There are very few regions in England that can match the charms of the Cotswolds. Located in the south central part of the country, it consists of numerous small villages perched upon rolling hills with houses made from the uniquely colored Cotswold stone. Visiting these idyllic and enchanting towns will take you back in time and will leave you in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds them. Some people take their time to explore on foot, hiking along the Cotswolds Way, while some rent motorhomes and camp along designated campsites like Charlbury. Get a head start on planning your holiday by getting to know a handful of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds.
Most Beautiful Villages in the Cotswolds
Once described as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds, Bibury lies in the Gloucestershire region, right on the River Coln and just a short drive from the market town of Burford and Cirencester. It’s also the closest town on this list to central London. Some of the village’s notable attractions include the Saxon church of St. Mary’s, which is a Grade I listed building, the 16th century cottages that line up Arlington Row, and the Bibury Trout Farm. You might find the location familiar once you arrive considering it’s one of the most photographed villages in the Cotswolds and a popular choice for filming Hollywood movies. If you decide to stop by Bibury, try to do so before lunchtime to avoid the hoards of daytrip visitors.
You can easily spend several hours walking along the small streets of Bourton-on-the-Water and visiting the many shops that cater to tourists in this village the English refer to as the “Little Venice” of the Cotswolds. Located just four miles away from another popular stop, Stow-in-the-Wold, Bourton’s charm lies near the walkways that trace the paths of the River Windrush as well as the elegant low bridges that pave the way for its patches of green and tidy stone banks. Some of the village’s highlights include a perfume factory, an authentic zoo for birds they refer to as Birdland, and a miniature version of the village made with authentic materials called Model Village. Those who have an affinity for trains and cars will also find the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection worthy of a quick stop.
The village’s history goes back to the medieval period where it led the way in wool production. Its name even took after an old English word for “market.” Chipping Camden was once a largely popular town, known by most of Europe. You can still see remnants of this fame as you walk along the main street that curves slightly and is filled with many ancient and traditional Cotswolds houses that were considered gilded masterpieces. These structures, each with their own distinctive trimmings, are what make Chipping Camden one of the Cotswolds most charming towns. Chipping Camden is also home to the Cotswold Olimpick Games, the preamble to the modern Olympic games.
Stanton is easily one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. This sleepy village sits beneath the slopes of Shenbarrow Hill and lacks any commercial establishments with the exception of The Mount Pub. The pretty houses made with traditional Cotswolds limestone serve as the town’s decoration, lining its long main street that stretches up the hill. Its lack of tourism is the major reason for its attractiveness, allowing those who purposely visit or stumble upon the village the peace and quiet that is often lacking in larger, more accessible villages within the region. This also allows the village to remain largely unchanged, preserving the town’s historic houses and churches. Stanton is on the path of the Cotswolds Way so the occasional hikers will likely be the only tourists you’ll see wandering the serene streets.
Perhaps the largest of the small villages within the Cotswolds, Stow-on the-Wold, is best known for its fair and its association with the English Civil War. Its accessibility makes this village a major stop for tourists particularly those merely on daytrips to explore the Cotswolds. The town’s vast market square is a testament to the village’s importance in trade, particularly in wool, where a reported 20,000 sheep were sold at one time. The sheep might be gone, but the town remains a major shopping centre, this time for art, antiques, and local crafts. One of the town’s most popular sites is St. Edward’s Church, a Grade I listed building that dates back to the 11th century. Historical records show that it was used as a prison for the defeated royalists during the Battle of Stow-on the-Wold in 1646.