Discover the BEST villages in the Cotswolds, England! These spots are beyond picturesque, have historical sights, charming cafes, cozy pubs, and more.
The Cotswolds had been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. Rolling hills dotted with sheep, picturesque villages, quaint bed and breakfasts, cozy pubs, outstanding Michelin Star restaurants…sounds like a perfect countryside getaway…and it was! The Cotswolds lived up to all the hype and I highly recommend a visit to this charming region.
Jake and I spent five days exploring the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Most visitors spend a quick weekend here…which is completely doable to get a taste of the Cotswolds. Five days was the perfect amount of time to really see it all as well as slow down and revisit a few favorite places.
Five days in the Cotswolds allowed me to visit each of the main villages and decide which were my TOP 5. This was no easy feat as this region is jam packed with beautiful spots.
The villages listed below are the ones that really stood out to both Jake and me. These are the villages we returned to for a second time and are the places we will visit again when we return to the Cotswolds. Each of these spots are beyond picturesque, charming, and ooze that English countryside charm.
Without further ado, let’s get into the five most beautiful and best villages in the Cotswolds!
1. Castle Combe
One of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds for scenic backdrops and THAT perfect INSTAGRAM SHOt
Castle Combe is one of those places where you arrive and think “is this even real”? This is by far one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds and my personal favorite. If you’re looking to come home with some spectacular photos of your time in the Cotswolds, Castle Combe is a must.
This charming Cotswold village has become extremely popular, so I highly recommend you visit as early as possible in the morning to get the best experience and bypass the crowds.
Book an afternoon tea at The Manor House if you really want to treat yourself. The manor and grounds are impressive.
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The best village in the Cotswolds for families
After visiting a number of laidback villages in the Cotswolds where crowds were minimal, Burton-on-the-Water was a bit of a shock. It was packed! I quickly learned this is the place to go for families when the weather is nice and the sun is out. River Windrush runs through this pretty Cotswold village. It’s only a few inches deep, which makes it the perfect activity for children.
Parents sat on the edge and watched their kiddos play and splash, couples dangled their feet in the water while enjoying a refreshing drink or ice cream. It was nice to see locals and tourists gathered around the water and enjoying the outdoors.
Burton-on-the-Water would be a fantastic place to get photos if you visit during a time of year when the weather isn’t warm (i.e., when it won’t be crowded at all hours of the day). The combination of the shallow water, overhanging trees, and bordering shops makes for a picturesque spot.
Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are about five minutes from Burton-on-the-Water. These are two charming, but very small villages. Worth the visit if you have time after Burton-on-the-Water, but not worth going out of your way for.
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One of the most well-known villages in the Cotswolds
Stow-on-the-Wold is probably one of the Cotswolds villages you have heard of before with its memorable quirky name. It’s located on the northern end of the Cotswolds and is the highest Cotswold village at 800 feet elevation. This charming Cotswolds village has a long history of being an important trade and market town as it’s conveniently located at the intersection of six main roads.
Stow-on-the-Wold hosted some of the largest sheep fairs in the region. Up to 20,000 sheep would be for sale in one day. This is quite a big deal as Cotswold sheep were known to produce some of the finest wool in the world. Thus creating a thriving and prosperous town.
As you walk through town, you’ll notice extremely narrow alleyways. Just wide enough for one sheep to fit. This was purposely done so sheep would walk in a single file line as they were led to the market square. It made counting the sheep quicker and easier.
Today, the town hosts a market the first Thursday of the month that is popular with both locals and tourists.
Another claim to fame is the north door of St. Edward’s Church. This whimsical door bordered by two large yew trees is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien for the Door of Durin in Lord of the Rings. It’s very picturesque and makes for a good photo spot.
Stow-on-the-Wold is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing break with a cream tea. Huffkins and Lucy’s Tea Rooms are two very popular options that offer delicious scones and cakes.
4. Chipping Camden
One of the best villages in Cotswolds if you're also visiting Stratford-upon-Avon
Chipping Camden’s picturesque High Street lined with the quintessential honey colored stone buildings makes this one of the prettiest Cotswolds villages. If you can get there early, you’ll be rewarded with some incredible pictures. In fact, historian G.M. Trevelyan described this street as “the most beautiful village street now left in the island”.
Stop by the covered Market Hall which was built in 1627 to give shelter to those selling cheese, poultry, and butter…not sheep or wool as many assume. The interior very much reminded me of the Hogwarts bridge in Harry Potter. Can you see the similarity?
Don’t leave without stopping at Badger’s Hall for a cozy afternoon tea!
If you have extra time, drive 10 minutes south to one of the larger Cotswolds villages, Broadway. Similar to Chipping Camden with its long high street lined with pretty stone buildings…but a bit larger. Or, drive 20 minutes north to Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.
One of the best villages in the Cotswolds for Harry Potter fans
Lacock is easily one of the best villages in the Cotswolds not only because it’s absolutely adorable but because it’s a popular filming location. Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Downtown Abbey, and the Other Boleyn Girl are a few that might ring a bell.
The lack of phone lines and wires (they’re buried), bright signs or painted traffic lines on the streets makes for a perfect historic setting with no clue that it’s the 21st century. All this just adds to the overall charm and experience.
Harry Potter fans will especially enjoy this pretty Cotswold village. Horace Slughorn’s hideaway house is here (the one he was staying in when Dumbledore and Harry went to convince him to return to Hogwarts and he was disguised as a chair). You’ll also find Lily and James Potter’s home. Lacock Abbey stood in for the hallways and corridors of Hogwarts, Snake and Quirrell’s classrooms in the first movie, and scenes with the Mirror of Erised.
Visit Lacock after Castle Combe since it’s a quick 17-minute ride away.
Honorable Mention - Bibury
I can’t write a post about the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds without mentioning Bibury. Arlington Row, located in Bibury, is probably one of the most popular and photographed streets in the Cotswolds.
This isn’t really a spot to spend much time in as its tiny and the main thing to do is to view Arlington Row, snap a few pictures, and then be on your way. Beware, Bibury gets very crowded, so if you want a picture without a million tourists, go as early as possible.
The Cotswolds are a joy to visit and one of the most beautiful regions I’ve been to. It’s the idyllic countryside escape complete with rolling hills, quaint bed and breakfasts, cozy pubs, and friendly locals.
These five spots were easily my favorite and what I consider to be the best villages in the Cotswolds for a first-time visitor to explore. Have your camera out and ready because you’ll want to capture every moment in these beautiful Cotswold villages.
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