The Most Beautiful Places in the Cotswolds

Castle Combe's well-placed location makes it a perfect base for exploring nearby towns and countryside
Castle Combe's well-placed location makes it a perfect base for exploring nearby towns and countryside | © massimiliano finzi / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sarah Dawson
28 August 2020

When talking about the Cotswolds, it’s easy to run out of superlatives to describe how beautiful it really is. Famous for its distinctive landscape of green rolling hills, honey-coloured cottages, beautiful woodland, ancient churches and grand manor houses, it can be hard to know where to start when exploring the area. Here are some of the most gorgeous spots the Cotswolds has to offer.

The Slaughters

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View
©  David Warren / Alamy Stock Photo
Picture the ultimate, sleepy, traditional Cotswold village and you’ve got Lower and Upper Slaughter. Despite the less-than romantic names (derived from the old English for muddy place; nothing to do with butchery!) these twin villages are as charming and quintessentially Cotswolds as you’ll find. Enjoy a leisurely one-mile stroll along the gentle river that connects the two villages to take in the beautiful scenery. Complete your trip to this quaint English village with an overnight stay in a 19th-century methodist chapel.

Hidcote Manor and Garden

Botanical Garden, Building, Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
Map View
© Stephen Sykes / Alamy Stock Photo
The Cotswolds is an area spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful and historic gardens, and the grounds of Hidcote Manor are among the best in the country. This Arts and Crafts garden is made up of a series of outdoor “rooms” for you to explore. The maze of pathways will lead you to dreamy secret gardens, alive with colour and teaming with wildlife. Prepare to fall in love. Then stay locally at a traditional timber-framed cottage that dates back over 300 years.

Crickley Hill Country Park

Park
Map View
© the red house image library / Alamy Stock Photo
Boasting some of the best views in the Cotswolds, Crickley Hill looks out across the Severn Vale, Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains. The rich plant life and wildflowers make this a haven for butterflies and a real treat for nature lovers. The hill also has a fascinating history, with evidence of human activity going back to 4,000 BCE. A café sits at the top of the hill and provides the perfect spot for a cup of tea with some serious views. There’s even an all-terrain mobility scooter available to hire so that the views are accessible to everyone. Treat yourself to a night in a quirky modern barn conversion after a long day of exploring.

Bibury

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo
Set on the banks of the Rive Coln, this exquisite Cotswolds village is a hugely popular stop-off on the tourist trail – and with good reason. With an interesting history and spectacular views, Bibury has a lot to offer sightseers. Take a step back in time and stroll along Arlington Row, the picturesque row of 17thcentury weavers’ cottages that make up one of the UK’s most-photographed streets, then wander along the river bank, taking in the sights of the scenic Rack Isle water meadow. Hunker down for the night in a charming, Grade II-listed, stone Cotswold cottage.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Botanical Garden
Map View
© James Osmond / Getty Images
This stunning 600-acre Arboretum is home to over 2,500 different species of tree and is widely regarded as the one of the finest in the world. Lose yourself in the Silk Wood, take in a different perspective along the treetop walk and let the kids have fun with the interactive displays, as well as the ever-popular Gruffalo trail which pops up throughout the year. Westonbirt is a joy whatever the season, from the magnolias in spring to the snowy landscapes of winter. But it’s in autumn that the trees explode with colour, and the Arboretum truly dazzles.

Broadway

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© John Woodworth / Alamy Stock Photo
Broadway is another chocolate-box village that’s bursting with Cotswolds charm. The elegant High Street lined with horse chestnut trees is home to grand period houses, golden stone cottages and cosy pubs. There’s even a traditional village green that hosts the annual village fete, a perfect opportunity to experience a real slice of traditional English country life. Take a walk up Fish Hill to Broadway Tower for fantastic views of the village and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse at the elusive red deer that graze there. Sleep under a traditional thatched roof at the Orchard Cottage in the village.

Cranham Woods

Forest
Map View
© Martin Bache / Alamy Stock Photo
Cranham is the starting point for some fantastic walks through some of the prettiest woodland in the Cotswolds. Explore the stillness and calm of the ancient beech forests of Buckholt Wood – even more picturesque in May when the ground is carpeted in fragrant bluebells – then through Cooper’s Hill Wood, which takes you to the foot of the infamous Cooper’s Hill – home to the annual cheese rolling competition, one of the Cotswolds’ strangest traditions. For spectacular, uninterrupted views of the woods, spend the night in a luxury barn.

Cam Peak

Natural Feature
Map View
Stay amongst the rolling Cotswold hills | © massimiliano finzi / Alamy Stock Photo
For stunning panoramic Cotswolds views, take a trip up to Cam Peak. Just a short walk from Cam Long Down, it’s well worth making the effort, as you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Cotswold Escarpment, as well as a landscape of green rolling hills that is so typical of the area. Pack a picnic, make a day of it, then rest up at a lovely restored coach house in Dursley.
These recommendations were updated on August 28, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.