Updated: January 7, 2022
I knew I had to spend time in the English countryside when visiting the U.K. The Cotswolds is one of the country’s most picturesque areas with some of the most beautiful villages; 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 of the best villages to visit in Cotswolds.
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 would 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.
the rental car we named Peggy
Public transportation is limited. Tour companies offer day trips from bigger cities like London, and I’ll link some of the best-rated ones here. The Cotswolds area is relatively small, but you’ll still need a car to get from town to town.
10-hour day trip from London to Oxford and Cotswolds: click here for pricing
If you’d rather make a day trip to the Cotswolds with lunch included: check out this tour
RELATED: 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 streets 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 noticed tons of greenery, and I can only imagine how beautiful this area is during the fall.
Cotswolds Picturesque Villages
We only spent two days/1 night in the Cotswolds, and I wish we had more time. If you’re on the hunt for a brief post of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages, you’ve come to the right place.
Though it’s a small area, it’s full of beautiful villages best experienced at a leisurely pace. I’ll list the 5 of the best villages in the order we visited.
1. Castle Combe
Our first stop in the Cotswolds was 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.
I fell in love with the architecture, the greenery, and even the old post office.
The house below offered delicious homemade pastries with an honor system payment method. I noticed they had carrot cake available (yum), so I picked up a slice and dropped the payment through the door mailbox.
You don’t see stuff like that in a big city! If you’re ever in Castle Combe, be on the lookout for this darling setup.
I wish this were 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, making for a more charming picture.
Check out the famous Arlington Row below.
My favorite thing in Bibury was Winstones Cotswolds Ice Cream! It’s an artisan ice cream, top-rated 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.
3. Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water is another gorgeous village only 20 minutes north of Bibury. It seemed a bit smaller but still equally charming.
We walked around for a while, catching little moments like the locals in the park or running errands.
I enjoyed capturing the storefronts and unique homes (like always).
We also got to meet a very good girl.
Don’t miss the pasties from The Cornish Bakery if you’re visiting Bourton. They have many options, making for an affordable dinner, which we all need after spending time in London.
Twenty-two minutes north of Bourton is the village of Broadway. This is where I booked our Bed and Breakfast, the Windrush House.
Hotels/B&Bs in this area tend to be super pricey or get booked far in advance, especially for weekends. I wanted to make sure we were staying within the Cotswolds when booking a place, and it was not an easy task.
Luckily, we found the Windrush. 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 towns mentioned here or beyond). I love staying at an Airbnb when possible. I always filter my searches to “superhost” and choose “entire place” to ensure I have the privacy and hosting 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.
5. 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, I still didn’t have enough time. Ideally, 2-3 full days and two nights would be suitable 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 we need to experience the small towns in any country we visit. Sometimes those little villages make the most significant impact during our travels.
PIN FOR LATER
This site contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
I love the Cotswolds! And you have done it justice with your lovely photos!
Thank you for reading and your kind words! I loved this area too! Can’t wait to return one day to explore more of it.
Omg, your photos are so, so beautiful!! I want to go to the Cotswolds so badly, I think I went there as a kid but obviously you don’t appreciate things like this. My sister lives nearby, so next time I visit her with a car, I’ll be there!
Thank you so much 🙂 Lucky for your sister to live so close, the Cotswolds are the dreamiest! You’re going to love it.
I never seem to get past London and this definitely makes me want to visit the countryside! So pretty.
Yay! I hope you do make it out, it’s a whole other world worth seeing 🙂
The English countryside is so idyllic, I’d love to spend time wandering around the gardens and pubs in the Cotswolds!
It’s like you’re walking through a postcard! Definitely recommend.
Such beautiful photos. I definitely need to include the Cotswolds on my next visit to the UK.
Thanks so much!! It’s certainly worth a trip.