Thinking of the Cotswolds as part of your next British adventure? Not sure if they’re worth it — or which one(s) to choose? I break out my top picks here.
The Cotswolds are certainly charming. Moreton-in-Marsh makes the most sense if you decide you want to stay a few nights in the area — more on that in the Moreton section. However, many do make great day trips — especially if done with a guided tour. Getting between the villages can be a challenge, and tours take care of the logistics for you. Rabbie’s Tours offers several Cotswolds tours from London; CJP Cotswold Tours does a variety of tours as well.
Few, if any, Cotswold villages offer much in the way of nightlife; any would be a great choice to get away from the hubbub of the city.
The Base: Moreton-in-Marsh
Easily accessible from London Paddington and Oxford, Moreton makes a great base for your time in the Cotswolds (if you plan to sleep in the area). Be aware, compared to Windsor (which is small-ish in itself), Moreton is very small — and many other Cotswold towns are smaller. Moreton features one main street, where a majority of the action happens. Imagine Cannon Beach without the beach, and you’ll land here!
Image via Cotswolds.com.
My Favorite: Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton, along with Stow-on-Wold (next), is my absolute favorite Cotswold village. It’s truly charming, with the river-canal running through the middle of town! Consider enjoying tea and scones next to the water, then meandering among the shops. Make sure to visit the Victorian Christmas Shop!
The oldest part of the Bourton church dates to ~1325, though a consistent church presence has been in Bourton since 700 A.D. Amazing!
My Second Favorite (aka the Tolkien connection): Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold lies halfway between Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-on-Marsh. The real reason I love Stow so much is its church: one of the side entrances is flanked by two yew trees. This scene is said to be the inspiration for the entrance to Moria in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and I may have quoted some of it accordingly! (It’s amazing my parents are still willing to be seen with me.)
All About the Food: Chipping Campden
My favorite part of Chipping Campden is the food. 🙂 Badger Hall served an amazing carrot and coriander soup, with thick slices of granary bread; Le Petit Croissant offered delicious tarts, including one topped with raspberries, and another with lemon curd. Divine!
Area shops provide quite a selection of gifts and trinkets for purchase. I still enjoy my Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress!) cloth ornament on my Christmas tree each year!
The town is known for its terraced High Street, which dates to between the 14th and 17th centuries., as well as being home to the Cotswold Arts and Crafts movement of the 20th century.
The Must-See (Once): Arlington Row
Arlington Row is a row of former wool weavers’ cottages in Bibury, and apparently one of the most photographed places in England. Worth a visit to check it off your list — but repeat visits likely not necessary.
Henry Ford wanted to buy the entire row, dismantle it, and rebuild it in America. Thankfully, that didn’t go anywhere!
A river is nearby, that provides a neat little walk and overall setting for the area. Consider taking tea here.
Off the beaten path: Minster Lovell
Legend has it that the ninth Lord Lovell, Francis, took the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses. He went into hiding in a secret room deep in the Lovell Manor, and only an old servant knew he was there. The servant was tortured to death, but didn’t reveal Francis’s location; the lord ended up starving to death (as did the dog with him). His body was found 200 years later (1708) in an excavation dig.
The Tourist Trap: Banbury
Banbury receives a steady stream of tourists — and it shows. A nice spot to do some shopping for family back home, but ultimately received mixed reviews from my group.