The Cotswolds is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the South West of England that spans five counties of rolling hills, sleepy villages and plenty of classic cars chugging along narrow country lanes. Some of the villages in the Cotswolds are said to be some of the most beautiful in the whole of the UK so it’s tricky to narrow it down to just handful. BUT make sure these 9 prettiest villages are on your itinerary whether you’re just passing through the Cotswolds or spending more time exploring.
1. Castle Combe
First up is Castle Combe which has to be my favourite of all the Cotswolds villages because of its beautiful main street! The village is teeny tiny and very quick to explore but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and loveliness. We arrived early (7am on a bank holiday Monday early) and there was no one around so we could enjoy the streets without anyone else about.
The village has a couple of pubs to stop off for a drink at as well as the famous hotel The Manor House which was unfortunately not open that early in the morning but from photos I’ve seen looks stunning! Nearby you can find Castle Combe Race Circuit which has both car and bike races for spectators as well as car show events as well.
You’ll park at the top of the village in the designated car park so walk all the way down and through to find the most picturesque spot in the village. A small bridge crosses the river Bybrook and turning to look back through Castle Combe you’ll get the completely enthralling view above 😍
Another of the most well known villages in the Cotswolds is dreamy Bibury. The village meanders along next to the River Coln and a number of the cottages look onto an area of water meadow (known as Rack Isle) which was full of bull rushes and meadow flowers when I visited!
Arlington Row is the most well known part of the village with its length of delightful weavers cottages that tourists flock to see. Again, an early start is best if you don’t want to share this spot with anyone else! Arlington Row featured in the fantasy film Stardust and forms part of the area looked after by the National Trust.
Walk to the edge of the village to see the well photographed spot: The Swan Hotel which is covered in ivy and I can imagine looks even more spectacular in Autumn as the colours change!
Broadway is the most bustling village we visited in the Cotswolds and felt a bit more like a town but it has lots of lovely cafes and shops to visit and browse which is why it is more of a hub than some of the other villages.
If you park in the village you can explore the village and broad stretch of road in the village centre with beautiful thatched roof cottages and the Broadway Deli if you fancy a picnic. Keep walking beyond the roundabout at the top of shopping section to discover even more photogenic cottages with less people around.
If you really want to test your legs out and get you heart racing then make the strenuous and nearly entirely uphill without stopping, walk up to Broadway Tower for spectacular views across the village. This is the second highest point in the Cotswolds and on a clear day 13 counties are visible from the top of the tower!
In Bourton-on-the-Water, the River Windrush winds lazily through the village and the multiple bridges crossing this shallow water gives rise to the village’s nickname ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’.
There’s plenty of little side streets to uncover and it’s very tranquil walking along the river popping back and forth over the bridges watching the ducks swimming nonchalantly along. Bourton is home to both the Motor Museum (which exhibits the toy car Brum for anyone that watched the children’s tv show growing up!) and The Model Village of itself as well if you want to feel very tall!
In 2002 the village doubled as Iceland (I’m not sure why 🤷♀️) when the cast and crew of the James Bond Die Another Day descended for filming. A high speed scene in the film was shot here! Bourton can become quite busy on weekends and as the day goes on since it’s one of the most popular Cotswold villages so this is one to stop off in early if you want to beat the crowds!
Snowshill was the first Cotswolds village I stopped in on the way home from another stay cation this year after visiting Cotswold Lavender and began my love affair with this area! It’s a relatively peaceful village in comparison to some of the other places on this list but is equally as lovely to wonder round and admire the beautiful rows of cottages. The ones above were some of my favourites!
Snowshill is a mesmerising little place and it was utilised for its Cotswoldy charm in the film Bridget Jones Diary where it features as the village in which Bridget’s parents live. You can see it covered in snow in the opening of the film!
Snowshill is also home to National Trust property Snowshill Manor & Garden a wonderful old country house dating back to the 16th century but made famous by one of its owners in the 20th century. Charles Paget Wage was a collector of objects and art and stored his collection in the Manor.
6. The Slaughters
Yup there really are two vlilages in the Cotswolds called Upper & Lower Slaughter! Despite their gruesome names, these two are actually very picturesque and Lower Slaughter in particular has many visitors admiring their way around the pathways.
Both villages sit on the River Eye which flows into the River Windrush further downstream of the villages. In Lower Slaughter, the Old Mill still churns the water through it but can now be visited as a museum with a cafe inside as well.
We enjoyed a very lovely walk between the two Slaughters along sleepy country lanes which was excellent for getting a few km into our day! In Upper Slaughter there’s a cottage perfectly positioned beside the ford across the river – you really feel transported back in time and just imagine the sound of a horse and carriage splashing through!
Stanton is full of grand houses and gorgeous cottages but without any of the busyness that comes with some of the larger and more well known villages of the Cotswolds! It had been very wet prior to our visit to Stanton so maybe that helped to keep people away as well.
Whilst quite small and with just one pub, this is what makes Stanton so charming as it remains very unspoiled to shops and cafes and the tourists that they bring!
Laverton is just a short drive away from Stanton so it’s totally possible to visit both of them very easily and it’s just as quiet as well! In fact, it is perfectly easy to walk between these two villages as well across some of the lush green Cotswolds country side.
Laverton was lovely to wonder through. There are some gorgeous cottages to admire in this village but I think the one above is my favourite with the pop of red from the letter box, charming old lamp above the door and ivy engulfing the honey hued bricks!
A stroll through the village of Lacock is like taking a step back in time as you walk amongst the white timber and golden bricked buildings. Just about the whole whole village is owned by the National Trust which also owns Lacock Abbey, a popular spot to visit. Make a stop at The Lacock Bakery with its wonderful facade and bike standing outside – we were too early for it to be open but you can just imagine the smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of the door!
Since the village is so well preserved it’s been used for many period films and also has a number of spots that were used in the Harry Potter films. Look out for Harry’s parents house which is in the village as well as numerous spots through Lacock Abbey that were used for Hogwarts locations. These include, the cloisters as corridors and rooms that double as classrooms!
With so many pretty villages to visit – a road trip through the Cotswolds is not to be missed! If you’re heading further south to Bath then make sure to check out these perfectly Instagrammable places in the city: