Best Things To Do in the Cotswolds: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Flora Backup
Explore this handpicked selection of the most thrilling and distinctive adventures awaiting your discovery.
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Looking for the best things to do in the Cotswolds? Check out this curated list of the most exhilarating and unique experiences awaiting you. Each of these handpicked destinations, activities, and wonders guarantees a journey that will etch lasting memories.

Ah, the Cotswolds! A name that evokes images of rolling hills, honey-colored stone cottages, and quaint English villages frozen in time. Nestled in the heart of England, the Cotswolds is a region that effortlessly blends history with natural beauty. This makes it a top destination for travelers seeking an authentic British experience.

Imagine strolling through picturesque market towns, each with its own unique charm and character. From the ancient streets of Cirencester to the serene waters of the Stroudwater Canal, the Cotswolds beckons with tales of yesteryears. It’s not just about the past; this region is alive with vibrant festivals, artisanal shops, and gourmet eateries that showcase the best of British cuisine.

If you’re a history lover, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone looking for a tranquil escape, the Cotswolds offers a myriad of experiences. With its lush meadows, historic manors, and a rich tapestry of arts and culture, it’s no wonder that the Cotswolds has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

So, if you’re dreaming of a quintessential English getaway, look no further. Dive into this guide of Cotswolds attractions and let’s embark on a journey through the Cotswolds, where every corner holds a story, and every path leads to a new adventure.

The top places to visit in Cotswolds right now
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Best Things To Do in the Cotswolds

Eager to uncover the coolest things to do in the Cotswolds? This picturesque region offers a diverse array of experiences for every traveler. Dive deeper to explore the unique spots that make the Cotswolds special.

If you’re drawn to historic sites, lush landscapes, or cultural gems, you’ll find unique Cotswolds places to visit and create new memories. From family-friendly attractions to serene nature retreats, here are all the best attractions in the Cotswolds that cater to all interests.

1. Get Lost in the Hustle and Bustle of Cirencester

Cirencester is a historic market town; a treasure trove of English heritage. It is often referred to as the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. As you wander its ancient streets, you’ll find remnants of its Roman past. This includes the well-preserved amphitheater and the Corinium Museum, which houses one of the finest collections of Romano-British antiquities.

Exploring the vibrant arts scene in Cirencester is one of the most popular things to do in the Cotswolds. The New Brewery Arts, a hub for crafts and creativity, offers workshops and exhibitions that showcase local talent. For those keen on shopping, Cirencester boasts a range of boutique stores, offering everything from handmade crafts to gourmet foods.

Cirencester is known for its Roman heritage and charming architecture, making it one of the attractions to see in Cotswolds.
Cirencester is known for its Roman heritage and charming architecture, making it one of the attractions to see in Cotswolds.

Looking for the coolest activities in the Cotswolds? Cirencester has its fair share. The town is home to the Cirencester Park Polo Club. This is where you can watch exhilarating polo matches in a picturesque setting. And if you’re looking to relax, the serene Abbey Grounds, with its beautiful lake and manicured gardens, is the perfect spot.

This buzzing city offers a combination of history, culture, and natural beauty. It’s one of those unique places in Cotswolds that offers a little bit of everything, making it a must-visit on any Cotswolds itinerary.

2. Uncover the Charm of Bourton-on-the-Water

Step into Bourton-on-the-Water and you’re immediately transported to a world reminiscent of Venice, but with a distinct Cotswolds twist. The tranquil River Windrush flows gently through the heart of the village, with quaint bridges connecting its banks.

For families, this village is a treasure trove of attractions. The Model Village offers a delightful glimpse into a miniature version of Bourton-on-the-Water itself. The Cotswold Motoring Museum beckons vintage car enthusiasts with its impressive collection. And if you’re keen on meeting some feathery friends, Birdland Park and Gardens is home to a diverse array of birds, from graceful flamingos to playful penguins.

Bourton-on-the-Water is a picturesque village in the Cotswolds renowned for its tranquil river and idyllic scenery.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a picturesque village in the Cotswolds famous for its tranquil river and idyllic scenery.

The village isn’t just about attractions; it’s a haven for garden lovers too. The Bourton House Garden, with its vibrant blooms and intricate topiaries, showcases the best of English gardening. And as you wander through the village streets, boutique shops invite you in, each offering unique gifts and souvenirs.

Ending your day, you might wonder what to do in the Cotswolds next. One thing’s for sure, Bourton-on-the-Water has left an indelible mark on your journey. This makes it a destination to revisit time and again. I am already planning to return in 2024 – can’t wait (and neither should you)!

3. Live Your Authentic Cotswold Life in Stow-on-the-Wold

High atop a hill, overlooking the vast Cotswold landscape, lies Stow-on-the-Wold, a market town that’s rich in history and charm. Its origins date back to Roman times. As you meander through its narrow alleyways and ancient doorways, you can almost hear the whispers of centuries gone by.

The town square, once a bustling hub for sheep trading, now welcomes visitors with its array of boutique shops, antique stores, and cozy tea rooms. Dive into St Edward’s Church, and you’ll see a pair of ancient yew trees, guarding the entrance like sentinels from a bygone era.

Beauty unravels as you explore Stow-on-the-Wold' meadows and forests, making it a top destination in the Cotswolds.
Beauty unravels as you explore Stow-on-the-Wold’ meadows and forests, making it a top destination in Cotswolds.

For literature enthusiasts, Stow-on-the-Wold offers a special treat. The Cotswolds places to visit list isn’t complete without a stop at the Borzoi Bookshop, a haven for book lovers. With its curated collection of titles and friendly staff, it’s easy to lose track of time here.

Once you’ve found your favorite book, stroll around the surrounding walking trails that offer breathtaking views of the countryside. As you hike through the meadows and woodlands, the beauty of the Cotswolds unfolds before your eyes. This makes it one of the coolest destinations in the Cotswolds.

4. Revel in the Beauty of Broadway, The Jewel of the Cotswolds

Broadway, with its wide main street lined with horse chestnut trees and a mix of historic houses and honey-colored Cotswold stone buildings, is often hailed as one of the most beautiful villages in England. It’s no wonder that it’s frequently dubbed the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’.

As you stroll through Broadway, you’ll be captivated by its timeless charm. Art enthusiasts will find solace in the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery. It showcases a collection of artifacts and artworks that tell the tale of the village’s rich history. And for those with a penchant for the finer things in life, the boutique shops offer an array of luxury goods, from designer clothing to handcrafted jewelry.

Broadway is a charming village known for its quintessential English ambiance and historic buildings.
Broadway is a charming village in the Cotswolds known for its quintessential English ambiance and historic buildings.

Looking for splendid vistas? One of the most fun things to do in the Cotswolds is climbing the Broadway Tower. Standing tall on Broadway Hill, this historic tower offers panoramic views of up to 16 counties on a clear day. It’s a sight to behold, especially during sunrise or sunset when the landscape is bathed in a golden hue.

After a day of exploration, there’s nothing better than settling down in one of the village’s traditional pubs or restaurants. With a glass of local ale in hand and a plate of hearty English fare, you’ll truly understand why Broadway is one of the best places to go in Cotswolds.

5. Fulfill Your Fairy-Tale Fantasies at Bibury

If there’s one place in the Cotswolds that looks like it’s been lifted straight out of a fairy tale, it’s Bibury. With its iconic Arlington Row cottages and the gentle flow of the River Coln, Bibury is often described by many as the most beautiful village in England and is often the most photographed. So don’t forget to set up your camera and pose with quaint rows of cottages as your backdrop!

Begin your journey by wandering along Arlington Row, one of the most charming things to do in the Cotswolds. These 17th-century weavers’ cottages, with their steeply pitched roofs and honey-colored stone walls, are a testament to the village’s rich textile history. They’re so iconic that they even grace the inside cover of UK passports!

With Arlington Row cottages and the River Coln, Bibury is often hailed as Cotswolds' most beautiful village.
With Arlington Row cottages and the River Coln, Bibury is often hailed as Cotswolds’ most beautiful village.

Nature lovers will find solace in the Bibury Trout Farm, one of the oldest in the country. Here, you can try your hand at fishing or simply enjoy the serene ambiance as rainbow trout swim in the clear waters. And if you’re visiting Cotswolds in the warmer months, the Bibury Flower Show is an event not to be missed.

For unique things to do in the Cotswolds, Bibury has you covered. The village is home to the Bibury Duck Race. It is a quirky annual event where thousands of rubber ducks are released into the River Coln, all vying for the top spot.

As the day winds down, take a moment to sit by the riverbank, watching as the sun casts a golden glow over the village. It’s moments like these that make Bibury a must-visit destination in the Cotswolds.

6. Step Back in Time at Chedworth Roman Villa

Deep within the Cotswolds countryside lies a hidden gem that transports visitors back to Roman Britain: the Chedworth Roman Villa. As one of the largest and best-preserved Roman villas in England, Chedworth offers a unique glimpse into the opulent lifestyles of the ancient elite.

Upon entering, you’re immediately drawn to the intricate mosaics that adorn the villa’s floors. These stunning artworks depict various mythological scenes, showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship of Roman artisans. The villa also boasts several bathhouses, with remnants of the hypocaust heating system still visible.

Immerse yourself in the enchantment of Chedworth, another must-do in the Cotswolds.
Immerse yourself in the enchantment of Chedworth, another must-do in Cotswolds.

For those keen on learning more, the on-site museum houses a collection of artifacts discovered at the villa, from delicate jewelry to everyday household items. Each artifact tells a story, painting a vivid picture of life during Roman times.

The Chedworth Roman Villa tops the list of places in the Cotswolds to visit for history enthusiasts. The villa often hosts reenactment events, where visitors can witness Roman cooking demonstrations, craft workshops, and even gladiator fights!

As you wander through the ancient ruins, surrounded by the lush Cotswold landscape, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of Chedworth. It’s a place where history comes alive, making it one of the coolest Cotswolds things to do for both young and old.

7. Get a Glimpse of Tudor Royalty at Sudeley Castle & Gardens

Sudeley Castle & Gardens is a must-visit for travelers seeking unique places in the Cotswolds that offer both historical depth and natural beauty. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, this magical venue is more than just a historical site; it’s a journey through time. Once the residence of Queen Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, this 15th-century castle whispers tales of love, war, and intrigue at every corner.

The castle’s opulent rooms are a treasure trove of artifacts. From ancient manuscripts to royal portraits, each piece tells a story, painting a vivid picture of Tudor royalty. And as you wander through, you’ll discover that Sudeley’s charm isn’t confined to its walls.

Sudeley Castle & Gardens is a magical destination
Sudeley Castle & Gardens is a place to visit for those in search of Cotswolds’ distinctive garden destinations.

The castle boasts ten distinct gardens, each a masterpiece in its own right. Ambling around these vibrant horticultural spots is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds, and with good reason. The Queens’ Garden, a tribute to the four English queens who graced its pathways, is especially enchanting with its myriad of roses. And if you’re lucky enough to attend one of the castle’s events, you’re in for a treat. From medieval festivals to garden tours, there’s always something happening here. Is this one of the cool things to do in the Cotswolds? Absolutely!

8. Unravel the Mysteries of The Rollright Stones

On the outskirts of the Cotswolds, a circle of ancient stones stands sentinel, shrouded in myths and legends. Welcome to The Rollright Stones, a prehistoric site that has fascinated visitors for centuries. With its alluring blend of history and nature, this enigmatic destination is one of the best places to go in the Cotswolds.

Comprising three distinct groups – the King’s Men stone circle, the Whispering Knights burial chamber, and the King Stone – this site is a testament to the area’s rich Neolithic and Bronze Age history. Each stone formation has its own tale to tell, from rituals and ceremonies to tales of kings turned to stone.

The Rollright Stones are an ancient stone circles in the Cotswolds, captivating visitors with their historical significance.
The Rollright Stones are an ancient stone circles in Cotswolds, captivating visitors with their historical significance.

For those with a keen interest in archaeology, The Rollright Stones offers a unique opportunity to delve into the past. The site often hosts guided tours. It is where experts share insights into the stones’ origins, their astronomical significance, and the rituals that might have taken place here.

Beyond its historical significance, travelers will find breathtaking vistas. The surrounding landscape, with its wildflowers and undulating hills, offers a tranquil setting for contemplation. As you walk around the stones, you can’t help but feel a deep connection to the land and its ancient inhabitants. It’s a place where the past and present converge. This invites visitors to step back in time and uncover the mysteries of the ages. It’s no wonder this among the coolest places to stay in the UK!

9. Marvel at the Grandeur of Blenheim Palace

A testament to the opulence of the English Baroque style, Blenheim Palace is a sight to behold and a must see in the Cotswolds. Nestled within 2,000 acres of meticulously designed parkland, this UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t just a palace. It’s also a piece of England’s illustrious past.

Constructed in the 18th century, Blenheim Palace was a gracious gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. His triumph at the Battle of Blenheim earned him this magnificent residence, which today stands as both a cherished family home and a beacon for history enthusiasts worldwide.

Blenheim Palace is a grand UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its stunning architecture and extensive parkland.
Blenheim Palace is a grand UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its stunning architecture and extensive parkland.

The interior is a showcase of lavish staterooms, each adorned with intricate tapestries, masterful paintings, and ornate sculptures. The Long Library, housing a vast array of books and a majestic organ, is captivating. And for those keen on delving into the life of Sir Winston Churchill, the palace offers a dedicated exhibition, celebrating the legacy of this iconic Prime Minister born within its walls.

The palace’s exterior is enchanting. Designed by the legendary Capability Brown, the gardens are a symphony of tranquil lakes, flowing water terraces, and a stately bridge. It’s an idyllic backdrop for a peaceful walk or a moment of reflection.

10. Take Home a Treasured Antique From Tetbury

Tucked away in the southern reaches of the Cotswolds, Tetbury is a town that exudes charm and elegance at every turn. With its regal architecture and cobbled streets, it’s a destination that transports visitors to a bygone era. What truly sets Tetbury apart is its reputation as the antique capital of the Cotswolds.

As you wander through the town, you’ll encounter a plethora of antique shops, each brimming with treasures from the past. From ornate furniture and vintage jewelry to rare books and collectibles, there’s something for every antique aficionado. Visiting the annual Tetbury Antiques and Flea Market is one of the coolest things to do in the Cotswolds, as it draws enthusiasts from far and wide in search of unique finds.

What distinguishes Tetbury is its renowned status as the Cotswolds' antique hub.
What distinguishes Tetbury is its renowned status as the Cotswolds’ antique hub.

More than just antiques, the town is home to the Royal Gardens at Highgrove, the private residence of Prince Charles. While the gardens are only open to the public on select dates, those fortunate enough to visit are treated to a horticultural spectacle, with diverse gardens ranging from wild meadows to meticulously manicured topiaries.

11. Get a Taste of Medieval Life at Winchcombe

Nestled in a scenic valley, Winchcombe stands as a testament to medieval England. This ancient town, with its timber-framed buildings and narrow streets, offers a delightful journey through time. With its combination of history, culture, and natural beauty, visitors will discover that there’s hardly a dull moment here.

Winchcombe is home to some of the coolest activities in the Cotswolds. From attending the annual walking festival to indulging in local gastronomy at its traditional pubs, there’s no shortage of experiences to savor.

Winchcombe offers some of the most captivating activities in the Cotswolds.
Winchcombe offers some of the most captivating activities in the Cotswolds.

Travelers with a passion for history should not miss the Folk and Police Museum. Here, one can delve into the local history, from ancient artifacts to stories of yesteryears. And if you’re keen on exploring the great outdoors the Cotswold Way, a famous walking trail passes right through Winchcombe, offering breathtaking views of the countryside.

12. Be One with Nature at Westonbirt Arboretum

Amidst the rolling hills of the Cotswolds lies Westonbirt Arboretum. It is a verdant oasis that boasts one of the world’s most significant tree collections. Spanning over 600 acres, this arboretum is one of the best places in the Cotswolds for nature lovers, offering a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and sounds throughout the year.

With over 15,000 labeled trees from across the globe, every visit to Westonbirt is a new adventure. Spring welcomes a burst of vibrant azaleas and rhododendrons, while autumn transforms the landscape into a fiery spectacle of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Westonbirt Arboretum's tree collections makes it a prime spot in the Cotswolds for nature enthusiasts,
Westonbirt Arboretum’s tree collections makes it a prime spot in the Cotswolds for nature enthusiasts,

For a stunning bird’s-eye view, climb the Treetop Walkway. Elevated 13 meters above the ground, this 300-meter-long walkway offers panoramic views of the arboretum and the surrounding Cotswold countryside. It’s an experience that leaves many in awe of nature’s grandeur.

Whether you’re meandering through its serene paths, attending one of its seasonal events, or simply picnicking under a canopy of leaves, a visit to the arboretum promises a day of pure bliss.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Things To Do in the Cotswolds

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Cotswolds? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Cotswolds:

What is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is beautiful year-round. Spring (March to May) offers blooming flowers and mild weather, while autumn (September to November) showcases a vibrant display of fall colors. Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season with warm weather, and winter (December to February) provides a quieter, picturesque snowy landscape.

How do I get around the Cotswolds?

With its winding roads and quaint villages, Cotswolds is best explored by car. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to discover hidden gems and less-accessible attractions. For those who prefer public transport, there are buses connecting major towns, and trains are available for longer distances. Cycling is another popular option, especially during the warmer months, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the scenic beauty.

Is the Cotswolds worth it?

Yes, the Cotswolds is often considered to be well worth a visit for many travelers. Its appeal lies in a combination of factors that make it a unique and charming destination. Here’s why a trip to the Cotswolds might be considered worthwhile:

  1. Picturesque villages: The Cotswolds is renowned for its quintessentially English villages, complete with honey-colored stone buildings, cobblestone streets, and beautiful gardens. Exploring these villages offers a glimpse into traditional rural life.
  2. Stunning landscapes: The rolling hills, meadows, rivers, and woodlands of the Cotswolds provide endless opportunities for photography, hiking, cycling, and simply enjoying nature.
  3. Rich heritage: From medieval churches to grand estates, the region’s history is rich and varied. Historic sites, museums, and guided tours provide insights into the past.
  4. Local cuisine: Foodies will appreciate the local produce, traditional dishes, and opportunities to visit farmers’ markets, breweries, and vineyards.
  5. Relaxation and leisure: Whether it’s spending a day at a spa, wandering through gardens, or enjoying afternoon tea, the Cotswolds offers many ways to relax and unwind.
  6. Family-friendly activities: With outdoor activities, wildlife parks, and interactive museums, the Cotswolds can be an enjoyable destination for families.
  7. Accessibility: The Cotswolds is relatively easy to reach from major cities like London and Birmingham, making it a convenient escape to the countryside.
  8. Accommodation options: From luxury hotels to cozy B&Bs, there are accommodations to suit various tastes and budgets.

The Cotswolds might not be for everyone, especially those seeking a bustling urban experience. However, its unique blend of natural beauty, history, culture, and tranquility makes it a desirable destination for many. If these aspects align with your interests, a visit to the Cotswolds is indeed worth it.

Are the Cotswolds family-friendly?

Absolutely! The Cotswolds is a haven for families. There are numerous attractions tailored for children, such as the Cotswold Wildlife Park, where they can see a range of animals, and the Cotswold Farm Park, which offers interactive farm experiences. For older kids and teens, there are adventure parks, hiking trails, and historical sites to explore. Many accommodations also cater to families, providing amenities like play areas and family rooms.

Cotswolds' natural beauty attracts eager travelers in search of an authentic British adventure.
Cotswolds’ natural beauty attracts eager travelers in search of an authentic British adventure.

How many days do I need to explore the Cotswolds?

While a day trip can give you a glimpse of the Cotswolds, to truly appreciate its charm, a 4-5 day trip is recommended. This allows time to explore the diverse towns, from the historic Bath and Cirencester to the picturesque Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. It provides ample opportunities for leisurely walks, museum visits, and indulging in local cuisine.

What’s the Cotswolds famous for?

The Cotswolds is a region in south-central England with picturesque countryside, charming villages, and unique architecture. Here’s what the Cotswolds is particularly famous for:

  1. Cotswold stone: Much of the region’s distinctive look comes from the honey-colored limestone known as Cotswold stone, used in many buildings. It creates a warm, inviting atmosphere and has become synonymous with the area.
  2. Historic villages: The Cotswolds is home to some of the most well-preserved medieval villages in England. Towns like Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Chipping Campden offer historic charm and beauty.
  3. Rolling countryside: The area’s landscapes boast gentle hills, meandering rivers, lush meadows, and quaint farmland. This countryside has inspired artists, writers, and tourists for centuries.
  4. Gardens and estates: The Cotswolds offers magnificent gardens and stately homes. Places like Hidcote Manor Garden and Sudeley Castle Gardens are must-visits for garden enthusiasts.
  5. Walking rtails: There are many scenic walking paths. This includes the famous Cotswold Way, a 100-mile trail that offers breathtaking views of the countryside.

In summary, the Cotswolds is famous for its unique blend of historical charm, stunning landscapes, artistic heritage, and a sense of timeless English rural life. This makes it a beloved destination in England for travelers.

Where can I find the best local cuisine in the Cotswolds?

Traditional pubs, often housed in centuries-old buildings, offer classic dishes like the Cotswold lamb pie and Ploughman’s lunch. For cheese lovers, a visit to a local cheese shop to sample the Double Gloucester or Stinking Bishop is a must. Fine dining restaurants, often using locally sourced ingredients, provide gourmet experiences, while cafes serve up delicious pastries and afternoon teas.

Are there any annual events or festivals in the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is alive with events throughout the year. The Tetbury Woolsack Races, a quirky tradition involving racing with heavy sacks of wool, is a crowd favorite. Literature enthusiasts flock to the Cheltenham Literature Festival, while the Moreton-in-Marsh Show celebrates the region’s agricultural heritage. The Cirencester Advent Festival, with its Christmas lights and market stalls, brings festive cheer to the winter months.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, with its rolling hills, historic towns, and rich tapestry of culture, offers a retreat like no other. It’s a place where time seems to slow down, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in the beauty and heritage that surrounds them. From the majestic architecture of Blenheim Palace to the serene landscapes of Westonbirt Arboretum, every corner of this region tells a story.

As you reflect on your journey through the Cotswolds, one thing becomes clear: this is not just a place to visit; it’s a place to cherish. It’s a place where the magic of the English countryside comes alive. So, as you bid farewell to the Cotswolds, do so with a promise to return, for there’s always more to explore in this enchanting corner of England!

the top things to do in the Cotswolds for all types of travelers
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