Where to Stay in the Cotswolds: A Step-by-Step Guide

Wondering where to stay in the Cotswolds? This step-by-step guide walks you through the best bases for exploring this gorgeous region. 

The Cotswolds are amongst my favourite destinations in the UK for a short getaway. The name “Cotswolds” itself means “gentle hills” and that’s exactly what you get in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The distinctive style of architecture is what first attracted my attention (the deal was sealed once I had a pint from the Cotswold Brewing Company). Buildings are almost exclusively made of local limestone. In the North Cotswolds, the stone is a golden colour, while further south it takes on a honey-coloured hue.

With so much to see and do in the Cotswolds, it can be difficult knowing where to stay. But that’s why I’m here — my comprehensive guide will find the perfect village for you, as well as the best hotel!

Best Places to Stay in the Cotswolds

Since the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, there are plenty of options when it comes to finding accommodation. Nevertheless, there are a number of villages that stand out for their charm, beauty and convenience.

Moreton-in-Marsh: The Best Area to Stay in the Cotswolds

Moreton on Marsh
Moreton on Marsh

Located on the main railway line from London, Moreton-in-Marsh certainly earns its nickname of “the Gateway to the Cotswolds”. This market town is full of history, having once sheltered a fugitive king. It also boasts the iconic honey-coloured cottages the area is famous for.

Thanks to the railway line, Moreton-in-Marsh is the starting point of most visits to the Cotswolds. However, it’s worth basing yourself here, too, since it has easy access to the highways. A 15-minute drive will take you to some of the loveliest country manors and their superb gardens, such as Batsford Arboretum and Hidcote Manor.

Moreton-in-Marsh Highlights

  • Tuesday Market – stroll around this bustling shopping centre that dates back to the 13th century.
  • The Bell Inn – enjoy the warm atmosphere of this historic inn that Lord of the Rings fans believe was Tolkien’s inspiration for The Prancing Pony, in his world-famous book series. 
  • The High Street – with many pretty buildings, notably the Redesdale Market Hall, dating back to the 18th century, there are some great photo-ops.

Suggested Hotels in Moreton-in-Marsh

  • White Hart Royal – back in its days as a coaching inn, it hosted King Charles I during the Civil War. It offers a cosy charm and a central location.
  • The Manor House Hotel – another of my favourite hotels in the Cotswolds, this one offers four-star luxury and superb period features.
  • Redesdale Arms Hotel – for a bit of modern decor and spaciousness amongst all the history, you won’t go wrong with this Cotswold hotel.

The Slaughters

Upper Slaughter
Upper Slaughter

The River Eye and an expansive meadow divide Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter. Both of these villages are absolutely gorgeous and offer easy access to the famous nature of the Cotswolds.

These two villages are amongst the top places to stay in the Cotswolds, England, because of their picturesque buildings. It’s an ideal area to admire the iconic style of architecture, particularly around sunset.

I found it particularly interesting that Upper Slaughter is one of only a few “Doubley Thankful Villages” which survived both the First and Second World Wars without losing a single resident in battle.

Top Things to do in The Slaughters

  • Lower Slaughter Mill & Cafe – there has been a mill on this site since at least 1086 when it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
  • Sudeley Castle & Gardens – this thousand-year-old castle has been visited by four English queens. It also boasts rare and endangered birds.
  • Warden’s Way – walking is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds. This circular route meanders through four villages.

Suggested Hotels in The Slaughters

  • Lords of the Manor – this four-star establishment is one of the best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds. 
  • The Slaughters Country Inn – for stylish, modern bedrooms and relaxed dining, this is my go-to in the Slaughters.
  • The Slaughters Manor House – one of only a few of the Cotswolds hotels with a 5-star rating, here you can enjoy four-poster beds and local fine dining. 

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water

The “Little Venice of the Cotswolds” truly deserves its nickname. The River Windrush flows through the centre of the village, leading to a need for footbridges that mimic the charm of Venice. 

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the busier villages in the area, thanks to the array of attractions within the village itself. It’s also home to some of the best hotels in the Cotswolds. All in all, you get to enjoy nature, history and architecture without having to leave the town centre.

Bourton-on-the-Water Highlights

  • The Model Village – this miniature replica of the village also has a pretty beer garden on-site.
  • Birdland Park and Gardens – one of the UK’s largest exotic bird collections, this park boasts over 500 birds.
  • Cotswold Brewing Company – beer fans can enjoy a tour of the facilities and a tasting; there is also gin, cider and vodka on offer.

Suggested Hotels in Bourton-on-the-Water

  • The Dial House – there are contemporary rooms and a pretty garden, right on High Street.
  • The Lansdowne Guest House – this is one of the most modern hotels in the Cotswolds, England.
  • The Wheatsheaf Inn – there’s plenty of luxury and English hospitality in this hotel (the beaten copper baths are my favourite aspect).

Burford

Burford
Burford

This village dates back to the Middle Ages and has plenty of relics to show for its long history. It’s particularly famous for its many antique stores where I’ve whiled away hours (literally, I’ve spent an entire afternoon losing myself in the treasure troves of Burford). 

Everyone from King Charles to Horatio Nelson Burford has visited Burford. It’s not hard to see why: the gentle River Windrush and an impressive bridge at the end of a characterful high street make for a postcard image.

Burford Highlights

  • Church of St John the Baptist – this church dates to 1175 and is a stunning sight to behold.
  • Antique shopping – Antique stores such as Antiques @ the George line Burford’s High Street.
  • Kilkenny Lane Country Park – enjoy country views as you wander along the surfaced footpaths and bicycle lanes.

Suggested Hotels in Burford

  • The Lamb Inn – with a history stretching back to the 15th century, a central location and designer bedrooms, what more could you ask for?
  • Swan Inn – one of the loveliest Cotswolds luxury hotels, the Swan Inn is ideal for some peace and quiet.
  • The Fox Inn – English hospitality and modern luxury make a happy combination in this 400-year-old inn.

Places to Stay in the Cotswolds: Frequently Asked Questions

Check out my answers to some common questions about travelling this stunning area.

What is the Best Area to Stay in the Cotswolds?

Moreton-in-Marsh has earned its epithet, “the Gateway to the Cotswolds”. It offers easy access to the area and doesn’t compromise on charm.

From this village, you can still visit other Cotswolds villages but won’t have to rush to check-in and out since it’s right near the highway and the train station.

How Many Days Do You Need in the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds are the kind of place people visit on holiday, fall in love with and then return to, again and again. The good news, though, is that you can pack for just a weekend and still enjoy the place.

If you have a car with you, you can drive between the main villages in a couple of days. If you’re reliant on public transport, give yourself more time. Just remember that one of the major highlights of the Cotswolds is the slow pace of life, so to appreciate this you may want to spend a week or so.

How Do You Get Around in the Cotswolds?

Getting around the Cotswolds is an important aspect of your trip to consider. 

Travelling without a car is difficult but it’s entirely possible. If you arrive by train in Moreton-in-Marsh, it’s possible to walk or cycle to neighbouring villages. 

There are public and private bus services that you can make use of in the Cotswolds. However, they run infrequently so check the timetable ahead and plan your getaway accordingly.

Getting around with a car is by far the easiest way of exploring the area. You can hire a car in bigger towns like Moreton-in-Marsh and Cirencester.

Practical Tips to Consider Before Booking Hotels in the Cotswolds

  • Moreton-in-Marsh is the most convenient village in the Cotswolds. However, if transport is not an issue, you may want to choose a village that’s better suited to your interests. For instance, Burford is probably the best village for shoppers.
  • With only 138 000 residents but 38 million annual visitors, there can be a short supply of accommodation. Book ahead!
  • If you’re on a budget, consider visiting the Cotswolds during spring or winter, when there are fewer visitors and lower costs. If costs aren’t a factor and you don’t mind the crowds, summer and autumn are the best times of year to enjoy the abundance of natural beauty.
  • If you’re a particular fan of the landscape, consider booking a hotel that is accredited with the Green Tourism Business Scheme. This helps to preserve the local environment.

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