Looking for the best things to do in the Cotswolds? I’ve rounded up the very best activities and compiled them into a handy guide for you. You’re welcome.
Nothing says ‘English country charm’ like The Cotswolds. It’s so fairytale picturesque that you half expect a Hobbit to come strolling through the woods as you explore the countryside.
The charming setting of this area makes it a bucket list destination to explore, where the houses built from the local stone are honey-hued and tranquillity reigns supreme. But don’t let that fool you—there are plenty of things to do in The Cotswolds.
Let’s dive into the fascinating places and things to see in this unique corner of the world.
Looking for a place to stay in The Cotswolds? The Plough Inn offers various breakfast options with stunning rooms and a delightful garden that’ll charm your socks off.
Top 5 Things to Do in The Cotswolds
Visit Blenheim Palace
Currently the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace is a spectacular structure and a World Heritage Site to boot.
The garden’s fountain and miniature hedges in swirling designs set before the golden Baroque façade reminded me of the decadence of Versailles. Numerous events occur here throughout the year, from food festivals to flower shows.
They even celebrate Halloween and Christmas with elegant festivities. Get your admission ticket here and experience the architectural opulence of Blenheim Palace for yourself.
Wander Around Bourton-on-the-Water
On holidays and weekends the little village buzzes with visitors and locals participating in seasonal events and attending restaurants and cafés. The English tea rooms are particularly delightful. There are also plenty of attractions to visit, such as Birdland Park & Gardens.
If you want to experience it at a more tranquil pace, visit earlier or later in the day when the crowds disperse. It’s also a favourable place to choose when staying in The Cotswolds.
Take a Trip to Bibury
Dubbed the most beautiful village in England by William Morris, Bibury is as quintessentially quaint as you can get.
Arlington Row’s darling 14th-century stone cottages are a must for anyone seeking The Cotswolds attractions. Heading to Bibury Trout Farm may sound like an unusual thing to do in The Cotswolds, but looking down at the terraced ponds is reminiscent of the rice fields in Asia.
You can catch your own trout and cook it up at the BBQ facilities on site. Buy some wine from the shop and some sides from the deli for a sensational meal.
Walk in the Footsteps of Royals at Sudeley Castle
Architectural decadence is only the beginning of this honey-coloured castle’s appeal. Sudeley Castle has plenty to offer visitors with a delightful array of events to round out your social calendar with culture and good old-fashioned fun.
There’s even a royal grave in a 15th-century church in the gardens where Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s wives, lies interred.
Scone, anyone? The Castle Kitchen Pantry offers delightful snacks and light treats, making it the perfect pit stop for cyclists or walkers.
Admission tickets aren’t needed to visit the Pantry.
Explore Westonbirt National Arboretum
Dating back to Victorian times, the Westonbirt National Arboretum sports over 18,000 trees and shrubs over 600 acres of land.
It’s divided into two sections: ‘Silk Wood’ is a traditional woodland, while ‘The Old Arboretum’ has meticulously designed features with stately avenues and rare trees. No matter what time of year you go, the Arboretum will show you each facet of her natural beauty as she cycles through the seasons.
Admission is £11 for adults.
Brilliant Things to See & Do in The Cotswolds During the Day
Stroll Around Cirencester
No trip to The Cotswolds is complete without visiting the region’s largest town, Cirencester. This market town is oozing with charm, but there’s also plenty to see and do.
Start your day with brunch at He Says She Waffles (which might just be the best name ever) before hitting up the town – colourful houses, indie bookstores and cafes abound.
Make sure you pop into the Corinium Museum for a snoop around ancient relics and pretty mosaics, too.
Marvel at Lacock Abbey
Lacock Abbey is one of the best places to visit in The Cotswolds for film enthusiasts. It has featured as a location for films such as ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
With architecture this stunning, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. There are medieval cloisters and magnificently furnished rooms to explore, not to mention a splendid Gothic hall. The gardens are charmingly dishevelled, with ruined walls, overgrown climbing roses, and an old apple orchard.
Visit this gorgeous gem on a day tour from Bath.
Visit the Cotswold Lavender Farm
Are you wondering what to do in The Cotswolds? Stepping into Cotswold Lavender is like stepping through a portal to the lavender fields of Provence, France.
The bright and pastel purples pop against verdant greens, but not for too long as the staff must harvest the ripe flowers at their blooming peak. Visit the farm from early to mid-July for the best Instagram-worthy images – this is when the flowers are at their fullest.
No matter what time of year, stop by their extensive gift shop for lavender-scented skincare, oils, fragrances, and even flavoured salts and chocolates for eating.
Admire Gloucester Cathedral
On the very western fringes of the Cotswolds is the city of Gloucester – and its stunning cathedral.
You could easily spend a full day exploring Gloucester’s streets alone, but not dipping into this gorgeous building would be criminal. The vaulted ceiling and the West Window are both equally impressive.
Psst… like with Lacock Abbey, many scenes from Harry Potter were filmed within Gloucester Cathedral’s walls. Keep your eyes peeled.
Take a Day Trip to Bath
While you’re considering the best places to see in The Cotswolds, why not take a day trip to Bath? Technically, it’s just outside the Cotswolds area, but that’s no reason for you to miss out on the splendid Roman Baths or a nice thermal soak.
You can even take a walking tour around this small town to catch all the best sights, such as Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, and Bath Circus.
Meander Around Stow-on-the-Wold
If you’re wondering where to go in The Cotswolds for antiques, Stow-on-the-Wold is the answer. This village is the northernmost in The Cotswolds and was once a centre for trade, being at the junction of seven major roads.
Today it’s the perfect place to stop for a bit of antiquing and brunch from a superb local deli. Spending an afternoon here is one of the top things to do in The Cotswolds.
Before you leave, take a look at the front door of St Edwards Church, flanked by two yew trees—it’s said to have inspired Tolkien when writing ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Walk The Cotswold Way
With scenic views of The Cotswolds countryside spread about you, going for a walk, hike, or run along this route is one of the best free things to do in The Cotswolds.
You can pick and choose some of the shorter walks along this scenic—and rather romantic—160 km long trail that starts in Bath and ends in Chipping Campden. The best spots to stop for views along the way include Winchcombe, Stanton, Snowshill, and Cleeve Common.
If you’re a fan of ‘Downton Abbey’, a visit to Bampton will surely be on the cards for you. It’s one of the popular places to go in The Cotswolds for fans, as it’s the filming location for the village that features in the popular show.
I highly recommend visiting St Mary’s Church, whose spire is a landmark in the village. For a more in-depth experience of the numerous ‘Downtown’ locations, this tour is practically perfect as one of the unique things to do in The Cotswolds.
Visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park
Seeing rhinos graze in front of a beautiful English manor is a juxtaposition that just shouldn’t exist. Oh, but it does.
Visiting Cotswold Wildlife Park is one of the top fun things to do in the Cotswolds – it boasts plenty of exotic animals including zebras, lions, giraffes, and red pandas. It also has the largest collection of reptiles in the UK, including a rare green anaconda.
Cool Things to See & Do in the Cotswolds at Night
Have a Pint at The Porch House
Although many pubs claim to be the oldest in Britain, The Porch House claims the true title with parts of the building that are reputedly over 1,000 years old.
One look at the brickwork, and you’ll believe it. The decor is country at its core, with antler chandeliers and comfy tufted chairs, and the menu is classic British beautifully plated.
See Fireworks and Dragons at Warwick Castle
Forgive me, this is another spot that technically isn’t inside The Cotswold’s borders, but I just had to include it. Not only is Warwick Castle a gorgeous architectural and historical point of interest (and one of England’s prettiest castles) but it also hosts many exciting events through the year.
Jousting tournaments and Dragon Slayer shows are standard, and knights walk about in full regalia while fireworks brighten the night sky. It’s genuinely one of the best places near The Cotswolds for a little historical adventure.
Get your entrance ticket here and, if you fancy, stay the night in the Knight’s Village in a glamping tent or lodge.
Things to Do in The Cotswolds: Practical Tips for Your Trip
How Long to Visit in The Cotswolds?
You can see a fair bit of The Cotswolds in a day’s visit, although it may feel rushed. I recommend at least two to three days to enjoy The Cotswolds at your leisure and fit in all the best sights. If you have an extra few days, add a trip to Oxford to the visit too.
Best Time to Visit The Cotswolds
The summer season almost guarantees crowds of tourists, so September to November is an excellent time to experience The Cotswolds. Early September is best, as you’ll have more daylight hours and it won’t be quite as cold.
If you’d prefer to see the countryside flush with flowers and lush greenery, May might be a better time to visit.
Where Should I Stay in The Cotswolds?
The Maytime Inn (Mid-Range)
With warm wooden accents in the rooms and an excellent breakfast (the pub food is pretty fantastic), this Inn offers beautiful views from its courtyard. I highly recommend it for a cosy country experience.
The Double Red Duke (Luxury)
With decadent interiors, this 16th-century inn welcomes you and your four-legged friends with disarming country hospitality. The rooms are spacious and comfy, and it’s in a top location for sightseeing in The Cotswolds.
Recommended Tours in The Cotswolds
- Full-Day Downton Abbey, Oxford and Bampton Tour from London
- From Oxford: Half-Day Cotswold Taster Tour
- Blenheim Palace Admission Ticket
- From Oxford: Cotswold Explorer Full-Day Tour
Things to Do in The Cotswolds: Map
Read More Guides to The Cotswolds
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