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June 28, 2023

Destination: Cotswolds


In this article

Best Itinerary in the Cotswolds, Oxford & Bath

We would like to introduce you to the more untrodden side of the Cotswolds: the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside first thing in the morning, the best pubs known to man (and, by the way, English food is much better than its reputation would suggest!) and some great community spirit.

Plus, some of the quirkiest folk you’d ever care to meet: eccentric, witty, unfailingly polite, generous with their time, and willing to tell you story after story – especially if you buy them a pint!

So, for the best of both – the historic and world-renowned landmarks as well as the hidden gems known only to the locals (and a handful of others), here’s what you can expect from a 5-day tour of the Cotswolds…

Signpost in Painswick, Cotswolds
The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile route that traverses the length of the Cotswolds. Image: Jonathan Bickle

Getting from London to the Cotswolds

Best mode of transport: Railway from London Paddington

We know that many North American visitors to the UK will know that London, lovely as it is, isn’t England. London offers loads to see and do (far too many to mention here) but there’s a whole country waiting for you once you break past the M25 and venture into the green and pleasant pastures of the English countryside.

The joy of the Cotswolds is partly its proximity to one of the world’s busiest airports – London Heathrow – whilst also exemplifying England, with its gentle green hilly countryside, chocolate box cottages, and picture-postcard villages. It’s a great place to visit, no matter the weather.

The River Coln flows through the pretty village of Bibury. The popular Swan Hotel sits in the background. Image: Ben Arthur

The quickest and easiest way to get to the Cotswolds is by railway, with departures from London Paddington at least every 30 minutes to destinations such as Kemble, Cheltenham Spa and Moreton-in-Marsh. Prices vary depending on the time of day and the day of the week, but the service is usually reliable.

Heading to the Cotswolds via taxi or private car is as risky as it is expensive, with the M40 and A40 being notoriously busy at rush hour. On a good day, you’ll do it in around 1 hour 30; hit rush hour and you could be stuck for hours.

Links around the Cotswolds are relatively good, with local buses linking up the main towns and villages, and a railway serving the major towns like Cheltenham and Bath.

The Main Attractions in the Cotswolds

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (or National Landscape which it is now referred too) offers you more than you could fit into one visit. The good news is that whatever you choose to do, you’ll be sure to hit gold. In fact, the Cotswolds’ location is a great place in which to base yourself and make day trips outwards.

The top towns and villages to visit are Bath, Oxford, Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, Tetbury and Cirencester (among many others).

There are many and varied activities to do in the Cotswolds, from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, to the east, prehistoric Stonehenge to the south, Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon to the north, and Bath Spa to the west. 

Bampton, the filming location for Downton Abbey is within easy reach, and Chedworth Roman Villa, beautiful Hidcote Gardens and Snowshill Lavender Farm are all situated in the heart of the Cotswolds.

So, whilst you have the pick of the bunch, we’ve devised a 5-day tour itinerary taking you in an anti-clockwise direction, to give you an immersive experience of the glorious Cotswolds.

Your 5-day Cotswolds Itinerary

Day 1: Oxford

After arriving in London its onwards to Oxford, the “City of Dreaming Spires”, and your first stop on your 5-day tour. Find yourself surrounded by the iconic University architecture of Christopher Wren.

The imposing silhouette of the world-famous Bodleian Library. Image: Ahh Bear

While you’re in Oxford, take some time to saunter around the collages (for a small fee), take a look around the world-famous Bodleian Library, and enjoy a sip of Old Rosie at the Tuf Tavern, one of Oxford’s oldest pubs.  If you have time after all this, enjoy a punt from Magdalen Bridge along Christ Church Meadows.

Punting on the river in Oxford. Image: Ben Arthur

Day 2: Stonehenge & Avebury

Avebury is a beautiful National Trust World Heritage site exemplifying some of England’s neolithic history. Built between around 2850BC and 2200 BC, this huge circular henge encompasses Avebury village and incorporate’s Britain’s largest stone circles – with almost 100 stones.

Stonehenge, the better-known henge, is Salisbury Plain’s prehistoric monument, with its large ring of vertical sarsen standing stones. Their dimensions: 13 feet tall, seven feet wide and weighing 25 tonnes!

Day 3: Bath

Bath is a great choice for those wanting to take in a bit of history and enjoy some modern dining. Check out Thermae Bath’s rooftop pool as well as the historical spa museum. And, if you have time, take a trip up the Kennet and Avon canal to Bathampton for a pint at The George Inn.

The architecture in Bath is easy to spot on screen thanks to the honey-colour stone. Image: Bradley Pitchard-Jones, Unsplash

Day 4: Chipping Campden to Hidcote to Stratford-upon-Avon

Into the heart of the Cotswolds and Chipping Campden is one of the area’s quaintest villages, and a great place to base yourself while you make a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon via Hidcote.

Residential house in Chipping Campden, Cotswolds
A typical residential street in Chipping Campden. Image: Ben Arthur

Hidcote Manor is famous for its gardens, designed by American Anglophile, Lawrence Johnston during the Arts and Crafts movement. The series of “garden rooms” full of shrubs, herbaceous borders and rare species of trees are well worth a visit, particularly during the Spring or Summer.

Borders at Hidcote Gardens, Cotswolds
One of the many borders at Hidcote Gardens. Image: Ben Arthur

We have lunch at Broadway Tower, with its quirky tower and views over 16 counties of England and Wales. If you have time, in the afternoon walk into the Jewel of the Cotswolds, Broadway, with its bustling High St and antique shops for afternoon tea at the Broadway Deli. In the late afternoon, it’s on to Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace. Catch an evening show at the world-famous theatre or stroll down the river Avon. Return to nearby Chipping Campden for the evening.

Day 5: Blenheim Palace

When you reach the World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace (accessible via railway to nearby Hanborough Station), you can expect a mixture of breathtaking scenery and historic enrichment.

You have the pick of the delightful Pleasure Gardens, a tour around the palace itself, as well as walks around the fantastic grounds, with their thousand-year-old oak trees, Grand Bridge, lakes and woodlands.

In summary

This itinerary is just an example of the many and varied options available to you when you come to the Cotswolds.

Our complete guide to visiting the Cotswolds covers more of the need to knows, and if you’d like more structure to your stay, why not check out our guided walking tours?

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Cotswold Tours

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