and marvelling at the views at the top – it can be a bit effort but it’s worth it. The High Street is busy and bit crowded, however it’s lined with small shops selling some beautiful products.

Once you’ve seen the view, head to Church Lane to explore the quieter side of Burford. It’s a quaint lane where you can see the 15th Century almshouses. Spend the rest of your time in the village visit the Tudor market house, Robert Reavly, England’s oldest pharmacy, and the magnificent, 15th century parish Church of St. John Baptist.

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Simran Raju

Author - Simran Raju

Simran Raju is a travel writer based in Delhi, India. As well as travelling extensively throughout India, Simran has visited many destinations in the US, UK and Europe. She particularly enjoys experiencing different cuisines and cultures when she travels.

Last Updated 15 September 2022

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