The Cotswold’s is such a beautiful part of England. Each village and town is teaming with fairy tale cottages, honey-hued houses with backdrops of gently rolling hills and valleys. Each village has something different to offer and its own unique things to experience. We visited the Cotswold’s over a long weekend and had a romantic weekend. It consisted of log fires, clinking glasses of wine, teapots and cakes and of course, long walks. It makes for the perfect getaway for couples. There are countless picture-perfect villages you can explore. We found some to be more exciting than others. So here is a list of the prettiest Cotswolds Villages and the best things to do in each one.
When to visit the Cotswolds?
One of the great things about the Cotswold’s is you can visit any time of the year and still enjoy the villages. This is great considering the unpredictability of the English weather! This gorgeous part of England is stunning anytime of the year. Our suggestion would be to avoid summer and peak tourist times, like bank holidays.
You can visit the Cotswold’s at any time of the year and the beauty of the villages won’t be tainted. We visited in late spring 2020 and the weather was great. Warm enough to not take a coat but before the rush of tourists in the summer.
One thing to note is that the Cotswolds Villages are incredibly popular with tourists all around the world. We like to enjoy the charm of the villages without the crowds. It allows you to experience the Cotswold’s as it should be, without hundreds of tourists and car parks full of coaches. To do the same, avoid the summer months and bank holidays.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT VISITING THE COTSWOLD’S
Before you head anywhere check parking availability. Most of the villages have heavy parking restrictions! However, we did find with a little research we were able to avoid paying for parking in most places. There might be a short walk to the centre of the village but this only allows you to see more of the village anyway.
Like anywhere in England, the weather can be unreliable. Make sure to pack for all eventualities and include an umbrella.
Head out early
To really make the most of the Cotswold’s head out early in the morning. This will help to guarantee a parking spot and to see the villages before the coach tours arrive.
The Top Cotswolds Villages
Painswick was our favourite of all of the villages we visited. This village is quintessential English. It has everything typical of a village in the Cotswolds, a winding river, honey-coloured houses and red telephone boxes. The key difference between this village and some of the others on this list is the number of tourists. Painswick is a lot less busy than other villages such as Castle Combe and Lower Slaughter.
Painswick is a bigger village than many others in this area. This is why we enjoyed it so much. We took the time to walk around all the winding lanes admiring all the crooked houses.
Make sure to walk downhill into the more residential part of the village. This will allow you be able to take in the extraordinary views of the beautiful valley.
The Rocco Gardens in Painswick is by far the best thing to experience here. These gardens were exceptionally beautiful and a true highlight of our whole trip.
What to see At Rocco Gardens
- Cotswolds viewpoint – a beautiful viewing point at the end of a path.
- Enjoy the cafe. They have freshly baked cakes and ground coffee, the perfect addition to the gardens.
- The woodlands are such a beautiful place for a memorable walk.
- Maze, there is nothing more entertaining than trying to find the centre of the maze!
Known for there bluebells in spring and there snowdrops in winter, there is something to see in every season. To really make the most out of your time at the Rocco Gardens check there seasonal guide.
Entry prices and Opening Times
- Adult ticket £10.30
- Child ticket £4.75
For more information check here.
Before you get to put off by the name. The word ‘Slaughter’ comes from old English ‘Slohtre’ which means ‘muddy place’ as opposed to with something more morbid.
The Slaughters are made up of Upper and Lower Slaughter. Both full of small picturesque cottages made from limestone. Each with little hearts hanging from the window and potted plants on each window seal and around each door.
Upper Slaughter is full of beautiful Cotswolds stone cottages and grand manor houses.
This village is much more residential then the others. So it’s great for a walk around and to admire its beautiful character. There is not much more to do here beyond walking, admiring and soak up the local atmosphere.
Eyford house has one award for Englands favourite country home by Country Life Magazine. It has ornamental shrubs and trees, a walled kitchen garden, two lakes with pretty walks and views, boots or wellies are definitely recommended. These gardens have also been featured in The Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds.
Lower Slaughter is a collection of pretty stone cottages, gardens full of climbing roses and flowing streams. This village may well be one of the prettiest villages in all of Gloucestershire.
Church of st Mary
St Marys church is a stone building with a typical Cotswolds stone roof. Its a beautiful church and one of the best things to see in Lower Slaughter. We spent a while walking around and admiring the grounds.
Lower Slaughter Manor
The Slaughters Manor house is a beautiful combination of contemporary interiors and typical country charm. This is also home to one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the Cotswolds.
The manor itself is situated in five acres of impressive landscaped gardens. They are filled with beautiful trees, horse chestnuts and of course an English croquet lawn.
The Slaughters Country Inn
A traditional village inn offering authentic charm. They also serve exceptional food made with the best local produce. There is also a roaring log fire in the winter and a stunning terrace to enjoy in the summer months. The food here really is incredible and its a great place to go after exploring little slaughter.
The old mill
For more information on the mill check out there website here.
The most perfect village with medieval vibes as if plucked straight from a fairy tale. This chocolate box village surprised us with its beauty. Often sighted as one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, In fact It is one of the prettiest in England! This is certainly one for the top of the list.
The only slight downside to this otherwise stunning village is that it can get rather busy. The first time we visited this village it was in the afternoon. We decided to continue straight through as the village was so busy. To really get the most out of Castle Combe head here early before the coach tours arrive. This will give you the chance to experience this village as it should be still and sleepy. There are many cosy cafes and cute tea rooms offering breakfast and of course, tea and cake. The Little Picnic Tea Room is perfect for indulging in cake with cute Tea Pots and Cream Cakes.
Head to the Manor house for Michelin star food
If you are looking for that extra indulgence, go to the Manor house. Renowned for their Michelin Star food! They offer a traditional Sunday Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Alfresco dining if the weather permits. The manor house itself is incredible and the setting couldn’t be more perfect.
Make sure to take the time to walk around the Manor grounds. They are so beautiful. The Manor is convered in Ivy that us bright green in summer and intense colours of orange and purple in the autumn months. It is an incredible sight.
Walks around Castle Combe
There are also some lovely walks you can do from Castle Combe. There is a footpath in Castle Combe that trails off into the woodlands and then back on itself in a large loop. It provides different viewpoints over the village and is a great way to spend the day. The full loop is 4.7 miles, make sure to take your walking boots and wellies as muddy feet is a guarantee! Check out a guide to this walk here.
Enjoying our guide to the best Cotswolds Villages? Check out our guide to Castle Combe.
Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds. This village sits on a quiet still river lined with swaying willow trees and cute bridges arching over the river. Full of narrow pathways, busy shops and cosy tea rooms.
This village has a nice buzz and is a perfect balance between residental life and awesome things to do. This gives you a perfect insight into the daily life of the people lucky enough to call this village home.
Bourton on the water was the first village we headed to when we arrived in the Cotswolds. We arrived early in the morning (when parking was free, yay). People were already out getting their morning papers. A queue was starting to form outside the local bakery with the smell of freshly baked bread in the air.
We walked around the village before heading to the bakery on the water for a cup of tea and slice of cake.
Check out the Church
The church in Bourton on the water is so beautiful. Its right in the middle of the village, so perfect for a quick stroll.
Things to do in Bourton on the water
The Motoring Museum
An incredible collection of vintage cars, motorbikes and caravans. Their collection has over 40 cars on display. The oldest car exhibited dates from the early 1900s. From sleek Jaguars to quirky Austins to open-top MGs, their car collection will transport you back to a time when driving was a luxury.
Check out their website for more information.
The Model Village
Within the village itself, there is a perfectly created miniature version of the village. To find out more check out their website.
Tetbury is a historic wool town that is well known for its unique independently run shops. An ideal place for shopping. We came here after a trip to Castle Combe. We sat in a walled terrace garden and drank fruity drinks in the sun at The Ormand Hotel. It’s a village with slightly more hustle and bustle then the smaller villages in the Cotswolds and we loved it.
The Royal Gardens at Highgrove
Highgrove Manor is the private residence of the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales. After many years transforming these gardens into some of the most innovative gardens in England, they are now open to the public.
To learn more about the gardens check out there website.
A Champagne Tea Tour is the most quintessentially English way to experience the Royal gardens. This experience includes a small tour of the gardens before high tea at the Orchard tea room. Complete with tiered cake stands, scones and Highgroves own champagne!
This experience is around £79.95 per person. Check here for further information.
Are enjoying our guide to the best villages in the Cotswolds? Why not check out our guide to unique things to do in the Cotswolds?
Badminton has a spectacular collection of charming cottages. With thatched cottages, farmhouses and country cottages painted yellow, houses in the village date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
We stumbled across Badminton accidently on our way to Castle Combe and it was the perfect mistake. A field was full of stunning red poppies. We parked up in the village to go for a walk and explore. The village is lovely and certainly off the beaten track.
Also completely by chance, we happened to visit Badminton on one of the very few days that the Badminton Gardens are open. These gardens were some of the most spectacular we have ever seen. With orangeries full of roses in bloom and immaculate flower beds this garden is especially beautiful.
Check out for there open days and private tours here.
Chipping Campden has such a historic high street. With its Cotswold stone buildings and beautiful church, this village encompasses everything required for a Cotswolds village, its simply lovely.
The historic home of the Guild of Handicrafts is based in Chipping Campden. The Court Barn museum showcases the work of designers and craftspeople from the movement.
Lacock Abbey was founded back in the 13th century. The Abbey has had many architectural changes, additions and renovations since then and has now become a delightful mix of different periods and styles. This is really what makes the Abbey so interesting. Being in the Cotswolds it is, of course, a stone building with stone slated roofs and twisted chimney stacks. The Tudor courtyard has many of its features preserved including the Bakehouse and Brewhouse.
Slad is another small Cotswolds village. Although, despite its size, it has a lot to offer. Lunch at The Woolpack Inn is certainly a rite of passage. You can walk from Painswick to Slad and it makes for a delightful way to experience both villages.
There is a small church with beautiful grounds that is where a legendary author Laurie Lee, author of Cider with Rosie, is buried. His book depicts what life was like in the Cotswolds in the early 20th century.
The atmosphere of the village and way of life today is so inviting and simple, this village is certainly worth the time to visit.
Summary of the best Cotswolds Villages
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best Cotswolds Villages, England. This stunning part of England has so much to offer. Whether you are looking to explore, go for long walks or simply chill and enjoy the English countryside. The Cotswolds has so much to offer.
- Check out our post of unique things to do in the Cotswolds
- Our guide to Castle Combe
- Our guide to the village of Painswick.
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