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A weekend break in the Cotswolds: the idyllic English countryside

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Last updated on January 28, 2024

Thinking of a weekend break in the Cotswolds? In this post you’ll find a detailed guide of things to do and places to visit. 

If you are looking to experience the English countryside at its finest, the Cotswolds is the place to visit. With its rolling hills, picture-perfect cottages, and amazing pubs and tearooms, this enchanting bit of south-central England will almost certainly win your heart. If you are looking for tips to make your trip idyllic, continue to read my guide for a perfect weekend break in the Cotswolds.

Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds are best explored slowly. You may be tempted to visit a dozen different villages, but if your time is limited (and you want to experience it like a local) I’d suggest narrowing your options down.

Firstly, I’d advise against visiting the Cotswolds as a day trip, the reason being that it will inevitably feel rushed. You’d need at least a night.

Secondly, you’ll need a car. I try to avoid car rentals as much as possible as I hate dealing with parking and the overall hassle of driving. I prefer to sit tight and enjoy the view. But in the Cotswolds, your options will be very limited without a car. The two-hour drive from London is straightforward.

The Cotswolds in autumn
The Cotswolds is roughly a two-hour drive from London

A weekend break in the Cotswolds: the idyllic English countryside

See the cottages at Arlington Road

Located in beautiful Bibury, Arlington Road is arguably one of the most photographed corners of the country. Its cottages were built during the 14th century as a wool store and converted into houses in the late 17th century. They currently belong to the National Trust and you can book a stay there. But there’s a 3-night minimum and no wi-fi on the premises.

Arlington Road, Bibury, The Cotswolds, UK
The cottages on Arlington Road are so famous that they feature on British passports

Visit the Insta-famous St. Edward’s Church on Stow-on-the-Wold

The north door of this Medieval church, flanked by very old yew trees, is believed to have inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Doors of Durin and is an absolute must-see of any trip to the Cotswolds. You’ll feel immediately teleported to a different time.

St. Edward's Church, Stow-on-the-Wold, The Cotswolds, UK
The door of St. Edward’s Church is believed to have inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Doors of Durin

Have a traditional meal at a country pub

There’s no better way to bring the day to a close than with a nice pub meal. Sausage and mash, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, and traditional roasts are among the typical dishes you will find on the menu. And they are all delicious!

Pubs in England are much more than places to go out for drinks. A pub is a place of gathering. You’ll often see families congregating to share a meal, including children (and sometimes even pets), or groups of friends playing board games in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.

Remember to make reservations in advance as some villages only have one or two pubs, which means they can get extremely busy around lunch and dinner time.

Sausage and mash, typical pub food
Sausage and mash is the ultimate pub comfort food

Enjoy a country walk

The Cotswolds has numerous public walking trails and footpaths to enjoy beautiful strolls in the countryside. With a total of 164 km (102 miles), the Cotswold Way (part of the National Trails System) extends from Chipping Campden to the city of Bath, offering ever-changing views along the way.

Broadway, The Cotswolds, UK
The Cotswold Way extends from Chipping Campden to the city of Bath, offering ever-changing views

Climb the Tower of Broadway

The folly, located on Broadway Hill near the village of Broadway stands 20 metres high on the Cotswold Way. The family-owned destination is set within a 200-acre estate of parkland. You can buy a ticket to access the Tower Museum (and the roof viewing platform), as well as the site grounds, including the Deer Park, and even a nuclear bunker! The latter requires a guided tour and is available on selected dates, so check the website beforehand. The tower roof offers one of the highest points in the Cotswolds with far-reaching views. On the site, you will also find a café, shop, and e-bikes available for hire. If you are not interested in purchasing a ticket, the Tower crosses paths with the Cotswold Way, which is a public pathway, so you can still see the surrounding area.

The nearby village of Broadway makes a good base from which to explore the Cotswolds, as it is bigger than some of the other villages. You’ll find a beautiful High Street lined with shops, cafés, and honey-coloured limestone buildings, many dating back to the 16th century. Broadway is known for its association with the Arts and Crafts movement and it is a centre for arts and antiques.

The Tower of Broadway, The Cotswold
The Tower of Broadway offers one of the highest vantage points in the Cotswolds

Visit a tearoom for a traditional afternoon tea

No trip to the Cotswolds would be complete without a visit to a quaint tearoom. Traditional afternoon tea consists of the drink itself (obviously!), plus a selection of dainty sandwiches, cakes, and pastries, especially scones, which are served with clotted cream and jam.

Anna, Duchess of Bedford, is widely credited with the introduction of afternoon tea in England in the 1840s. It seems the Duchess would get peckish between lunch and dinner and adopted the habit of having tea, cake, and sandwiches in the afternoon. Later, she began inviting friends to join her, hereafter, the tradition was born.

Traditional afternoon tea
Anna, Duchess of Bedford, is widely credited with the introduction of afternoon tea in England in the 1840s

Cross the five bridges in Bourton-on-the-Water

Known as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton-on-the-Water is a most picturesque destination. With River Windrush running through the centre of the village and crossed by five little stone bridges, it can get extremely busy during peak tourist season.

I visited the Cotswolds in autumn and found it very pleasurable for sightseeing. There were not that many tourists, and the colours of the landscape just unbeatable. It can, however,  get cold, especially after dark.

Bourton-on-the-Water, The Cotswolds, UK
Bourton-on-the-Water is known as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’

Stay in a local inn

Staying in an inn is a unique experience and one I’d recommend when visiting the Cotswolds. Inns lodge a small number of people, offering a very intimate atmosphere. The more traditional types, with creaky floorboards and wonky walls, will make you travel in time. If more contemporary alternatives take your fancy, you will also find plenty of options with sleek designed rooms and modern decor.

Whether with friends, family, or as a romantic gateway, a weekend break in the Cotswolds is the perfect way to explore the quintessential English countryside. Have you been to the Cotswolds yet? Feel free to share the highlights of your trip using the comment section below.

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