When people think of idyllic English countryside, odds are they’re picturing the Cotswolds. A rural region sandwiched between Bristol, Oxford, and Birmingham, the Cotswolds is famous for its gorgeous scenery — it’s no accident it was designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty back in the 1960s. To help you plan a scenic tour of the area, from historic cottages and English gardens to rolling hills and stately homes, we’ve handpicked 10 of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Keep your camera at the ready, and prepare to discover one of the country’s loveliest corners.
Frequently ranked as one of the prettiest villages in the whole of the UK, Bourton-on-the-Water has plenty to recommend it. Explore its picturesque High Street and go for a wander along the River Windrush, which bisects the village and has earned it the moniker “the Venice of the Cotswolds.”
Back in 2009, Forbes included Burford on its list of the most idyllic places to live in Europe. It isn’t hard to see why—the medieval village, often described as the “Gateway to the Cotswolds,” mingles river views, charming antique shops, and a tranquil pace of life.
Among the most buzzing market towns in the Cotswolds, Cirencester’s history dates all the way back to Roman times, when it was known as Corinium. Today, this “capital of the Cotswolds” is a destination for its Roman amphitheatre, lovely Cirencester Park, and historic church of St. John the Baptist.
4. Castle Combe
Castle Combe is pretty enough to be a movie set—and in fact, it’s had a starring role in a number of films and television shows, from War Horse to Doctor Dolittle. Visit to discover Castle Combe’s picture-perfect scenery beyond the silver screen, from its centuries-old limestone cottages to its vast stately homes.
5. Chipping Campden
During the medieval era, Chipping Campden was at the centre of Britain’s wool industry and was a busy market town. Today, the impression it gives is far more bucolic than industrial, though you can still glimpse remnants of its bustling past at the town’s preserved market hall.
If Chipping Campden was famous for its wool, then Blockley came to be known as a centre for silk production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays, most of the historic mills have been converted into housing, making for one of the Cotswold’s most characterful villages.
The hilltop market town of Stow-on-the-Wold was once the site of an Iron Age fort, but things are considerably more peaceful here these days. In the centre of town, you’ll find a number of galleries and antique shops packed with treasures, while the region’s verdant hills are close at hand.
Beautifully scenic Stanton is, in many ways, a perfect distillation of the Cotswolds’ charms. Famous for its honey-hued limestone buildings, the village is home to several historically significant churches, and offers prime access to local walking trails. Go for a long ramble, and reward yourself with a refreshment in the beloved Mount Inn afterwards.
The southern gateway to the Cotswolds, Tetbury is a cheery market town with history —drop by its sunny-coloured, Grade I-listed historic market hall for a glimpse at its past. Once you’ve gone for a stroll through town, preferably on a trading day, explore the surrounding area: the National Arboretum at Westonbirt and Chavenage House are both located nearby.
When visiting the beautiful village of Painswick, begin your tour at St. Mary’s Parish Church. Not only is the Grade I-listed landmark’s spire visible from miles around, but its churchyard is famous for its 99 ancient yew trees. From there, a trip to the local Rococo Garden, and a wander past the town’s 14th-century buildings, is in order.
Want to see more of this lovely part of the world? Our tour of Blenheim Palace, Downton Abbey Village & the Cotswolds shows you the way.