Visiting the Cotswolds has been on my travel list since I saw The Holiday years ago. Villages that look like they’re straight out of an English novel surrounded by rolling hillsides? Sign me up.
Once I realised I could explore Northern Cotswolds towns by taking a train from London and then a local bus around the area, I picked a weekend in May and started planning the day.
If you aren’t familiar with the Cotswolds, they’re an AONB, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which runs through five counties- Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire. An area of picturesque villages dotted throughout rolling farmland, it’s easy to see why so many visitors flock to the Cotswolds yearly. As for the name, ‘Cotswolds’, it means ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hills’.
Each town in the Cotswolds is like a fairy tale village, full of charm.
The best way to explore the Cotswolds is by car, you’ll be able to easily come and go village to village. If you don’t want to rent a car though, you can still explore different villages, you’ll just need to be mindful of the bus schedule- some stops only happen every hour or two.
On our visit, we took a train (~1.5 hours) from London to Moreton-in-Marsh return.
In Moreton, we had ~45 minutes to explore the town before the next southbound bus came, so we wandered the high street, popping in and out of alleyways as we wanted.
Heading back to the train station to catch the bus, we paid £2 for a ticket to Stow-on-the-Wold. An unlimited day ticket around the Cotswolds costs £7, but we calculated only needing the bus three times, and figured we’d be better off buying individual tickets.
If you’re also heading south, you can go all the way to Bourton-on-Water, but we decided to visit Stow first, and then continue south before heading back to Moreton at the end of the day.
Stow is the highest of all the Cotswolds towns, situated around a main market square. As with Moreton, we wandered Stow without an agenda, stopping in shops and turning down side streets as we went.
A can’t miss: The door at St. Edward’s Church, which looks like something you’d find in a fairy tale rather than at the back side of a church.
With time to spare before the bus to Bourton, we dropped in Lucy’s Tea Room to have a mid-morning snack- cheese scones and elderflower spritzes. Lucy’s is known for its great cream tea and beautiful back garden.
Stow is also home to The Porch House, England’s oldest inn, which dates back to 947 AD. And, an awesome cheese shop- The Cotswold Cheese Company, a perfect picnic supply store.
Next, we took the bus to Bourton, and stopped in Hartwells to hire a few bicycles. Before we explored Bourton, we pedaled off to the nearby, tiny villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter.
Biking to Upper Slaughter took us about ~15-20 minutes, then less than ~5 minutes to bike to Lower Slaugher, and finally ~10-15 minutes to head back to Bourton. You can also walk, but it takes slightly longer, and with only one day to explore, we wanted to fit in as much as possible.
Loved cycling through the hillside, surrounded by greenery and sheep. Few things compare to the English countryside.
The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter were my favourite part of the day- everything I imagined the Cotswolds to be, and less crowded than the main villages, which are a bit more accessible by car or bus.
If you’re able to visit Upper or Lower, they’re the kind of places you can easily wander without an agenda. Darling beyond description.
Soon enough, it was time to head back to Bourton-on-the-Water. As with Stow, Bourton is one of the most touristic villages of the Cotswolds. When we first arrived mid-afternoon, it was quite crowded, so we headed to Bakery on the Water for a cream tea- scones with strawberry jam, cream and tea. Then, we headed next door for a pint at Duke of Wellington’s garden.
In the mood to walk for a bit, we headed slightly outside town to The Mousetrap Inn, which we’d cycled past earlier in the day for another round of pints.
By the time we got back to town centre, it was after 5 pm and much less crowded. We wandered for near an hour before hopping on a bus back to Moreton.
I loved the Cotswolds so much, I’m planning another day trip to the Southern region sometime this summer.
Have you ever visited the Cotswolds?