When visiting the U.K., I knew I had to spend time in the English countryside. The Cotswolds is one of the country’s most picturesque areas with miles and miles of charming towns. There are many Cotswolds villages that you should explore if you have the time. But if you only have a short weekend (like us) here’s a handy list of 5 places to visit while you’re in the area.
Bourton on the Water
How to Get to the Cotswolds
We were coming straight from London so we booked a cheap bus ride to Bristol to pick up our rental car. The cost was $18 (for both of us) for the 2.5 hour Megabus ride. It was a fraction of the cost compared to the train, but a lot less comfortable. I wouldn’t take a Megabus for longer than 3 hours.
Bourton on the Water
We chose to rent our car from Bristol because that was going to be our next stop after the Cotswolds. We went with Budget car rental near the city center and paid $100 for two days. The good news is there’s easy parking in all the towns we visited. Our first stop from Bristol was Castle Combe and the drive was only 30 minutes away.
our rental car we named Peggy
The Cotswolds area is relatively small, but you’ll still need a car to get from town to town. Public transportation is limited. There are tour companies that offer day trips from bigger cities like London and I’ll link some of the best-rated ones here.
10-hour day trip from London to Oxford and Cotswolds: click here for pricing
If you’d rather just do a day trip to the Cotswolds with lunch included: check out this tour
Read More: Your Guide to 4 Days in London
Driving in the Cotswolds
Driving in the Cotswolds wasn’t too difficult (especially compared to Ireland). Like everywhere in the U.K. you drive on the left side of the road instead of the right, but the roads are (mostly) large enough to not be of concern.
Here’s a blurry photo to give you an idea of the drive. This was one of the smaller two-way roads. I did notice there’s tons of greenery, and I can only imagine how beautiful this area is during the fall.
5 Places to Visit in the Cotswolds
We only got to spend 2 days/1 night in the Cotswolds and I wish we had more time. Though it’s a small area, it’s full of incredible villages that are best experienced at a leisurely pace. I’ll list the 5 villages in the order that we visited.
This was our first stop in the Cotswolds just 30 minutes away from Bristol. Castle Combe was probably my favorite village of all. It looks like a perfect English postcard. Though technically Castle Combe isn’t part of the Cotswolds, it’s so close to the villages that it’s worth adding to the route.
Between the architecture, the greenery, and the old post office, I was in love.
The house below offered delicious homemade pastries with an honor system payment method. You don’t see stuff like that in a big city! I noticed they had carrot cake available (yum) so I picked up a slice and dropped the payment through the door mailbox. If you’re ever in Castle Combe be on the lookout for this darling setup.
I wish this was my rental car!
Next up is Bibury, about an hour’s drive north of Castle Combe. Bibury is known for its famous street, Arlington Row. It’s a stunning area and great for photos. We ran into a wedding session while there and that made for better pictures.
This is Arlington Row.
My favorite thing in Bibury was Winstones Cotswolds Ice Cream! It’s artisan ice cream, very popular in the Cotswolds area, and absolutely delicious.
I bought a cone when I first arrived and had to stop for more before leaving. So look out for Winstones if you’re in this part of town.
The abundance of ivy and vintage cars in the Cotswolds is a dream. If you love that stuff as much as I do, then you and your camera are going to be very happy.
Bourton on the Water
Another gorgeous village only 20 minutes north of Bibury. Bourton on the Water seemed a bit smaller but still equally charming.
We walked around for a while, catching little moments like the locals in the park or off running errands.
I enjoyed capturing the storefronts and unique homes (like always).
We also got to meet a very good girl.
22 minutes north of Bourton is Broadway. This is where I booked our Bed and Breakfast, the Windrush House. I wanted to make sure we were staying within the Cotswolds when booking a place and it was not an easy task. Hotels/B&Bs in this area tend to be super pricey or get booked far in advance especially for weekends.
We got lucky with the Windrush and do recommend them! Our room was clean and comfortable and the traditional English breakfast was perfect. There’s also free parking on site and the hosts are accommodating and friendly. Check availability here: The Windrush House
You can also aim for an Airbnb in the Cotswolds area (any of the towns mentioned here or beyond). I love staying at Airbnb’s when possible. I always filter my searches to “superhost” and choose “entire place” to make sure I have the privacy and hosting that I’m paying for.
We walked into the city center in the morning and had the streets all to ourselves! It seemed like a quieter town, but maybe it was because of the time.
And I think this thatched cottage below was the winner for me. I was ready to pack it up and take it back to Chicago.
Stow on the Wold
Stow on the Wold is right next to Bourton on the Water. However, we saved this stop for the next day to have more time to wander around.
Again, still didn’t have enough time. I think ideally 2-3 full days and 2 nights would be good for visiting the Cotswolds.
We made the most of our short trip, took as many photos as possible, and drank all the tea before driving back to Bristol.
I do hope you make it out to the English countryside. Big cities are great but I feel like we need to experience the small towns in any country we visit. Sometimes those little villages make the biggest impact during our travels.
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