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Fulfilling every romantic notion you have ever had about England, the Cotswolds, a swathe of lush rolling hills peppered with achingly pretty villages, is a region nearly untouched by the passage of time. 

The area grew wealthy on the back of the medieval wool trade and was then largely bypassed by the Industrial Revolution, leaving the grandeur of its stone cottages, churches and stately mansions undisturbed.

It's an incredibly picturesque region and its most popular towns are thronged with tea rooms, antique shops, crafts stalls, and visitors. Despite this, the Cotswolds remains a place where you can head out on a solitary country walk, strolling through quiet villages and passing tucked-away rows of old workers’ houses fronted by cottage gardens.

The Cotswolds are like every cliché from a children’s storybook come true: honey-stone cottages festooned in wisteria, pocket-square gardens, and winding, tiny roads that seem to lead to nowhere. They’re everything you imagined the English countryside would be — but better.

UK & Ireland specialist Marissa

Things to see and do in the Cotswolds

Rolling hills and stone walls

The Cotswolds is made up of a band of Jurassic limestone that provides the warm, honeyed stone seen in its villages, as well as the grassland that fed the sheep which brought such wealth to the region in the Middle Ages. The flat layers of quarried Cotswold stone proved ideal for building dry stone walls, and they form the boundaries to most gardens and fields you’ll see.

It's an extremely attractive pocket of England, with waves of hills creating sheltered dips that swaddle small villages and rocky outcrops that provide sweeping views across the rolling countryside. Numerous walking trails, many of which follow old sheep driving routes, cross the hills offering a fantastic way to avoid the crowds, discover bucolic views and soak up the languid charm of hidden villages.

Idyllic villages and towns

The CotswoldsEverywhere you go across the Cotswolds, you'll encounter incredibly pretty villages where stone- or thatch-roofed cottages, higgledy-piggledy almshouses and graceful old manor houses and churches line narrow, winding streets. In many, streams crossed by low stone bridges run alongside the streets, roses clamber gaily over doorways and the village pub is the seat of the community.

Places like Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water are undeniably beautiful but can get overrun with visitors. Others, like Lower Slaughter and Chipping Campden, offer a more genuine charm. In reality though, every village you visit is a pretty one.

Farming history

In the Middle Ages, the Cotswolds became renowned as the source of the finest wool in Europe. The local sheep, a breed introduced by the Romans, thrived on the rare grassland in the hills. At the time, half of England's economy relied on the wool trade, and as the merchants grew rich they built grand manors and churches.

Even the industrial buildings were picturesque, as seen in Arlington Row in Bibury. A terrace of stone cottages with low eaves and a roofline sagging through age, it was once a wool-processing factory. The Cotswolds remains a largely agricultural area and is home to the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, which educates the next generation of gentlemen farmers, and Highgrove, Prince Charles' private estate.

Churches

Fleeces from Cotswold sheep held enormous economic value in the Middle Ages, and the wool merchants became fabulously wealthy over a short period of time. The merchants frequently invested part of their fortune in their parish churches, and the Cotswold 'wool churches' are replete with towering spires, ornate tombs, monumental brasses, elaborately carved rood screens and vivid wall paintings.

One of our top recommendations is the magnificent Saint James Church in Chipping Campden, though even in the smallest Cotswold hamlet you’ll find a church worth stopping to admire for its stone carving or stained glass.

Artisan produce

Although the importance of sheep farming in the Cotswolds has dwindled since its heyday, the area remains prosperous with many affluent London commuters and wealthy locals fuelling an interest in organic and artisan produce.

Food festivals, farmers’ markets and craft producers abound, and it's possible to buy a vast array of local cheeses, organic meats, honey and ale. Sophisticated restaurants serve refined modern British dishes made from local produce, you can visit small breweries in Witney and Hook Norton, or you can simply relax in one of the ubiquitous traditional pubs. These timeless drinking holes generally have low beams, roaring fires, local craft beers and often serve anything from simple British fare to haute cuisine.

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who's been there

Audley Travel specialist Andea

Start planning your tailor-made trip to the Cotswolds by contacting one of our England specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring the Cotswolds

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in the Cotswolds, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of the Cotswolds

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near the Cotswolds

    Accommodation choices for the Cotswolds

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit the Cotswolds. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • The Old Stocks Inn, Stow on the Wold

      The Old Stocks Inn

      Medium

      This characterful hotel with modern, contemporary decor has a great central location in the heart of Stow-on-the-Wold as well as wonderful local character and a convivial atmosphere.

    • The Slaughters Country Inn, Lower Slaughter

      The Slaughters Country Inn

      Medium

      The Slaughters Country Inn is a charming property with over 500 years of history. Rooms are simple but elegant and the rustic, characterful bar area offers a casual place to relax with locals in one of the most scenic locations in the Cotswolds.

    • The Slaughters Manor House, Lower Slaughter

      The Slaughters Manor House

      First Class

      The Slaughters Manor House is a boutique hotel set in a 17th-century mansion located in one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Each room is individually styled, service is impeccable and the fine dining menu is one of the best in the region.

    • The Fish Hotel, Broadway

      The Fish Hotel

      Medium

      Ideally located near an idyllic Cotswold village, The Fish Hotel offers excellent value for money and its relaxed ambience and range of in-house activities makes it a fantastic option for visitors looking for a unique stay in the region.

    • Buckland Manor, Broadway

      Buckland Manor

      First Class

      Set amid an expansive estate, this historic manor house offers a quintessential English stay in the heart of the Cotswolds. Its intimate size ensures a strong focus on service, enabling guests to feel that they are in a home away from home.

    Ideas for experiencing the Cotswolds

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting the Cotswolds, and which use the best local guides.

    • Photographic tour of the Cotswolds
      The Cotswolds

      Photographic tour of the Cotswolds

      Photographic tour of the Cotswolds

      Explore the stunning Cotswolds and improve your photographic skills on a full-day, private tour of the region. You'll be led to some of the most scenic locations by a professional photographer who will help you get impressive shots of the region.

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    • Explore the northern Cotswolds
      The Cotswolds

      Explore the northern Cotswolds

      Explore the northern Cotswolds

      Explore the undulating hills, exquisite medieval villages and rich history of the northern Cotswolds on this private, full-day tour. With the help of a local expert, discover the region's timeless charm and handsome architecture before you finish up in a quintessential village pub.

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