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  • Writer's pictureChris

10 of the best places to visit & experience in the Cotswolds, England

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

The Cotswolds, England is a gem of the British countryside to visit, but many visitors head to the same towns and villages where most of the tourists head too. Here we'll take you off the beaten track where the locals love to visit, walk, eat and drink! Here is our 10 places to visit and experience in the Cotswolds, England, UK.

Where to visit in the Cotswolds?

When planning your visit to England think about the places to you would like to see but also think about the experiences you want to have while you are here.

In our top ten places to visit and experience in the Cotswolds, we suggest you make time to book a tour or an experience while you are here to really get to see and experience the very best of the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds is a National Protected Landscape

It's worth mentioning at this stage that the Cotswolds isn't a county. It's a old English region covering an area of roughly 800 square miles stretches across parts of seven different counties. Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset. The Cotswolds is a nationally protected landscape for its outstanding countryside and limestone villages. It's know as the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) a bit like a National Park.

1. Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Is Stow on the Wold worth visiting?

The highest of the Cotswold towns, Stow-on-the-Wold lies in the north of the region and is surrounded by pretty stone villages and open rolling countryside. This historic "wool town" is known for its Market Square, its traditional pubs, cafes, and shops!

Stow-on-the-Wold is a good place to stay in as it has plenty of small hotels, B&Bs, and cottages that are in walking distance to pubs and restaurants. It's also quite central in the Cotswolds so makes visiting over towns easier to reach.

While you visit, make your see the doorway of St. Edwards Church in the heart of Stow. This enchanting doorway (pictured) has been rumoured that it was the inspiration behind J.R.R. Tolkien's Doors of Durin, that appears in a scene in the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

2. Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

What is Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds like?

You can't visit the Cotswolds without visiting Chipping Campden. Located in the north of the Cotswolds this old market town is full of life and history. Chipping Campden is another one of the famous "wool towns." St James church is one of the finest 'wool' churches in England, a testament to the wealth of local wool merchants during the late medieval period.

As well the Cotswold honey limestone buildings that line the high street, the towns' 400 year old market hall is another must see. Built in 1627 by the town's wealthy benefactor the townsfolk would trade goods like cheese, butter and poultry. Walk along the ancient stone paved floor today and you'll get a sense of how important this building is to the town.

In the early 20th century, the town became known as a centre for the Cotswold Arts and Crafts Movement, following the move of Charles Robert Ashbee and the members of his Guild and School of Handicraft from the East End of London in 1902.

If you're struggling to understand why it's called 'Chipping', well "chipping" is from old English cēping, 'market', 'market-place'; the same element is found in other towns such as Chipping Norton, and Chipping Sodbury.

3. Baking Scones in a Cotswold Thatched Cottage

Baking scones in the Cotswolds baking class

When you planning your visit to the Cotswold make sure you factor in some time to do a tour or an experience. This is the best way to see what the locals love to do and where they live. How 'quintessentially British' can you get with a "Baking Scones in a Cotswold Thatched Cottage" experience?

In this experience in Oxfordshire, guests step inside a 16 Century honey stone thatched cottage in a pretty little historic village that is off the beaten track for visitors. Hosted by the owners of this pretty thatched cottage you'll learn about the history of building and hear how the couple have lovely restored the cottage. Then using an old family recipe you'll get to bake English scones in a lovey old cottage kitchen. Whist the scones are baking you'll get a walking tour of the village visiting a 12 Century church and the remains of old castle where James I stayed twice. After your walking tour enjoy the scones you've made with a lots of jam and traditional clotted cream and a pot of tea (pictured) back inside this pretty old cottage.

This 2.5 hour baking and history experience is £78 per person, and is avaiable to book throughout the year. For more information and to book click here.

4. Secret Tour of the Cotswolds

Private driving tour of the Cotswolds

Being guided by a local guide is often the best way to visit and experience a place. "The Secret Cotswolds Tour" is a 5-6 hour private driven tour focusing on the northern Cotswolds.

You’ll visit the famous Cotswolds Distillery to sample English gin and whisky. Explore the Cotswolds’ narrow and winding lanes through beautiful countryside. Visit the pretty village of Blockley for a lunch stop to taste some of the region's local food and drink. Call into a Cotswold farm for a chance to stock up on local goods. Explore one of the best Cotswold town’s Chipping Campden, to learn about its history and famous architecture. Visit a small family run vineyard for a wine tasting tour to try their award-winning white wines and English sparkling wines. Along the way your local guide will share stories and interesting facts about this beautiful landscape and call into a few special hidden places for you to discover.

This tour is ideal for those who may be a little nervous about driving in England. Your guide will come and collect you from your accommodation in the north Cotswolds or pick you up from the Moreton-in-Marsh or Banbury train stations which have links from Oxford and London

Lunch and gin, whiskey and wine tasting is included in this experience. £345 for 2 people, 5-6 hour private tour. Click here for more information about "The Secret Tour of the Cotswolds" Full Day Private Tour.

5. Painswick, Gloucestershire

What is Painswick like in the Cotswolds?

The historic wool town of Painswick, known as "The Queen of the Cotswolds", is one of the finest and best-preserved Cotswold towns and surrounded by some of the Cotswolds' most outstanding countryside.

St. Mary's church sits amongst no fewer than 99 yew trees as is a picture perfect churchyard. Painswick is at the half way point of the Cotswold Way National Trail and surrounded by beautiful English countryside. The famous Rococo Gardens, Painswick Beacon and the picturesque villages of Edge and Slad are all within a mile or two.

If you love walking or would like to plan a walk in the Cotswolds, then Painswick is the perfect place for a circular walk - just following the footpath signs!

6. Cotswolds Distillery, Stourton, Warwickshire

How can I get to the Cotswolds Distillery?

Nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Cotswolds countryside, the Cotswolds Distillery was born from a dream to produce delicious spirits in one of the most beautiful regions in the world.

No visit to the Cotswolds is complete with out a visit to the Cotswolds Distillery. Using the best local ingredients, they craft world-class spirits and liqueurs including the award-winning Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky and Cotswolds Dry Gin.

Life at the distillery is firmly rooted in the beautiful Cotswolds surroundings; 100% of the barley used to make the whisky has been grown at neighbouring farms, and the lavender used to make their Cotswolds Dry Gin is locally grown at Snowshill Lavender Farm.

The beautiful and charming Visitor Centre, made with traditional Cotswolds honey-coloured stone, is open seven days a week and includes a shop stocked with the distillery's range of Outstanding Natural Spirits and a café which offers a delicious and carefully crafted menu using locally sourced ingredients.

The visitor centre runs distillery tours seven days a week which you can find out more information here. If you don't have a car during your stay in the Cotswolds and would like to visit the distillery then the "Secret Tour of the Cotswolds" takes guests to sample their gins and whiskeys.

7. Blockley, Gloucestershire

Where is Father Brown filmed in the Cotswolds?

If you want to visit a Cotswold village where the locals still call home then Blockley has to be the place. Nestled in the hill side a stones throw from Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Campden, Blockley was a centre of the silk industry in the 18th and 19th centuries with the silk mills using the waters of the brook which runs through the centre of the village. Take a walk up its High Street with is lined with old honey stone buildings many of which used to be shops.

Blockley is home to the fictional charter of Father Brown. St Peter and St Paul's, was used as the fictional St Mary's Church and the vicarage as Father Brown's residence. Pop into the church and village shop to pick up some Father Brown souvenirs!

The village ran café next to the church is a firm favourite of the locals. The café uses locally sourced food and drink from across the Cotswolds. A great place for a spot of lunch!

8. Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire

Castle with a moat in the Cotswolds

Broughton Castle is a medieval fortified manor house in the village of Broughton near Banbury in Oxfordshire. It was awarded five stars in Simon Jenkins book England’s Thousand Best Houses and attracts visitors with its exquisite architecture and beautiful gardens.

The original medieval manor house, of which much remains today, was built in about 1300 by Sir John de Broughton. It stands on an island surrounded by a three acre moat. The castle was greatly enlarged between 1550 and 1600, at which time it was embellished with magnificent plaster ceilings, splendid panelling and fine fireplaces. During the 17th Century William, 8th Lord Saye and Sele, played a leading role in national affairs. He opposed Charles 1’s efforts to rule without Parliament and Broughton became a secret meeting place for the King’s opponents. During the Civil War William raised a regiment and he and his four sons all fought at the nearby Battle of Edgehill. After the battle the Castle was besieged and captured.

The house and gardens are privately owned and opened to the public between April and September on Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays.

9. Broadway, Worcestershire

Can you walk from Broadway village to Broadway Tower?

As its name suggests, Broadway is dominated by a wide tree-lined street packed with independent shops, restaurants, and hotels. Broadway is another great place to stay with its choice of small hotels and B&Bs with a good selection of places to eat. Take a walk along its pretty high street up towards Broadway Tower that sits proudly on the Cotswold Escarpment. A circular walk from Broadway village up to the Tower takes a 2.5/3 hours and takes in views from the top of up to (no less than) 16 counties as well as Wales on a clear day!

Broadway Tower is an iconic landmark with beautiful views and has enjoyed a colourful history since its conception by Capability Brown over 200 years ago. Broadway Tower was built in 1798 as a Gothic folly to add romance and interest to the landscape for the 6th Earl of Coventry. The 18th century was the age of building and landscaping to create picturesque and fanciful views. Follies were purpose-built "ruins" or mock mediaeval castles.

10. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

How to get into Blenheim Palace grounds for free

And finally, Blenheim Palace near Oxford is a must visit! Home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a long and diverse history. A masterpiece of Baroque architecture, landscaped Parkland and stunning Formal Gardens, Blenheim Palace provides an awe-inspiring experience for visitors. Explore over 2000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and 90 acres of award-winning Formal Gardens.

The Palace is open all year round and you can decide if you want to step inside or just explore its beautiful gardens and parkland.

As the locals know, there is a secret green gate into the Palace grounds in Woodstock, you can enter the Parkland totally free using the Public Footpath to enter instead of one of the official entrances. It's just a 5–10 minute walk and will bring you in right next to the lake.

Book an experience or tour in the Cotswolds

Don't just visit - experience the real Cotswolds

If you are wondering why places like Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Castle Combe and Burford are not in our "Top 10 places to visit in the Cotswolds" it's not because they aren't really pretty towns and villages, but it's because they already attract a large amount of visitors each year. If you want to feel like you visiting the real Cotswolds and seeing a mix of well know places that still have the locals living their, along with must visit villages and must do experiences - then our list above is for you!



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