Are you dreaming of quintessential England?
If you are, then you’re probably thinking about thatched roofs, honey-coloured stone, rolling green hills and the perfect cup of tea.
It’s usually the towns and villages found in the stunning Cotswolds that evoke these thoughts – and my, oh my, are they BEAUTIFUL!
The Cotswolds spans across a whopping 800 square miles and as many as six English counties, so there’s a lot of choice on where to go to see the most beautiful towns and villages in the Cotswolds.
But if you’re not sure where you should go, then this list of the 14 prettiest Cotswolds villages and towns should help you make a start on exploring this incredible part of England.
Prettiest Villages in the Cotswolds
Often nicknamed “Venice of the Cotswolds”, Bourton-on-the-Water is the perfect introduction to this list of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds.
Built around a winding, lazy river, this little village offers lots of cafes and independent shops to investigate.
But if you’re keen on doing more than just drinking tea, eating scones and shopping, then there’s also a Model Village and Cotswold Motoring Museum here, which are both worth seeing.
Best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water
- The Model Village: Bourton-on-the-Water in miniature
- Cotswold Motoring Museum: Vintage cars and antique toy cars
- The Dragonfly Maze: Traditional hedge maze
- Mary’s Rest Tea Room & Cafe: Come here for the perfect afternoon tea
- Bourton-on-the-Water High Street: Lots of boutiques and independent shops to mooch around in
- Riverside Walk: Simply follow the winding river… maybe even bring a picnic with you!
2. Castle Combe
Often home to lots of period dramas and other filming locations, Castle Combe really is the epitome of the Cotswolds and beautiful English countryside.
There are ample walking trails around here, traditional English pubs and row upon row of picture perfect cottages!
Best things to do in Castle Combe
- Walk around the village: See if you can spot which movies and TV programs these traditional Cotswolds houses have been in
- St Andrew’s Church: Dates back to the 13th Century
- Castle Combe Circuit: Love cars? Love racing cars? You can either race your own car around this track, borrow some rally cars or just watch the adrenaline junkies from afar
- Castle Combe and By Brook Walk: Just under 6 miles of countryside walks through woodlands, fields and along rivers, before ending back in the Castle Combe village
Lacock is also home to lots of filming locations with Harry Potter being its most famous partnership.
There’s Lacock Abbey, some of which was used as Hogwarts in some of the Harry Potter movies and even Pride & Prejudice, as well as the whole village which has been used in things like Downton Abbey and The White Princess.
You didn’t hear it from us, but it’s also rumoured that Lacock Abbey could also play its part within the Fantastic Beasts saga too!
And to be fair, once you stroll around the abbey and village, it’s easy to see why they would be used so much in films.
Best things to do in Lacock
- Lacock Abbey: Where Harry Potter was filmed – see if you can spot any features you recognise
- Walk around the village: See if you can spot which films and TV shows have been filmed here
- Sign of the Angel: A traditional English pub that serves delicious roast dinners
4. Minster Lovell
– Recommended by Paul from Anywhere We Roam
Minster Lovell – the picturesque ruins of a 15th century manor house – is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds and the ideal spot to soak up the natural beauty of the area.
Minster Lovell hall was built in 1430 by William, Baron of Lovell who at the time, was one of the richest men in England.
Today, the hall, a tower and a dovecote sit in crumbling golden ruin along the banks of the River Windrush in a beautiful rural setting.
Passing the Old Swan Hotel, a narrow road leads across the river and through the local playing fields where each Sunday a game of cricket will be in full swing.
Further on past a row of immaculate chocolate box houses, the ruins open up in a small hidden field.
For an excellent hike in the Cotswolds, take a gentle stroll through the nearby meadows. Then, have a picnic and unwind in one of the most picturesque settings in England.
Best things to do in Minster Lovell
- Take some beers to the village green behind the cottages to watch a game of cricket on a weekend
- Downstream from the meadows, leap in the river for some wild swimming beside the weir with grassy meadows on either side
- Have lunch on the terrace at the Swan Hotel where they serve hearty local dishes in a beautiful setting
– Recommended by Ivan from Mind The Travel
Situated some 80 miles from London, this chocolate box village is arguably the most photographed village in the Cotswolds.
The ancient village of Bibury is home to the picturesque Arlington Row, a row of fairytale-like cottages originally constructed in 1380 as a monastic wool store.
A series of quintessentially Cotswold cottages were later converted into dwellings for the weavers who supplied the nearby mill.
Today, Bibury with its little bridges and cobbled yards attracts tourists from all over the country to snap that precious selfie.
Best things to do in Bibury
If you really want to feel the atmosphere of Bibury, stroll around its quiet streets before heading to The Catherine Wheel, a historic village pub, for a pint and a homemade meal.
Then you may want to visit the Bibury Trout Farm and the Arlington Mill.
In fact, Bibury offers countless options and attractions, including Cotswolds Water Park and Westonbirt Arboretum.
Consider staying at the Swan Hotel for a charming and refreshing experience.
Once described by the celebrated artist William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England’, Bibury is one of England’s most iconic hamlets, so it won’t disappoint.
– Recommended by Angela from Where Angie Wanders
The village of Broadway known as the “Jewel in the Cotswolds” is an area steeped in history and culture.
With a pretty high street lined with traditional honey-coloured Cotswold stone buildings and period houses, it allows the visitor a glimpse of life in one of England’s most beautiful villages.
Things to do in Broadway
Traditional shops selling ice cream and local produce will tempt your taste buds, while antique shops and galleries will satisfy your cultural side.
If you have the time, then make sure a visit to the Lygon Arms is on your itinerary. Enjoy a glass of wine or a beer in the inn where Oliver Cromwell stayed the night before battle.
Even more things to do in and around Broadway
- Cotswold Lavender Farm: For everything to do with lavender
- Broadway Tower: For a view of the local countryside
- The Cotswold Way: Part of this walking route runs through Broadway
Broadway ticks all the boxes for a quintessential English village and is definitely worth a visit!
7. Lower Slaughter
– Recommended by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Lower Slaughter sees fewer tourists than other Cotswolds villages and consequently feels more unspoiled and authentic.
Granted, the name isn’t very enticing, and as a vegan traveller and animal lover, I was nearly scared away myself.
But you can relax; there are no slaughterhouses here. The word “slaughter” actually comes from the Old English “sloh”, which means marsh – and refers to the wetlands around the village.
This watery landscape is what makes Lower Slaughter so special.
The Eye stream runs through the village and is crossed by cute stone footbridges that make for a great photo opportunity.
In fact, the road that runs alongside the stream has been voted the most romantic street in Britain!
Best things to do in Lower Slaughter
- Walk along the Eye stream from Lower Slaughter to Upper Slaughter
- Visit the Old Mill Museum
- Take a peek (or spend the night) at the Lower Slaughter Manor, now a luxury hotel
Quick Editor Tip: Lower Slaughter is also often included as a stop along self-guided driving treasure hunts you can do in the Cotwolds, which are so much fun to do and a fantastic introduction to lots of pretty Cotswold villages!
Prettiest Towns in the Cotswolds
One of a number of small market towns found in the Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold is a picture perfect place to explore.
There’s an abundance of independent shops here, most beginning with ‘The Cotswold’ such as The Cotswold Frock Shop and The Cotswold Company.
There’s often quite a few festivals and events happening here throughout the summer months too!
Best things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold
- St Edward’s Church: An old church flanked by huge yew trees – where nature and history combine
- Stow-on-the-Wold High Street: Lots more boutiques and independent shops to explore
- The Village Stocks: A step back in history as you stumble upon some traditional stocks where they kept petty criminals and allowed local townspeople to throw rotten fruit and vegetables at them (or worse)
2. Chipping Campden
There are lots of walking trails throughout the Cotswolds, but the most popular: The Cotswold Way starts right here in Chipping Campden.
This is a very small market town, but it has a delightful selection of restaurants to eat at.
Plus, lots of the homes and shops here make for perfect Instagram photos – especially if you can also capture an old fashioned car in front of them as well!
It’s almost like taking a walk back into history, which is the perfect way to spend any trip in the UK.
Best things to do in Chipping Campden
- The Cotswold Way Walk: This popular walking trail starts in Chipping Campden, and is well worth doing!
- Chipping Campden High Street: You can probably spot a theme emerging with all of these boutiques and independent shops you should be exploring
- Badgers Hall: The best place in town to have tea, cake and even a full afternoon tea
– Recommended by Chelsea from The Portable Wife
Nicknamed the “Queen of the Cotswolds“, Painswick is far more than your typical charming English town.
Like many Cotswolds gems, Painswick has a lovely high street lined with honey-coloured stone buildings and half-timbered facades.
Cosy pubs, cafes and a 15th century church are concentrated in the town centre and the Painswick Stream runs through the residential areas.
But it’s the stunning Painswick Beacon that makes this town an essential UK road trip stopover.
Located on the northern side of town, this idyllic hilltop with wavy grass offers breathtaking views over Severn Valley.
If the weather is clear, you can even see the Welsh mountains in the distance. Just take care to avoid the golfers and wear proper walking shoes as the path to the top can get quite steep.
If you have time to spare, check out the Painswick Rococo Garden, a rare example of the French style in England. There’s even a hedge maze to explore!
– Recommended by Darek from Darek and Gosia
If you want to see the real England, with its wooden fences and brick houses, you must go to the Cotswolds.
This range of limestone hills located about 100 km west of London captivates with typical English buildings.
Small towns and villages are the best things to focus on when visiting the Cotswolds.
Of course, you can also visit larger cities, however, if you just want to relax and eat a good meal in one of the local restaurants, it is definitely better to visit smaller towns in this area.
And Moreton-in-Marsh is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds.
Moreton-in-Marsh is a bit of a fairy-tale, sleepy town, where you get the impression that time has stopped. The town has a population of only around 3,500 people.
Best things to do in Moreton-in-Marsh
In the middle of the town stands Redesdale Hall – a historic town centre community building.
There are also a few options for an afternoon tea or Sunday lunch, with Yellow Brick Café and Victoria Coffee House being the most popular.
While here, you should also check out the Wellington Aviation Museum and The Moreton Art Gallery.
Tourists coming to Moreton-in-Marsh cannot resist the impression that time has long stopped here. It really is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cotswolds.
– Recommended by Rose from Where Goes Rose?
Burford is a charming town on the very edge of the Cotswolds; en route if you are coming from London.
While it only has a population of just over 1,000 residents, there are enough things to do in Burford to keep you busy for an afternoon.
The medieval settlement is known for its charming Cotswolds architecture, golden stone and sloping homes as they run up a hill.
Best things to do in Burford
- Visit St John The Baptist Church, a Grade I listed building with more than 1,000 years history and known as one of the top 10 visited churches in the UK
- Browse the adorable shops selling old-fashioned sweets, Cotswold cheese, antiques and other trinkets
- Visit the many teashops and cafes for a traditional afternoon tea. The best place for a real English afternoon tea is Huffkins where you can sample scones with jam and cream, finger sandwiches, breakfast tea and even a glass of Prosecco!
– Recommended by Larch from The Silver Nomad
The market town of Lechlade sits on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, just inside Gloucestershire, on the banks of the River Thames.
The honey-coloured buildings house an array of independent shops including bakeries, antique shops, restaurants, coffee shops, a wine shop, a vegan shop and even a Christmas Shop.
The centre is dominated by the 15th century St Lawrence Church with the market square in front, which is used for parking. There is also parking in front of the many shops along the roads.
Take a relaxing stroll through the village or down to the towpaths that run alongside the river. Have a drink or meal at The Riverside Pub while feeding the swans, ducks and geese to round off your day.
Best things to do in Lechlade
- Paddleboard or canoe down the River Thames
- Get crafty at Lechlade Craft Barn
- Indulge in the Christmas Shop all year round
- Walk along to Buscott House
- Visit William Morris’ summer house at Kelmscott Manor
– Recommended by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Malmesbury is one of the busier towns in the Cotswolds and is the oldest borough and longest continually inhabited town in England with over 1000 years worth of history.
The town has lots of honey-coloured 17th and 18th century houses and shops that surround the ruined abbey and its beautiful calm gardens, which makes it one of the prettiest Cotswold towns to explore.
Best things to do in Malmesbury
- Visit the abbey and Abbey Gardens
- Find the ancient Market Cross
- Follow the town trail to find the Almshouses, Tower House and Old Courthouse
- Take a walk along the banks of the Tetbury Avon river
Map of the Prettiest Cotswold Villages & Towns
Given how vast the Cotswolds area is, here’s a handy map to show you where each of the pretty towns and villages we’ve mentioned in this blog post can be found:
(click on the map to see a more detailed version)
Our Final Thoughts On Pretty Cotswolds Villages & Towns
Other than all the amazing places already mentioned above, Scott and I also have a number of other pretty Cotswolds towns and villages that are still on our UK bucket list.
We hope we’ll be able to get out to see them later this year or next – so stay tuned for that!
Which Cotswold village or town do you think we should start with first? And which beautiful place mentioned above are YOU most desperate to visit?
Are you looking for more beautiful villages in the UK? Find out why Tintagel in Cornwall is well worth a visit!
Did you like this list of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds? Pin it now, visit them all later!