The Cotswolds is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty made up of parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Somerset in the UK. With rolling hills, sandy-coloured stone houses, thatched roofs and winding country roads, this area is full of beautiful towns, scenic spots and quaint country pubs in a fairly compact area which makes it a great place have a staycation if you’re from the UK or to take a road trip around if you’re wanting to experience some of the English countryside not too far from London.
Back in June we did a weekend of driving around the Cotswolds from where I’m based in Oxford. Oxford is a beautiful city on the edge of the Cotswolds, which made it a great base to explore from every day.
If you’ve got a car and a couple of days to see the highlights of the Cotswolds then look no further than this guide!
First stop of the day is Bourton which is beautiful but very popular on coach tours so make sure to arrive early before they do! You can park at a pay and display carpark which is located just after the Model Village.
The village has a beautiful stream running through it with lots of pedestrian bridges which is why Bourton-on-the-Water is often called the Venice of the Cotswolds. You can spend an hour or so wandering around the shops and along the surrounding streets.
Make sure to stop at the Rose Tree Cafe which is right on the water’s edge with a gorgeous outdoor seating spot. Their morning coffee & cream teas run until 11.45am so get there early to nab a seat for some proper English Cream Tea.
The Slaughters - Upper & Lower Slaughter
Upper and Lower Slaughter are two small villages near to each other in the Cotswolds. Both are beautiful but we preferred Lower Slaughter with yet another picturesque stream running through it, complete with a mill wheel and quaint bridges.
We left our car parked on the side of a country road coming into the village and walked the rest of the way in to explore on foot. Lower Slaughter is also home to the Lower Slaughter Museum and The Slaughters Country Inn which you can stay at or book to eat on its beautiful lawn for afternoon tea.
Stow-on-the-Wold is a bigger town and the closest town to the Slaughters, about 8 miles away. The town is often considered the centre of the Cotswolds because several major roads converge there and it’s believed that was how the town was established in the 11th century by merchants to take advantage of passing trade routes.
We parked in the old market square surrounded by the characteristic Cotswold stone buildings and had coffee and cake at The Little Stocks Tea Shop, the perfect place for a spot of people watching.
While you’re in the town, don’t miss The Cotswolds Cheese Co (yum), Cotswolds Chocolate and Roly’s Fudge Pantry (double yum).
Explore the countryside
Save some time to just drive or walk around the countryside too. There are lots of public footpaths through fields and if you visit in June-August there will be plenty of wildflower fields in bloom.
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat to round off the day, stop by Daylesford Farm Shop and explore their local produce too.
Or head over to the popular town of Chipping Norton and visit the Blue Boar pub for some good ol’country grub.
Make an early start and head to the South Cotswolds to visit the village frequently voted the prettiest village in England. Essentially made up of two streets of picture perfect Cotswold stone houses, a market cross and a beautiful manor house, we somehow managed to spend a few hours there! It’s not hard to see why…
To see the Manor house there is an entrance at the top and bottom of the village and you can walk through the grounds, unfortunately you can only go inside if you have a reservation!
Head back up north through the Cotswolds and stop at Westonbirt Arboretum, a beautiful park owned by the Forestry Commission. Take plenty of time to follow the suggested routes. My favourite is the Japanese maples and acer trees in autumn.
You can see my full Westonbirt Arboretum album here.
Don’t miss Cotswolds Gin
Further east is the Plough Hotel & Restaurant at Clanfield. The have a huge selection of gins in their Gin Pantry and helpful staff to tell you which tonics to pair them with. Cotswolds Gin, Toad Gin and Ashmolean Gin are all local to the area.