The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Beauty doesn’t have that name for no reason. It’s a large area of lush, green, English countryside, speckled with quaint, picturesque villages and curving B-roads that lives up to its name. Travelling through this area makes you feel like you’ve just stepped out of a Jane Austen novel or a Constable painting and you’ll feel the true essence of England. Some of the prettiest Cotswold villages in this area are over 800 years old and are so quintessentially English they cannot be missed.
Characterised by small, quaint, stone houses, calm rivers, cute shop fronts and ivy-covered pubs or shall I say inns, the Cotswolds are an area you need to add to your England itinerary.
While there are many towns and villages in the area, I have compiled this guide to the prettiest, most photographic spots in the Cotswolds that will leave you feeling impressed, mesmerised and, quite honestly wanting to see more. The Cotswolds villages are also very close to London so a trip out here makes the perfect countryside weekend getaway, England road trip or can be combined with a tour around England.
THE PRETTIEST COTSWOLD VILLAGES:
Often referred to the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ due to the gorgeous little bridges that cross the River Windrush, this village will have you stuck to your camera. Every corner here is picturesque from the cute ducks on the river to the very cool Cotswold Motoring Museum. This village is simply made for strolling and ambling about. Walk through the streets, admire the stone houses, lush green gardens and traditional shop windows. Don’t forget to stop for an ice-cream or a traditional British pint of ale.
UPPER & LOWER SLAUGHTER
The Slaughters are actually two villages Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, often referred to as The Slaughters. Before you ask, the villages don’t have a gruesome past, instead, the name comes from the word ’slough’ an old English word meaning ‘wet land’. The manor in Upper Slaughter dates back to 1086, however most the construction dates back to the 17th Century. Both villages are walking distance apart and both are very different so if you can, I’d recommend visiting both. Make sure not to miss Lords of the Manor Hotel and Upper Slaughter Manor in Upper Slaughter- both showcasing stunning Victorian architecture. In Lower Slaughter take a walk by the stream, admiring the gorgeous stone cottages and gardens all around you and visit the old water mill with its original waterwheel and chimney still intact. If time permits have a pint of good ol’ country cider at the gorgeous Slaughters Country Inn, the only pub for miles around.
Even though this is one of the most popular and most visited villages in the Cotswolds, don’t let that deter you from what it has to offer. Tour buses start rolling in from about 10 am so if you can stay the night close by you can enjoy its beauty early in the morning or late afternoon. Bibury has one of the prettiest rows of locally quarried limestone houses in the Cotswolds as well as other cottages with gorgeous, blooming gardens and handsomely trimmed hedges. Stroll along the narrow stream filled with fish, ducks and sometimes swans and don’t forget to stop at The Swan- one of the areas most beautiful inns.
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One of my personal favourites, Castle Combe is easily one of the prettiest Cotswold Villages. Located in a small valley surrounded by rolling green hills and running water from nearby streams, Castle Combe can’t be missed off of any Cotswolds itinerary. Wander down the main street and admire the pretty bridge and rather irregular houses that are so old they really are a little lop-sided. Pop into St Andrews church which dates back to the 15th Century and of course don’t forget to explore Manor House Hotel. Manor House Hotel is a beautiful privately owned property with 1.5 km of garden surrounding it and reminded me of something out of Downton Abbey. You don’t need a reservation to go inside or explore the gardens and if you’re feeling peckish, pop inside for a traditional English cream tea- they do a delicious one.
Unlike the above villages, Tetbury feels more like a working town; its roads are busy with flowing traffic, the market square is full of morning shoppers and the pubs and cafes are often full of people enjoying a cup of tea or beer. While you won’t find peace and tranquillity here, it definitely begs to be explored and you’ll find quaint limestone buildings, the odd thatched-roof cottage, classically inspired market square and gothic church. The town is full of side streets and alleyways you can turn into an explore at your own pace.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE COTSWOLDS VILLAGES:
↠ Many of the above villages can be reached by public transport, however, I would advise on visiting them by car. It would cut your travel time down by half and the distances between some of the villages are just 10 minutes sometimes. Being able to drive would allow you to see many villages in one day. Parking is also free in many places. If driving isn’t an option you can still visit by train from London. Book your train tickets ahead of time with The Train Line.
↠ Some of the villages, Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water especially, get extremely busy during the morning and early afternoon when most of the coaches arrive. If you want to take photos or visit without the crowds I recommend getting there before 9 am or after 6 pm.
↠ Bring a jacket – this part of the UK can experience all four season in one day so come prepared. On our visit, we had sun, rain and even hail in the summer.
↠ Must-tries in this area include a traditional English cream tea, local ale, local (ideally Somerset) cider, pies and a full English Breakfast to set you up for a day of exploring. Note that vegan options for the above are limited, however.
Any comments or questions about the prettiest Cotswold Villages? Ask me below, I’d love to hear from you!
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