Chocolate box villages, gently babbling streams, and plenty of history are to be found in abundance should you choose to visit the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Cotswolds. Here’s how to spend one day in the Cotswolds; your perfect travel guide and road trip itinerary for one of the most beautiful areas in the UK!
How to Spend One Day in the Cotswolds Road Trip Itinerary
Designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds are easy to reach from both the capital city of London, as well as the City of Dreaming Spires, AKA Oxford. Bath, Bristol, and several other large towns and cities can also be found within an hour’s drive, meaning that should you have the opportunity to rent a car while in the UK, the Cotswolds are quite easy to visit.
Though this road trip itinerary is just over an hour in terms of driving time, you’ll want to set aside an entire day so as to fully explore each of the towns listed within this guide. Starting earlier in the day will ensure that you get better light and once in Bibury, finding ample parking space can often be hard!
Fuel can be found in some of the major Cotswolds settlements, though to find the best prices, I’d recommend fuelling up at a large superstore pump prior to visiting. When driving around, it’s worth noting that the speed limit changes often and roads can be quite narrow in places!
Driving time: 1 hour 14 minutes
Distance Covered: 39.8 miles
This one day in the Cotswolds starts in the beautiful village of Bibury. Often referred to as the ‘most beautiful village in the Cotswolds,’ Bibury is all buttery stone and winding paths. Though not as large as you might expect for such a highly-rated settlement, there’s still a church to explore, as well as a tearoom and several pubs.
While in the village, be sure to check out Arlington Row. Now owned and managed by the National Trust, this set of cottages is one of the most photographed locations in the Cotswolds and was constructed as early as the 14th-century. Once a wool store, today these small cottages function as homes. Should you wish to experience life as a local, you can rent No. 9.
There is perhaps no entrance to a Cotswold town quite as impressive as that of Burford. Set above the River Windrush and against the backdrop of rolling green hills, Burford is focused along one main high street which is set along a steep hill.
Highlights of Burford include the oldest chemist in England, an antique shop that was formerly an inn where Charles II took his mistress and an impressively large church. Elsewhere in town, the Burford Museum is housed within a Tudor building, while the Mad Hatters Bookshop is completely independent and well worth a wander around.
Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ as a result of the many meandering streams and waterways which cut their way through Bourton-on-the-Water, this is easily one of the most beautiful Cotswolds towns.
Home to attractions such as a Model Village which is an exact replica of the town and is the only grade two listed model village in the UK, Parish Church, and the Cotswold Motoring Museum, you can’t visit the region and miss out on this delightful town! Another particularly exciting highlight of Bourton-on-the-Water is the Dragonfly Maze- which is fun for all ages and not just kids!
Lower Slaughter & Upper Slaughter
After visiting Bourton-on-the-Water, it’s just a short drive to one of the more remote villages this region has to offer. Accessible only via narrow lanes, Lower Slaughter has little by way of attractions. Instead, there are pretty villages to snap photos of, as well as plenty of pretty floral displays in the summer months and an impressive mill which can be spied from across the village.
Should you have a little more time to spare when in the area, be sure to check out the nearby Upper Slaughter. Less touristic than its neighbour, the hamlet was listed as a ‘Double Thankful Village’ following the World Wars as it lost no men in WWI and none in WWII. Less touristic than Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter is easily one of the best-kept secrets of the Cotswolds.
If you’ve ever seen photos on Instagram of the Cotswolds, you’ve likely spied the Great Yew in the yard of Stow-on-the-Wold’s Church. The medieval built St Edward’s Church is a Grade I listed building and is just one of the many things Stow-on-the-Wold has to offer.
So iconic is the yew door, that it’s thought by many to have inspired Tolkien to create The Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings. In other parts of this pretty settlement, you can expect to find gems such as the oldest pub in England (the Porch House) and some pretty stunning architecture.
For those who love antique shopping, Winchcombe likely needs no introduction. Home to numerous places in which to shop all things vintage and second-hand, be sure to stop by Winchcombe Antiques Centre for one of the best coffees in town! Once in the basement, you’ll soon find a small tea room serving freshly brewed beverages and delicious cakes, perfect for a little gourmet break during your one day in the Cotswolds.
Nearby to Winchcombe, you’ll soon discover that there are plenty of attractions which will appeal to history buffs. For example, Belas Knap is an ancient Neolithic Burial Ground, while Hailes Abbey is the remains of a 13th-century Cistercian Monastery. Elsewhere close by, Sudeley Castle is a 15th-century fortress constructed on the site of a 12th-century castle.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds
Though 24 hours in the Cotswolds is more than enough to scratch the surface of this area of England, I highly recommend basing yourself in the region for a long weekend so as to make the most of your visit, as opposed to simply spending one day in the Cotswolds. Here are some of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds (based on online reviews and location):
The Bay Tree Hotel: Once home to Elizabeth I’s Baron of the Exchequer, this pub is priced at a reasonable rate and can be found in the pretty town of Burford. Well-reviewed, this three-star hotel is situated just steps away from Burford high street. Check further details and prices here.
Buckland Manor: Located close to the beautiful town of Broadway, this luxury country house hotel is the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. On land which was once owned by the Abbey of Gloucester, there’s been a large manor house on site since the 13th-century. Check further details and prices here.