A weekend in the Cotswolds – ideas for first time visitors

What to see in the Cotswolds - a guide for first time visitors to the area of outstanding beauty in England

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Have you visited the Cotswolds? With so much happening in London it is easy to forget there is lush green countryside so close by. But sometimes you need a break from all the hustle and bustle.

On a bright autumn weekend we took to the road in search of the rolling hills, fields with hedgerows and pretty villages of the Cotswolds.

Where are the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds spans an area of 800 square miles and 6 counties of England. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an easy 2 hours drive to the west of London and even closer to Oxford.

Major towns of the region include Bath in the south and Cheltenham to the north.

Things to do in the Cotswolds

Spot picturesque villages on walks in the Cotswold countryside

Ramble or walk the country pathways

There are over 8,000 paths to follow around this beautiful countryside including public footpaths across farmland where you cross lush green fields and babbling brooks.

You might also come across some friendly horses. Check out this fantastic listing of local walks for visitors of all abilities.

Visit picturesque villages and market towns

The picturesque villages in the Cotswolds look like they are straight out of a Constable painting or a movie. I lost count of how many villages described themselves as “the prettiest in England”.

Truth be told they are all remarkably beautiful. As are the bustling market towns located on the cross roads of ancient trading routes.

Much of the charm lies in the golden Cotswold limestone used to make so many of the buildings and the many colourful hanging baskets, flower pots and gardens.

This is the England those of us who grew up on Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy imagined.

Castle Combe has been featured in the movie ‘The War Horse’

Castle Combe - one of the prettiest villages in England

Pretty Biddestone – the village where we stayed Pretty Biddestone village complete with village green and duck pond

Bourton on the Water – a charming riverside village

Bourton on the Water - Take a stroll along the banks of the river

View photos and read more about pretty Bourton-under-Water

Lacock – a market town of half timbered houses

Half timbered houses in Lacock the Cotswolds

Enjoy a Cotswolds pub lunch

When visiting the English countryside you must enjoy a pub lunch and Cotswold towns and villages boast some of the best pubs in the UK.

If you are visiting on a Sunday you will always find roast beef with all the trimmings including Yorkshire pudding and gravy on the menu.

We ate at The White Hart in Ford (near Castle Combe) and the Swan Inn near Burford and both were delightful.

Fossick for antiques and local produce

Part of the charm of this part of the world is you feel you have stepped back in time to an era where people took time to chat over the garden fence and lend each other a cup of sugar in exchange for blooms from their garden. I have a feeling this neighbourly spirit continues in the Cotswolds.

As you visit the villages you will notice some houses have set up little stalls selling homemade jam, lemon curd and cakes. If you fancy a unique souvenir from your visit to the Cotswolds then you simply leave your payment in the letterbox or tin provided.


I also spotted many antique and brocante shops along our journey through the Cotswold villages. This shop in Lacock sold vintage military uniforms and clothing as well as items dating back to the Georgian era.

antique shopping in the Cotswolds

Indulge in cream tea

If you haven’t enjoyed a cream tea then you are missing out on one of the finer aspects of English food culture. Typically comprised of scones with jam and whipped cream this afternoon treat is accompanied by tea served in a proper tea pot.

There are hundreds of tea rooms in the villages and towns of the Cotswolds.

The Bridge Tea Rooms in Bradford on Avon serve their award-winning cream teas in this beautiful 17th century building made of Cotswold stone.

The Bridge tea rooms in Bradford on Avon

Where to stay in the Cotswolds

If you are traveling with your partner, there are some wonderfully romantic luxury hotels and bed and breakfasts to be found all over the Cotswolds region. Here are some options for the best place to stay in the Cotswolds.

Cotswolds hotels on my wishlist

Abbots Grange [Broadway] – if you have ever dreamed of staying in a medieval manor house then Abbots Grange is the place for you. Fortunately this beautiful hotel dating from the 13th century comes with modern luxuries and a cosy lounge for relaxing after exploring the nearby village and countryside.

The Bay Tree [Burford] – Award winning The Bay Tree has tonnes of charm and everything you would expect from a countryside inn. Enjoy a soak in your roll top bath and snuggle up in front of the roaring open fire on cooler evenings. On sunny days you can relax on the lawn on a deck chair. So perfectly English.

Self catering in the Cotswolds

As ours was a trip with the extended family we chose to stay in a cottage we found on AirBnB. We arrived at the picture perfect village of Biddestone in the late afternoon sun and were thrilled to find our perfect little cottage overlooking the village green. The cottage was just a few steps from a quirky pub and a thriving duckpond.

We felt like we had stepped right into a storybook. Inside the cosy bedrooms and roll top bath completed the picture of an idyllic stay in the country.

Where to stay in the Cotswolds - a cosy cottage

There are a wide range of cottages available across the Cotswolds. Read my article on finding the best cottage rentals on booking sites such as Booking.com. If you are keen to try AirBnB for the first time you can use this AirBnB discount code.

Why visit the Cotswolds

If your idea of a relaxing break includes country walks, long lunches in quaint pubs and exploring picturesque villages then look no further than the Cotswolds.

I am kicking myself that we had not visited sooner and am already pining for some of the delicious homemade lemon curd that seemed to hold the essence of the countryside. I am looking forward to exploring the Cotswolds again very soon.


Have you visited the Cotswolds? Which place do you think wins the title of prettiest village in the Cotswolds?

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As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience

The Cotswolds | England - things to do in the Cotswolds and where to stay in this area of outstanding natural beauty and picturesque villages

26 thoughts on “A weekend in the Cotswolds – ideas for first time visitors

  1. WhenTwoWander says:

    It looks so beautiful! Brits are so keen to leave and see other countries that they often forget about the beauty of their own nation. These images are what the phrase ‘Quintessential Britain’ means.

    • Katy says:

      Tanja, Bath is right at the bottom of the region and surrounded by the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. Where we stayed in Biddestone is a perfect base for Bath but we chose to keep things a little country that weekend

  2. trekkingwithbecky says:

    This looks just wonderful, like something out of a storybook or a movie. I took tours outside London and we only drove by the Cotswolds. I have to spend at least a weekend there like this some day. Thanks for another fantastic post! 😀

  3. Jennifer Howse says:

    Love the Cotswolds although I’ve never been to Biddestone. Will have to check it out. I’d add to this list: pub walks, doing the food markets and visiting the grand churches. X

    • Katy says:

      Great question! Trains leave for the major towns and cities in the region such as Chippenham, Gloucester and Cheltenham from Paddington in central London. You then connect with buses to reach the smaller towns and villages but I think in this case the car is easier. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. tots2travel says:

    TV is such a big influencer. I saw the Penelope Keith documentary on the Cotswolds the other week and I was smitten with the place, your blog post has sealed the deal. Beautiful part of the world that I have yet to set foot in!

  5. Ahila says:

    Very much enjoyed reading this post as I am visiting a few of the places you have mentioned here, later this year. While I know that it would be wonderful to visit the region in summer, I am still looking forward to experiencing winter in the Cotswolds.

    • Katy says:

      Perfect time to visit for cosy winter pubs! You will have a lovely time Ahila. If you can get to Castle Combe in the late afternoon you will miss the crowds

  6. Clare Thomson says:

    It’s such a wonderful part of the world. Thanks to you, I’m adding Biddestone to my must -see list next time I’m down there.

  7. Claire says:

    Fabulous. We’ve been dreaming of relocating from Sydney to Castle Coombe form Sydney for years now. We are finally heading that way later this year – I’ll be using your handy guide when we get there!

    • Katy says:

      Oh how wonderfully romantic Claire! It is the prettiest place. I loved the little tea room and the honesty boxes for local produce. It’s like the perfect country dream

  8. Dawn Toms says:

    We live in Chippenham, so would recomend a visit to the bottom end of the Cotswolds. If you plan your visit around the first Sunday in the month then a visit to Frome Market is a must, with a wonderful Farmers Market, a great Antiques Market, and lots of Crafts in the Cheese and Grain building all on the same day, all the local shops are open too, such a pretty setting, my favorite day of the month!
    Come visit, you won’t be disapointed
    Best wishes, Dawn

    • Katy says:

      Thanks so much Dawn. What a delightful suggestion. Chippenham Farmers Market sounds absolutely wonderful. I hope we can make it there soon

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