From rolling golden hills stretching on for miles to picturesque stone villages straight out of a Jane Austen movie, it’s no surprise England’s Cotswolds have been named an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” And as the third-largest protected landscape in the country, this gorgeous region boasts plenty of sights to soak in. The best way to explore this beautiful countryside less than 100 miles outside of London? The road less traveled, of course! Here are a few of our favorite spots in the Cotswolds—or discover all our England trips here.
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe
What visit to England would be complete without a castle? Sudeley Castle, nestled in the hills outside the old market town of Winchcombe, offers an impressive array of sights: a stately home still inhabited by a Lord and Lady, peacocks roaming the 1,200 acre estate and ten well-tended gardens. For history buffs, be sure to visit the small chapel and see the resting place of once-Queen of England, Catherine Parr. Step back in time and explore the ruins of the old banquet hall where King Richard III once hosted feasts, now covered in ivy and roses. After you’ve had your royal fix, take a quick stroll back to Winchcombe for a pint at a pub!
The Old Mill, Lower Slaughter
Despite its odd name (derived from the old English word “slough”, meaning “wet land”), the village of Lower Slaughter boasts plenty of postcard-worthy sights. Follow the stream winding through the quaint streets and honey-colored cottages to the Old Mill, a 19th century waterwheel. While many tourists stop here for a quick photo, keep walking to the Old Mill Tea Shop for a pot of English Breakfast and a delicious selection of cakes and scones! Relax by the river on the terrace and enjoy the view of bucolic fields beyond the banks.
Hidcote Manor Gardens, Chipping Campden
Let your inner Alice in Wonderland run wild in the Hidcote Manor Gardens, a stunning estate full of flowers, rare trees and even a tennis court! Each garden has been designed as its own “room”, with hedges acting as walls with no ceiling but sky. Get lost as you move from one room to the next, discovering plants you didn’t even know existed.
Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth
At first glance, Cooper’s Hill might look like yet another picturesque place to take in the views of the surrounding countryside. But pass by in late May, and you’ll be entertained by a very different sight: crowds gathered to watch groups of people tumbling down the hill, chasing an eight-pound wheel of cheese! The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling tradition dates back to the 1800s and has remained a legendary event for locals and world travelers alike, despite attempts to ban the event for safety concerns. If running down a 300-yard, 45-degree slope isn’t on your agenda this trip, be sure to try a bite of Cooper’s Hill double Gloucester cheese at the local grocery (or Backroads picnic!). Charcuterie is much more enjoyable than a sprained ankle!
Movie Locations, Locations, Locations!
If you visit the Cotswolds and experience a strange sense of déjà vu, you might have seen a few of these places before! Movie buffs will recognize plenty of locations used in films, from English classics to sci-fi flicks. While the town of Castle Combe is widely known for its appearance in multiple movies like War Horse and Stardust, several lesser-visited villages boast equally impressive credits. Fans of Harry Potter should stop by Gloucester Cathedral to see a real-life Hogwarts. Rom-com fans might recognize the town of Snowshill from Bridget Jones’ Diary. Stop by Cheltenham Town Hall and Bampton for views straight out of Pride & Prejudice and Downton Abbey. And Star Wars aficionados will recognize the woodlands of Puzzlewood from The Force Awakens!
The Cotswold Way
One of the most unique features of the Cotswolds is its “Right to Roam.” Since the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000, anyone who wishes to explore these hills, forests, and villages for themselves can follow a well-maintained network of trails and get an intimate view of England as you’ve always imagined—without worrying about trespassing or wandering onto private property. Most notable of these trails is the Cotswold Way, a 102 mile footpath stretching from Bath to Chipping Campden and passing through historic towns, private lands, and working farms. The trails themselves are kept up by landowners, farmers, and the Cotswold Wardens, and provide the freedom to fall in love with this magical part of the world.
Eager to explore the Cotswolds yourself? Our Cotswolds England Walking & Hiking Tour explores the most beautiful sections of this iconic region and is sure to be a trip you won’t soon forget! Or enjoy an easygoing adventure on our new Dolce Tempo journey to the Cotswolds, which lets you immerse yourself in these stunning landscapes at a relaxed pace.