The Cotswolds are full of delightful houses built from local limestone, originally funded on the profits of the medieval wool trade. It’s not a county in itself as some may think, but rather an AONB which stands for Area of Outstanding Beauty. The Cotswolds is large area and some of its villages are located far from one another. While you can get there by train from London via Oxford (an approx. 1h30 min journey will take you to Kingham and Moreton-in-Marsh), I would highly recommend exploring it by car. If you want to see as many places as possible in a short period of time, you will be able to visit 3-4 villages a day.
Lower Slaughter gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon word slough, or ‘a muddy place’. It is a tranquil village with a peaceful stream running through the middle. It’s a roughly 10-minute walk through to the top of the village where you will see the main attraction – the Old Mill. If you decide to visit it you will be guided through the history of breadmaking and learn how a corn mill works.
If you are visiting Lower Slaughter, make sure you don’t miss the nearby village of Upper Slaughter (which is a 2-minute drive further down the road). It’s less touristy and offers some great things to do:
– Take a walk around the entire village to see some examples of beautiful English cottages
– Visit St.Peter’s Church, a very pretty village church
– Take a tour of Upper Slaughter Manor (they have house tours for only a few weeks during the summer months)
– Take a photo of the Lords of the Manor luxury hotel – it’s architecture is simply stunning!
This village looks like a tourist-favourite place. It was the busiest place we visited and I can understand why. The village was flanked by photogenic Jacobean and Georgian facades in the iconic yellow Cotswolds limestone, standing along the river decorated with four picturesque little bridges.
Attractions: Birdland, Cotswold Motor Museum, The Model Village.
Probably one of the most photographed streets in the country. Arlington Row was originally built in 1380 as a wool store and converted into a line of cottages for house weavers in 17th century. British citizens can see a photo of this place in their passports 🙂
Attractions: Arlington Row, Bibury Trout Farm.
This place gives an idea of how a prosperous wool town might have looked like in the Middle Ages. The High Street has a high concentration of photogenic buildings, featuring mostly Tudor and Jacobean facades. In the middle of the village there is 17th century Market Hall which is an open-sided pavilion. Not sure if it’s used for a weekend market in the present time 🙂
Attractions: Market Hall, Old Silk Mill, St.James Church.
Broadway and Broadway Tower
Broadway Village turned out to be one of those places where you might not plan to spend much time… but end up walking around for several hours just taking it all in. The high street has lots of historic buildings serving as shops, inns, and pubs, while the best part of the village is Station Road – an Instagrammer’s dream come true! Every house is incredibly cute and photogenic.
1 mile away from Broadway is Broadway Tower – a picturesque and unique place to visit in Cotswolds. It’s said you can see 16 counties from the top of it. There is no admission fee to walk around the tower. More information for your visit on its official website.
As with other Cotswolds villages, Painswick grew on the back of the wool trade. Now it attracts tourists with its parish church and graveyard, lined with 99 yew trees trimmed into bulbous lollipops. A bit further away is the famous Rococo Garden, which I still have to visit because it was too late when I arrived there…
I recommend spending 30 to 40 minutes walking around the village to explore it’s hidden corners.
The last but by no means the least is my favourite village of Castle Combe! For a population of only 300 people, this village is an incredibly popular place to visit with a number of iconic shots frequently appearing on Instagram. As it’s not a hidden gem consider getting there very early in the morning to avoid lots of tourists.
Make sure you don’t miss the Manor House hotel. To get there you need to go through the gate in the upper part of the village and then stay on the main road that will lead up to the hotel’s gardens. Go through the gardens and you will end up at a place on the image above.
Bonus – Chastleton House (National Trust property)
Don’t leave the Cotswolds without visiting this manor house. Built between 1605 and 1612 by Walter Jones, a Welsh wool merchant, Chastleton House ranks among England’s most splendid Jacobean properties. Inside, the house looks stuck in time, with unwashed upholstery, unpolished wood, and miscellaneous clutter. That’s because National Trust decided to stick with the ‘lived-in’ look.
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