The Cotswolds, a collection of villages and scenic countryside, is one of the most charming and quintessentially English locales in the United Kingdom. The region, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the U.K., is less than two hours from London by car or train, making it an ideal destination for a weekend out of the city.
To get to the Cotswolds, travelers can rent a car in London, Oxford or Bath, or take a train from London’s Paddington to one of the several stations in the countryside. Once you’ve arrived, the Cotswolds are more easily explored via car, but if you plan to unwind at one of the countryside hotels for a few days, a taxi from the local train station will do the trick. The Cotswolds spans nearly 800 square miles, extending from Bath in the south to Banbury in the north, so it’s best to pick a few towns to explore in one trip.
The towns and villages look like movie sets, accompanied by scenic walking trails, museums, historic sites and a wealth of high-end pubs that exemplify the concept of farm-to-table. If you have the time, extend your Cotswolds weekend with a few days in Bath or Bristol, or take a jaunt to Oxford, located slightly east of the area.
Planning a trip to the Cotswolds may seem overwhelming, but it’s hard to go wrong.. Start by selecting the towns you’re most interested in exploring, or the hotel you want to make your homebase, then add day trips or meandering drives to nearby spots. Here’s everything you need to know about spending a luxury weekend in the Cotswolds.
Where To Go
The market town of Chipping Campden is known as the jewel of the Cotswolds—and for good reason. Its historic high street, which dates back to the 14th century, is charming and filled with great shops, pubs, tea rooms and inns. Found in the northern part of the Cotswolds, the town is perfect for a morning stroll or as part of a drive that includes several other nearby spots, like Broadway, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Hill. Nearby, visitors will find Dover’s Hill, a National Trust property perfect for a walk or picnic.
Situated on the River Windrush not far from Oxford, Burford is often referred to as the gateway to the Cotswolds. The historic market town, known for its picturesque high street, has a lot to offer, from galleries and antique shops to restaurants and cafes, to the Burford Tolsey Museum and Archive. It’s a great place to go shopping, especially if you enjoy digging through the treasures in local charity stores, and the pubs are notably classic. Burford is located near the Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens and the Crocodiles of the World, both of which are favorites of animal lovers. While there are some hotels and inns in Burford, it’s best as a day trip.
Located on the northwestern edge of the Cotswolds, Broadway is an especially popular village for visitors. It’s accessible via Evesham on a train from London, but those with a car will enjoy the proximity to Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon and the charming nearby town of Moreton-in-Marsh. It features numerous hotels and B&Bs, as well as a solid selection of pubs and tearooms, plus the Gordon Russell Design Museum. The village is a good base for those who want to embark on scenic countryside walks or who plan to explore the Cotswolds over a few days.
While there is no longer an actual castle in Castle Combe, the village is well-known for its historic beauty. The town has been used to film numerous movies, including the original Doctor Dolittle, and today visitors flock there to enjoy its charming high street and scenic local walks. It’s relatively small, with a selection of pubs, shops and cafes, but many people also come for car races at the Castle Combe Circuit or a round at the Manor House Golf Club. The town is in the more southern part of the Cotswolds and easily accessed from Bath.
Where To Stay
Members and non-members alike can book into the exclusive Soho Farmhouse, a country chic outpost of the global members club. The vast property, which has actual farm animals and gardens, boasts a cinema, multiple restaurants and bars, a spa, gym and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool that’s open year-round. The rooms and cabins are sophisticated despite the rustic setting—and don’t worry, they’ll loan you a pair of wellies. Opt for one of the cozy Piglet cabins or splurge on a creek-side cabin, some of which are big enough for the whole family. The farm is located in Great Tew near Chipping Norton, and is accessible by train to Charlbury followed by a quick taxi or by car.
The charming village of Broadway is home to several hotels, but few as historic or luxurious as The Lygon Arms, a small property set in a 17th century coaching inn. The hotel has a high-end countryside feel, with well-appointed rooms and suites that look over a courtyard. There’s also an indoor pool and spa, a British pub run by chef James Martin and a traditional afternoon tea. Kids and dogs are welcome, making this an easy pick for families and groups. Nearby, guests can find walking trails, golf, distilleries and Broadway Tower, an iconic Cotswolds landmark.
If countryside opulence is your style, book a room at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, a Relais & Chateaux property that was once a Palladian mansion. Set on 500 acres near Bath, the hotel is all about indulgence and relaxation. Accommodations range from 42 unique rooms and suites, which blend classic décor with contemporary touches, to six country cottages, ideal for larger groups. The spa is expansive, with a swimming pool, fitness studio and Peloton bikes, while Restaurant Hywel Jones offers a Michelin-starred dining experience. The hotel also has its own equestrian area, to embrace your inner horse girl.
Enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors at Cowley Manor, a historic property that recently received a facelift. The buildings date back to the 17th century, but today, the hotel embraces high-end modern luxury, which threads through its rooms and suites, as well as the spa and the dual swimming pools. A more traditional vibe can be found in the restaurant, helmed by British chef Jackson Boxer. The highlight of the hotel is its gardens, which sweep across the grounds and offer numerous peaceful respites. Nearby, guests can hike, horseback ride or explore Cheltenham, the closest large town.
What To Do
Westonbirt Arboretum houses more than 2,500 different species of trees, making it the perfect destination for a relaxed morning out in the Cotswolds. Created nearly two centuries ago, the arboretum now features walking trails, guided walks, a café, treetop walkway and numerous activities for kids. It also hosts special events, like movie nights, 10K runs and a light-filled holiday trail called Enchanted Christmas. The arboretum is located in the southern region of the Cotswolds, about 20 miles north of Bath, but it’s an easy drive from most towns in the area.
Known as England’s Versailles, Blenheim Palace is an impressive attraction that frequently hosts special exhibitions. The palace, accessible by bus or train from Oxford, welcomes visitors into its well-preserved rooms and gardens, and offers a memorable afternoon tea daily on the ornate lawn. The stately home is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, whose legacy is recounted in an exhibit, as well as his birth room. Don’t skip the Marlborough Maze, created with two miles of yew trees, or Lights, Camera, Action! Trail, which showcases the palace’s filming locations.
Indulge in some local fruit at Hayles Fruit Farm in Winchcombe, a popular Cotswolds attraction that dates back to 1880. Visitors can pick their own strawberries, plums, apples, pears or pumpkins—depending on the time of year—or scour the farm shop for some goodies. The farm’s Orchard Kitchen serves up lunch and dinner, as well. Elsewhere at Hayles, there’s fishing, a walking trail and even camping.
Trek 102 miles along the Cotswold Way, a well-marked trail that extends from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. It passes through many of the area’s most scenic locales, including Hailes Abbey and Cleeve Hill, and the walk is broken up into 15 different sections. Those looking for a shorter stroll can opt for one of the circular routes. The trail is open in all seasons, although spring and fall are the best times for colorful views. While the Cotswolds are known for sweeping hills and green fields, the route can be steep in parts, so come prepared.
There’s no lack of spas in the Cotswolds, but Calcot Spa, part of a larger country hotel, is known as one of the best. It boasts a heated indoor pool, sauna and steam room, gym, tennis courts and treatment rooms. Book in for a full spa day, or try an evening spa experience, which includes a short facial, massage or body treatment of your choice. Visitors planning to spend a few extra days in the area can even book a five- or seven-day spa membership.
Where To Eat and Drink
Those in the know head straight to Daylesford Farm when spending a weekend in the Cotswolds. The chic outpost, found near Kingham, operates as several restaurants, a farm shop, hotel, spa and cooking school. The farm shop alone is worth a visit, as is The Trough Café, which serves a delicious breakfast. The shop offers free delivery within 10 miles, so if you’re staying nearby you know where to get groceries. Make a day of it at the farm’s Bamford Wellness Spa, which offers classes and treatments.
A seasonal menu of local ingredients—many of which come from Daylesford Farm—is served at The Wild Rabbit, helmed by chef Sam Bowser. The restaurant offers a tasting menu in the evenings, as well as a la carte options, and the Sunday roast is especially popular. Expect British-inspired dishes with proteins like lamb, chalk stream trout and rabbit. Located in Kingham, the eatery also features contemporary pub rooms that are best suited to couples.
There’s not much to see in the village of Langford, but it’s worth a drive to enjoy the food at The Bell Inn. The pub is run by Peter Creed and Tom Noest, who focus on contemporary British cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients. Book in for a lively Sunday roast, or stop by for dinner. Those staying at Soho Farmhouse can dine at the pub’s smaller outpost, The Little Bell, located on the grounds of the members club.
Crudwell’s The Potting Shed Pub is a favorite with locals thanks to its casual, cool vibe and seasonal menu, which puts a modern spin on the usual pub fare. While the menu features expected dishes like burgers and steak, there’s also a focus on vegetable-led options. The wine list is vast, so it’s a good spot for a drink while exploring the area.
Every town and village in the Cotswolds is packed with tea rooms, but Tisanes Tea Room, on Broadway’s high street, is one of the most beloved. Set in a 17th century building with its own garden, the tea room serves a traditional afternoon tea, as well as cakes, sandwiches and coffee. Afternoon tea is available every day from 12 to 4:30 p.m., and it’s charmingly rustic rather than fancy. Gluten-free options are available, making this a good pick for anyone with dietary limitations.