The Cotswolds | Top things to see and do + Where to Stay

The Cotswolds, covering nearly 800 square miles of beautiful scenery, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. It offers a variety of natural and man-made attractions, events and activities throughout the year. This beautiful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has for decades been drawing in visitors who come to experience its rustic rural charm, scenic countryside, vibrant market towns and picture-perfect villages with houses built of Cotswold stone. There are castles to explore, historic gardens & museums to visit, charming towns to discover and so much more to see and do. The list is endless. 

Top things to see and do in the Cotswolds


One trip is just not enough to experince the Cotswolds. If you are planning to visit and are wondering what to see and do in the Cotswolds, take a look at my suggestions below.

Enjoy a day out at Blenheim Palace

Built in the 18th-century Baroque style, Blenheim Palace is home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is lots to see and do, both indoors and outdoors.

The Palace State Rooms are one of the highlights with their collection of beautiful tapestries, art and furniture. Guided tours are available that offer a glimpse in to the history of the palace and its residents.

Blenheim Palace in the Cotswolds

The gardens at Blenheim are also beautiful. There are the Formal Gardens that include the Duke's Private Italian Garden, stunning Water Terraces, the Secret Garden and the Rose Garden to name a few. The Walled Garden includes a Butterfly House and the very popular Marlborough Maze. And then there is a lovely, serene lake with lots of benches at various spots to sit back and admire the view.

There are a couple of exhibitions too that tell the story of Blenheim through the centuries. Once you are done exploring, you can recharge at one of the Palace's many eateries.

It is a great place to spend a whole day!

Get charmed by the beauty of Bibury

William Morris called Bibury ‘The most beautiful village in England’ and it is not surprising why. With its beautiful stone cottages and buildings along the banks of the River Coln, the village looks more like a picture postcard. One of England’s most iconic and photographed sites, Arlington Row is located in Bibury.

The cottages on Arlington Row were built sometime in the 14th century as a wool store. In the 17th century they were converted to a row of weaver's cottages. Today they are managed by National Trust and are a part of an architectural conservation area.

The village of Bibury in the Cotswolds

Other than Arlington Row, not to be missed while visiting Bibury are the 12th century St Mary’s Church,  the Trout Farm (the oldest working trout farm in England) and the Catherine Wheel (a 15th-century pub).

Go fruit picking at Hayles Fruit Farm

You can't beat fresh fruit that you have picked yourself and the best spot to do that in Cotswolds is at Hayles Fruit Farm. Located on the outskirts of the Cotswold market town of Winchcombe, Hayles grow a wide variety of fruits.

From May to September you can pick strawberries; visit from August to September and you could pick plums and apples. 

Pick your own fruits

In addition to the Pick-Your-Own, Hayles also have a couple of nature trails that are open from April to October. They also have a campsite with a farmshop and a restaurant/tearoom. Because the site is right on the Cotswolds Way, you have multiple walking routes at your disposal.

Visit the iconic Broadway Tower

Located in the Worcestershire region of the Cotswolds, Broadway is often referred to as the "Jewel of the Cotswolds". It is a beautiful village with its fair share of quaint little shops and honey-coloured buildings. The main attraction in the village is the Broadway Tower though. Located atop a hill, the tower was the brainchild of Capability Brown, the famed English gardener and landscape architect, known for his work at Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle and Highclere Castle to name a few.

On a clear sunny day, the views from the Broadway Tower are stunning. And it is not surprising as standing at 312m above sea level, the tower is one of the most incredible viewpoints in the region.

Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds

Admission tickets to the tower and the nuclear bunker (open only on certain days) can be purchased from the shop or at the tower. There is also a deer park within the tower grounds and you can meet the herdsman and his herd of red deer.

Visit the quirky Cotswold Motoring Museum

Located in the prettiest and one of the most iconic villages in Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water, is the Cotswold Motoring Museum.

It is a small museum but houses an impressive collection of vehicles, toys and memorabilia from the years gone by. You will spot cars like the Austin Nippy 1936 and Fiat 500 Topolino, motorbikes like Lambretta LD and Royal Enfield 250 Continental 1964 and a great display of toys and games. As you explore the museum and its collections, it is sure to bring back some memories.

Cotswold Motoring Museum

There is a gift shop as well that provides everything a motor fanatic could possibly want, including souvenirs, toys and model automobiles.

The museum is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Get up close with wildlife at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford is the largest privately owned zoological collection in the UK and is home to over 260 different species of animals and birds.

The wildlife park is home to Humboldt penguins, meerkats, prairie dogs, a colourful selection of tropical birds, large mammals like giraffes, zebras, white rhinoceros and Bactrian camels, big cats like leopards and Asiatic lions as well as reptiles like crocodile monitors, black mambas, bearded dragons, rhinoceros iguanas and more.

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

You can also spot timber wolves, Brazilian tapir, capybara, Chilean flamingos, Patagonian maras, giant anteaters, wallabies, wolverines, birds of prey and a variety of water fowl.

The wildlife park has a range of seasonal and daily activities like animal feeding sessions and wildlife talks. There is also a narrow-gauge railway that usually runs during April to October and takes visitors all around the park. For the little ones there is an adventure playground with swings, slides, mini-zip wires and more.

Escape to a magical world at Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury is very popular for its tree & shrub collection and beautifully landscaped grounds.

The story began in the late 1820s when a wealthy Victorian landowner called Robert Holford set about rebuilding Westonbirt House and adding formal pleasure gardens to it including the creation of the arboretum. Today with 15,000 specimens, and around 2,500 species of tree from all parts of the world, the arboretum is not only a magical place to visit but also plays an important role in research and conservation.

Whatever season you visit in, you will be greeted with beautiful colours of nature.

There lots to see and do at the Arboretum - regular guided walks with experts, a sculpture trail, a tree top walkway, nature trails, self-led sensory walks, running routes and more.

Enjoy the views at Coaley Peak

If you are looking for a spot that offers fanatic views and is ideal for a picnic, then Coaley Peak is a great choice. Located between Stroud and Uley (on the Cotswold Way), Coaley Peak offers stunning views of the Cotswold hills and valleys, the Forest of Dean, the Severn Vale and even the Brecon Beacons.

In addition to the views, the site is also home to the Nympsfield Long Barrow (which was a burial site during the Neolithic period).

Coaley Peak in the Cotswolds

It's a great place for scenic views, walks and picnics too. Head there during sunset to watch the sun set behind the beautiful hills of Stroud. It's lovely!

Tip| Coaley Peak is located opposite Woodchester Park (National Trust); so you can explore the extensive woodlands there as well.

Experience tranqility at Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral is visited by hundreds of people each year. Some come to pray & worship while some visit as tourists to enjoy its beautiful architecture and to learn its history.

The Cathedral conducts guided tours to the crypt which allows visitors to explore the hidden subterranean level of the Cathedral. There is also a Tower Tour where one can climb up a medieval staircase to enjoy beautiful views of Gloucestershire. In addition, there are seasonal events and art installations.

Plus, the Cathedral has a Harry Potter connect; so that's a bonus if you are a fan of the movie(s).

Soak up the vibes at Castle Combe

Castle Combe, a dreamy little village with its typical Cotswold style houses (stone construction with roofs made from stone tiles) has been attracting tourists for years. It has also been a location for many movies and TV shows, the most famous ones being ‘Doctor Doolittle’ which was filmed in and around the village in 1966 and Downton Abbey.

You can explore the village on foot, visit the local church, enjoy an afternoon tea in the grand Castle Combe Manor or simply walk around and spot all the filming locations. You will also find locally made cakes, jams, pies, jewellery and more being sold by locals. And most of these are honesty stalls (unattended) where you pick the local produce that you want and put your money into the moneybox/letterbox.

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds

The list above is not definitive. These are only some of the best attractions and activities that the Cotswolds has to offer. There is so much more to see and do. Whatever you choose to see or do, I am sure you would fall in love with the Cotswolds like we did, which is why we keep returning to this part of England every year.

Where to stay in the Cotswolds

As with any tourist destination, the Cotswolds offers a multitude of accommodation options ranging from country house hotels to B&Bs and from boutique townhouses to pubs with rooms. The type of accommodation you choose would depend on what you plan to do while on holiday, the places you want to visit and whom you are travelling with.

However, if you are looking for an accommodation option that offers you flexibility with privacy and personalised comforts, then renting a self catering holiday cottage is the best option for you. And there are some really beautiful holiday cottages in the Cotswolds managed by holiday letting specialists, Classic Cottages. They have a wide selection of idyllic self-catering accommodation across the UK, ranging from romantic hideaways to cottages with swimming pools to eco-friendly properties that have taken extra steps to be kinder to the environment. And if you are travelling with your furry friend, worry not for there are a number of dog friendly cottages in the Cotswolds too.

We have stayed with Classic Cottages in the past; in one of their beautiful cottages in Cornwall and loved the countryside retreat. It was the perfect base for our Cornish holiday.

Beautiful cottage in Cornwall

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