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“People in London walk around like they’re being chased for their lives.”

This is from one of my favourite memes about being a Londoner. And it’s true. It’s just who we are. But occasionally, we like to slow down. Escape the hustle and bustle, and go somewhere quieter.

One of the most common places to retreat to, is the peaceful lands of the Cotswold. Famous for its old beauty, the Cotswolds consists of green pastures and pretty little villages. It's completely different to the big cities, and yet it's close enough for a day trip. To see exactly why tourists and locals alike flock there, you’ve got to see it for yourself. Here’s my

1 day itinerary in the Cotswolds.

Stop 1: Burford

One of the most picturesque towns, and found on the edge of the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire, Burford is an obvious first stop. This hillside market town sweeps down, through a row of ancient buildings, towards the River Windrush. On the way you’ll find cute cafes, tea shops, book stores, and antique stores, as well as souvenir shops, pubs, and restaurants.

Take a walk around the little town to see the stone cottages whilst imagining its glory days as a medieval town.

The 15th-century church is also worth a look, and it has a pleasant cafe next to it, if you’re looking for a snack or a toilet stop.

At the bottom of the hill, is Tolsey Museum which houses displays about the town’s social and industrial past.

Free parking is available.

Stop 2: Bibury

“The most beautiful village in England”.

- William Morris (1834 - 1896) British textile designer, author, and artist.

16 minutes away by car, is “the most beautiful village in England”, Bibury (pronuncied buy-burry). Filled with stone cottages around the River Colne, it’s exactly what you’d imagine the English countryside would be!

The most famous spot in Bibury is Arlington Row. This row of stone cottages were built in 1380 as monastic wool stores.

Back in the middle ages, the Cotswolds were a centre of wool production. The lands were great for sheep, and so flocks of beautiful Cotswold Lions - native only to this area - were raised, as their long fleece made for perfect wool. In fact, the name Cotswold, comes from “Cot" and "Wold” meaning ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides’. The wool trade was very profitable, and most exports, during the most successful period of 1250–1350, were to Italian merchants.

Arlington Row features on many postcards, and is the most photographed scene in the Cotswolds, as well as having starred in the film Stardust. I’m sure they are used to having their houses captured, but, as you walk down, please respect the residents who live there.

The area is also well known for their local trout, which is farmed, and can be sampled at the Bibury Trout Farm. Their pretty open-air cafe also features a covered dining area at the back, which looks out onto the farm. The trout rolls, and sausage rolls are delicious, but pricey! So if you’re not quite hungry yet, I’d recommend just grabbing a snack, or a coffee, and saving yourself for the next stop.

There is free parking opposite the Trout Farm.

Stop 3: Bourton-on-the-Water

As the name suggests, this village straddles the River Windrush. Bourton-on-the-Water is a busier, and livelier place than the previous stop, without sacrificing scenic beauty.

Take a stroll around the village to take in the cute shops, low stone bridges, and stone cottages to see why it is nicknamed ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’. It’s also a nice place for an ice cream stop, or a picnic on the grass by the river.

Plentiful cafes offering pastries, cakes, afternoon and cream teas, ensure that you don't leave hungry! I can recommend the ‘cream tea’ at the Bourton Riverside Cafe is £6, and includes a pot of tea, a large scone, with cream and jam. Sit upstairs for a view of the river and Cotswolds scenes. There are, also, many restaurants for those looking for something more filling.

My mum enjoying scones with cream, and jam, and a pot of English tea

If you’re looking for a gift or a souvenir, pop to the Cotswold Candle Makers for homemade, delicious-smelling candles. It’s a place I’ll definitely be returning to!

Not far from there is the Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum. For £7.50 (£5.25 for children, under 5s are free), you can check out the rare collection of vintage cars, including the car that featured in the children’s TV series Brum! Anyone remember that, or just old-me…!

For parking, there are a couple of pay-and-display sites, just follow the P signs.

Stop 4: The Slaughters

Ignore the nasty sounding name, and check out The Slaughters. Lower and Upper Slaughter are peaceful little villages 5 minutes (by car) from Bourton-on-the-Water, and, although there aren’t as many attractions, nor shops, it’s lovely for a short walk, or a picnic by the river. If you’re short on time, you can skip this and head straight to the next stop.

Stop 5: Stow-on-the-Wold

At the top of a 244 metre hill, Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds. It doesn’t sound like much, but land is mostly very flat in this part of England!

The town features handsome stone buildings, and high walled alleys that were once used for funnelling sheep through for the famous fairs, where up to 20,000 sheep would be sold at one time during the height of its wool trade.

This town is also important as it held the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold in March 1646 during the English Civil War between Parliamentarians and Royalists.

If you’re into antiques, enjoy! Stow is well known as an antique shopping centre!


Tour or Explore:

Verdict: Tour or Explore!

I have decided on both as I, personally, prefer visiting the area without an organised tour. However, being ‘in the sticks’ it’s likely that it would be easier to visit the Cotswolds on an organised tour for transport reasons.

Whichever way you decide to visit, you'll enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of our country.


When to Visit the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are visited all year round. From cosy rentals during the cold winter months, to packed out summers by the river, there’s always a good time to visit!

During the month of February 2023, the villages had tourists, but it was quiet enough to enjoy the villages without having to fight for cafe tables, parking, or space in shops.


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