Located less than two hours from London, the Cotswolds is a romantic and historic region of Southwest England. From small villages such as Bibury to larger towns such as Chipping Campden and Bourton-on-the-Water, there is plenty to explore! The Cotswold Villages are historic, beautiful, and great for visitors (whether you just come to explore the town or want to hike the Cotswold Way). Whether you choose to visit these towns by walking on trails that connect the towns, or tour by car, the Cotswolds are definitely a can’t miss destination on any UK itinerary. In order to help you prioritize the villages you are hoping to visit, we have outlined our favorite parts of each of the Cotswold villages we visited! So keep reading to learn about what we thought made each of the Cotswold villages unique:
Chipping Campden: The Best High Street
Chipping Campden offers our favorite High Street (main street) of the Cotswold villages. Because Chipping Campden was once considered the central market town, some of the wealthiest traders lived here. Thus, some of the nicest historic houses still stand along High Street. Landmarks throughout the town highlight Chipping Campden’s historic importance as a market town. Today, the market hall still stands in the center of High Street, and the Church in Chipping Campden is grandly built from the profits earned by wool traders.
In addition to these historic landmarks, Chipping Campden is also a favorite among Cotswold visitors because it is the starting point for the Cotswold Way. The Cotswold Way is a 100-mile walking path that goes from Chipping Campden through the Cotswolds to Bath. This famous trail is a favorite with walkers (whether you are doing the whole length or just a couple miles).
We especially love Chipping Campden because, while it offers fun shops and nice accommodations, the town feels like a local place as well: people live there, and you can tell it in several ways, from the students headed to school to the grocery store in the center of town.
For more information on our favorite places to stay and eat in Chipping Campden, check out our destination spotlight.
Broadway: The Largest of the Cotswold Villages
Located only a few miles away from Chipping Campden, Broadway is considered one of the busiest and largest of the Cotswold villages (other than Moreton-in-Marsh, which we did not visit). Cute gift shops line the High Street of Broadway, making for fun window browsing. Plus, many restaurants line High Street, offering plenty of options.
While Broadway can be busier than the other villages, this village offers the most variety of shops and restaurants for visitors, which we loved. However, Broadway can be really busy, since it is a favorite stop on group day trips.
We loved walking through Broadway and shopping in the stores, but suggest staying in accommodations elsewhere to avoid the crowds. We also suggest visiting Broadway earlier in the morning (around 10:30 a.m.) or later in the afternoon (around 3:00 p.m.) to avoid the midday tour groups.
Stow-on-the-Wold: Fun for Exploring Shops and Restaurants
Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the mid-sized Cotswold villages. This village is unique because of its central Square, and because of the more diverse stores.
We enjoyed walking around the central square in Stow-on-the-Wold, especially since there were some really cute shops around the Square. This town was also fun because of the diversity of products sold in the shops: everything from outdoor clothing to cooking supplies to book shops and gift stores. To budget enough time to visit these stores and wander the town, we suggest spending at least an hour here.
Stow-on-the-Wold is also a great base for some of the walks in the Cotswolds areas (although it is not on the Cotswold Way). We enjoyed Stow-on-the-Wold while on a day trip, but suggest staying in Chipping Campden instead if there are accommodations available. However, Stow-on-the-Wold is a popular alternative to Chipping Campden if there are better hotel and rental availabilities in Stow-on-the-Wold.
Burford: Awesome High Street with Plenty of Shops and Restaurants
Located towards the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, Burford offers lots of shops and restaurants. We especially enjoyed our lunch at the Highway Inn (a fun gastropub with great food; reservation recommended for dinner). One of the most unique things about Burford is that the High Street was built on a hillside. Because of this, the views from the top of the High Street look over the rest of town and out towards the surrounding countryside.
Besides Broadway, Burford offered the most shops of any town we visited in the Cotswolds. We enjoyed the cute gift shops and fun craft/artisan stores. Burford also offers some (slightly) less high-end gift shops than Broadway, so it’s a great stop for souvenir shopping.
Bourton-on-the-Water: Prettiest of the Cotswold Villages
As the name suggests, Bourton-on-the-Water’s uniqueness centers around the small river that runs through the center of town. Along either side of the river is a grassy park, connecting the two sides of the village. The village shops are situated around the park area, with small bridges connecting the two sides, over the river, at several places.
Bourton-on-the-Water also offers some interesting exhibits, including the Motoring and Toy Museum, and the Model Village. Find out more about these attractions by visiting the town’s website here.
It is important to note that Bourton-on-the-Water can get really busy at times. We got lucky and visited on a weekday at 4:30 in the afternoon, so the town was rather quiet. However, according to several locals, Bourton-on-the-Water is a favorite for group tours, and thus can get extremely busy at times. That being said, Bourton-on-the-Water was definitely one of the prettiest towns we visited in the Cotswolds, and is a must-see stop while there.
Lower Slaughter: Beautiful Residential Village with a Mill
While Lower Slaughter is the smallest town on our list, we loved stopping to see the water mill. Plus, the town is an adorable residential hamlet to wander through. We also enjoyed looking through the gift shop attached to the water mill (with an ice cream window!).
Lower Slaughter is also on some of the popular walking paths, and can be a great goal point. Check with your hotel reception or the local tourist office for suggestions regarding walking to Lower Slaughter.
(Please note that if you do plan to make Lower Slaughter your goal point, plan to bring a picnic lunch. While a couple of hotels/inns in Lower Slaughter offer some restaurant service, food is limited.)
The village of Bibury is rather small, but offers a beautiful loop walk and some great sites to visit. Bibury’s town center consists of a trout farm and small inn, but the most important landmark is just beyond this. A row of cottages built in the 14th century are Bibury’s most popular landmark. Follow the walk explained below (or ask a local for more detailed directions).
The Walk: (about 20 minutes) a simple loop, starting from the center of the village. Cross the bridge (which is across the street from the public conveniences). Then, follow along the path until you reach a row of houses in the meadow. This row of houses, built in the 14th century and converted to housing in the 17th century, are some of England’s oldest cottages! Turn right before the hill (at the end of the houses), and continue to follow the creek to town.