One of the best day trips from London is to explore The Cotswolds. Covering more than 800 square miles in several counties with about 30 charming and picturesque villages, it can be overwhelming to choose where to go. So my husband and I decided to book a guided day trip tour to explore four of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds.
I plan to return as there are many more charming villages in The Cotswolds. And I would love to hike The Cotswolds Way – a ~100-mile walking trail through many of the villages. Until then, see more of my favorite things to do in London as well as other top day trips from London.
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Four of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds, England
Here’s a sampling of four of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds. These historic and fairytale towns are located just a couple of hours from London. While you can access a few of The Cotswolds villages by train or bus, it’s recommended to rent a car or book a guided tour. We chose the latter. But when I return, I will definitely learn how to drive on the left so I can explore more of the prettiest and most charming villages in The Cotswolds.
Designated as an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), you’ll fall in love with The Cotswolds’ rolling hills, beautiful countryside landscapes, and the historic stone walls and homes.
Bibury – home of Arlington Row in The Cotswolds
I would be hard-pressed to rank and rate the prettiest villages and towns in The Cotswolds. However, Bibury is definitely one of them. In fact, Bibury comes up often as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds.
One of the top things to see in Bibury is the historic and iconic Arlington Row on Awkward Road. Built in 1380, this Grade 1 listed building is a notable protected architectural site. If you know anyone with a U.K. passport, you’ll recognize this row of stone homes as it’s featured on the inside cover.
Bibury is also home to England’s oldest working trout farm as well as the Church of St. Mary. This beautiful Anglo-Saxo home was built in the late 11th century.
How far is Bibury from London?
Bibury – one of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds is located 80 miles / 129 kilometers from London.
Bourton-on-the-Water – aka Venice of The Cotswolds
My husband and I fell in love with Bourton-on-the-Water. Nicknamed Venice of The Cotswolds, you’ll find five historic stone foot bridges that arch over the tranquil River Windrush. These beautiful bridges in Bourton-on-the-Water were built between 1654 and 1911.
We could have just strolled along the river and through this storybook town in The Cotswolds all day. However, we did stop into some charming shops and toured the miniature model village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
And this is where I enjoyed the best meal on my three-week staycation at The Cornish Bakery. This quaint café delivered a simple, but fabulous bacon and leek pasty (pas-tee) with brown sauce (a mild BBQ sauce).
Other top things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water that we didn’t have time to do on this visit included:
- Birdland Parks and Gardens
- Cotswolds Brewing Company
- Cotswolds Motoring and Toy Museum
- Greystones Nature Reserve
How far is Bourton-on-the-Water from London?
Bourton-on-the-Water in The Cotswolds is about 83 miles / 133.5 kilometers from London.
Burford – The Gateway to The Cotswolds
Our first stop on our small-group tour of The Cotswolds was Burford. It is known as the Gateway to the Cotswolds where you can stroll along the charming downtown. Of special note are the historic homes, buildings, shops, and churches.
We especially loved the historic St. John the Baptist Church. It was built between 1160 and 1475 and is what’s called a wool church. One of the largest wool churches in the area, this church was funded by rich medieval wool traders.
Another claim to fame for Burford in The Cotswolds is that it is home to England’s oldest pharmacy. While it dates back to 1734, the inside looks like a modern pharmacy from today.
How far is Burford from London?
Burford in The Cotswolds is about 71 miles / 114 kilometers from London.
Stow-on-the-Wold – a storybook setting in The Cotswolds
If you’re looking for a fairytale village in The Cotswolds, then I recommend Stow-on-the-Wold. You’ll find England’s oldest inn here. The Porch House dates back to 947 A.D. You can book a room here or stop in for a pint or two (which we did).
For you Lord of the Rings fans, you’ll love the historic and beautiful door at the St. Edwards Church. It’s believed that this door, framed by two yew trees, bears a resemblance to the Doors to Durin. Author – and Oxford professor – J.R.R. Tolkien frequently visited Stow-on-the-Wold back in the day.
How far is Stow-on-the-Wold from London?
Stow-on-the-Wold in The Cotswolds is about 81 miles / 130 kilometers from London.
Frequently asked questions about The Cotswolds
What is the prettiest village or town in The Cotswolds?
All of them. I’ve only visited four of the prettiest and most charming villages in The Cotswolds. And even with only four, I’m unable to say which is the prettiest. Bibury is often quoted as the prettiest village in The Cotswolds.
Is Oxford part of The Cotswolds?
No. Oxford is not included in the pretty region of The Cotswolds. But it’s close. And Oxford is worth the trip – for a day trip or several days. I recommend several days in Oxford as there is so much to explore. See my related post: Top things to do in Oxford.
How far is The Cotswolds from London?
The distance between London and The Cotswolds depends on which village you’re traveling to, when you’re traveling, and how you’re traveling. Travel time can range from a little over an hour to about three hours. Distances between London and The Cotswolds range from about 75 miles to 120 miles.
How do you get to The Cotswolds? Can you take a train to The Cotswold?
The best way to explore The Cotswolds is by car. However, if you’re like me and driving on the left side of the road seems a little intimidating, then I suggest booking a guided tour. While you’ll only see a few of the prettiest towns in The Cotswolds, a guided tour is a convenient and less stressful way to enjoy the area. We booked a small-group tour and it was perfect!
The railway system is pretty easy to navigate in England. Download the Trainline app and you can order your tickets online. While not every village or town in has a train station, you do have options to travel by rail to The Cotswolds. The Trainline website recommends the following direct routes to reach The Cotswolds from the London Paddington station.
And then you can take the hiking paths / footpaths between nearby villages in the Cotswolds. Or check on local bus services or hire a taxi to other towns in The Cotswolds. Check out The Cotswolds Tourism website for more details.
You can also take a direct train to Oxford and then catch other railway routes to the pretty villages and towns in The Cotswolds.
Which villages or towns in The Cotswolds have train stations?
According to the Trainline website, you can travel from London to several train stations in The Cotswolds, including:
- Cam and Dursley
- Kemble / Cirencester
- Oxford (note that Oxford is not part of The Cotswolds – but you can get there from here by train)
Does The Cotswolds have bus services, taxis, or ride-sharing apps like Uber?
You can take a bus from London to many of the prettiest villages and towns in The Cotswolds. And bus services are available between most of the towns.
Additionally, you can hire a car or book an Uber from London to the villages – although it can be spendy. However, I’ve heard that Uber and Lyft are not available to book once you get to most of The Cotswolds villages. So don’t rely on a ride-sharing option once you get to The Cotswolds.
What is The Cotswolds Way?
Hiking the 102-mile Cotswolds Way is on my bucket list! This national trail takes you from Chipping Campden to Bath (or vice versa). It’s a great way to explore the prettiest and historic villages in The Cotswolds and hike through the woods, hills, and other picturesque English landscape. Watch for a future post as I hope to walk the Cotswolds Way in the next year or two. Until then, check out the route description from The National Trail website.
Can you hike or walk between the villages and towns of The Cotswolds?
Yes, you can hike or walk between many of the villages and towns in The Cotswolds. The Cotswold Way is easy to navigate and the national trail is well-marked.
What are the top things to do in The Cotswolds?
Every village in The Cotswolds offers something special to do. We especially loved the charming homes and buildings, stone walls, cobblestone paths, historic bridges, shopping, the gardens, and churches. Other top things to do in The Cotswolds include castles, palaces, parks, museums, and more.
What does Cotswolds mean? How did The Cotswolds get its name?
Cotswold is made up of two words: cots and wolds. Cots means sheep enclosures and wolds refers to gentle hills. How idyllic does that sound?
How old are The Cotswolds villages?
The pretty and charming architecture of the stone homes and buildings in The Cotswold began in the late 1600s. The storybook cottages typically feature steep roofs (sometimes thatched), arched doorways, and limestone walls and chimneys.
How many towns and villages are in The Cotswolds?
While I was unable to determine the exact number of towns and villages in The Cotswolds, here is a great list from The Cotswolds Guide. They list 26 towns and villages along with a village map.
Guide to four of the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds
If I could summer anywhere in the world, I’m thinking any one of these prettiest villages in The Cotswolds would be my destination. Of the four featured in this guide to the prettiest villages in The Cotswolds, which would you choose?
For more travel inspiration, please check out my related England blog series.
- Guide to the top things to do in London, England
- Best scenic and historic day trips from London
- Best day trip from London – the historic Bletchley Park
- Guide to the top things to do in Oxford, England
- Guide to the Oxford Castle & Prison