JULY 2019, UPDATED 2022
I love English cottage gardens and cute little villages, so it is no surprise that the Cotswolds is one of my favorite spots on earth. I now have spent two holidays in the Cotswolds, so decided to put together an Activity & Location guide, showing you all the places of interest that there are in the Cotswolds!
I visited the Cotswolds twice as part of a road trip and loved driving in the Cotswolds. Google maps often sent me on super narrow country roads with lots of height differences. We often stumbled upon amazing views over nearby valleys and enjoyed scooting over for oncoming traffic. To make the most of your time in the Cotswolds, you absolutely need a car. There are several airports near to the Cotswolds, such as Heathrow, Birmingham and Bristol. We have visited the Cotswolds during summer time, it can get pretty hot as it is located in the sunny region of the UK. In 2022 we visited in August and because of the drought the gardens were past their peak, so I would recommend to visit a bit earlier.
Camping in the Cotswolds
I didn’t have any specific expectations regarding camping in the Cotswolds, but was super surprised at the amount of farm campsites. These farm campsites are super flexible and no need to book well in advance, even during the high season. We loved our stay at Hayles Fruit Farm, the amenities were limited, but the spot and the rest between the apple trees was so relaxing. We paid about 20 pounds per night for this. We also stayed at Cotswolds Farm Park, which was less relaxing due to the grand set up, I will write a separate blogpost about that experience.
Stow on the Wold
During my first road trip through the Cotswolds, we stayed in Stow on the Wold and explored from there. Stow is pretty central, it is a larger town in the Cotswolds, so it has the plusses such as good restaurants and cute shops, but also maintained a small town charm. We stayed in the Stag at Stow, which is a pub style hotel situated on the central square. They have some parking spots available and we were able to park for free. I really loved the style of this hotel, as it fitted so perfectly in its surroundings and was well decorated. There is a good vibe in the pub of the hotel and they have a tasty pinot grigio. In the morning they have a breakfast menu and you can chose your style of eggs.
In Stow you can find many good restaurants. We visited two restaurants in Stow: The Bell at Stow, which is part of a hotel, looks super cozy and serves food which is a bit more fancy and healthy than other pubs. We really liked our food! We also had dinner at The Sheep, this is a pretty large pub, with drinks specials and they have wood-oven pizzas as well. I recommend the truffle/mushroom pizza.
Stow also features an interior design institute: Cutter Brooks. Though most items were a bit out of our price point I absolutely loved browsing this quintessential Cotswolds store.
Burford mainly consists of one big road, with cottages at both sides. It has a lot of cafes and little shops. I particularly liked the upper part of Burford, as the cottages there had a pedestrian area. This makes it easier to frame your photo well, compared to the part that had parked cars. From the upper part you also get good views of the green surroundings, as Burford is partly located in a valley.
The first time I visited Lower Slaughter, I didn’t know it was this beautiful, we just drove through and I had to stop when I saw the cute cottages which are located on the water. The town is super small and the little flow of water adds an extra charm. I found this one of the prettiest towns of the Cotswolds, so I had to show it to Hielke & Hugo when we were back in the Cotswolds in 2022.
We stopped in Chipping Norton on a rainy day to bring a visit to the Almshouses. The Almshouses were constructed in around 1600 and provide houses to eight aged widows. The houses are still being used today and make for a cute stop. Chipping Norton is one of the bigger towns in the Cotswolds and it has some shops. I found it less picturesque than the other towns, but the Almshouses were really pretty.
Moreton-in Marsh is a little bigger than Stow-on-the Wold and has a train station with direct trains to London. This makes Moreton-in-Marsh a good hub from where you could start traveling the Cotswolds.
Bibury has one of the most iconic sights in the Cotswolds: Arlington Row. Unfortunately iconic sights mean buses of tourists. Both times that I visited Bibury, it was very crowded. Apparently this is a town that is easy to visit on a daytrip from Oxford, so therefore there were a lot of tourists. Arlington Row was super charming though, so maybe if you visit in the early morning it is a little more quiet.
Castle Combe is one of the less discovered towns in the Cotswolds, which I found surprising as it contains many lovely sights. You can park your car in a carpark just above the town and walk through the forest to the town. The fact that the forest and river were so closeby, makes the town extra special, as it adds beautiful green colors to the background of the streets with cottages. A good spot to visit is the Manor House hotel, this is a lovely hotel, close to the golf course, which was fully covered in ivy. Next to it you have a stairs, from which you have a beautiful view. We had lunch at the White Hart in the center of the town, and loved our pub-style lunch with super fresh fries.
I had no idea that half of the UK would be taking a dip in the little canals in Bourton-on-the-Water on a sunny day, but this was indeed the case. Though it was a bit too crowded for pretty pictures, the high summer vibes at Bourton were amazing to experience. Such a fun cultural phenomenon!
Chipping Camden has no real places of interest, but it is just that whole village is really stylish. I loved taking an evening stroll, while the sun was going down. Chipping Camden has its fair share of pub style restaurants, that looked very appealing. I would recommend to make reservations for restaurants in the weekends, as they tend to fill up quickly.
Sudeley Castle & Gardens
Sudeley is a lovely castle, that is still being used, you can visit parts of the interior. I especially loved the diversity of the gardens. There are ruins located on the premises of Sudeley, that make for a beautiful backdrop for the gardens. The gardens are surrounding the castle and they have different themes, such as: the Knot garden, which contains box hedges in the shape of dress pattern of Elizabeth I and a Ruins Garden. The entrance fee to Sudeley is £ 19,50. Check the website for the actual opening hours. Sudeley also has a nice, light restaurant, which serves great meals at a decent price point (£ 7 – 12 depending on the plate size).
Hidcote Manor & Gardens
These are the most spectacular gardens we have visited in Southern England. You can only visit a small part of the Manor, so it is of no use to visit on a rainy day. However the gardens are enormous, super colorful and extremely well maintained. When you walk through the gardens, you will encounter different colors every time. Pictures don’t do this garden justice, but I tried to display the magic of the Hidcote gardens. They only downside to Hidcote Manor is that I did not like the restaurant, it felt like a canteen and the opening hours are limited. The entrance fee for Hidcote is £ 150 and it is free if you are a member of the National Trust.
Daylesford Organic Farm
Daylesford is a luxurious organic farm and a famous Cotswolds sight. I loved wandering through the store and browsing the homeware collection. Everything was quite expensive (candles of £ 20), but the coffee and cake is of good value. During the day it is not possible to make reservations for the restaurant, but both times we visited we were lucky to find a spot! Don’t forget to check out the garden center.
As I visited Southern England in July I was able to see the poppies in full bloom! We scouted this poppy field just outside of Stow on the Wold at the A424.
If you come at the right time the sunflowers at Glebe in Banbury will be in bloom. For just a few pounds you are allowed into the sunflower fields, and if you would like to you can also do some picking. We visited at the beginning of August.