A stay in the UK is not complete without going to the prettiest Cotswold villages. There’s Bibury as a shooting location for Bridget Jones’ Diary. There’s also Stratford-upon-Avon and its most famous resident, William Shakespeare. Don’t forget the beautiful Highgrove Gardens, the Tetbury home of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla!
Picture honey-coloured stone homes adorned with topiary trees and a running stream. While this is a dream for some, it’s what a Cotswold village is – and some just naturally stand out with their timeless beauty.
You will never run out of things to do in all Cotswold villages. They are truly more than just pretty locations, as I travel to attend the Chipping Campden Music Festival or just relax or just enjoy homemade meals at The Old Bakery Tearoom.
Scroll down and find out the very reasons why the Cotswolds is deserving of the distinction of an Area of Outstanding Beauty.
List of Pretty Cotswold Villages
To choose the prettiest among all of the Cotswold villages is such a dire task, but if I could name just one, it would definitely be Bibury.
Often if not always synonymous with Bibury’s popularity is Arlington Row. It is known to many as being the picture-perfect Cotswold village. Its 17th-century stone cottages lent their beauty to the famous Hollywood film Bridget Jones’s Diary.
It is my ultimate dream to stay at The Snug at Arlington Mill here in Bibury. This holiday cottage was once a museum but is now available for rent. Imagine cosying up in a place so historic and iconic, not to mention just a lovely walk away from the Bibury Trout Farm.
Burford, although not technically a village, is too pretty not to mention. This little town is famous for being the home of the stunning St. John The Baptist Church, a place built in a bloody history and intricate architecture.
Burford is also a popular shopping destination, although not of the usual kind. You see spaces entirely dedicated to ties, antiques, premium pet items and even cheese.
England’s oldest pharmacy is also right here at Burford. Reavley’s has been around since the year 1734.
Adding to the charm of this town are the old picturesque stone houses and Burford’s medieval bridge. Truly, the “Gateway to the Cotswolds” has so much in store.
3. Chipping Campden
Known to be the “Jewel in the Crown” among all the Cotswold towns and villages, Chipping Campden is a market town where you see one of the most awe-inspiring High Streets in England.
At the top, you are welcomed by the stunning St James Church, a structure that came to life through the efforts of wealthy wool merchants and farmers.
There is also the Market Hall (hence the name “Chipping”) which was originally built for the primary purpose of selling cheese, butter and poultry.
You don’t visit Chipping Campden without strolling along the Cotswolds Way. The reward for the curious one is the naturally beautiful Dover’s Hill, a place where you can relax and enjoy the splendid views across the Malvern and Cotswold hills.
As if frozen in time, Lacock has a kind of charm that can be appreciated by all generations.
This place is so pretty that I am no longer surprised that productions, including the famous Harry Potter series and BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, have chosen Lacock as one of their locations.
A visit to Lacock means diving into the archives at the Fox Talbot Museum and the of the Lacock Abbey. Know more about photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot including the story of how his family played a huge part in the history of the estate.
I can imagine myself going on a riverside walk here in Lacock, passing through famous local spots thoughtfully specified in guides distributed in the area. Lacock is truly one of the prettiest Cotswold villages to visit in the UK.
Moreton-in-Marsh is well-known for its chocolate box houses, moreso for the Bell Inn and its connection to JRR Tolkien.
Imagine walking past 17th and 18th-century buildings and seeing the historic White Hart Royal, a manor house which once served as a residence for King Charles I during the Civil War.
Even the shops and tea rooms at Moreton’s High Street are housed in visually appealing Cotswolds stone buildings.
I was delighted to find out that Moreton-in-Marsh has a direct link to London by rail. Along with other modes of transportation available here, the place is highly accessible both to tourists and locals.
Snowshill is a picturesque Cotswold village known particularly for its breathtaking views over the Severn Vale. It is peppered with honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottages that have lush green scenery as their natural backdrop.
Snowshill is also famous for the Snowshill Manor, a place where Charles Paget Wade housed all his unusual collectables. As you enter the manor, you can’t miss the Snowshill Manor Gardens and all its different artistic themes.
This hilltop village rises above Broadway, Buckland and Laverton. When the snow starts to fall in the area, this place is the first to receive it – hence the fitting name.
Set on top of a hill, Stow-on-the-wold rises at 800 feet, making it the highest town in the Cotswolds.
The Market Square is filled with reminders of the place’s past and a showcase of the things present. It’s the perfect place to have an afternoon stroll.
St Edward’s Church at Stow-on-the-wold is visited for many beautiful reasons, yet one of them stands out: it’s to take a photo of its north entrance, dubbed as The Yew Tree Door.
Stow-on-the-wold is where you can find what’s said to be England’s oldest inn, The Porch House. In the business for eleven centuries now, the inn might just be the perfect accommodation for you on your visit here.
Tetbury is a small charming Cotswold town that is over 1,300 years old. Did you know – it is the home of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom!
A visit to Tetbury will always include a stroll up and down The Chipping Steps in the itinerary. This set of cobbled steps has been part of The Chipping since the medieval era.
If you time your visit well, you might just catch one of the most unusual races in the UK. The Tetbury Woolsack Races involve men and women running up a hill carrying 60 or 35 pounds of the wool sack.
The name Winchcombe means “Valley with a Bend,” and it is so because as you can see streets that curve along the valley. It is a popular place for walkers, particularly those that are exploring the national trails namely the Cotswold Way, Gloucestershire Way, Wychavon Way, Wardens Way and Windrush Way.
Winchcombe has embraced this charming reputation that it even holds an annual walking festival every May, earning them the well-deserved “Walkers Are Welcome” status.
Four sites in Winchcombe that I highly recommend you visit include Sudeley Castle, Hailes Abbey and Stanway House. These historic places will tell you interesting stories which make a visit to this market town a very enriching experience.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a very popular Cotswold village, so expect a crowd when visiting this destination. It is most known for its effortless charm, made even more appealing by the stone bridges crossing the River Windrush which gave it the nickname “the Venice of the Cotswolds.”
There are plenty of things to admire in Bourton. The village is filled with waterfront cafes, craft shops and tea rooms that are waiting to be explored.
Afterwards, head over to the Model Village which is a miniature replica of Bourton itself, complete with all the landmarks you see in the area. These include an intricate one-ninth representation of the beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water Baptist Church and St. Lawrence’s Church.
11. Castle Combe
Castle Combe is not called “The Prettiest Village in England” for nothing. This picturesque village has a timeless charm that never fails to attract visitors and residents alike. It lent its beauty to numerous productions such as the classic Doctor Doolittle, The Wolf Man, Stardust and Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse.
Among the landmarks that I suggest you visit at Castle Combe is the medieval Market Cross monument. Just east of the iconic St. Andrews Church is this well-preserved structure that signifies the importance of the cloth industry for the locals.
When curiosity strikes, head over to the nearby church and see the 15th-century faceless clock which is said to be one of the oldest working clocks in the country.
Lechlade-on-Thames is a Cotswold market town which lies on the River Thames. A walk along the Thames path relaxes you in a way that only the scenery here can.
You can also tour Lechlade on a boat. Especially when it is the summer season, people go on river cruises armed with fishing tackles for a complete Lechlade experience.
One of the worthwhile activities you should not skip is a visit to the St. Lawrence Church. It is hard to miss, as its slender spire will call you from miles away. The St. Lawrence Church is considered one of the finest parish churches in Gloucestershire.
Stratford-upon-Avon is known by many for being the birthplace of the world-famous playwright and poet William Shakespeare. When you take the Shakespeare trail, you’ll see his birthplace on Henley Street, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, among other landmarks.
A visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company is also a must when you are here. If possible, go see the production and appreciate Shakespeare’s work in arguably the best location to do so. The place is a Grade II listed building which can seat a thousand spectators.
When you need a short break from all things Shakespeare, head over to the Magic Alley. This place is filled with books, toys and crafts designed to enchant the playful child in you. I wrote a detailed article about the 11 Best Things to do in Stratford-Upon-Avon (Warwickshire, UK), I encourage you to read it.
Tewkesbury is a Cotswold market town made famous by Shakespeare’s line in Falstaff which goes, “Wit as thick as Tewkesbury mustard.” It is also known by many because of the Battle of the Roses that happened in 1471.
Many come to Tewkesbury for its rich heritage. One perfect example of this is Tewkesbury Abbey. It is highly regarded as one of the greatest examples of medieval architecture in the United Kingdom.
At the Tewkesbury Town Museum, you will see important artefacts that date back from the Neolithic, Medieval and Roman Periods. The unspoiled seventeenth-century building alone is a sight to behold already!
Woodstock is a Georgian town with a name that means “clearing in the woods”. It is home to several antique shops, great restaurants and pubs, local cafes and interesting galleries.
When in Woodstock, people make it a point to visit the Blenheim Palace. This famous landmark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is over 300 years of age. It is well-regarded as a Baroque architectural masterpiece.
Another reason why most visitors come to Woodstock is because of its link to Sir Winston Churchill. This is the former UK Prime Minister’s birthplace, so you’ll find exhibitions dedicated to his life.
Broadway is a picturesque Cotswold village with a charming appeal. It got its name from the width of its high street – which I suggest you visit should you need an attractive location to do a bit of retail therapy.
Dubbed the “Jewel of the Cotswolds,” Broadway is home to some of the most historic and luxurious accommodations. Take The Lygon Arms Hotel as an example, with prominent figures such as Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I being some of its guests.
The December air gives Broadway an extra dose of beauty, with its traditional Christmas market filling the street atmosphere with scents of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. Christmastime is definitely a great time to visit this Cotswold village.
I wrote another article about Best Things To Do In Worcestershire, UK. This is a detailed guide, as I lived in this county for a decade.
Painswick is not regarded as “The Queen of Cotswolds” for nothing! This well-preserved historic town is filled with stone buildings and topiary trees that make for a stunning landscape.
Don’t miss the chance to see the beautiful St. Mary’s Church. This Grade I-listed structure has interesting stories to tell, as evident in the bullet holes and cannon scars that can be found within its walls.
A lovely stroll along Painswick is enough to make you fall in love with this Cotswold town. You will find no shortage of restaurants and cafes to try. The Falcon Inn, in particular, serves not only great meals but also a piece of Painswick’s history.
Stroud is a well-connected Cotswold town with plenty of recognition under its roof. It is named “the best place to live in the UK” in Sunday Times’ 2021 review.
Stroud prides itself to be the home to one of the best Farmers’ Markets in the UK. Around the district, you are spoiled with choices of market locations but the award-winning Fresh-n-Local Stroud Farmers’ Market stands out from the rest.
Gloucestershire’s famous Five Valleys – Chalford, Nailsworth Valley, Ruscombe, Slad and Painswick – all met at Stroud. For tourists and residents, this means picturesque walks and endless explorations.
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