By Victoria Philpott, from DayOutinEngland.com. The essential resource for guides and itineraries to England’s best days out. Searchable by interests, counties, cities, and areas – they’re definitely not just for kids!
Visiting the Cotswolds for the day from London is easy. If you drive, it’s around two hours, depending on where you’re driving to and from. If you want to take public transport, you can take the train from Moreton in Marsh in the north of the Cotswolds, to London Paddington in an hour and a half.
From Moreton in the Marsh, you can reach all the train stations in the Cotswolds, or come into Kemble, which is right by Cirencester.
If you can, I’d suggest renting a car for your day trip to the Cotswolds, just so you can visit the smaller villages, and enjoy the countryside of this Area of Natural Beauty. Life is a lot easier in the Cotswolds with a car!
I use Skyscanner.com to find the cheapest option for renting a car. Search for options ahead of time and book the best price!
If, however, you don’t want to drive but still want to make the best out of your trip, check out these guided tours!
Cotswolds Day Trip from London
Visit the Cotswolds and you can expect to find rolling hills and pastures, medieval villages of honey-colored homes, and carefully manicured gardens. This is one of the most scenic drives through the UK for a good reason!
There’s a good reason why the Cotswolds have become one of the most popular places in England for people to visit on a day trip or even a city break, and one of the ultimate experiences to have in England. There are lots of adventures you could enjoy on a day out in the Cotswolds – so many in fact, it can seem quite overwhelming.
Let me take you through where I’d suggest you visit on your day trip to the Cotswolds from London, and a few tips for making the most of your day out.
Is a day trip to the Cotswolds worth it?
The short answer to this question is yes.
I would suggest spending more time exploring the region since it is so beautiful, but if you only have a short time, seeing the Cotswolds in a day is a great experience you won’t regret.
With such a short time, you will have to schedule your time in order to get the best out of your escape.
Where are the Cotswolds
Perfectly located less than 2 hours and roughly 140 kilometers away from London. Once you pass by Oxford you will enter the Cotswolds. In this hilly region, you won’t find it hard to discover charming villages and outstanding natural beauty, no matter where you choose to stop.
How to get to the Cotswolds
While I was researching how to get from London to the Cotswolds, I came to understand that even though this is a popular area and tourist attraction, the region is not extremely well connected to London by public transportation. Of course, there are ways, but it would be challenging to see more than one place when traveling by train.
But let’s see what are your options.
Travel by train
You can take the train to Chippenham, and from there take a bus to your final destination.
As I was researching how to get to Castle Combe, I understood there is only one bus linking the two and it runs only a few times a day. That would make it challenging if you want to see more than one place, and you should also be very mindful of your schedule.
Travel by car
The easiest and most comfortable way of traveling to and around the Cotswolds is by car. Depending on the traffic conditions and your driving skills, you can drive to Burford or Bibury in around 2 hours.
Just be mindful of the fact that you will need to drive on the left side of the road. Also, take into consideration any potential parking fees at the destination.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. You will most probably need a car to get to most of these places, especially if you want to keep a schedule. Get your best offers here!
Visit the Cotswolds by Private Tour
After taking into consideration all the available options, we decided to book an organized tour for one day in the Cotswolds.
Of course, by going with a guide you won’t have too much flexibility to make your schedule as you wish. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about public transportation, itineraries, parking, and so on.
We really enjoyed the tour and we were happy that we managed to see 4 small villages in one day. The group was small and we had plenty of time to explore each town since they are all very small.
Popular tours from London:
- Full-day tour of the Cotswolds – the tour we went on and enjoyed
- Oxford and Cotswolds Villages Day Trip
- Blenheim Palace, Downton Abbey Village & the Cotswolds
- Oxford, Stratford & Cotswolds Guided Day-Trip
A roundup of the Cotswolds
Let’s look at some of the most famous little villages at a glance:
- Castle Combe
- The Slaughters
Where to stay in the Cotswolds overnight?
You’ve been totally charmed and want to spend the night? Here are a few stunning places you’ll want to consider:
- Lords Of The Manor – a fabulous location dating from the 17th century. Each bedroom is individually designed, and they have an award-winning cuisine. Check it out here!
- The Swan Hotel – located in Bibury, one of the places you wouldn’t want to miss. Located on the banks of the River Coln, the superb hotel has 22 rooms and is just minutes away from the most famous sites in Bilbury. Check it out here!
- The White Hart – an old traditional English pub boasting luxurious modern features right in the heart of Castle Combe. Check it out here!
The most beautiful Cotswolds worth seeing
Mooch around Cirencester
Come into Cirencester (Kemble on the train: check out train timetables and prices here) – considered the capital of the Cotswolds.
This is one of the biggest villages in the Cotswolds and has a flourishing High Street, and the stunning St John the Baptist church.
Pick up breakfast at Jack’s Cafe and Tea Room, after much research I found it was the best breakfast around. Find the Secret Garden and try one of the brunch bowls – dreams!
Once you’ve had your fill of coffee, take a walk around Cirencester and pop in the boutique shops, or take some snaps among the pretty doors, and lovely architecture.
Venture a little further and you’ll find Roman, Norman, and Saxon remain at Corinium Museum; there’s even an amphitheater on the outskirts.
Take a photo in Bibury
Just a short drive away from Cirencester you’ll find Bibury – the Instagram capital of the Cotswolds. Bibury is the quintessential UK village – cozy stone cottages with shingled roofs, narrow paths edged in green, and a riverside location
On the way, keep an eye out for Barnsley – another beautiful village in the Cotswolds that’s totally underrated in my opinion. Stop off if you have time.
A photo of Bibury is the iconic shot that busloads of tourists come to take. This is where you’ll find the pretty run of houses, featured on anyone who’s ever been to the Cotswolds’ account. Get there early to beat the crowds!
There’s also a nice pub here called The Swan if you need a drink after all that.
Admire the river in Bourton-on-Water
From Bibury, it’s an easy drive to Bourton-on-Water.
Here you’ll find the impressive River Windrush carving shallow streams through the charming village. Feel free to go wandering over the stone bridges that cross the waterways.
For a birds-eye-view of the streets visit the Model Village for a mini-replica. There’s also a beautiful bird estate, Birdland Park and Gardens, for a scenic stroll through.
Go to Upper and Lower Slaughter
From here it’s a short drive or a long walk to Upper Slaughter – one of the highlights of the Cotswolds, and an absolute must-visit.
Have a look around, soak up the vibe, and then embark on the mile-long walk from Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter. You can follow the length of the River Eye using flower-decorated cottages as your guide. You’ll pass by an old flour mill turned craft shop and museum, where the path opens up into the pastures.
Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are two of the most popular places to visit in the Cotswolds and need to make it onto your itinerary for a Cotswolds day trip from London.
Take a pic by the door in Stow on the Wold
This Cotswolds village is filled with character. Expect boutique shops, antique wares, and some of the best eateries in the Cotswolds.
One of the main things to do in Stow on the Wold – especially if you’re into your photography – is to seek out the door at St Edward’s Church. Go on, another snap for the memory bank.
If you want some dinner before you head back to London, head for The Old Butchers. You can grab a seriously delicious meal at this butcher-turned restaurant – choose from meat or seafood, or have both!
Read also: The most Instagrammable cafes in London
If you’re looking for something a bit more straightforward (and cheaper) the Kings Arms is a great British pub, with a delicious range of traditional pub grub. I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken wing and chips when I was there!
More places to enjoy in the Cotswolds
If you have more time on your day in the Cotswolds, then I’d recommend the Daylesford organic farm shop, visiting Swinbrook to learn about the Mitford Sisters, or exploring the Prince of Wales’s Highgrove Estate.
If not, you can head up to Moreton in Marsh to get your train back (hope you haven’t spent too much on taxis in the Cotswolds!), or just make the leisurely trip home in your car.
I’ve mentioned quite a few things to do in a day in the Cotswolds here. My number one tip though would be to not try and do too much.
The Cotswolds encompasses 800 square miles and five counties – Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Warwickshire. Just choose a small area – especially if you’re using public transport – and come back for another day.
Potential itineraries for the Cotswolds
Burford – Bibury – Burton on the Water – Stow on the Wold
Castle Combe – Stratton – Burton on the Water – Burford
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