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Cotswold itinerary: 5 days exploring the countryside

If you have five days to spare, the Cotswold itinerary outlined here will take you on a memorable journey through this idyllic countryside. You will have the opportunity to Explore some of the region’s most charming villages, visit historic sites, indulge in local delicacies, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the area. From the architectural wonders of Bath and the enchanting beauty of Bourton-on-the-Water, to the vibrant market town of Stratford-upon-Avon and the tranquil gardens of Sudeley Castle, this itinerary has something for everyone. So pack your bags, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for a quintessentially English adventure in the Cotswolds

What to know before your Cotswolds Trip

Where are the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is a region in central England. It’s a stunning range of hills that stretch across 6 counties: Gloucestershire, Warickshire, Worcestshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Bath. 

How many days do you need in the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds makes for the perfect weekend getaway, but 5-7 days is ideal if you want to fully explore the region. This will allow you time for beautiful hikes, sightseeing picture perfect villages and visiting plenty of pubs. 

When is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is lovely any time of year, but the best time to visit is probably spring. Trees will be blossoming and crowds will be fewer, plus it won’t be too hot to hike. The Cotswold honey stone cottages will be framed by beautiful blossoms. 

Summer is the most popular time to visit, due to the warmer weather and lower chance of rain. It’s also the best time of year to see the lavender in bloom at Snowshill. 

Autumn is less popular, but beautiful still with gorgeous red and orange leaves on the trees. It’s a quieter time of year to visit with less tourists. 

Winter is the quietest time to visit the Cotswolds. It will be cold, but that leaves plenty of opportunity to warm up by a cosy pub fire. 

How to get to the Cotswolds

Due to its central position, it’s easy to get to the Cotswolds from most of the UK. The easiest way is by car, as there are road links to the M4, M5, and M40. The journey takes around 2 hours from London, depending on the traffic. A car will give you the most freedom to explore and allow you to visit the hard to reach places. 

If you want to use public transport, you can get to the Cotswolds by train from London in 2 hours. Trains run from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh in the north of the Cotswolds. 

You could also opt for a bus, with National Express running buses from London Victoria Coach Station.

How to get around the Cotswolds

The easiest way to get around the Cotswolds is by car. If you’re using public transport, there are buses between towns and villages, but the timetable is restricted and they don’t go everywhere. 

Day 1: Chipping Campden, Broadway and Cotswold Distillery

Chipping Campden

Your journey begins in the postcard-perfect village of Chipping Campden. This village is truly the epitome of the Cotswolds, with its rows of honey-hued cottages and quaint market square. Take some time to stroll along the cobblestone streets, grab coffee and breakfast from one of the cafes, and pop into the local boutiques.

Broadway

Broadway is one of the most popular destinations in the Cotswolds. The town is a treasure trove of independent shops offering handmade crafts, art galleries displaying local talent, and a splendid array of restaurants serving both traditional and contemporary fare.

Make sure you stop at Broadway Deli for a rainbow assortment of vegetables, freshly baked bread and locally made jams and chutneys. The cafe at the back is the perfect place to stop for lunch or a coffee. 

It’s also got the famous Broadway Tower, a historic monument with stunning views that let you see all the way to the Welsh Mountains.

Broadway Tower

Enjoy the second highest point in the Cotswolds at Broadway tower, built in 1798. The tower can be accessed via a public footpath (making for a lovely countryside walk) or it has a car park for visitors. The tower has 3 floors of exhibitions and a rooftop viewing platform. 

Snowshill

Just 3 miles from Broadway is the pretty village of Snowshill. Its storybook-like setting features the iconic honey-colored stone houses that the region is known for. With only a few miles to explore, it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll through its peaceful streets. While in Snowshill, don’t miss the chance to enjoy a delightful meal at one of its cozy village pubs.

Cotswold Distillery

Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, the Cotswolds Distillery stands as a testament to the region’s commitment to quality and tradition. This artisanal distillery specializes in creating exquisite spirits, offering visitors a chance to witness the intricate process behind their creations. From carefully selecting locally sourced ingredients to using time-honored techniques, every step is a labor of love. Guided tours of the distillery provide an inside look into the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into crafting their spirits, including gin and whisky.

Broadway Tower

Day 2: Blenheim Palace, Burford and Foodie Stops

Blenheim Palace

Start your morning at Blenheim Palace, one of the largest stately homes in the country. It’s the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and has 300 years of history to explore in a stunning setting. Take a guided tour through the reception rooms and explore the hundreds of acres of gardens and woodland.

Burford

Your adventure continues in the timeless village of Burford, a quintessential Cotswolds treasure. Wander along its enchanting High Street, where charming stone houses house an array of boutiques, antique shops, and galleries. Pause to appreciate St John the Baptist Church, a testament to centuries of history, before savoring a cup of tea in one of the cozy tearooms.

Daylesford Organic

Daylesford Organic is a haven for food lovers. This farm and shop embrace all things organic, offering a range of fresh produce, cheeses, baked goods, and more. With a commitment to sustainability, you can explore aisles filled with flavorful treasures while knowing that the environment is cared for.

The Wild Rabbit

The Wild Rabbit is a Cotswold institution, famous for serving delicious pub food, organically sourced. This charming and unassuming pub transcends traditional expectations, offering a dining experience that marries rustic charm with modern innovation. The focus here is on using locally sourced ingredients, often harvested from their own garden, to craft dishes that pay homage to the flavors of the Cotswolds. From farm-to-table delicacies to a curated selection of wines and spirits, The Wild Rabbit’s menu is a journey through the region’s finest offerings.

Blenheim Palace

Day 3: Tetbury, Highgrove and Castle Combe

Tetbury

Tetbury, a quintessential Cotswold town, weaves a tapestry of history and creativity that captivates every visitor. Its cobbled streets and centuries-old architecture offer a glimpse into the past, while its vibrant arts scene adds a contemporary flair. Boutiques and antique shops line the lanes, inviting you to explore a curated selection of treasures.

The Royal Oak

We recommend stopping at the Royal Oak in Tetbury for lunch. It’s a charming 18th century freehouse, dog-friendly and has great options on the menu and a gorgeous pub garden. 

Highgrove House

Highgrove House, the personal residence of the Prince of Wales, is a hidden gem within the Cotswolds. Surrounded by lush gardens that showcase a blend of natural beauty and meticulous design, it offers a serene escape for visitors. The gardens are a testament to sustainable practices, and guided tours provide an opportunity to explore the grounds while learning about the estate’s commitment to conservation.

Castle Combe

An ancient village with medieval roots, Castle Combe isn’t to be missed. It’s a quintessentially English village that’s had no new buildings since the 1600s, and is truly frozen in time. You might recognise it from various films and TV shows that have filmed there. It doesn’t take long to explore, maybe half an hour to wander through and buy some homemade treats and get some photos. 

The Manor House

If you want to extend your visit to Castle Combe, we’d highly recommend getting a luxurious afternoon tea at the Manor House Hotel. 

Castle Combe

Day 4: Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water and The Slaughters

Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds at nearly 800ft above sea level, giving it some amazing views over the valley below. You’ll find lots of unique stores here, so take some time to go shopping! Here are some shops we recommend:

Cutter Brooks

This quirky homewares store has been carefully curated by former Barneys fashion director Amanda Brooks. 

The Old Butchers

An old butchers shop turned restaurant, The Old Butchers makes for the perfect lunch stop. Make sure you save room for dessert!

Cotswold Cheese Company

The Cotswold Cheese Company is a haven for those who appreciate the finer points of fromage. This boutique cheese shop boasts an impressive array of artisanal cheeses, each carefully curated to offer a taste of the region’s dairy heritage. From crumbly cheddars to creamy blues, the selection is a journey through textures and flavors. The knowledgeable staff is always ready to offer recommendations and insights, making your visit an educational and delicious experience.

Borzoi Bookshop

Borzoi Bookshop is a charming haven for book lovers. With its quaint exterior and cozy interior, this independent bookstore captures the essence of literary exploration. The shelves are lined with a carefully curated selection of books spanning various genres, from classic literature to contemporary fiction and everything in between.

The Slaughters

Lower Slaughter is a quaint village with a trickling stream running through, lined with the classic stone cottages. It looks just like a fairytale, and is worth a stop to explore. The Old Mill has a lovely tea and gift shop, and it’s home to Britain’s most romantic street. 

When you’re done, head over to neighbouring village Upper Slaughter, which similarly has beautiful cottages and scenery to enjoy. 

Bourton-on-the-Water

Also known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ Bourton on Water is another charming Cotswolds town. The River Windrush flows through the center, covered by low bridges and next to traditional stone houses. 

Bourton-on-the-Water

Day 5: Bibury and Cotswold Water Park

Bibury

Maybe saving the best for last, William Morris called Bibury the most beautiful village in England. It’s set on the banks of the River Coln, and is extremely photogenic. There’s not a lot to do here in terms of shopping or activities, but is worth a quick stop to walk around. The main attraction is the iconic Arlington Row, a set of weaver’s cottages now owned by the National Trust. 

Cotswold Water Park

After all that exploring, end your trip with a relaxing time at the Cotswold Water Park and Beach. It’s the UK’s largest inland paddling beach, with BBQs by the shore, electric boats and pedalos for hire and an adventure playground for the kids. 

Bibury

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