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The 11 most beautiful Cotswolds towns to visit – hand luggage only

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The Cotswolds is an absolutely stunning area of ​​England that is well worth a visit! It is an Oustanding Area of ​​Natural Beauty (AONB) which is just shy of the Roman city of Bath and the likes of Cirencester and has the quintessential British countryside charm that makes it so wonderful to explore – particularly within the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds which are all over the area. Now, any plan to visit the Cotswolds comes with a little much needed planning. Unlike the large connected cities of England, the Cotswolds have limited public transport. This means that it is best explored by car or part of a tour; Which means an itinerary of places to see in the Cotswolds is essential. Over the years we have visited the Cotswolds countless times…and loved it! So, to help you plan your trip, I wanted to share some of our favorite spots in the Cotswolds to visit. Yes, some of them may not technically be cities in their traditional sense, but they are all historic settlements, hamlets, and homesteads that you just can’t miss. Enjoy your time exploring. It really is a beautiful area of ​​England. 1.) Bibury is the Cotswolds most famous place to visit Bibury is a small village that is home to one of the Cotswolds most famous streets; Arlington Row. You could easily spend an afternoon strolling around Bibury and within easy reach of the historic town of Cirencester which also borders the Cotswolds. This makes it the perfect stopping point on a wider road trip while visiting the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds to explore. Once here, be sure to park (there is street parking on the main road) and take a walk to Arlington Row. Yes, it may be a small place but it is totally charming and attracts visitors from all over the world. After strolling to Arlington Row, be sure to pop into the Swan Hotel for a bite to eat (or book a room to stay the night). What we love most about the Cotswolds is that it’s best explored on your own time – there’s no need to rush. However, if you are looking for a stay in a historic mansion, check out the nearby Barnsley House which was first built in the 17th century. It is a great spot and is located between Bibury and Cirencester. Now, one piece of advice; Make sure you plan your route efficiently if you are driving to the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds. It’s very easy to make a plan to see all these different towns and then realize you’ve been wandering around the Cotswolds and ended up wasting your precious time. Focus your days on exploring the south of the Cotswolds, where you can include popular cities like Bath too. After that, enjoy other days that prioritize western cities, when you can also include places like Blenheim Palace in your plans. This way, you will be able to see a lot of the Cotswolds. Further Read: Best Places In The Cotswolds 2.) Bourton-on-the-Water Greater than Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds nestled in the heart of this special area. Sometimes called the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is a place full of shallow river beds and little gorges that make it very exotic to explore. After parking, pop off to eat and along these little bridges that cross the Windrush River. It is a stunning part of Bourton-on-the-Water and flows straight through town. After strolling around the independent shops and small streets, be sure to pop into one of the small tea rooms that line both sides of the street. You’ll find quite a few around town, so I’m not going to give you a suggestion – it’s more about the one you spot and like the way it looks. Just be sure to have fresh tea with warm scones. Yum! Oh, and don’t forget the cute model village that has made a name for itself within Bourton-on-the-Water. It’s completely comical. 3.) Burford Known as the gateway to the Cotswolds, Burford is a medieval settlement well worth exploring if you’re venturing west towards Oxford (it’s not too far at all). There are plenty of small shops, cafes and traditional English pubs in the streets of Burford. We loved the Mermaid Inn for a proper pub lunch. In the winter they have their open fires roaring which is a lovely atmosphere. As you wander around, be sure to spot some of the famous Cotswolds cottages that this area is famous for. Oh, and the 12th century church (St John the Baptist) which is also a must-visit in Burford. Oh, and be sure to pop into Havekins for one of their delicious pastries or afternoon tea. Yum. Further Read: Best Things To Do In Oxford 4.) Castle Combe Nestled in the idyllic Wiltshire countryside, a chocolate box village is, in many ways, my favorite in all of the Cotswolds. Shhhh, don’t tell the others! Yes, it’s small (just like most places in the Cotswolds) but absolutely picture perfect. We love it. It almost looks as if it is untouched by time. Trust me, it feels like you’ve gone back several centuries… except for the odd car or two! When visiting Castlecombe, you’ll see the well-preserved old honeycomb stone cottages, standing out among all the fine high streets in the village. After touring Castlecombe, pop into the Castle Inn for a drink and check into The Manor House to stay in the village itself. This is a stunning 1300’s manor house, within Castlecombe. Finally, don’t forget to head to the nearby village of Lacock. Yes I know this is not in the Cotswolds but you can’t miss it when you are already in the area. It’s only about 20 minutes by car and well worth getting to know this beautiful city. Further Read: Best Day Trips In England 5.) Stow-on-the-Wold Steeped in history, Slow-on-the-Wold is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds and a must-visit when driving between Burton-on-the-Water and Broadway . It is located right on the main road area and well worth stopping by for a few hours around lunch. In fact, not just for lunch…for a date too! You see, the Saxon name for Slow-on-the-Wold means holy place on the hill and goes back hundreds of years. Once a thriving little market town where wool was traded, it is now a picture perfect village and lovely to see. Now, someone once told me that the reason Stow-on-the-Wold had narrow alleys and roads was because of its wool heritage. Apparently, these narrow alleys helped shepherds to graze their sheep when they arrived at the market. Truthfully, I always thought it was due to a lack of planning! Be that as it may, when you visit Slow-on-the-Wold you will come across and discover that iconic country architecture that the Cotswolds are famous for. If you feel like shopping, there are also many shops in the area to explore and enjoy small art galleries, St Edward’s Church, Lucy’s Tearoom and the Cotswold Sweet Company for some natural licorice root to munch on. Oh, and be sure to visit The Kings Arms for dinner… their homemade pies are delicious. 6.) Painswick Perched atop rolling hills, Painswick is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds to visit on the way south from Gloucester. Now, just like most towns in the Cotswolds, Painswick is quite intimate and small. This means a good few hours and I have seen most of the sites. Which, in my opinion, is part of the charm of the Cotswolds in general. You can hop around the area to find all the little gems that you like the most. Once here, be sure to pop into the Painswick Rococo garden, which dates back to the 18th century. Also, be sure to dine at Painswick Restaurant, which has a great tasting menu. Not only that, but there is also a biennial arts festival in Painswick celebrating local artists which is well worth checking out if you happen to be around in June. Further Read: Best Towns In England To Visit 7.) Chipping Campden When you see Chipping Campden, you will realize what all the fuss is about, especially if you like the small villages and quaint cottages of the Cotswold-Stone. they are great! However, Chipping Campden can feel a little quieter and smaller compared to some of the other nicer towns in the Cotswolds. This is why I only recommend showing up for an hour or two. Once here, check out the Market Hall, which is open-walled and steeped in history. Also, nearby, you’ll find a few cozy galleries such as the Campden Gallery and Art Cotswold that are well worth a peek inside. You can purchase some fine local art. Not your thing? Then head to the Old Silk Mill which currently functions as a collaborative space and artists’ showcase. Oh, and sip afternoon tea at The Bantam Tea Rooms. It’s beautiful and their tea is very good. Further Read: Best Places In The South Of England 8.) Broadway Broadway is right up there as one of my favorite towns in the Cotswolds to see when you travel around the region. Back in the Middle Ages, the wool trade was a thriving part of Broadway’s economy. Like so many towns in the Cotswolds. For the time being, though, you won’t find any bleeding sheep roaming the roads here. Once here, be sure to check out the Museum and Art Gallery on Broadway and pop inside the Gordon Russell Design Museum. If you’re after some uncomfortable British fish and chips, head to Russell’s Fish and Chips. The ale fried cod and chips is one of the best in all of the Cotswolds. All vinaigrette desires, of course! To work away from lunch, take a stroll around the folly that is Broadway’s tower. It’s worth the hike up the rolling hills to get there – especially on a sunny day. Afterwards, you can easily drive into the nearby village of Bretforton. Although it is not within the official borders of the Cotswolds, it is not too far from Broadway (about 10 minutes), so you can visit both places if you have time. One place you have to visit in Bretford is The Fleece Inn. It is a huge 15 century old historic tavern with historic interiors and charming rooms. It is now run by the National Trust who look after the estate and keep its charm and heritage alive so we can all enjoy today. Plus, they have an epic beer garden, especially since you can sit in the cozy horse crates in the apple orchard. It’s nice. Further Read: Best Places To Visit In The West Of England 9.) Winchcombe Winchcombe is another gem to visit in the Cotswolds located on the fringes of the Northern Borders. Here, you’ll find plenty of antique stores and the Winchcombe Antiques Centre. There are several small rooms and an inviting tea room where you can easily spend some time inside. Then, on the outskirts of the market town, are Belas Knapp, Hailes Abbey, and Sudeley Castle. The latter is a stately home that you can visit and dates back to the 1500’s. Further Read: Best Places In Northern England 10.) Tetbury Perched on an ancient fort that once overlooked this area, Tetbury is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds and is relatively large compared to some of the other gems. If you like museums, check out the tiny Tetbury Police Museum. Alternately, discover Tetbury Market House. We stayed for a few days in Tetbury and used it as our base to explore more of this area of ​​the Cotswolds. We booked The Royal Oak Tetbury which we absolutely loved. The rooms are comfortable and the bar is very nice. Next, be sure to check out Westonbirt, The National Arboretum. It is a huge tree park that dates back to the Victorian era. We spent about 1 hour here and loved it. Tetbury is indeed a wonderful town in the Cotswolds. Read more: What to see at Tetbury 11.) Upper and Lower Slaughters Now, I know those two look pretty ominous! Their names don’t exactly sell them as places to go…but hear me out! The Slaughters are two very small places that you can easily visit as they are located next door to Bourton-on-the-Water. Now, this would be a 20-minute layover (unless you go on a longer hike), so there’s no need to go planning your entire day around The Slaughters. Don’t forget to pop into The Old Mill ice cream parlor for some creamy scoops and walk over the gorgeous Ford Bridge that runs over the River Eye. Finally, if you would like to book a stay, check into The Slaughters Manor House. Built in the 17th century, it is a total gem and an amazing place to stay. Plus, the English breakfast is top notch! Further Read: Most Beautiful Places In England To Visit The 19 Most Beautiful And Best Places To Visit In England Check out the best places in Great Britain! Head over to our YouTube channel for travel videos!

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