9 Best Towns to Stay in the Cotswolds

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by Neota Langley

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Seemingly plucked directly from the pages of a storybook, the Cotswolds is a timeless destination full of quintessential British charm. Home to endless enchanting stone villages, rolling emerald hills and ancient woodlands, it can be a challenge to narrow down the best towns to stay in the Cotswolds. 

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) spans several counties, including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire, weaving together a tapestry of stunning landscapes and historic gems.

Every corner of the Cotswolds reveals something special – from the quaint streets of Bibury to the vibrant market town of Stow-on-the-Wold, each village has its own unique character and beauty.

History buffs have plenty of ancient churches, grand manor houses, and mediaeval castles to explore whilst the foodies discover the local culinary delights, including Cotswold cheese and artisanal gin in cosy country pubs and charming tearooms. 

Places to Stay in the Cotswolds

Bourton-on-the-Water – Best for Classic Cotswold Charm

This picturesque village is one of the most popular in the region, and while it is charming and beautiful, there are some facts to consider before choosing it as your best village to stay in the Cotswolds.

Bourton-on-the-Water is renowned for its stunning beauty, with the River Windrush running through the village under low stone bridges. The rows of traditional Cotswold stone cottages make this destination a photographer’s dream, the iconic shot up through the village is recognised worldwide as a picture postcard of the Cotswolds. 

Bourton-on-the-water is centrally located within the Cotswolds, making it an excellent starting point for exploring the region. You can easily access nearby villages and hot spots, both by car and on foot. 

The village itself is full of family-friendly activities, the Model Village, Birdland Park and Gardens, and the Cotswold Motoring Museum are all in the immediate vicinity so for those travelling with children, it’s easy to find things to do without needing to travel. 

Being one of the most popular Cotswold villages, Bourton-on-the-Water can get quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season. If you prefer a quieter and more secluded experience, you might find it too busy. The popularity of the village has led to a more tourist-oriented atmosphere, which for some, can detract from the authentic rural experience.

Another con to choosing to stay in a high-demand village is the price of accommodation. There is limited availability so during the peak summer months, finding affordable accommodation can be near impossible. If you do decide to stay in Bourton, it’s best to book well in advance. 


Where to Stay in Bourton-on-the-Water

The Lamb Inn – This traditional stone inn boasts countless luxe rooms and suites for those looking for a rustic yet plush stay. There is a country restaurant and bar on site along with breakfast and parking.

Coombe House – This large country house is a great option in Bourton. They have a variety of different rooms to choose from, free on-site parking and plenty of restaurants and pubs within easy reach.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Bourton-on-the-Water!

Stow-on-the-Wold – Best Bustling Village Option

If you are looking for a bustling historic market town, Stow-on-the-Wold is a dream destination. Located towards the northern side of the region, Stow-on-Wold blends the Cotswolds culture with a slightly busier atmosphere than the smaller villages. This town is the perfect middle ground between the quiet countryside and busy cities. 

Just up the road from our first destination Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow is centrally located for exploring the Cotswolds. It has better connectivity than Bourton for those without a car, with several bus routes heading to Cheltenham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway and other smaller villages.

The town is also close to several popular attractions, including historic sites like Chastleton House and Sezincote House and Garden but you will need a car to explore more of the surrounding countryside. 

Accommodation options don’t tend to be that varied in the smaller villages but Stow offers a range of accommodation options, from charming inns to cosy bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels, catering to different preferences and budgets.

Stow-on-Wold is famed for its history as a vibrant market town but even in the modern day, you will still find a busy local market (usually on the second Thursday of each month). There are also several boutique stores on the high street and a large supermarket, perfect for convenience. 

As one of the more popular Cotswold towns, Stow-on-the-Wold can become crowded, especially during weekends and holidays. If you’re looking for a more secluded and tranquil Cotswold experience, you may want to opt for a smaller, more rural village. 

Accommodation, whilst more varied than other Cotswolds destinations can still be on the pricier side due to the town’s popularity. If you are willing to stay on the outskirts of the town, however, you will find more budget-friendly accommodation. 

The Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold
Town of Stow-on-the-Wold

Where to Stay in Stow-on-the-Wold

Davenford Stow Gardens – This bed and breakfast is a great place to stay in this beautiful village. There are a couple of room types to choose from and guests can enjoy a full English/Irish breakfast each morning.

The Porch House Hotel – This plush property is one of the best hotels in the Cotswolds if you’re looking for luxury. There are countless gorgeous rooms, a fab breakfast and myriad other amenities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Stow-on-the-Wold!

Bibury – Best Town for a Tranquil Escape

Bibury is celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty and is often described as one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds. The Arlington Row cottages, in particular, are an iconic image capturing the heart of the Cotswolds experience. 

Bibury exudes a peaceful and tranquil ambience, far away from the hustle and bustle. For those looking for a countryside retreat, Bibury is perfect.

The River Coln runs through the village, offering lovely riverside walks and longer walks through the countryside with plenty of pub stops for lunch along the way. As you wander around the village, you’ll discover the rich history and many well-preserved historic buildings, including the Church of St. Mary.

There are pros and cons to staying in a smaller, more quaint village. If you like to be surrounded by amenities, Bibury may not be the best area to stay in the Cotswolds.

Bibury has limited accommodation, retail and dining options compared to larger Cotswold towns, so you may need to venture to nearby villages for a wider selection of amenities.

The public transport links are limited the further into the countryside you stray, which is something to bear in mind if you don’t have your own car and don’t plan on hiring one. 

Arlington Row in Bibury
Arlington Row in Bibury

Where to Stay in Bibury

Cotteswold House – Offering both traditional rooms and furnished cottages, this property also has a great full breakfast each morning, a fantastic location in Bibury and free parking available.

The Swan Hotel – A grand option in this charming town, this hotel has a range of opulent rooms, traditional decor and beautiful grounds to explore. There is a superb breakfast and an on-site restaurant, as well.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Bilbury!

Tetbury – Best Town for Antique Shopping

Another historical market town, Tetbury is towards the southern side of the Cotswolds AONB. The town has a lively atmosphere, with a bustling market that takes place every Wednesday. It’s also home to numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Alongside the weekly market, Tetbury is home to several art galleries and antique shops. It is a treasure hunter’s paradise so if you are hoping to pick up some unique homeware, this town is the ideal destination. 

Tetbury is well-situated for exploring the Cotswolds, with plenty of nearby attractions, including the Westonbirt Arboretum and Highgrove House, the residence of Prince Charles. Although there are several National Trust houses, tearooms and countryside walks to explore nearby, you won’t find many family-specific attractions in the immediate area.

If you decide to stay in Tetbury, it’s worth noting that some of the most popular attractions are slightly further away but it’s easy to loop in the ‘must-see’ villages and towns in one day so if you don’t mind being a little out of the way, Tetbury is still an option.  

Tetbury offers a range of accommodation options, from charming inns and boutique hotels to bed and breakfasts, catering to different preferences and budgets. Head outside of the town centre to discover quaint, thatched cottages surrounded by rolling hills. 

While not as touristy as some other Cotswold villages, Tetbury can still get busy, especially during market days and events. This may affect your ability to enjoy a quieter experience. If you’re seeking a more secluded and tranquil Cotswold experience, you may find that Tetbury is potentially lacking the serenity of smaller villages.

Village of Tetbury
Village of Tetbury

Where to Stay in Tetbury

Trouble House – This cosy hotel is perfect for mid-range visitors on a trip to the Cotswolds. They have a range of different rooms to choose from along with a great, on-site restaurant and breakfast available.

The Close Hotel – A 4-star hotel set in a grand, 16th-century townhouse, this is a great place to stay in Tetbury. There are plenty of plush rooms, an inviting bar, a lovely breakfast and free parking for guests.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Tetbury!

Burford – Best Town for Sightseeing

Burford is often called the “Gateway to the Cotswolds” and is one of the most picturesque villages in the region known for its honey-coloured stone buildings and winding streets. 

The perfect destination for the retail enthusiast, Burford is home to several antique stores along the high street, boutiques selling local crafts and artwork and of course, the iconic Burford Garden Centre.

If you want to experience the best of the Cotswolds without having to travel between villages, Burford is the destination that has it all. It is on the outer edge of the region but is still well-connected if you want to take a day trip to Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold or Blenheim Palace. It is also the closest destination to Oxford and London so if you are travelling from the east, it is very easy to get to.

The rolling hills that surround the village provide opportunities for walking, hiking, and cycling, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. You could explore the Cotswold Way, a long-distance footpath that passes through the town, or opt for shorter, scenic walks around the town and surrounding countryside.

Burford is also an excellent base for birdwatching enthusiasts, from here you can explore the nearby nature reserves and wetlands, such as Sherborne Brook and Rissington Nature Reserves. The Cotswold wildlife park is also just on the outskirts of Burford which makes for a great day out for families. You can even take your dog on the walking safari so the whole family can come face to face with the exotic animals.

Being one of the most popular villages in the Cotswolds region, Burford can become crowded in the peak summer months but it is not a large village so the crowds usually dissipate as the evening draws in. It is not a secluded destination there is still a hint of authenticity unlike some of the larger, busier destinations. 

Burford is home to a range of accommodation options but they can be on the expensive side due to the limited availability and high demand. 

Stone Cottages in Burford 
Stone Cottages in Burford 

Where to Stay in Burford

The Royal Oak Burford – This traditional inn is an excellent place to stay in Burford. They have several cosy rooms to choose from and a hearty full breakfast available in the mornings.

The Three Horseshoes – A great luxury option in Burford, this beautiful hotel has it all. They offer a range of plush rooms, gorgeous gardens and a fantastic, on-site restaurant.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Burford!

Broadway – Best Town for Families

Broadway is located on the northern edge of the Cotswolds, providing panoramic views of the countryside and the Cotswold Hills.

With its picturesque streets and historic charm, Broadway is the perfect romantic destination but would also suit families looking for a quieter place to stay or those hoping to explore the Cotswolds hills on foot or by bike. 

The village has a variety of shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, making it a vibrant place to explore, shop, and dine. There are not as many options as in our previous destination, Burford, but this means the village itself can be less crowded. 

Broadway has a rich heritage, with landmarks such as the ancient St. Eadburgha’s Church and the Broadway Tower standing atop a nearby hill. You can walk up to the tower for panoramic views across the Cotswolds before joining one of the meandering footpaths back down into the village. 

Broadway is well-situated for exploring the Cotswolds and other nearby attractions, including the Cotswold Lavender Farm, Snowshill Manor, and Hidcote Manor Garden and the town of Chipping Campden.

There are buses that connect Broadway with the larger Stow-on-the-Wold but if you don’t have a car, accessing other Cotswolds destinations may be tricky and time consuming. 

Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds
Broadway Tower

Where to Stay in Broadway

The Broadway Hotel – Located right in the centre of Broadway, this 3-star hotel is an excellent place to stay. There are plenty of twin and double rooms to choose from and an on-site restaurant and bar. Free parking is also available.

Abbots Grange Manor House – This adults-only hotel is perfect for couples wanting to stay in an opulent countryside manor. There are a number of gorgeous rooms to choose from and an excellent breakfast served daily.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Broadway!

Cirencester – Best Town for History Buffs

Often referred to as the capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is in fact a town and not a city. It is the central hub of the region so it is a popular place to stay if you don’t mind trading the quaint village feel for the vibrancy of this historic market town. 

Cirencester is one of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds for those travelling in a group. Whether it is a group of friends or a larger family unit, no matter what the age range, you can guarantee everyone will find activities to suit in and around Cirencester. 

Whilst the town does not have its own train station, it is just 5 miles from the nearest station at Kemble where you can find trains to Bristol, London, Swindon and Birmingham among others. If you aren’t travelling with a car and don’t wish to hire one, Cirencester is the best area to stay in the Cotswolds, with regular bus services connecting with other towns.

Cirencester was known as “Corinium” during the Roman era and is home to a wealth of historical sites, including the Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre and the Corinium Museum. There are plenty of historical sites to discover around the region but history buffs will get the most out of staying in or around Cirencester.

Like many other Cotswold towns, Cirencester can get crowded, especially during weekends and holidays. Traffic can become congested and limited parking options are often full before 10am.

If you are hoping to experience the tranquillity of a quaint stone village, Cirencester is not the destination for you. There are plenty of smaller villages surrounding the town however so you could get the best of both worlds by expanding your accommodation search just a few miles. 

Historic Cirencester
Historic Cirencester

Where to Stay in Cirencester

Ingleside House – This funky hotel effortlessly blends traditional with modernity. They have several comfortable rooms on offer and there is also a great full breakfast available in the mornings.

The Old Brewhouse – Located in a 17th-century home, this hotel has several ensuite rooms on offer and a great breakfast is included in the room rate. There is also free parking available to guests.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Cirencester!

Upper and Lower Slaughter – Best Area for Couples

The ultimate peaceful retreat, the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are like something straight out of a fairytale.

If you are dreaming of the quiet Cotswolds misty mornings, dewy wildflower meadows, character stone buildings with just the sound of the trickling stream running down beside the country lanes, one of these villages is the perfect destination for you.  

Upper and Lower Slaughter are twin villages nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, known for their quintessential charm. Lower Slaughter features the enchanting River Eye, while Upper Slaughter is home to historic buildings and a parish church.

The Slaughters, as they are affectionately known, capture the true essence of the Cotswolds, offering an escape to a bygone era of rural English life to anyone who visits.

The Slaughters offer a peaceful atmosphere that allows for relaxation and escaping the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. It’s perfect for couples seeking a romantic escape. There are endless walks to choose from, meandering footpaths along the River Eye or expeditions out into the hills. Perfect for packing a picnic and enjoying the serenity. 

The downside to staying in a rural village is the lack of amenities. There is a village shop and a tea room/gift shop but if you need to restock the fridge, go out for dinner or peruse antique stores you will need to travel.

Saying that, Stow-on-the-Wold is just 4 miles away so if you have a car, this shouldn’t be a deciding factor. 

Upper Slaughter village
Upper Slaughter village

Where to Stay in the Slaughters

Lords Of The Manor – This 4-star hotel located in Upper Slaughter is a lovely place to stay. They have countless beautifully-decorated rooms and two restaurants – one fine dining and one more casual option.

Thimble Cottage – This cosy cottage is a great place to stay in Lower Slaughter. Fully equipped with all you may need for your trip, there are barbecue facilities and a cosy fireplace if it’s needed.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Upper and Lower Slaughter!

Cotswold Water Park – Best Area for Watersports

Last on our list of best places to stay in the Cotswolds is perhaps a bit of a wild card. Not classed as a town or village, the Cotswold Water Park is a vast network of over 180 lakes that were once gravel quarries with a range of accommodation options dotted between them.

This sprawling nature reserve covers an area of over 40 square miles and offers a haven for active families and nature enthusiasts. 

There are endless activities available, especially for those who enjoy watersports. Hire canoes, paddleboards, sailboats, kayaks or try windsurfing.

Some of the lakes have swimming areas, perfect for cooling off in fresh, clear waters in the mid-summer heat. For those who prefer to stay dry, there are plenty of footpaths, biking trails, boat trips and wildlife-watching hides. 

The Cotswold Water Park is conveniently located just a few miles from the Kemble train station, within touching distance of Cirencester and is easily accessible just off the M4 at Swindon.

One obvious downside to staying at the Cotswold Water Park is that you will miss out on staying in an authentic Cotswold village. The accommodation options are mostly new builds, in ‘villages’ around the lakes. It’s easy enough to day trip out to the more quintessential towns and villages but if it is your first time in the Cotswolds, you may want to experience more of the historic charm.

The activities around the lakes are also largely seasonal which is something to bear in mind if you are travelling either side of the peak summer months. 

A lake at Cotswold Water Park
A lake at Cotswold Water Park

Where to Stay near Cotswold Water Park

Raglans – This comfortable guesthouse in Swindon is located within a few kilometres of Cotswold Water Park. There are a few double rooms to choose from, equipped with all the comforts you may need during your stay.

Eliot Arms – This 4-star inn located within a stone’s throw from Cotswold Water Park is a great choice. They have plenty of comfortable rooms to suit all kinds of visitors. There’s a great breakfast, free parking and an on-site restaurant.

The Cotswolds is a dream destination for those looking for an idyllic British retreat. Far away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll find traditional Cotswold stone villages, ancient woodlands and rolling hills.

Are you planning to visit the Cotswolds? Have any questions about these villages? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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