Known the world over for its buttery limestone cottages and rolling green hills, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (more commonly known just as ‘the Cotswolds’) is truly one of the most spectacular places to visit in England.
Spread across approximately 800 square miles and multiple counties, the exact borders of the Cotswolds region are often a contentious topic of debate.
And while these precise boundaries matter little to visitors (who are all just here to enjoy the scenery anyways), it may help to envision an invisible line connecting Oxford, Bath, Gloucester and Stratford-Upon-Avon. It is in this space (roughly) that you’ll find the Cotswolds AONB.
From sleepy picturesque villages to vibrant historic towns, there’s something in the Cotswolds for every type of traveller.
So, if you’re wondering where to go in the Cotswolds, let us help. Below, you’ll find a roundup of the most unique beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds, whether you’re looking for postcard-perfect villages, awe-inspiring attractions, or fascinating museums.
Let’s first start with Bibury, one of the most photographed villages in the Cotswolds, and hands down one of the most charming.
Embodying all the charm of the Cotswolds in a single frame, the stone houses of Arlington Row are a sight synonymous with the Cotswolds name, drawing visitors from around the world, including big names like Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Henry Ford.
Truth be told, there isn’t a lot to do in Bibury by way of attractions or activities, but if all you’re looking for is a scenic stroll, some beautiful photo opportunities, and a bite/pint at a local pub, then be sure to add Bibury to your list.
Pronounced Castle “Coom”, the photogenic Castle Combe is another one of the most beautiful places you can visit in the Cotswolds.
Nestled in a stunning valley in Wiltshire, this village is home to a droolworthy assortment of classic Cotswold stone houses and a bridge so pretty, it may be one of the most photographed bridges in the country (next to Tower Bridge in London, of course).
For those seeking a luxurious escape, Castle Combe is also home to one of the swankiest hotels in the Cotswolds: the spectacular Manor House, set on a secluded 365 acre property complete with a Michelin star restaurant and on-site luxury spa.
Bourton on the Water
If it’s a combination of small town charm with fun activities you’re looking for, one fo the best places to visit in the Cotswolds is no doubt Bourton on the Water, known by many as the Venice of the Cotswolds.
Besides offering the classic Cotswold charm with beautiful stone buildings and peaceful green spaces, Bourton on the Water offers an array of quirky attractions that are perfect for both kids and kids-at-heart.
For instance, there’s the Miniature Village which is a faithful recreation of Bourton on the Water, built to a 1:9 scale with the local Cotswold limestone, complete with miniature trees, miniature displays in the shop windows and a (very meta) miniature version of the Miniature Village.
Another fun attraction is the deceptively challenging Dragonfly Maze, which mixes a traditional maze with a scavenger hunt/riddle of sorts.
Overall, if it’s a fun family-friendly day out you’re looking for, Bourton on the Water is a must-visit place in the Cotswolds.
Another one of the loveliest places to visit in the Cotswolds is the oh so charming town of Tetbury.
Known as the swanky homebase of none other than Prince Charles, future king of England, Tetbury is the second largest town that the Cotswolds have to offer, with a wonderful array of lovely boutiques, including a flagship shop for Prince Charles’ luxury brand, Highgrove, and even a quirky and free police museum.
Looking for an excellent photo spot? Don’t miss the medieval Chipping Steps, one of the oldest parts of Tetbury, which consist of a steep set of stairs lined with centuries-old cottages.
Highgrove Royal Gardens
Want to pop by for tea at the home of England’s future King?
You absolutely can, at Highgrove Royal Gardens!
Located just outside of Tetbury, Highgrove is the royal residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and it’s open to the public via its Royal Gardens, which have been offering tours for almost 30 years. Click here for more details!
This tour will take you through the many unique gardens designed and curated by the Prince of Wales himself ever since he moved to the estate in the 80s.
From the picturesque wildflower meadow to the perfectly manicured Thyme Walk, the gardens here are a true delight… and yes, there’s even an on-site tea room so you can say you’ve been around for tea.
Known as the capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is another beautiful Cotswold town well worth visiting, especially for those looking for places to shop and eat.
In Cirencester, you’ll find colourful streets filled with adorable boutiques, cafes, and independent retailers, along with hidden courtyards and a handful of unique historical attractions as well.
For instance, you can’t miss the Church of St John the Baptist, one of the most beautiful churches in the Cotswolds, with a wide range of interesting artifacts on display, like a golden goblet crafted for Anne Bolelyn.
There’s also a rich Roman history here that can be traced at the Corinium Museum or the town’s former Roman amphitheatre (once a seating space for 8000+ people, now a leafy green space).
Looking for one of the best places in the Cotswolds for shopping?
Look no further than Broadway, whose starring attraction is its wide, spacious High Street, filled with wonderful boutiques, restaurants and antique shops.
From cute shops like Blandford Books and Broadway Deli to lovely inns like the the Crown & Trumpet, where we had a fabulous meal, there’s a reason this town is one of the most visited spots in the Cotswolds.
Of course, while here, you need to also make sure you stop by…
At 312 metres above sea level, Broadway Tower is the second highest point in the Cotswolds, which of course means it’s one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds for a nice view.
Of course, the tower is far more than just a scenic viewpoint for photographs. Inside, you’ll actually find a 3-story museum, a nuclear bunker from the Cold War, a stylish visitor center, and a cozy cafe.
Wotton under Edge
If you’re looking for a Cotswold town that’s a bit more off-the-radar in terms of tourism, we can highly recommend Wotton under Edge.
Not only does this town have a delightful High Street studded with lovely shops, it also has the unexpected bonuses of charming pink-washed buildings, hidden almshouses, a heritage center with a free museum, and a fascinating 13th century inn, “The Ancient Ram Inn”, beloved by ghosthunters for its connections with the paranormal.
The nearby Wotton Hill also offers stunning green views.
Chipping Camden is one of the best preserved towns in the Cotswolds, making it another perfect addition for our list of places to visit.
There’s a little something for every kind of traveller here. For instance, history lovers can geek out over the sprawling history of this quaint market town, which still has its original 17th century market hall in tact.
Or, shoppers can make their way along the elegantly curved High Street with a lovely assortment of shops.
And there’s even something for sports lovers too: Chipping Camden is home to the annual “Cotswold Olimpicks” which happen every spring.
Another scenic place to visit in the Cotswolds is the picturesque Stow-on-the-Wold.
Best known for St Edward’s Church, which is home to a magical little door flanked by yew trees, Stow-on-the-Wold is home to a number of enticing draws, from its picturesque rows of quaint cottages to its varied selection of restaurants, pubs, and shops.
Especially noteworthy is the sprawling market square, once the hotspot for buying/selling sheep, and the nearby Gypsy Horse Fair which comes to town twice a year.
Chipping Norton is another market town you must visit in the Cotswolds.
Known for its lively atmosphere and picture-perfect facades, you’ll find a variety of nice attractions here, from beautiful Almshouses and centuries-old pubs to fun, colourful independent shops.
And if the name itself doesn’t sound familiar, odds are you would at least know some of the music created in Chipping Norton.
That’s because once upon a time (in the 90s), the Chipping Norton Recording Studios were a bustling hub for music recording at their humble location on New Street. Famous hits like “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew were recorded here!
Burford’s elegantly sloped High Street is lined with some of the prettiest stone houses and storefronts in the Cotswolds, but it’s also one of our top places to visit in the area thanks to its abundance of historical gems.
For instance, Burford is where you’ll find Reavley Chemist – England’s oldest pharmacy.
There’s also a medieval stone bridge that dates back centuries, and little pops of half-timbered whimsy found all around town.
While there isn’t a ton to do in Snowshill, this picturesque village does have one main attraction going for it: the nearby Snowshill Manor and Garden, which stores the bizarre and eclectic treasures of Charles Wade, a man who sought to turn his manor into an extraordinary world away from the monotonous lull of regular life.
The village itself is also very pretty, with plenty of postcard-worthy photo opportunities, including this spit with a classic red phone booth:
The Slaughters (Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter)
Despite their brutal sounding names, the Cotswold Slaughters (Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter) are both exceedingly lovely little villages that frequently rank among the cutest places to see in the Cotswolds.
And while they really have no made-for-tourist attractions like some other Cotswold villages and towns in the area, what they offer up is a simple and quiet idyllic charm.
Both hugging the banks of the River Eye, Lower Slaughter is home to a restored flour mill and a beautiful bridge that makes the ideal backdrop for scenic photos.
And Upper Slaughter, which is home to lovely almshouses and a unique ford crossing, has the unique distinction of being one of only a handful of “Doubly Thankful Villages”, having lost no men during either of the world wars.
Berkeley Castle and Butterfly House
What’s a list of pretty places in the Cotswolds without a castle thrown in?
Located on the edge of the Cotswolds, Berkeley Castle has been inhabited by the same family for over 9 centuries, which is (by the way) a longer time than any fortress in England can brag about.
History speaks through every brick of this beautiful property, where King Edward II was supposedly murdered.
Free guided tours are available to all visitors, along with a tropical butterfly house and beautiful walled garden.
Edward Jenner Museum
While in the area, don’t miss Edward Jenner Museum.
This museum is dedicated to Berkeley’s most famous resident: Edward Jenner, who pioneered the smallpox vaccine that would go on to save millions of people from the deathly disease.
Chedworth Roman Villa
While Roman ruins aren’t what one typically thinks of when thinking of places to visit in the Cotswolds, the Chedworth Roman Villa is a worthy attraction to put on your list.
This property (owned by the National Trust) is one of the largest of its kind in Britain, with a lengthy history going all the way back to the 2nd century.
A visit here means getting to check out ancient mosaics, sophisticated underfloor heating systems, and artifacts that have remained here for over a thousand years. While not quite the typical Cotswolds aesthetic, it’s a must-visit for any history buff!
Another photogenic place to visit in the Cotswolds is Winchcombe, known as a walkers’ paradise, with a picturesque assortment of Cotswold stone cottages sharing narrow lanes with historic half timbered houses.
Historic pubs, independent shops, and a variety of lovely cafes and eateries await in this town, which is one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds for a day or two.
Not far from Winchcombe is where you’ll find the historic Sudeley Castle, which, throughout the past thousand years, has acted as the backdrop to stories from some of the most prominent people in history, including Henry VIII, Anne Bolelyn, and Queen Elizabeth I.
Katherine Parr, AKA Henry VIII’s wifey number 6 is even buried here.
And while Sudeley Castle has the unique distinction of being one of the few castles left in England that is still a residence, it is nonetheless open to the public most days of the year, so you can come see the 10 unique gardens and beautiful rooms of the castle for yourself.
Adlestrop doesn’t often make top lists of places to visit in the Cotswolds, but it’s a quaint and adorable village that’s perfect for those looking to get a bit off the beaten path.
From classic cottages crowded with green ivy and colourful flower beds to the friendliest village cat named Buster, who apparently sadistically loves attending funerals so he can get cuddles, this tiny rural village (with, admittedly, no attractions for tourists at all), is a lovely little spot to admire the quiet charm that makes the Cotswolds so special.
Fun fact: Jane Austen spent some time in Adlestrop and it’s said that the village inspired her when writing ‘Mansfield Park’.
Last but not least, located on the edges of the Cotswolds is one of the most magnificent palaces in all of England: Blenheim Palace, known best as the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
As the only non-royal home in the country to have the title of “palace”, it also happens to be one of the biggest houses in the country. The estate is in fact so expansive that it even has its own miniature railway… It’s a busy place, so it would be a good idea to get a ticket in advance here.
You can also book a variety of tours to Blenheim that combine your day with other Cotswold villages! Here’s a Downtown Abbey themed one.
Did we miss any of your favourite places in the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds are a truly amazing piece of England, and we’d love to go back soon to explore it more in-depth. Let us know in the comments if you have any recommendations for more Cotswold places to add to our list!