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The Most Beautiful Villages in the Cotswolds

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Head west from London and you’ll find yourself in The Cotswolds, a delightful area of timeless villages and medieval towns characterized by their mellow Cotswolds stone. The local honey-hued limestone graces garden walls, country churches, and quintessential thatched cottages with roses framing the front door. While these pretty villages offer historic architecture, quaint tea rooms, antiques, and gifts shops for exploring, the area also has an abundance of fine country house estates. 


This area of south-central England is the largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and definitely lives up to its name. Covering 800 square miles, it incorporates five counties including Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. From Bath to Stratford-upon-Avon (home of Shakespeare) and Cheltenham to Banbury, this area is steeped in history.  


Visitors will quickly discover that the Cotswolds villages are as pretty and unique as their quaint-sounding names suggest, including Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Chipping Norton! So without further ado, let’s dive in and explore some of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds! 


Castle Combe

Castle Combe, Chippenham, UK

Castle Combe is said to be the prettiest village in England, and it’s easy to see why. Amble down the winding lane admiring the pretty thatched cottages and walled gardens and you may get a sense of déjà vu. It is frequently used as a film set for period dramas including Downton Abbey and Warhorse. You can almost hear the horses’ hooves on the cobbled streets! Although it takes its name from the 12th-century castle ruins, the hub of the village is the 17th-century manor house. Now a five star luxury hotel, it is open to the public and offers drinks at the bar and afternoon tea in the glorious Italianate Garden beside the babbling brook. Stroll around the village admiring the abundance of color in the walled cottage gardens. Look out for the 14th century Market Cross, a Scheduled Monument, and the old village water pump. For motorheads, the Castle Combe Racing Circuit is nearby. 



Cotswolds, UK

The historic market town of Stow-on-the-Wold is steeped in medieval history. The word “wold” means “hills” and the name means “Holy Place on the Hill”. It’s a typical rural community that once prospered from the fairs and markets that were held by royal charter since 1330. King Edward III set up the first annual charter fair for the sale of wool and livestock. It is no coincidence that the parish church is dedicated to his namesake, St Edward! The pretty streets are decked with flowers in summer while bow-fronted tea rooms and shops offer a range of local artworks and gifts. Check out the two ancient yew trees that now intrude across the entrance door to the church. Other interesting features in Stow are the narrow lanes leading into the market square. They were used for herding and containing the animals that were traded here.  



Burford, England

The tiny village of Burford is an excellent example of a pretty Cotswolds village with thatched cottages clustered around the 12th-century church. Known as the “Gateway to the Cotswolds”, the name Burford comes from burh meaning fortified town, and ford, a river crossing. The village was once famous for its bell foundry, including some examples still hanging in Burford Parish Church. The attractive Burford Priory is now a country house estate on the site of the 13th century Augustinian priory hospital. The Priory Church continued to be used as a nunnery and monastery until 2008 and was once owned by the disgraced media mogul, Robert Maxwell. Reasons to visit include the many gourmet restaurants in the village and the award-winning Burford Garden Centre with its outstanding Cafe nearby.  



Painswick, UK

Presiding over the pretty Cotswolds countryside around Cheltenham, Painswick is set on a hill. The gently sloping streets and byways are lined with terraces of pretty Cotswold cottages and boutique businesses. It has been nicknamed the “Queen of the Cotswolds” and is well worth visiting in July when the village hosts a renowned Arts Couture Festival. It’s a cross between a fashion and an arts show as it features fabulous wearable designer artworks! After country walks through the scenic Painswick Valley, look forward to feasting at The Painswick, a Michelin-recommended restaurant in a picture-perfect country house. 



A little off-the-beaten-path, Asthall village sits on the River Windrush and attracts many artists – a clue to its idyllic presentation. Surrounded by fields, it is on the ancient Roman road from London, known as Watling Street which had a ford across the river nearby. The pretty parish church of St Nicholas with its peal of six bells was enlarged in 1160, making it very old indeed. Another indicator of the ancient settlements nearby includes the discovery of the “Asthall Hoard” of gold coins during renovations. The angel and half-angel coins are now on display in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Highlights of the village include Asthall Manor with its elaborate Jacobean architecture and stunning gardens which are open on select dates each summer. The Maytime Inn Gastropub is typical of the local Cotswolds architecture and the pub’s Beer Garden has an abundance of blooms. 


Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter, UK

This sleepy Gloucestershire village has no shops or pubs, but it’s very Instagram friendly! Lower Slaughter (the Old English meaning “wetland”) is known for its caramel-colored stone cottages with mullioned windows lining the slow-moving stream. Look for the original red brick watermill and the waterwheel that once powered local industry. The old mill now houses a small museum and craft shop. The cafe sells delicious hand-churned ice cream. It’s the perfect excuse to sit on the stone footbridge spanning the River Eye enjoying the creamy taste and taking in the gentler pace of Cotswolds life.  


If you’re visiting England, the Cotswolds should definitely be part of your itinerary!

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By: Admin on February 14, 2022    No Comments


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