The Best Things to Do in the Cotswolds, UK

The 11 Best Things to Do in the Cotswolds, UK

Home to postcard-perfect villages and glorious rolling countryside, the Cotswolds is rural England in its finest form. Stretching through hills and farmland, the Cotswolds is loosely defined as the region between Stratford-upon-Avon in the north and Bath in the south.

Much of the Cotswolds is protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but the historical boundaries of the region spill beyond this, covering parts of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. 

Visit quaint villages built from Cotswold stone, including Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter, and Castle Combe. Stop in ancient pubs for a pint of local ale from the Hook Norton Brewery, hike the long-distance Cotswold Way, and roam the gardens of Sudeley Castle. 

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So, we’ve compiled our list of the best things to do in the Cotswolds for you. Stick to these fun and unique Cotswold bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous part of the English countryside!

The 11 Best Things to Do in the Cotswolds, England

1. Visit Bourton-on-the-Water

Best Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Bourton-on-the-Water

If it’s your first time in the Cotswolds, then Bourton-on-the-Water is the best place for a taste of the English countryside. This Gloucestershire village sits in the heart of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s home to those famous Cotswold stone buildings that the region is so renowned for.

Take a stroll along the winding banks of the River Windrush that runs through the village, and you can cross over the waters on the ancient stone-arched bridges that span it (in summer, the village plays a game of football between the bridges, when the water is low!). Bourton-on-the-Water has been a popular Cotswolds sightseeing attraction since Victorian times, and there are many unique museums for you to visit.

In the Cotswold Motoring Museum, you can find vintage cars and motoring memorabilia. There’s also the Model Village, an intricate, scale replica of the village, and the Birdland Park & Gardens, home to penguins and parrots. 


2. Explore Sudeley Castle’s Gardens

Cool Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Sudeley Castle

Constructed in 1443, Sudeley Castle is one of the most historic Cotswolds attractions you can add to your itinerary. Originally built by the powerful Boteler family, the castle fell into the hands of King Richard III a few decades later. The king built a lavish banqueting hall, the ruins of which you can see today.

Henry VIII spent a night at Sudeley Castle with Anne Boleyn, Catherine Parr (Henry’s last wife) moved here in her later life and is buried in the crypt, and in the Victorian era, the castle was renovated into a grand mansion. 

The Victorians began landscaping the impressive gardens you see today. Sudeley Castle is surrounded by 1200 acres of countryside, and you can explore the 10 distinct gardens that are open to the public. 


3. Fall in Love with Castle Combe

Unique Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Castle Combe

If charming villages and pretty high streets are the reason you’re in the Cotswolds, there’s no better place to be than Castle Combe. One of the best things to see in the Cotswolds, you’ll find Castle Combe in Wiltshire, where this gorgeous village sits on the banks of the Bybrook River.

Castle Combe is the picture-postcard vision of rural England you’ve always imagined. Stone houses, an arched bridge, and cobblestone streets have trapped Castle Combe in a bygone era, and the village has provided the backdrop for many a film setting over the years, including blockbusters like “War Horse,” “Stardust,” and “Dr. Dolittle.” 


4. Visit the Most Romantic Street in England

Fun Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Most Romantic Street in England

If you’re loving the Cotswolds vibe, then take a trip to the ominously named village of Lower Slaughter, where, surprisingly, you’ll find the most romantic street in England. Lined by willow trees and framed by limestone houses, Copse Hill Road is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.

One of the best things to do in the Cotswolds, this is rural England at its best, and Copse Hill Road has been recognized for its romantic appeal on several award-winning occasions over the years. Walk along the River Eye, visit the Old Mill Museum, and enjoy afternoon tea at the River Cafe. 


5. Explore Ancient History at Chedworth Roman Villa

Exploring ancient history at Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the coolest things to do in the Cotswolds. Located on the banks of the River Coln, the villa is thought to date back to the 2nd century AD. 

Constructed in increasingly elaborate stages over the course of two centuries, Chedworth Roman Villa is notable for being the largest estate of its kind to be excavated in England. This was the home of a wealthy, elite family, and among the ruins, you’ll find elaborate mosaics and examples of ingenious Roman engineering, including a tepidarium and an underfloor heating system.


6. Visit the Ancestral Home of the Churchill Family 

Cotswolds, England Bucket List: Blenheim Palace

A few miles outside of Oxford, you’ll find the vast grounds and lavish architecture of Blenheim Palace, which is one of the must-do things in the Cotswolds. The UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the early 1700s when it was constructed in the English Baroque style of the time for the Duke of Marlborough.

Step inside the lavish stately rooms and you’ll uncover the palace’s fascinating history. You’ll learn how the Duke was gifted the palace for winning the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 and how this became the ancestral home of the Churchill family. 

You can see where Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister, was born before exploring the vast, landscaped park gardens that surround Blenheim Palace. 


7. See Shakespeare’s Childhood Home

Must do things in Cotswolds, England: Shakespeare’s Childhood Home

The historic market town of Stratford-upon-Avon marks the northernmost extent of the Cotswolds. For literary lovers, Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the best sights in the Cotswolds, and you might already know that this is the hometown of Shakespeare.

Beautifully perched upon the banks of the River Avon, on Henley Street, you’ll find a preserved medieval cottage where “The Bard” himself was born in 1564. Nearby, you can visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where Shakespeare’s wife spent much of her life. 

Explore the historic sights, then see a modern performance of a Shakespeare classic at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre


8. Hike the Cotswold Way

What to do in Cotswolds, England: Cotswold Way

Spanning a distance of 102 miles from Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, south to the city of Bath, the Cotswold Way is a walk through nature and history. This long-distance hiking trail is one of the top things to do in the Cotswolds, and if you’re in good shape and the weather’s on your side, you can tackle the entire route in around 10 days.

Of course, if you’re in a hurry, then you can just walk the best sections of the Cotswold Way on day hikes, including hikes to Cleeve Hill, Sudeley Castle, and Broadway Tower. The National Trail traverses steep hills, old battlefields, and rolling countryside, and it’s the best way to immerse yourself in rural life in the Cotswolds. 


9. Ride the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Cotswolds, England Things to do: Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Embrace the nostalgia with a ride on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), which we think you’ll agree is one of the most fun things to do in the Cotswolds. The GWSR consists of 14 miles of railway track that have been painstakingly restored since 1981 by an army of local volunteers. 

The railway runs heritage steam trains and old diesel locomotives (which have also been painstakingly restored) between March and December each year. You’ll board at Cheltenham Racecourse, then sit back and enjoy stunning views of the northern Cotswolds as you roll through the countryside to Broadway. 


10. Escape to the Cotswold Country Park & Beach

Best Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Cotswold Country Park & Beach

The Cotswold Country Park & Beach is one of the most unique days out in rural England. Despite being miles away from any coastline, this large country park just south of Cirencester is home to the largest inland beach in the country. 

That’s right, in summer, you can take to the white sands of the Cotswolds, order a pint at the Beach Shack, and stand-up paddleboard on the lake. In winter, you might not want to take a dip in the lake, but you’ll love taking winter walks through the park. 


11. Have a Pint in the Pub

Best Things to do in Cotswolds, England: Have a Pint in the Pub

If you’re still wondering what to do after all that Cotswolds sightseeing, then it’s time to go to the pub. A quintessential English experience like no other, you can rest assured that the Cotswolds is home to some of the oldest and best pubs in the country. 

Even the smallest of villages in the Cotswolds have a local pub where you can enjoy a pint of local ale – including beers from the famed Hook Norton Brewery – and a hearty plate of fish and chips, steak and ale pie, or a Sunday roast. 

Head to The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold, which claims to be the oldest pub in England, visit The Fuzzy Duck in Armscote for excellent dining, or head to The Chequers in Chipping Norton for a traditional village pub experience. 

There you have it! The 11 best things to do in the Cotswolds. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Cotswolds?


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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