Travel north-west from London, and you`ll eventually find yourself in the middle of ancient villages where time stopped centuries ago. The first thing you`ll notice about the Cotswolds is its medieval atmosphere. The Cotswolds villages with honey-coloured cottages, narrow streets and centuries-old churches are also full of English charm. What`s more, these quaint chocolate-box places with cosy pubs are perhaps the most beautiful part of England. The truth is that the Cotswolds will make you want to move here. The picturesque villages and hamlets are also hard to believe that they are real. So why not head here and find out yourself?
As the name suggests, the rolling Cotswolds hills are from where the area gets its name.
An area famed for its rolling hills is high up on the bucket list of photographers, nature lovers and all romantics heading to England. Today, the largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England receives over a million visitors each year. Whether you see it on a day trip, or you stay for a little longer, you will almost certainly fall in love with this beautiful corner of England.
Each village is unique and has its character. Some of the most beautiful places in the Cotswolds are smaller towns, while others are delightful hamlets. They all have one thing in common – they are postcard-perfect. Therefore, they deserve your attention. We pick the prettiest Cotswolds villages you simply need to visit when you head to this area.
The prettiest Cotswolds villages you need to visit:
Southern Cotswolds villages
On any list of the Cotswold`s most beautiful villages, Castle Combe shouldn`t be far from the top. An idyllic village with chocolate box houses in the English countryside feels like stepping into a fairy tale. A picture-perfect British village with limestone cottages, floral hanging baskets, and narrow roads is untouched by time.
When you walk around Castle Combe, you`re going to find out that some buildings are old and some very old. Do they look familiar to you? Well, perhaps it`s because you could see this lovely village in many movies. Stroll down sleepy Castle Combe and see if you can spot the famous locations. Don`t miss Market`s Cross and St. Andrew`s Church with the faceless clock. The village also has a market every Saturday.
Moreover, Castle Combe is also home to majestic Manor House Hotel. This iconic building is one of the most photogenic places in the Cotswolds. What`s more, this beautiful estate is where you will find a Michelin star restaurant.
Also, if you have spare time, follow the footpath from Market Place and go into the woodland. View Castle Combe from the surrounding hills and enjoy breath-taking views.
Is Castle Combe worth visiting?
A blend of tranquillity, simplicity and natural beauty makes Castle Combe a perfect place to visit from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Therefore, Castle Combe with ancient charm is often referred to as one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. It`s a popular stop for a Cotswolds holiday.
Once you`ve explored Castle Combe make your way to nearby Lacock. This charming village, located to the south of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is another famous place. Not only it`s beautifully preserved, but the National Trust almost entirely owns it.
Though be warned, this medieval village with photogenic houses, a traditional pub, and the 600-year old Tithe Barn is tiny. Medieval Lacock can be easily explored in a few minutes, but don`t make that put you off. 13th century medieval Lacock is picture-perfect, and therefore, it`s also regularly featured in movies. You might think that you`ve never heard about this British village, but it`s also a filming location of Harry Potter. Make sure to explore Lacock Abbey – it`s the main attraction here.
Central Cotswolds villages
If you`re after a beautiful picture-perfect village in the heart of the Cotswolds, Bibury is just what you`re looking for. Charming Bibury with fairy-tale-like honey-coloured stone cottages is a typical Cotswold village. Moreover, Bibury is undoubtedly one of the loveliest Cotswolds villages. This gorgeous village set along the tranquil bank of the River Coln is perhaps best-known for “Arlington Row”. Picturesque line of preserved 17th-century weaver`s cottages is one of England`s most iconic sites. Famous Arlington Row is even featured on the inside cover of British passports. A visit to a row of centuries-old stone cottages overlooking the water meadow is a must when in the Cotswolds.
However, Bibury is not famous only for Arlington Row. Rack isle – a water meadow is an important wildlife habitat. The village is also home to one of Britain`s oldest trout farms – Bibury Trout Farm. With plenty of coffee shops and little shops, it is a jewel in the Cotswold`s crown.
Despite the crowds, Bibury with honey-coloured architecture is, without doubt, the most beautiful village in England.
After visiting Bibury, don`t miss a chance to explore nearby Bourton on-the-water. Only about 20-minute drive up to the north will bring you to another famous village in the Cotswolds. Charming Bourton on-the-water, with the low stone bridges that criss-cross the River Windrush, has it all. Lazy river, little bridges, and attractive stone buildings that sit on the riverfront create a peaceful environment. It`s no wonder why Bourton on-the-water is nicknamed “Venice of the Cotswolds”.
However, this village with honey-coloured stone buildings dating hundreds of years offers more than just stunning views. Visit the Model Village to see a miniature replica of the village itself. Also, don`t forget to visit the Dragonfly Maze and car lovers the Cotswold Motoring Museum. Bourton on-the-water high street and Birdland Park are also worth a visit. Those exploring the village on the last Bank Holiday in August can witness a traditional football match in the river.
Also, while you’re in the area, pop over to two neighbouring villages with similar names: Lower and Upper Slaughter. Twin villages tucked away in the central part of the sleepy Cotswolds, are notably beautiful. In reality, there is not much to see in the Slaughters, and that is exactly why you come here. The Cotswolds crowds often miss those tiny villages with romantic ambience and secluded nature. However, if you would like to experience a quieter way of life, the Slaughters are some of the best places in the Cotswolds.
This authentic Lower Slaughter with the River Eye flowing through the centre feels unspoiled, though. Not only you can see here a historic water mill, but picturesque Copse Hill Road has been named as the most romantic street in Britain. A visit to Lower Slaughter with stone footbridges and honey-coloured cottages is a must when in the Cotswolds.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Upper Slaughter didn`t lose anyone during the First or Second World Wars. Therefore, it`s famous as a “Doubly Sainted village”.
As we all know, the Cotswolds is a truly remarkable place attracting visitors from far and wide. A majority of tourists visit only the most popular Cotswolds villages before they escape somewhere else. However, it`s hard to separate Sudeley Castle from top places to visit in the Cotswolds. For thousands of years, this picturesque castle located in the heart of the Cotswolds has played an important role in England`s history. Moreover, Sudeley Castle is a burial place of the last of Henry VIII`s six wives.
The chapel St. Mary`s Sudeley in Sudeley Castle is a burial place of Queen Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII.
Sudeley Castle with award-winning gardens is the only private castle in England with a queen buried within its grounds. Therefore it`s a popular attraction to visit in the Cotswolds.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Sudeley Castle is a private residence, and for this reason, it`s possible to visit the castle only on specific dates.
Just a stone throw away from Slaughter is another beautiful place in the Cotswolds. The hilltop Stow-on-the-Wold is a little market town. The old town with narrow alleyways, antique shops and art galleries also full of treasures. This town is not only home to what is said to be England`s oldest inn – The Porch House, but also to a medieval church. The pretty church of St Edward`s is where you can find an iconic door flanked by ancient trees.
Northern Cotswolds villages
Snowshill is perhaps one of the Cotswolds smallest villages, but it certainly deserves your attention. The quaint hamlet with less than 200 inhabitants is truly picturesque. Bridget Jones Diary fans certainly recognize the famous snow-filled scenes from the movie. However, Snowshill isn’t only about Bridget Jones. A beautiful St Barnabas Church in the centre of the village also has to feature on your trip. The church with an iconic red phone box is undoubtedly one of the most photographed churches in the Cotswolds. Similarly, Snowhill Manor is a beautiful National Trust property open to the public.
For many of us, Snowshill is, however, best known for Snowshill Lavender fields. If you would love to smell lavender, make sure you visit these lovely fields in the early summer. It is also possible to buy lavender products here.
Broadway Cotswolds village
Less than 10 minutes’ drive away from Snowhill brings you to one of the most visited Cotswolds villages – Broadway. Despite being larger than other Cotswolds villages, Broadway is full of charm. A vibrant North Cotswolds village, with plenty of hotels, and restaurants, has breath-taking scenery. What`s more, a scenic setting of charming Broadway with honey-coloured stone cottages and also attracts many film-makers. A high street lined with chestnut trees and pretty houses is where you can find many shops, restaurants and museums.
Once in Broadway, don`t miss nearby Broadway Tower. A Saxon tower standing on the second-highest hill in the Cotswolds is one of the popular attractions in the Cotswolds. This iconic landmark, with a museum inside, offers magnificent views of the rolling countryside from the top of the tower. More active souls who would like to taste more of the Cotswolds can also follow one many trails in the area.
Before you leave the Cotswolds, make sure you stop at Chipping Campden. This old wool merchant town is well-preserved and full of history. Furthermore, Chipping Campden is postcard-perfect, full of life and character. It`s home to classic Cotswolds stone cottages, an iconic 17th-century market hall, and the wool church. A historic St James`s Church built with money from medieval wool trade is, without doubt, one of Chipping Campden prettiest landmarks. Are you still looking for more activities? Hike your way through one of the most popular walking trails in the Cotswolds – The Cotswold Way.
Other pretty Cotswolds villages and towns:
- Burford: a small medieval town was the site of a fortified ford in Anglo-Saxon times.
- Naunton: a picturesque village with golden cottages in the Cotswolds hills.
- Painswick – a historic wool town in the Cotswolds hills with beautiful buildings and narrow streets
- Stanton – an unspoilt sleepy village
- Slad – another pretty village in Cotswolds
Have you been to the Cotswold villages? Which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comment below.
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