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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.
This makes it a great place have a staycation if you’re from the UK or to take a weekend in the Cotswolds road trip if you’re wanting to experience some of the English countryside not too far from London.
I did this 2 day itinerary Cotswolds drive in the summer 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 Cotswolds travel guide!
Cotswolds itinerary: Day 1
The first stop on your 2 days in Cotswolds AONB is Bourton on the Water which is a beautiful village but very popular on coach tours so make sure to arrive early before they do! You can park at a pay and display car park 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 - a must-do experience on your Cotswolds itinerary!
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 on your Cotwolds driving route 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 places to eat in the Cotswolds 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 old country grub.
Places to stay in the Cotswolds
If you’re looking for the ultimate Cotswolds experience, these are some of my favourite places to stay in the area.
I’ve stayed in this gorgeous wooden tiny house with a hot tub in the north of the Cotswolds and highly recommend staying there for a romantic overnight stay in the Cotswolds or a small group as it sleeps up to 4!
If you're looking to stay in a quintessential English cottage in the heart of it all in the famous village of Bourton on the Water, this Cotswolds cottage is perfect!
Or for bigger groups for families, this Cotswolds converted barn is an amazing option.
Cotswolds itinerary: Day 2
Make an early start on your weekend away in the Cotswolds and 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!
If you’re planning where to go in the Cotswolds off the beaten track, 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 view my full Westonbirt Arboretum album.
See the famous Arlington Row at Bibury
2 days in the Cotswolds isn’t complete without visiting Bibury. As you drive back into the north Cotswolds, make sure to stop at the beautiful village of Bibury. Once called the most beautiful village in England by 19th century artist William Morris, this really is a picture-perfect part of the Cotswolds.
See the famous row of terrace houses at Arlington Row, which is protected by the National Trust. Explore the water meadows too and you might see some incredible wildlife like water voles or dragonflies.
Don’t miss Cotswolds Gin
Add a cheeky taste of local gin to your Cotswolds itinerary. Further east is the Plough Hotel & Restaurant at Clanfield. They 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.
I hope this guide has helped you plan your weekend in the Cotswolds itinerary. 2 days in the Cotswolds is a great amount of time to see the best of what the area has to offer!
If you’re in a rush, pin it so you can save it for later to help you plan your future trip.
Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: I currently use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance. Which allows me to pay a rolling monthly fee to cover my long term travels.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.