If you’re looking to get away from London, or another sticky UK city, for a weekend of fresh air and country bliss, the Cotswolds is your answer. Only two hours from the capital, the villages and towns are honey pots of quirky architecture and characterful cottages where deadlines and stress melt into mere memories. Instead, you'll spend your days pottering around decadent farm shops, chilling in cosy pubs and lounging around lakes with a strong chance you’ll bump into some famous faces along the way. For those in need of culture, chill and creative inspiration, the Cotswolds is the destination of dreams.
Don’t be fooled by its quaint and quiet facade; if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover the Cotswolds is a hive of activity and adventure with plenty of potential for a fairy tale ending. Hide from social media and your 5,278,542 notifications and be transported back to simpler times. Bumble down pretty streets, embrace cafe culture without Wi-Fi and discover some of the UK’s most enchanting landmarks like Blenheim Palace. Find your zen and shake off the last of the city smog by getting involved in some adrenaline-fuelled water sports at the 100+ lakes of The Cotswold Water Park. To help you, we’ve put together a guide full of places that will fill your belly, open your mind and help you live out your whimsical weekend fantasy.
For those looking to fill their camera roll with honey-hued houses
Arguably the most beautiful place in the Cotswolds, The Slaughters are where rose gardens and stone cottages line sleepy streams, and everyone moves at a gentler pace; Lower Slaughter is even home the most romantic street in Britain, Copse Hill road. The roads to get here are narrow and tricky for tour buses, meaning they’re often quieter than their neighbouring hot spots. Start at Upper Slaughter, and make your way down to Lower, stopping to admire the magnificent Lower Slaughter Manor en route.
Feel like you're in a fancy English period drama and explore the charming villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter by horseback; whether you’re an experienced rider or a first-timer, Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre will look after you.
The Slaughters have preserved their history by restricting commercial business in the area, so if you're looking for some shops pop down to Bourton-on-the-Water. The Cotswold Perfumery is a popular experience where you can try lots of different scents, take a course and even purchase some stunning costume jewellery.
Eat & drink:
Again, there is a better choice of eateries in Bourton-on-the-Water, one being the sensational Bakery On The Water. This riverside establishment is a welcome afternoon pick-me-up after a walk in the countryside – devour freshly baked bread and recharge with a good cuppa.
The Old Mill in Lower Slaughter is instantly recognisable: its grand stature reflecting in a pool of water. Dating back to the 19th century, it was in use until the late 1950s. However, today it houses a museum and charming café that are worth a visit.
Sleep just moments from The Old Mill at Thimble Mill, a classic cottage in Lower Slaughter. Made for two, this is the dreamiest place to pour yourselves a glass of wine, laze by the fire and let the world slip away.
For thrills, chills and frills
This Regency spa town has evolved over the last 300 years since the discovery of the first natural spring in 1716. Famous for the Cheltenham races and its variety of science, jazz and literature festivals, this is the place to stay if you’re looking for a slice of the action.
Something different (and a little bit cheesy):
Get involved with one of Gloucestershire’s quirkiest traditions and the global sensation that happens every year on the second bank holiday in May, on Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth. A 9lb double Gloucester cheese wheel is rolled down an incredibly steep (1:3) hill at around 70mph! You can join in with the ambitious (and mildly insane) and race after the cheese; if you reach the bottom of the hill first, you win it, making you the new big cheese (we're not even sorry.)
The Brewery Quarter is a clean and contemporary hub in the heart of Cheltenham, offering a fantastic range of shops, restaurants and bars. However, we like to advocate for local, independent shops too, so be sure to check out the flagship store of ethical brand Olive as well as browsing the stylish menswear stocked in The Union Project.
Eat & drink:
There is no better time to treat yourself than when you’re on holiday, so book yourself a table at Muse, a modern European restaurant that brings an eclectic fusion of flavours to the table. The meals are presented so beautifully you'll be forgiven for stopping everyone from eating so you can get your bird's-eye shot of the table.
Cleeve Hill is a beautiful spot for a panoramic picture as it’s the highest point in Gloucestershire and is also the highest peak of the Cotswold Hills.
Base yourself away from the bustling streets at Laverok Cottage, surrounded by verdant countryside and birdsong. After a long day of exploring, there will be no better feeling than sinking into the sumptuous sofa or soaking in the bath.
For those looking to get out of the tourist traps
Avoid the crowds and wander around the historic wool town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, the southern gateway to the Cotswolds. Admire its landmark architecture and pop into its lovely antique shops and hunt for your next keepsake.
Discover your next holiday read in the dinky Yellow Lighted Bookshop, select some stunning vintage jewellery from Top Banana and find some unique treasure for your home at Treacle George.
'Coffee makes the wheels go round' is a phrase we can all relate to, and it's the inspiration behind Tetbury's bike shop with a coffee bar. Veloton is effortlessly stylish with an impressive range of cycles and excellent coffee: it's the combo we didn't know we needed.
Number one on TripAdvisor and with a name that just spoke to us immediately, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Trouble House Cafe Bar. Whether you’re on the hunt for a delicious dinner, wholesome Sunday roast or just a decent sandwich, this place will satisfy your stomach and soul.
For a pretty picture venture over to Chipping Steps, lined with medieval buildings and classic cottages, and stop by the 17th-century market house.
Just a 10-minute drive outside of Tetbury, is a darling little stone cottage that sleeps four: Weaver’s Cottage - West End. This idyllic home has everything you’ll need for a cosy stay, including a snazzy coffee maker and DAB Bluetooth radio.
For a direct line from London into the heart of the countryside
Step off the train from London Paddington into this thriving market town and bathe in its serene and calming ambience. An excellent base for exploring the North Cotswolds, Moreton-in-Marsh is within 10 to 20 minutes of Stow-on-the-Wold, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway.
Cheese has already come up, but we couldn’t leave the Cotswold Cheese Company out. This artisan cheese shop on the main high street is your number one stop for purchasing all your goodies for a picky dinner - olives, oil and of course, cheese.
Eat & drink:
For an educational and merry day out, visit the fascinating Cotswolds Distillery, just a 15-minute drive from Moreton. You can participate in a tour and tasting or one of their masterclasses while taking in the beautiful scenes of the Cotswolds.
Foodies, nature lovers and those who like to indulge in a little luxury will relish in a trip to Daylesford Farm. Book into the spa, take a cookery lesson, capture everything!
Peony Cottage is the ultimate romantic retreat, and it even has two bathtubs in one room! Impeccably decorated and gorgeously furnished, you’ll struggle to leave this dreamy hideaway.
For film lovers, book lovers and those that just love each other
Feel closer to the magical world of Harry Potter by taking a trip to this medieval yet modern city. Renowned for its prestigious university, Oxford also offers some of the most romantic and indulgent experiences for visitors.
Want to make your loved one swoon? Pack a picnic and be gently chauffeured on a handcrafted punt past Oxford’s famous Botanic Gardens and Magdalen College School fields, and through Christ Church Meadows.
Oxford has a great variety of shops, however, the real deals lie in Bicester Village, just a 20-minute train journey out of Oxford. Browse over 160 designer and fashion brands with up to 70% off the retail price.
Eat & drink:
It doesn’t get edgier than sipping a cocktail in a neo-classical Greek Revival 19th-century former church. FREUD is café, bar, and bistro in the Jericho district of Oxford with stained glass windows, loud music, and worn out walls; there’s also a convenient happy hour to get excited about.
Recreate Harry’s first day at Hogwarts on the grand stone staircase inside Bodley Tower at Christ Church College, or look studious in Duke Humfrey’s Library where many of the film’s library scenes were shot.
Bring everyone together at Upper Tetchwick House, just outside Oxford but conveniently near Bicester village. This beautiful big house sleeps 12, features a swimming pool, and you can bring two dogs along too!
For a step back in time
This idyllic medieval village is peppered with chintzy tearooms and specialist boutiques and is steeped in history. While you’re here, take a trip to the oldest chemist in England, Robert Reavley, found within a building which was constructed at the turn of the 18th century.
The Mad Hatter Bookshop is a must-visit, because how can you possibly read a book without donning a fantastic hat?! This unique shop is truly one of a kind and has had a lot of heart and soul invested in it.
Eat & drink:
Souvenirs are sure to go down a treat if you buy them at Burford’s Sweet Shop. This old-fashioned sweet shop is a nest for nostalgia with jars and jars of traditional sweets as well as new favourites too. For an outstanding meal, nip off the high street to The Angel at Burford. Famous for its relaxed vibe and cosy feel, you’ll feel right at home here and in its sunny enclosed garden.
All of it. Burford is the classic Cotswolds shot; with chocolate box cottages, buttery brickwork and well-pruned gardens, it’ll be hard to take a bad picture.
Widford Mill Cottage is just a mile and a half outside of Burford, which is a blessing because the walk alongside the River Windrush is free therapy.
See you soon?
If you’ve been tempted to grab your weekender and pack it with your most elegant attire, walking boots and some stretchy trousers (you’ll thank us after your umpteenth roast dinner) then be sure to browse our entire collection of Cotswolds cottages. There is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a cosy cottage or a contemporary haven complete with a hot tub. Looking for something to pass your time on your journey? Have a read of our eight apps that are sure to improve your life.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.