Places to visit in the Cotswolds – a guide to the towns and villages
A regularly updated guide to towns and villages to visit in the Cotswolds – currently featuring 50 different locations. Some of the places are on the edges of the official Cotswolds area but all are worth a trip. Each one has at least one corresponding poster design too – click the images to take a look at them in more detail.
Avening is a village that lies between the popular locations of Tetbury and Nailsworth but is worth a visit in its own right. Formerly home to a few cloth mills, it has a Norman chuch and a couple of pubs and it's a particularly good spot for walkers to explore the valley's beautiful scenery.
Certainly the biggest settlement that falls within the Cotswolds, the city of Bath marks the Southern tip and also one end of The Cotswold Way walking trail. The city itself is packed full of history, from the epic Abbey and Pump Rooms right in the centre to the many examples of Georgian architecture (made famous by the likes of Bridgerton and Jane Austen adaptations), making it a beautiful place to spend time.
There are two large arboretums of note in the Cotswolds, Westonbirt in the South and Batsford in the North, near to Moreton-in-Marsh. It is elegantly laid out down a hillside, with streams and red bridges being a notable feature – it is a garden that was designed with an oriental influence. You can also find an old hermit's cave at the top – one of several fun bits for children to run off and explore.
Bibury is one of the quintessential Cotswold villages. The view of the cottages at Arlington Row (see image on the left) is one of the most famous in the region and the shallow River Coln with its ducks is lovely for an amble along too. However the camera-armed tourists flock here by the busload so it's worth avoiding weekends and peak season. It also doesn't take long to see the sights here.
A quiet village sitting in the middle of the popular tourist spots of Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Campden, and Broadway. It has a history of silk production as the old mills attest to. Now it is a good spot for walks around the North Cotswolds countryside, perhaps to some of the aforementioned places.
Bourton on the Water
Another very popular location for tourists, which also has a shallow river running through the heart of it. There are lots of little family-friendly attractions to see in Bourton including the miniature village, miniature railway, Motor Museum, Birdland, and the Dragonfly Maze. It’s also got many good options for places to get a tea or an ice cream.
Sitting just outside Bath and on the edge of the Cotswolds, the River Avon is at the heart of Bradford-on-Avon, and it is crossed by a few picturesque bridges. The town was home to a thriving textile industry in the 17th and 18th centuries, with as many as 30 woollen mills sitting next to the river at the peak (the last one closed in 1905). The Kennet and Avon canal also runs past the town and the paths are well worth an explore by foot or bike, taking you on to Bath or Devizes.
Broadway and Broadway Tower
The village of Broadway sits in Worcestershire at the North of the Cotswolds, and picturesque wide boulevard main street has plenty of little shops, cafes, and tea rooms. Overlooking the village on the second-highest hill in the Cotswolds is Broadway Tower, which is worth a visit for the elegant tower itself and the country park that surrounds it.
Castle Combe is a highly picturesque old village in North Wiltshire that crops up in TV and film (most famously Spielberg's War Horse). There’s not a great amount to it but there are cracking views whichever way you look and you can do a few nice walks into the countryside around. Unsurprisingly somewhere this attractive pulls in the tourist numbers at peak season.
Possibly most famous for the racecourse and the festival of jump racing held every March, Cheltenham is a large town that grew to prominence during the Regency era of the late 1700s/early 1800s. The characteristic architecture can be explored in the centre of town, particularly the buildings and gardens near the Promenade, taking in the Montpellier area to the town centre. Other green space to check out Pittville Park, which is home to the Pump Room where people would visit to bathe in the spa waters that had gave the town renown.
Whilst it is in Gloucestershire, Chipping Campden is close to Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire and acts as a gateway to the North of the Cotswolds. It is full of great old listed buildings and has a very picturesque high street. It has long been a home for craftspeople and in the early 20th Century it was a centre for the Arts and Craft movement, and home to the Guild of Handicraft.
In West Oxfordshire, Chipping Norton is another of the market towns built on the wool trade that the Cotswolds do so well. It features several old and medieval buildings in the town centre that are home to independent shops and eateries. Along the high street is the grand town hall from the mid-19th Century and not far out of town is Bliss Mill with its impressive chimney column.
Known as the capital of the Cotswolds and probably the largest town that sits squarely within the region. These days Cirencester is full of interesting independent shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also has a revitalised market place with markets on at least three days of the week, including weekend food and craft markets (where you can occasionally find the Cotswold Poster Co stall!). Cirencester Park is good for a long walk and possibly to watch some polo.
Corsham is in Wiltshire, right on the edge of the Cotswolds, not far from Chippenham and Bath. It grew up around the wool industry and the quarrying of Bath Stone (a lighter limestone than Cotswold Stone). This stone is literally the building blocks of much of the town and the lovely historic high street and town centre. The stately home of Corsham Court is famed locally for its peacocks which wander about the streets and has some glorious parkland to explore.
Cotswold Water Park
What once were just holes in the ground left from gravel extraction around Cirencester and Fairford, the Cotswold Water Park has become a large network of man-made lakes. The most popular lake near to Somerford Keynes is home to the Country Park and Beach, which features play areas and on-water activities and is a great family day out. However there are many more, some of which are nature reserves, some are for a variety of water sports, and some are holiday homes.
Sitting outside of the Cotswolds and just north of Swindon, Cricklade is a small town with some great countryside nearby. In particular is the North Meadow National Nature Reserve, which for a few weeks every Spring is home to flowers you won’t find anywhere else.
Crudwell is a village with an active community, who organise annual events like their 24 hour bike ride and Strawberry Fayre. It is also home to a couple of places that have fantastic food and drink, in the form of the Potting Shed pub (shown in the poster) and the Rectory Hotel.
Dursley itself is home to plenty of independent shops and cafes but it is popular for its location, sitting in a wooded valley on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment. This means it is a great base to do walks from and close to many great views across the surrounding landscape. It even hosts an annual walking festival.
A small but growing town with a nice little high street and a grand church, featuring some of the best-preserved medieval stained glass windows in England. The River Coln winds around and through the town and forms a great place to have a walk along, including past livestock and the old mill pond. There is a US airbase at Fairford, which is home to the annual Air Tattoo event, the best place to get your fix of military aircraft.
Frampton on Severn
If you want to explore some alternative terrain to the rest of the Cotswolds, a trip to Frampton offers something a bit different. As the name suggests it is near to the River Severn and the estuary offers much to explore in terms of wildlife (particularly birds). It is also on the Gloucester Sharpness canal, which can be walked and of course boated on.
Stepping beyond the Cotswolds to a city in its own right, Gloucester is well worth visiting for its long history. The Cathedral is a stunning medieval building with cloisters to explore and incredible stained glass to marvel at. The redeveloped Gloucester Quays are also a great place to spend time with shops, restaurants, and the Waterways Museum.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a heritage railway that runs along the old Honeybourne Line between Cheltenham Racecourse and the village of Broadway and is operated wholly by volunteers. Riding in the old carriages pulled by a vintage steam or diesel engine makes for a fantastic day out and is a great way to get a view of the landscape of the Cotswold hills.
We're stepping outside of the Cotswolds to the south here but the village of Lacock is well worth a visit. It is owned by the National Trust and is a beautifully unspoiled with much of it looking the same as it did in the 18th Century, including many traditional stone cottages and half timber buildings. As a result it is very popular with TV producers for period dramas and it pops up in the Harry Potter films too.
Sitting on the edge of Gloucestershire and a few miles north of Swindon, Lechlade is named after the river Leach but is more famous for being the most Westerly navigable town on the Thames. As a result the town is popular for its boating and river-based activities, from novelty pedal boats to canoeing and fishing.
Lower Slaughter is a small village not far from Stow-on-the-Wold with most of the buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The old water mill, that once milled flour, sits on the shallow River Eye and has now been restored as a small museum and tea room – the only real tourist attraction. Otherwise there are several bridges that cross the river and allow you to explore this picturesque village.
Malmesbury is a small town packed with historic significance, including being the home of the first king of England. The part-ruined Abbey is still a grand building that sits at the heart of the town. The centre sits on a hill and is surrounded on all sides by the River Avon, which is well worth a walk around when the weather is good. The Abbey House Gardens are a magical experience to explore in summer. Oh and it's home to Cotswold Poster Co!
A sleepy and picturesque small market town with some lovely old Cotswold stone buildings. It’s probably most famous for the Common that sits on the plateau above the surrounding valleys (see our design to the left). This land features free-roaming cows, a golf course, and plenty of space for people to walk or run around whilst taking in the views.
Moreton-in-Marsh came to prominence in the thirteenth century as a market town and there still is a busy weekly market today with about 200 stalls attracting many visitors and tourists. There are many 17th and 18th Century buildings lining the High Street. Standing in the centre is the grand Redesdale Hall, which was built in 1887 and now often hosts craft and antiques fairs.
A small town that sits at the end of one of the Stroud Valleys. Nailsworth manages a decent number of interesting shops and restaurants for a small place. Climb one of the steep hills to reach Minchinhampton and go the other way to find the world’s first vegan football club, Forest Green Rovers.
The large village of Northleach is in the heart of the Cotswolds and is home to the church of SS Peter and Paul. It was almost entirely built around the year 1400 in a Gothic style with wealth from the local wool trade. The village has more recently been brought to national fame, as the location for the TV series This Country.
Painswick is right in the Cotswold hills, between Stroud and Gloucester. The centre of the town is dominated by the tall grade 1 listed St Mary's church, originating from the 11th Century. It is famed for its 100 yew trees that fill the grounds and graveyard around the church, which are about 300 years old.
One of a few great pieces of common land in the area, it is a SSSI for its grassland and rare flora. The main reason to visit is for the spectacular views across the Stroud valleys and out across the river Severn to Wales. The exposed position means it is almost always windy and a great place to fly a kite – not to mention a good place to let kids run off steam more generally!
Sitting near Malmesbury in the north of Wiltshire, the village of Sherston has a history dating back to being an Anglo Saxon settlement. The church of the Holy Cross dates from the 13th Century although the tower was rebuilt in the early 1700s. A battle was fought in the area in 1016, where local hero John Rattlebone helped defeat the Danish King Canute, despite being mortally wounded. He's now primarily celebrated in the form of The Rattlebone Inn pub.
Positioned outside of the Cotswolds and in fact in the county of Warwickshire but a great base to explore many of the villages in the North Cotswolds, whilst also being close to Stratford-on-Avon. It is a charming small town in its own right with several pubs and inns (due to its history as a stagecoach stopping point) and many independent shops.
Somerford Keynes is a small and quiet village. However it does sit in the middle of the Cotswold Water Park lakes and in particular near the main leisure lake and beach, as well as Neigh Bridge (popular for fishing). You can also find the Elemental Sculpture Park and a small Norman church with a lot of history.
South Cerney is a large village just a few miles south of Cirencester, and probably best known for the many nearby lakes that make up the Cotswold Water Park. The River Churn cuts through the middle of the village and there's a good amount of entertainment in the form of three pubs to visit.
Stow is another one of the Cotswolds' market towns built on the back of the sheep farming and wool trade in the area. This heritage is visible through the large market square, with the market cross shown in the poster. Also shown in the background is the grade 1 listed St Edward's church, a popular one to visit for the yew trees that wrap around the door on the north side.
A lively town sitting at the heart of five valleys, which still display the signs of an industrial past with several converted old mills in the area. Another part of this history is the old Stroudwater canal, which has gradually been revived over the years. The town has lots of interesting retailers and every Saturday there’s a popular farmer’s market that features some great local food and drink. For more entertainment there's the Subscription Rooms theatre space and the big Stratford Park with its museum in the middle.
Tetbury is a popular little Cotswold town probably best known for its many antiques/interiors shops and association with Prince Charles (there’s a Highgrove shop if you want a piece of that royal brand). There are plenty of picturesque buildings to spot, from the cottages along the steep Chipping Steps to the unmissable yellow Market House in the centre. Every May they have the traditional Woolsack Race that involves brave men and women lugging heavy bags up the steep Gumstool Hill.
Situated where the rivers Severn and Avon meet, this richly historic medieval market town lies to the north of Cheltenham and just outside the Cotswolds. The old Abbey Mill sits on a channel of the River Avon dug by the local monks centuries ago, and is a popular spot along the scenic walking routes by the water. Of course Tewkesbury Abbey itself (once the home of said monks) which dates back to 1121, is worth visiting, and has one of the largest Norman towers still in existence.
The Cotswold Way
Not quite a town or village to visit, more a series of them, the Cotswold Way is a national walking/hiking trail that runs from Chipping Campden in the North of the Cotswolds to Bath in the South. This 102 mile route usually takes 7-10 days to complete and runs through a series of picturesque Cotswold locations, from the likes of Winchcombe and Painswick to wide open spaces like Selsley Common.
The village of Uley lies in a picturesque valley on the road between Stroud and Dursley. Overlooking the village is the impressive terracing of the Uley Bury hill fort on the Cotswold Escarpment, which dates back to 300BC and is worth a hike for the views. A great place to start or end a walk in the area is the village pub, The Old Crown.
The village itself is a small one but it is a place most famous for the Arboretum, which boasts hundreds of rare trees – some impressively tall and many that you won’t find elsewhere in the country. There’s a play area and tons of exploring to be done for kids, with activities on during school holidays. The newer half features a sky walkway to get a view of things from above, as well as plenty of space for folk to walk their dogs.
Woodstock sits just outside the Cotswolds and acts as a gateway to the Eastern edge of the region. The small picturesque Oxfordshire town is dominated by the World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill and impressive house and grounds in its own right.