Have a mini adventure with these great day trips to the Cotswolds. Visit imposing palaces and quaint villages; walk scenic country trails and roam immaculate formal gardens, and enjoy some of the best experiences the Cotswolds has to offer.
Sometimes you need a little adventure. Not an adrenaline-charged junket, just an escape from the ordinary. A micro-adventure to break away from the day-to-day; to unwind, detach, see something new and get some fresh air.
A day out in the Cotswolds is the perfect way to break the routine. With London, Bristol and Birmingham just 1.5 hours away, there are few places in the UK more tailor-made for a good old fashioned day trip.
We’ve created 10 Cotswolds day trips that showcase the diversity of the area. From unknown villages to immaculately styled gardens; from famous university towns to hiking trails through woodland bursting with wild garlic. Each day is designed to capture the perfect Cotswolds experiences while delivering a few surprises along the way.
Our recommendations include what to see and do in the area, plus some ideas for where to grab a meal or a drink. While each of these days out in the Cotswolds can be completed as a day trip, we’ve also included suggestions for where to stay in case those craft ales look too appealing.
BEST DAYS OUT IN THE COTSWOLDS
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 1 – BOURTON ON THE WATER & THE SLAUGHTERS
Best day out in the Cotswolds for ambling quintessential English villages
With names that roll off the tongue like Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter, it’s hard to imagine an area more imbued with traditional English charm. These villages, three of the most beautiful in the United Kingdom, are conveniently located just a few miles apart. Strolling between them is an excellent day out in the Cotswolds.
Start in Bourton-in-the-Water, the self-proclaimed Venice of the Cotswolds. Trendy cafes, quaint tea rooms and old-time ice cream stands straddle either side of the picturesque river that runs the length of the high street. Begin the day with coffee and a croissant at Bakery on the Water, before popping into the Cotswolds Motoring Museum. Check out the Model Village – weirdly an exact mini-replica of the town, then sample some of the excellent ales at Cotswolds Brewing Company.
Next, drive to Upper Slaughter, one of the two tiny villages that perfectly capture the Cotswolds aesthetic. The River Eye winds its way through beautiful honey-coloured cottages and cute churches with little bridges dotted along the brook.
Skip lunch and dive straight into high tea at the Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter. Set across 8 acres of secluded gardens and parkland it’s a great way to experience a grand English manor house with a plump cream and jam-topped scone.
In the afternoon, take the 10-minute walk to Lower Slaughter along the Warden’s Way – the beautiful path over gently rolling hills that connects the two villages.
To wind down this very English day out in the Cotswolds, head to one of the many excellent pubs in the area. Our pick would be the Kings Head in Bledington.
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 2 – BLENHEIM PALACE
Best day out in the Cotswolds for visiting one of England’s grand stately homes
Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1722 to thank the first duke of Marlborough for his many military victories over the perfidious French and Bavarians. It stands today as one of the most extravagant stately houses in Britain and a great Cotswolds day trip.
Start in the palace and explore the gilded stateroom with priceless collections of portraits, tapestries and furniture. The grand entrance hall and library may steal the show, but each room is an expression of wealth and opulence. The Churchill Exhibitions detail the life and history of the first duke, John Churchill and his more famous descendent, Winston, who spent much of his youth in the palace.
The opulence doesn’t end once you step outside the palace. The immaculate Formal Gardens include a magnificent water terrace, private Italian garden and a tranquil secret garden. The Pleasure Garden is perfect for kids with a miniature train ride, an intricate maze and a pizza café.
For lunch, dine in style at the Orangery Restaurant serving a delicious 2-course lunch in specially created marque pods in the Italian Garden. Alternatively, bring your own picnic and sit by the great lake enjoying spectacular views of the palace façade. After lunch, stroll around the rest of the expansive grounds then head into the village for an excellent coffee at the Woodstock Coffee Shop.
To wind down for the evening, drive to the village of Great Tew. Tucked inside this charming little village is the Falkland Arms, the most atmospheric pub in the Cotswolds. Grab a pint, try a bit of snuff and join the locals in a hearty dinner.
Fine dining at the Orangery Restaurant in Blenheim Palace
Proper pub food and real ales at the Falkland Arms
Cosy rustic comfort at the Falkland Arms.
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 3 – BURFORD AND MINSTER LOVELL
Best day out in the Cotswolds for a picnic and wild swim
While it’s best known for cute villages, the rolling green countryside and forest-lined rivers make the Cotswolds an excellent destination for relaxing in the great outdoors. Pack a picnic and your sense of adventure and enjoy some wild swimming in one of the most atmospheric locations in Britain.
Start at the town of Burford and kick things off with a pastry and an excellent coffee at Lynwood Café. Explore the town on foot while you set about constructing a picnic for the swim. The Burford Farm shop has a great selection of local sandwich fillers, pastries, and snacks. Next door, the Cotswolds Cheese shop is wall to wall with local delicacies. Match it all with some homemade chutney from Brumbles of Burford. The Cookshop will come in handy if you forgot to pack that corkscrew.
READ NEXT / WILD SWIMMING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
After collecting your picnic supplies and discovering the charms of Burford, drive to Minster Lovell. It’s a beautiful tiny village which oozes Cotswolds charm. At the end of a row of quaint houses, the picturesque ruins of a 15th-century manor house rest on the banks of the River Windrush. Have a picnic by the river before cooling off with an invigorating wild swim. As the afternoon approaches, try our short walk which explores both sides of the river and the village.
Once you’ve experienced the elixir that is swimming in a river and hiking through the countryside, drive to Swinbrook to have a pint and dinner at the Swan Inn. For a touch of traditional English charm, we’d recommend spending the night at the Bay Tree Hotel in Burford.
Picnic by the ruins at Minster Lovell
Tasty pub classics at the Swan Inn, Swinbrook
Traditional English charm of The Bay Tree Hotel, Burford
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 4 – BATH
Best day out in the Cotswolds for exploring a historic Roman town
At the southern end of the Cotswolds, the golden glow of Bath’s stone-dominated architecture shimmers among the surrounding green countryside. In the first century AD it was a Roman spa town. The supposed healing properties of the hot springs has brought the well-healed here ever since. It’s one of our favourite cities in England and a great Cotswolds day trip from London.
Start with the audio guide of the remarkable Roman Baths. Outside, a large bathing pool is still surrounded by imperious Roman sculptures, while inside, ancient objects are displayed within the temples and courtyards of reconstructed Roman times. If you’re inspired, enjoy a treatment at the Thermae Bath Spa yourself.
After the baths, grab a coffee from Mokoko and pop into Bath Abbey, and strain the neck admiring the impressive fan vaulting. Just outside the Abbey, a grassy slope drops to the river providing the perfect amphitheatre for a picnic lunch. Alternatively, Oak restaurant does a very innovative (and delicious) vegetarian lunch.
In the afternoon, stroll around town collecting the 18th century Pulteney Bridge with the shops crammed on top; the Assembly Rooms for a taste of the Georgian good life; the Royal Crescent for that picture-perfect sweep of terrace houses; and the Circus, a smaller, prettier version of the Royal Crescent.
For dinner, Circus Restaurant produces excellent dishes in a lovely Georgian building.
More information is available in our guide to spending one day in Bath.
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 5 – KINGHAM AND DAYLESFORD
Best day out in the Cotswolds for the foodies
Forty years ago, the family behind Daylesford Organic Farmhouse began to turn their land over to sustainable, organic farming. It’s now a trendy enterprise with a café, restaurant, spa and shop. It’s also helped turn the area into a hip, foodie destination. Just the fuel needed to explore the many Cotswolds activities.
Begin your day at Daylesford Organic near Kingham. Their selection of produce covers everything from fresh seasonal veggies to their own delicious breads. The cheese room is mecca for cheese lovers, and homewares in a desaturated spectrum of subtle greys and whites give the place a stylish sophistication. Cooking classes and spa treatments are also available. Fill up on brunch in the café where they serve an innovative selection of fresh regional delights.
After brunch, drive to the village of Stourton; home to the Cotswold Distillery. Tours and tastings run three times a day where you can learn about their artisanal process and sample their wide range of gins and whiskies. Just a few miles further east, the family-run Hook Norton Brewery has been churning out beer since Victorian times. Tradition hasn’t faltered; they still use horses to deliver beer to the local pubs. Tours are available twice a day and hourly on weekends.
Finish this day out in the Cotswolds at the foodie centre Kingham. Choose between the local pub – the Plough – operated under a Heston Blumenthal prodigy, or the Wild Rabbit Inn, the Michelin starred restaurant from the Daylesford Organic stable. Treat yourself to a stay in the pared-back style of the Wild Rabbit.
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 6 – COTSWOLDS WAY
Best day out in the Cotswolds for hiking in the great outdoors
The Cotswolds countryside conjures up images of rolling green hills and hiking trails weaving through honey-coloured villages; wooded glens and meadows speckled with sheep. There’s no better day out in the Cotswolds than strapping on a pair of hiking boots and wandering this idyllic countryside on foot.
The most famous path is the Cotswolds Way, a 102-mile trail that follows the escarpment on the western edge of the Cotswolds. From this vantage point – the highest in the Cotswolds – excellent views of the beautiful English countryside accompany hikers on route from one atmospheric pub to the next.
We’ve put together three great circular walks on the Cotswolds Way. The first one collects the beautiful villages of Broadway and Broadway Tower. The second follows the lovely countryside from Stanton to Snowshill with a few excellent pubs at the end. The final one explores Cleeve Hill, an unusually remote and barren part of the Cotswolds. All the details are covered in our best walks in the Cotswolds article.
Each of the Cotswold’s Way walks are close to each other so whichever you choose for this day out in the Cotswolds, we’d recommend dinner at the Mount Inn in Stanton. If you’re making it an overnighter, the Guiting Guest House will give you that rustic homestay feel.
READ MORE / OUR FAVOURITE WALKS IN THE COTSWOLDS
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 7 – CIRENCESTER AND AROUND
Best day out in the Cotswolds for uncovering local history
The area around Cirencester was a popular location with the Romans who built an extensive network of roadways and scattered the area with artefacts. The remnants of ancient history and 17th-century industry, fill the region with interesting places to explore, making it one of our favourite Cotswolds attractions.
Start at Chedworth, which has the ruins of one of the largest Roman Villas in the UK. Built between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, most of the buildings are little more than foundations, but it’s worth a visit for the extraordinarily well-preserved mosaics alone.
Next head to Bibury. Like many villages in the Cotswolds, Bibury’s leading industry was wool and textiles. In the 17th century, a monastic wool store was converted into a row of cottages for weavers. Today, Arlington Row is possibly one of the most visited and photographed spots in the Cotswolds. Walk around the watery meadow and become seduced by the iconic English cottages with their steep pitched roofs.
As lunch approaches make your way to Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds. It has plenty of independent shops and restaurants to keep you occupied for an afternoon. Explore the bizarre-looking St. John the Baptist Church, parts of which still stand from the early 12th century. Then pop into the Corinium Museum which will take you on a journey through Cotswolds history from prehistoric times to the modern-day.
As the sun starts to set on this historic day in the Cotswolds, drive to Northleach (20 minutes) and enjoy an evening at the Wheatsheaf Inn, one of the best country pubs in England.
Grab lunch on the go in Cirencester
Try the quality cooking and regularly changing menu at the Wheatsheaf Inn
Head upstairs at the Wheatsheaf Inn and luxuriate in fluffy bathrobes
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 8 – CASTLE COMBE AND LACOCK
Best day out in the Cotswolds for exploring two of the most filmed villages
Castle Combe and Lacock are two of the most beautiful villages in the UK. Put them together and you have an excellent day out in the Cotswolds.
Start in Lacock, which is owned and managed by the National Trust. It lacks the lived-in feel of other Cotswold’s villages, but the oversight of the Trust has ensured it remains beautifully preserved. Half-timber, half stone cottages line wonky laneways; shops have maintained their original simple branding; and films such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma have been lured in by authentic facades. The Abbey – a quirky country house with varying architectural styles inherited over the centuries – is the highlight.
Drive to Castle Combe (20 minutes) and make up your own mind about its claim to be the prettiest of all the villages (it’s definitely close in our book). Grab lunch – washed down with a pint – at the Castle Inn overlooking the market square; or have high tea – washed down with a champagne – at the luxurious Manor House.
In the afternoon explore the village which has gained regular appearances in the film industry. It’s easy to see why. With green forested hills in the background, quaint cottages in the foreground, and a babbling brook in between, it takes little imagination to be transported back to another time.
Wander out of the town to explore the rolling green countryside surrounding Castle Combe. There are several great short walks in the area, including a lovely circular walk around the lush wooded countryside and back to the town. The details are in our hiking in the Cotswolds article.
Drive to Didmarton (20 minutes) for dinner at the Kings Arms who have a great selection of local ales in a traditional country pub setting.
Pub lunch at Castle Inn in Castle Combe
Relaxed country bar food at the Kings Arms in Didmarton
Grab a room and enjoy the rustic elegance of the Kings Arms
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 9 – OXFORD
Best day out in the Cotswolds for stunning architecture at an iconic university
At just 10 miles out of the official area, we’re breaking all the rules and including Oxford as an option for one of our favourite days out in the Cotswolds. Walking around the golden-hued streets, it’s easy to see that the town was built on Cotswolds stone, even if today it’s technically in another region.
When King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris in 1167, they were forced to a sleepy town surrounded by green meadows to complete their education. Oxford University has educated a host of prime ministers and a couple of US presidents within the halls of esteemed gothic architecture.
All the details on what to do in the city of dreaming spires are covered in our Oxford day trip article.
COTSWOLDS DAY TRIP 10 – BROADWAY, CHIPPING CAMDEN AND SUDELEY CASTLE
Best day out in the Cotswolds to see a bit of everything
For a snapshot of the best of the best, this Cotswolds day out has it all. Inspect a stately home, wander two cute villages, enjoy magnificent views, photograph an old English folly, amble through a classic country garden and sample a local ale. Phew.
Begin the day at Sudeley Castle, the 15th-century resting place of the last of Henry VIII wives. It’s still a private residence and the inside is a mish-mash of different styles, but it’s the gardens that steal the show. Intricate geometric designs, wisteria-covered ruined walls and an idyllic chapel are just a few of the highlights.
Next head to the village of Broadway. Set at the foot of the western end of the Cotswolds escarpment, Broadway has a wide grass-fringed high street lined with classy hotels, quirky delis and sophisticated wine bars. Famous artists have called this place home over the years, encouraging a small but thriving art scene. Munch on small bites and Italian favourites at the Lygon Wine Bar, while you people-watch from their high street location.
After lunch, drive up to Broadway Tower. Constructed by the 6th Earl of Coventry in the late 18th century, Broadway Tower – nothing more than a folly a mile or so out of town – is a popular endpoint for a great hike from the village. The grassy slopes are the perfect spot to relaxing in front of fantastic views over the Vale of Evesham, Malvern Hills and Black Mountains.
Refreshed, pop into Chipping Camden for a stroll down the lovely high street, collecting the beautiful 12th century Norman church, then make your way to Hidcote Manor. Regularly cited as one of the finest gardens in the country, it’s best visited in spring or early summer when it is a sea of colour.
End the day at the Ebrington Arms, one of our favourite pubs in the Cotswolds. The well-crafted French-inspired dishes are sourced locally, and their very own Yubby Ale is the perfect way to end a big day in the Cotswolds.
Italian classics and a glass of wine at Lygon Wine Bar, Broadway
French-inspired crafty dishes at the Ebrington Arms
Modern comfort and great views at The Fish Hotel, Broadway
WHERE TO STAY IN THE COTSWOLDS?
The Cotswolds is a diverse area with sleepy hamlets, imposing stately homes, charming rural countryside and quaint English pubs. If you decide to stay overnight in the Cotswolds there are several different sections based on what you want to see.
For pretty villages, the area around Bourton and the central Cotswolds is ideal, whereas if you are looking for some great hiking options, Broadway is a good choice. The area around Kingham is great for food, and a day in Oxford is a great way to experience a beautiful city and see the Cotswolds.
We have a full list of the best areas with accommodation options in our article on where to stay in the Cotswolds.
HOW TO GET TO AND AROUND THE COTSWOLDS
The Cotswolds is a rural area of England and while buses and trains do connect some of the villages and towns they are not that regular. The easiest, and by far the most convenient way to get around is to drive.
The best portal we’ve found for booking hire cars is Auto Europe. They have access to cars from all the major companies which are compared on a grid format that clearly displays the prices for different car sizes across each provider. Click on your home location below to check prices.
AUTO EUROPE – EUROPE + UK CUSTOMERS // USA CUSTOMERS
If you do decide to use public transport then Bath and Oxford are large cities with good transport links and both Cirencester and Bourton-on-the Water are centrally located with a decent range of bus routes to the local villages and towns.
MORE READING FOR THE COTSWOLDS
Planning a Cotswolds trip? Here are some more of our guides to help you get the most out of this beautiful part of England.
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