With picture-perfect Cotswolds cottages, idyllic village greens, cosy tea rooms and traditional pubs, Gloucestershire is packed with Old English charm. Read our guide to the prettiest towns and villages to explore.
When it comes to chocolate box villages, you can’t beat Bibury. Once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England’, it’s hard not to fall in love with this quintessential Cotswolds gem. Packed with character and charm, Bibury is an enduringly popular spot with sightseers keen to get a picture of Arlington Row. Overlooking a water meadow and the River Coln, this row of 14th-century weaver’s cottages is instantly recognisable as one of the most photographed streets in the country. Spend a lazy, sunny afternoon wandering around the village and along the river for a true Cotswolds experience.
Set on the banks of the River Severn, Tewkesbury is a vibrant market town with lots to offer. The town’s skyline is dominated by Tewkesbury Abbey, which, with its world-renowned Norman tower, decorative 12th-century ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows and rich history, is well worth a visit. For another culture hit, make sure you check out the town’s museums, or, to really take in the beauty of the town, try one of the walking trails that take you into the heart of Tewkesbury, down winding streets and alleyways lined with a stunning mix of medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian architecture.
With the calm waters of the River Windrush meandering under elegant, low bridges through the village, it’s easy to see why Bourton-on-the-Water has been fondly dubbed ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’. The banks of the river are lined with traditional honey-coloured stone cottages, shops and tea rooms, where you can happily while away a day exploring what’s on offer. If you prefer, take a seat a bench overlooking the river and just kick back and watch the world go by.
Just a short walk from Bouton-on-the-Water, the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are unspoilt Gloucestershire treasures. Their unusual names are actually derived from the old English for ‘muddy place’, but they are far from that today! Elegant and idyllic, both villages are steeped in history and have remained untouched architecturally since 1906 – so a trip here feels like a step back in time. Enjoy the slow pace of life and take a gentle stroll around the villages (don’t miss Copse Hill Road in Lower Slaughter, voted the most romantic street in England), the old flour mill and alongside the stream that connects the two.
Sitting proud, high up in the Gloucestershire hills, this historic wool town close to Stroud is a visual delight. Known as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’, there’s a regal feel to this vibrant town, thanks to its captivating architecture in local honey-hued stone, which gives the town a golden glow. Take a visit to the stunning churchyard of St Mary’s, with its 99 ancient yew trees (legend has it that the Devil won’t let the 100th grow), and the Rococo Gardens at Painswick House, which are at their best in late winter and early spring, when a carpet of snowdrops covers the ground. Perched halfway along the Cotswold Way National Trail, Painswick is surrounded by a walker’s paradise, with scenery to match.
Unspoilt, peaceful and full of charm, Blockley is a picture-perfect village set among green rolling hills. Golden Cotswold stone cottages provide the backdrop to this beautiful, sleepy village, which still has plenty to offer holiday makers. Explore pretty Mill Dene Garden, before taking a seat by the mill pond, where you can enjoy a cream tea while trying to spot a kingfisher. Or head to the village green, which overlooks the Norman Church and makes the perfect spot for a summer picnic.
Once a prosperous medieval wool town, Chipping Campden is now a picturesque market town that is home to one of the prettiest high streets in England. The main street, which gently curves in a shallow arc, is lined with ancient limestone houses – each a masterpiece of Cotswolds craftsmanship and individual character. Surrounded by scenic countryside, Chipping Campden marks the start/finish point of the Cotswold Way, so has plenty to offer keen ramblers – not least a fantastic choice of cosy pubs to refuel or relax at the end of a good day’s walking.