Discover some of the beautiful and fascinating towns and villages to visit in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England, visited by around 38 million people each year. The rolling countryside, chocolate-box villages and fascinating attractions like Blenheim Palace and Sudeley Castle make it the ideal location for a walking or cycling holiday.
And Classic Cottages’ holiday cottages in the Cotswolds are the perfect base for your visit. They offer a luxurious home-from-home experience and a relaxing place to unwind at the end of a day exploring this beautiful area.
There are so many places to stay in the Cotswolds that you might struggle to choose. So here are a few of my favourite Cotswolds towns and villages to help narrow down your options.
Where is the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, generally just known as the Cotswolds, covers around 800 square miles in central and south-west England.
It mainly lies within the counties of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, but also covers parts of Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. This central location means that the Cotswolds is easily reached from the Midlands, London and the South East, South West England and much of Wales.
The area is known for its beautiful countryside, dotted with market towns and pretty villages. There are also a few larger cities which make a good base for a touring holiday in the Cotswolds.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds
With hundreds of towns and villages, you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice when you’re picking where to stay in the Cotswolds.
Here are just a few of my favourite Cotswolds places to visit:
The ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford have been attracting scholars, authors and tourists for nearly 1000 years and today it is a busy city with plenty to see and do.
It’s a blend of old and new, with both historic and modern buildings. You can tour the University buildings, including the famous Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera, visit fascinating museums or spend the day shopping in the city’s many antique shops.
And of course, there are many wonderful places to eat and drink during your visit to Oxford.
Stratford upon Avon
This historic market town lies right on the edge of the Cotswolds, but I really couldn’t leave it out of my selection. It’s one of the most visited destinations in England, with around three million people visiting every year.
Stratford is inexorably linked with William Shakespeare, and many people visit to see the house where he was born. You can also watch his works being performed at one of Stratford’s theatres or pay your respects at his grave in Holy Trinity Church.
But there’s much more to Stratford-upon-Avon than William Shakespeare. You can explore this vibrant town on a guided walk, horse-drawn carriage tour or open top bus. You can also stroll around the riverside and canal basin or take a boat trip down the River Avon. And there are plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants to enjoy a reviving meal after a long day exploring.
Cheltenham is a wonderful example of a Regency town and you’ll find plenty to explore here.
King George III visited the town in 1788 and his visit turned Cheltenham into a very fashionable place to live. The town expanded rapidly through the construction of stunning Neoclassical Regency buildings.
Cheltenham has many stunning parks. These include the Imperial Gardens, which hosts an art exhibition every summer, and Pitville Park. This is home to the Pitville Pump Room Museum, where you can taste the local spa waters. The town is also known for its International Festival of Music, with events taking place throughout the town in July.
Stow-on-the-Wold is a very typical Cotswolds market town. It is built around a large town square, with a market cross at one end and a pair of stocks at the other.
This bustling town is famous for its independent shops and antique stores which make it a popular destination for tourists. There are lovely tea rooms where you can enjoy a traditional cream tea, and coaching inns such as the Royalist Hotel which claims to be the oldest pub in England.
You can also visit the Toy and Collector’s Museum, which houses one of the UK’s finest collections of antique toys.
Broadway lies around 10 miles north-west of Stow-on-the-Wold, and is often called the most beautiful village in England.
Its name derives from the long road that runs through the village, which is one of England’s longest High Streets. The street is lined by beautiful Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings built from the local honey-toned Cotswold stone. The village also has antique stores to explore and tea rooms serving delicious home-made food.
While you’re visiting Broadway, you may also like to pay a visit to the Broadway Tower. This iconic Gothic folly was designed by Capability Brown at the end of the 18th century. Its location on top of an escarpment provides breathtaking views over the Cotswolds landscape and on a clear day you can see fourteen different counties from the Tower.
Bourton on the Water
This picture-perfect Cotswold village derives its name from its location on the River Windrush. The river flows directly through the centre of the village, spanned by six footbridges.
Bourton is a very popular village for tourists and it can get a little crowded during the summer months. But there are plenty of quiet side roads to explore, filled with cottages built from the local Cotswold stone. Many of these are 300 or even 400 years old. You can also enjoy a cream tea or meal in one of the village’s tea rooms, pubs and restaurants.
Woodstock lies in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds and is home to Blenheim Palace, the stately home and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s name comes from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘Clearing in the woods’ due to its original location within a Royal Forest.
Woodstock is best known for the Blenheim Palace Estate which is within walking distance of the town. The palace has stunning art collections and interior, and is set within 2100 acres of Capability Brown-designed parkland
Many of Woodstock’s buildings were built in the 1800s and the town is also home to the Oxfordshire Museum.
Holiday Cottages in the Cotswolds
If you’re planning a holiday in the Cotswolds, you’ll find a wide range of accommodation from luxurious hotels and historic coaching inns to dog friendly holiday cottages in the Cotswolds.
For real home-from-home comfort, I don’t think you can beat a self-catering cottage for your Cotswolds holiday. You can relax in complete privacy, with no risk of housekeeping interrupting your peace. And there’s nothing like kicking off your shoes and relaxing in a gorgeous cosy cottage at the end of a long day exploring the local area.
Here are three gorgeous cottages in the Cotswolds that would all be perfect for your 2024 Cotswolds holiday.
The Dovecote is a pretty one-bedroom hideaway that’s perfect for a romantic getaway. It’s located in the centre of the village of Grittleton, and comes complete with a private lawn and patio where you could enjoy a home-cooked dinner on warmer evenings.
And there’s a local pub is within walking distance, if you don’t fancy cooking!
If you’re planning a luxury Cotswolds holiday with a larger family or group of friends, Moonstone could be your perfect Cotswolds holiday home. It’s a unique, six bedroom, six bath/shower room home with striking contemporary looks, powered entirely by state-of-the-art eco-technology.
A holiday at Moonstone will give you a fabulous taste of Cotswolds luxury, complete with a sauna, steam room, heated indoor pool, gym and even a cinema room!
Like all Classic Cottages, Moonstone has everything you’ll need for a self-catering holiday in the Cotswolds. It’s also very conveniently located, within easy reach of Cheltenham, Bibury and Cirencester.
Located in the heart of Shakespeare country, Rectory Cottage is a charming, traditional cottage that’s ideal for a relaxing Cotswolds holiday. It has two bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, and lots of cosy details like a wood burning stove and a little snug that’s perfect for hiding away with a good book. And because this Cotswolds cottage is dog-friendly, you can take your four-legged friend along as well!