April 22, 2024

Destination: Cotswolds

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Visiting Stow-on-the-Wold: A Local’s Guide

Stow-on-the-Wold is a charming market town in the Cotswolds known for its historic buildings, traditional pubs, and picturesque streets. It has a rich history dating back to medieval times and offers visitors a glimpse into quintessential English countryside life. From exploring the historic market square to enjoying scenic walks in the surrounding countryside, there’s plenty to see and do in Stow-on-the-Wold.

The Old English translation for ‘Wold’ means rolling hill, whilst ‘Stow’ is derived from the Saxon word meaning religious meeting place. So Stow-on-the-Wold roughly translates to Holy Place on the Hill.

Small groups of people Stow-on-the-wold-market-square
Stow-on-the-Wold town centre. Image: Shutterstock, Alena Veasey

Where is Stow-on-the-Wold? 

This ancient Cotswold Wool Town is situated beside The Fosse Way, a Roman road that runs from Exeter to Lincoln in an almost straight line. It is set on a rounded hill at a height of about 800 feet above sea level. This elevated position, and the effects of the wind and rain have encouraged the creation of the enclosed town square. Keeping the winter winds out of the town centre does, to certain extent, seem to work.

Along with Moreton in Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold is amongst the best known small Cotswold villages. It is nestled in the English County of Gloucestershire. It’s approximately halfway between the cities of Oxford and Cheltenham.

Locals tip: The village is very popular during the English summer months; it can also be especially busy at weekends and bank holidays. We recommend visiting any time of year as Stow-on-the-Wold always has something to offer visitors.

If you do plan to come during the peak season, plan to stay overnight so you can wander during the light summer evenings when the day visitors have left or get up and out at dawn before the crowds return.

How to get to Stow-on-the-Wold

The village is easily accessible by car and public transport, adding to the popularity of this destination for visitors exploring the Cotswolds area. There are several ways to get to Stow-on-the-Wold:

Train and Bus:

Moreton-in-Marsh is the nearest train station to Stow-on-the-Wold. From Moreton-in-Marsh, you can catch a bus to Stow-on-the-Wold.

Stow-on-the-Wold is well connected by train and bus from many English cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. Trains from Bristol and Manchester arrive at Cheltenham Spa station where you can catch an onward bus to Stow-on-the-Wold. Trains from London and Birmingham arrive at Moreton-in-Marsh where regular buses operate the short journey to Stow-on-the-Wold.  

London to Stow-on-the-Wold

If the Cotswolds is your first destination after landing in the UK, then you’ll most likely be starting your journey from central London.

From the airport the Heathrow Express arrives straight into London Paddington. Helpfully this is where you can catch your onward train to Moreton-in-Marsh which will take approximately 1.5 hours. After arriving in Morton-in-Marsh there are regular buses to Stow-on-the-Wold.

Coach: A budget friendly option is to take a coach ride from London. There are direct bus services from London Victoria Coach Station to Cheltenham, which is about 18 miles from Stow-on-the-Wold. From Cheltenham, you can catch a local bus or taxi to Stow-on-the-Wold.

Rent-a-car:

If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car. Depending on where you are coming from this is a good option with Motorways across the UK connecting you to nearby Oxford before main A roads  take you on into the Cotswold area. The journey from London to Stow-on-the-Wold by car usually takes around 2 – 2.5 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

Sunshine through the trees at St Edwards church Stow on the Wold
St Edwards Church Stow-on-the-Wold. Image: Shutterstock, PJ Photography

Top 6 things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold 

 

1. Explore the Market Square

The best thing to do if it’s not too busy (choose early summer evenings or off-peak days) is to soak up the village charm on foot. Stow-on-the-Wold has a historic market square lined with old buildings, shops, and cafes. Take a leisurely stroll around the square, admire the architecture, and browse the local shops selling antiques, crafts, and souvenirs.

The square is an important part of the town’s history, as it played host to Stow’s famous sheep fairs, where as many as 20,000 sheep changed hands at any one time!

Local’s Tip: A farmers’ market is held in the square, every second Thursday of the month. Time your visit with this and you’ll be able to witness the lively hustle of an English farmers market with an array of local produce on offer.

2. Visit St. Edwards Church

The parish church of St. Edward is an impressive landmark in Stow-on-the-Wold, known for its ancient Yew tree and beautiful interior. Take a moment to explore the church and its surroundings, including the churchyard with its historic gravestones.

The Church is thought to have been built between the 11th and 15th centuries with additions and renovations happening in Victorian times. Stain glass windows adorn the building and inside there is art work of the Crucifixion by Flemish painter Gapear de Craeyer dating back to 1610.

Local’s Tip: The church is open year-round and welcomes visitors to services and events. Particularly if your visit includes a Sunday, there is a Sunday service each week.

3. Countryside walks

The Cotswolds is a beautiful area to explore and you won’t be disappointed by any of the quaint villages you come across. So if Stow-on-the-Wold appears a little busier than you’d like, we recommend following some of the national footpath walks away from the village. These walks are particularly enjoyable if the weather is favourable.

There is a short 3.5 mile circular walk from Stow-on-the-Wold. You can walk some of the Fosse Way and incorporate another pretty Cotswold village, Broadwell. Not to be confused with Broadway!

Local’s Tip: Tick off a few Cotswold villages during your visit by walking. Starting out at Stow-on-the-Wold you can walk via Lower Slaughter and on to Bourton-on-the-Water which is a gentle 4.2 mile walk one-way. Take in unspoilt views of the rolling hills across quiet farmland and meadows as well as riverside paths. Catch a bus or taxi back if you want to rest your legs!

4. Antique Shopping

Stow-on-the-Wold is known for its antique shops and browsing through them can be a fascinating experience. Hunt for hidden gems, unique collectibles, and vintage treasures in the town’s various antique stores.

Local’s Tip: Try to get into the shops early before they become to crowded. We recommend arriving as close to the opening times as possible to browse at your leisure.

5. Art Galleries

There are well known Art Galleries located in Stow-on-the-Wold. The most notable, Fosse Gallery is one of the most important UK art galleries outside of London. Founded in 1980 the gallery has remained in its original, splendid location in the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold.

Wychwood Art is another fabulous gallery that supports local Oxfordshire artists and displays over 200 carefully selected pieces.

Locals tip: The galleries are not open on Sunday, so be sure to visit on alternative days to view some art inspiration.

Alternative things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold 

These alternative sights and activities offer a unique perspective on Bourton-on-the-Water and provide opportunities to delve deeper into the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of the Cotswolds. 

1. Cotswold Lavender 

The nearby Cotswold Lavender farm is one for the senses! Rows of purple, as far as the eye can see and lush smelling natural grown lavender. Immerse yourself in the fragrance, wander though the fields and take photographs of the spectacle. There is 70 acres of lavender is enough to help anyone unwind! On a beautiful sunny day you can enjoy the views across to Broadway and the Evesham vale.

Local’s Tip: The lavender fields are only open during a selected period of the summer months. Check before you plan your visit. Usually the dates are from the middle of June until early August. July is peak flowering for the lavender.

2. History tour 

If you want to learn more about the history of Stow-on-the-Wold then Sunday mornings are where history lessons are happening! The Stow Civic Society runs guided walking tours every Sunday at 10.30 am between the months of April and September. It is a 90 minute walk around central Stow-on-the-Wold where you will learn more about the history of the town from architecture and farming to the English Civil War and how Stow-on-the-Wold was affected.

Local’s Tip: This tour is an interactive, light hearted walk where not only will you learn historic facts but they’ll be plenty of light hearted humour and village tales thrown in.

3. English pub walking tour 

With plenty of public houses (pubs) within walking distance around Stow-on-the-Wold why not create your own tour. Sample British ales and ciders and soak up the classic English pub atmosphere in these historic establishments. From the Queens Head Inn one side to The Bell pub the opposite side of Stow-on-the-Wold you can enjoy a merry walk through the town and sample some classic British pub food as you go.

Local’s Tip: Start your tour in the afternoon and continue into the evening when the day visitors have gone and the town is quieter. Soak up the warmth of the summer evenings in a pub garden before enjoying your dinner alfresco. If you’re visiting in the winter months, pubs are equally enjoyable as the perfect cozy hideaway from the chilly evenings. Sip drinks by an open log fire and chat to the locals, the ideal winter warmer.

Cotswold lavender fields with blue sky and far reaching views
Lavender fields, Cotswolds. Image: Shutterstock, Peter Nadolski

Where to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold 

Stow-on-the-Wold has some charming places to stay but as with much of the Cotswold area, you won’t find big name chain hotels. Think boutique hotels, independent Bed and Breakfasts or unique farm and glamping stays. It is advisable to book in advance as accommodation gets booked up very quickly during the peak season. Here are our recommendations for where to stay in and around Stow-on-the-Wold.  

Number Four at Stow

https://hotelnumberfour.com/

A boutique hotel with 21 rooms offering accommodation for a variety of travellers including families and solo visitors. The rooms offer air conditioning and onsite is also an award winning restaurant. The hotel and restaurant sit just a mile outside of the town and offers a modern, countryside setting.

Sheep on Sheep Street

Another wonderfully, luxurious independent hotel. Situated in the heart of Stow-on-the-Wold you won’t have to go far to get some rest. The bedrooms are tastefully furnished and have added touches of luxury throughout to make your stay extra special. The tooms are situated above a pub which provides a fantastic atmosphere and dinning year round.

The Bell at Stow

14 charmingly rustic rooms are part of this pub on the outskirts of the town. Dog friendly in the heart of the Cotswolds, it offers cosy and very comfortable rooms. The pub food is fantastic and will provide a hearty breakfast as part of your stay.

The Old Stocks Inn Stow on the wold
The Old Stocks Inn Stow-on-the-Wold. Image: Shutterstock, jax10289

The Old Stocks Inn

https://www.oldstocksinn.com/

This unique coaching inn is housed in a 17th century building but despite its age, the rooms and décor are contemporary and comfortable whilst being full of character. 16 bedrooms and a restaurant make it a wonderful choice to stay for a Cotswold break. Best of all in the summer months there is a hidden gem of their private walled garden where you can enjoy a bite to eat or afternoon drink in a truly peaceful spot.

Stow Lodge Hotel

This hotel overlooks the historic market square and makes for a great place to rest after a day exploring the Cotswolds. Set in picturesque gardens the Lodge Hotel has been run by the same family for over fifty years. The hotel is inviting and friendly with a relaxed atmosphere. Guests can opt to eat in the hotel restaurant which serves traditional British food.

Where to eat in Stow-on-the-Wold 

Restaurant, pub or café? There are lots of options to dine in style or grab a quick bite to eat. With the village located in the heart of the Cotswolds, there are fantastic independent bakeries and tearooms offering mouthwatering cakes and scrumptious British Cream Teas.

Lucy’s Tearoom offers just that, with the option to indulge in a classic cream tea experience in their outdoor courtyard or indoor tearoom.  They also offer a variety of homemade treats and takeaway options.

The Hive is another highly recommended café in Stow-on-the-Wold. Providing a mouth-watering breakfast menu as well as a selection of homemade lunch options from sandwiches to Frittatas. They offer Gluten free alternatives and of course can serve up a scrumptious cream tea.

Local’s Tip: The Farmers Market is held on the second Thursday every month. But if your visit doesn’t coincide with this date then there is the option of The Cotswold Farm shop and the Organic Shop. Both shops offer locally sourced produce and delicacies to take home. They are located on the main road through Stow-on-the-Wold.

The Bell at Stow pub
The Bell Pub at Stow-on-the-Wold. Image: Shutterstock, Alex Fonda

Pubs and restaurants 

If you’re staying later into the evening, overnight or just fancy a bigger meal then there is a handful of restaurants and classic British pubs to be found in Stow-on-the-Wold.  

The Porch House: Claimed to be the oldest inn in England, The Porch House offers a historic setting and a menu of contemporary British dishes with a focus on fresh, local produce. The restaurant’s charming interior and picturesque courtyard make it a popular choice for dining. They have several events each month so be sure to check out their website before visiting.

The Bell at Stow: Situated in the heart of Stow-on-the-Wold, The Bell is a traditional pub serving a changing seasonal menu alongside a selection of real ales and fine wines. The menu features dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, including steaks, burgers, and fish and chips.

The Sheep at Sheep Street: As well as being a top favourite place to stay, they also have a fantastic restaurant. Open for breakfast until evening as well as providing a children’s menu there is plenty of options on the menu to suit everyone.

Overall, Stow-on-the-Wold captivates visitors with its classic Cotswold charm, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and leisurely pursuits.  

We would recommend spending time in the Cotswolds area and giving yourself flexibility to adjust your schedule according to weather and how busy the towns and villages are.  

Walking the Cotswold area always provides the opportunity to come across hidden gems, stunning views and ‘off the beaten track’ eateries to ensure you leave having had your own unique Cotswold experience.  

Fancy cycling through the Cotswolds? Check out our Cotswold guided bike tours.  

Experienced by

Sophie

Content Marketing Manager

Cotswold Tours

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