An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds comprises beautiful rolling hills and picturesque towns.
However, with hundreds of ancient, preserved villages and towns built in soft beige Cotswolds stone, it’s hard to know where to start.
Especially as each village has its own unique appeal!
So grab your walking shoes and taste for adventure as it’s time to discover the best villages in the Cotswolds.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Kate Andrews.
1. Castle Combe
You’ve seen it all over Instagram, and probably in a few period dramas on TV, and with good reason: Castle Combe is consistently known as the prettiest village in the Cotswolds.
This chocolate box village hasn’t had any new homes built since the 1600s, so it’s perfectly preserved.
It’s like stepping into an episode of Downton Abbey!
Get your camera at the ready, because you won’t want to put it down for a second with all the idyllic cottages and views.
The hill down from the Market Place will be recognisable to most, with a perfect little bridge and cottages, surrounded by woodland.
As a warning, this spot gets very busy for photos, so it’s worth getting there early if you want the perfect picture.
Like most Cotswold villages, the honey stone houses are perfectly picturesque.
However, there’s more than just an Insta snap here.
The Old Rectory Pop-Up Tearoom serves delicious home-baked cakes and tea for the true English village vibe.
Or if you’re looking for luxury, the ivy-covered Manor House Hotel is a five-star converted country home, with a Michelin-starred restaurant and an 18-hole golf course.
It’s worth popping in for afternoon tea and a walk around the grounds.
2. Upper Slaughter
One of the prettiest and more secluded villages in the Cotswolds, many tourists often forget about Upper Slaughter.
But it’s worth a place on this list of the best villages in the Cotswolds for all its peaceful beauty.
It has all the quintessential yellow stone prettiness of many of the better-known villages, just without all the business.
A ford sits at the lower end of the hamlet and offers a photo opportunity to rival that in Castle Combe, with traditional Cotswold farmhouses framing the view.
If you plan to stay in the village, The Slaughters Manor House is a traditional Cotswold manor house, with beautiful grounds and homely décor.
Additionally, enjoy afternoon tea and walk into the village to visit the Old Mill Museum or Tea Room.
There’s plenty of country inns to stop for a bite of lunch and enjoy the peaceful setting.
Take time to enjoy the beauty of the village on foot and make a day of it with a walk to the busier, but just as pretty, Lower Slaughter.
3. Lower Slaughter
The more famous cousin of Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter is one of the best villages in the Cotswolds for on-foot exploring.
There’s plenty of country footpaths around for lovely walks to neighbouring villages, so throw on your walking boots and get moving!
The village was built around a picturesque green, with houses framing the River Eye that is dotted with small footbridges.
The path along the River Eye takes you past the village hall and Old Mill but wonderfully preserved.
It’s a truly magical scene.
After exploring this picturesque village, treat yourself to locally-sourced food in The Slaughters Country Inn, sat beside the river.
The pub has as many locals as tourists visiting, which is a sign that you’re in the right place!
One of the busiest and most famous Cotswold villages, Bourton-on-the-Water is often branded in tourist offices as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’.
And – with the babbling brooks and peaceful streams running through the town, crossed by low honey stone bridges – it’s not hard to see why.
It’s also one of the most accessible villages in the Cotswolds by public transport, making it an easy option for those without cars.
Whimsically wonderful is the Model Village, a popular tourist attraction.
It’s a ninth-scale replica of the village itself and a great reproduction of the village, even down to the tiniest, charming detail.
Moreover, it wouldn’t be a trip to Bourton-on-the-Water without visiting the pleasingly named Bakery on the Water, otherwise known as the best bakery in town.
Treat yourself to a cream tea from this charming café and grab a spot in the riverside garden.
The scones are baked fresh, and if you time it just right you’ll get a warm one straight out of the oven.
Named the “most beautiful village in England” by William Morris in the 17th century, Bibury certainly deserves its place on this list of the best villages in the Cotswolds.
Split by the River Colm, you may recognise the picturesque row of cottages from many Cotswolds postcards.
Named Arlington Row, this famous street is built from local stone beside the water and is wonderfully car-free, preserving the sense of history.
(And making it clear why it’s one of the most photographed spots in the Cotswolds!)
If you’re looking to stay in the area, there’s nowhere better than The Swan Inn, an ivy-covered 4-star hotel.
In the autumn, red and orange ivy leaves cover the entire hotel as they turn to their seasonal hues, making for a magical scene.
And luckily, the interiors are just as nice as the exterior.
This tasteful hotel has a busy brasserie and bar for food and drink any time of day.
Enjoy the sunny terrace outside in summer or by the real wood fires to warm you in winter.
6. Minster Lovell
Minster Lovell is a romantic little village of thatched rooves and riverside cottages to the East of the Cotswolds.
There’s a cosy pub in the centre of the village, the Old Swan, which is perfect for cosy pints.
And its sister venue, the Minster Mill, is a new hotel on the banks of the River Windrush, with a lovely restaurant and outdoor riverside seating.
This makes for an idyllic way to pass a sunny afternoon with a glass of wine.
However, this charming little village actually holds a sinister reputation for being the Cotswold’s most haunted village.
Between the church and the river, Minster Lovell holds 15th-century ruins of its historical hall.
There’s a spooky story to accompany the ruins, which you can read about at the site.
Blockley is an old working village peppered with old mills, reflecting its industrial past.
The charming route through the unspoilt town centre passes the large village green and mill river, opportune for picnic spots.
Just outside the area is another fantastic National Trust manor, Chastleton House.
This is a grand Jacobean Grade I Listed country home, with breathtaking architecture.
Timeless and unspoilt, this is a truly remarkable piece of history, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you visit.
8. Chipping Campden
One of the most beautiful towns in England – let alone the Cotswolds – Chipping Campden is full of charm and character.
The terraced high street is perfect to wander through and take in the bustle of this well-preserved 14th-century market town.
The Market Hall in the centre of the town is owned by the National Trust but you can explore it for free.
Chipping Campden is one of the livelier towns in the area, with a busy calendar of events to enhance your trip, including music and literature festivals.
If you want the full tourist experience of this unique town, visit during summer for the Olimpick Games.
No, that’s not a typo: these ancient games keep Cotswold traditions alive with quirky 17th-century sports like shin-kicking.
9. Broad Campden
A small village often overshadowed by its bigger sister village, Chipping Campden, Broad Campden is the idyllic English country village, with a church and pub: what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty.
Make it a full day out by extending the walk from Brockley to Chipping Campden and ending up in Broad Campden.
The beautiful Bakers Arms pub is the perfect finisher to a long afternoon of rolling Cotswold countryside walking.
The brie wedges are unmissable!
Perfectly preserved, Stanton has surprisingly avoided the tourist attention that its neighbouring villages have.
But don’t be fooled – it’s one of the prettiest villages and should be on your list to visit in the area, with a mixture of Tudor-style beamed houses and buildings of Cotswolds stone.
It makes for a quieter trip without the usual Cotswolds crowds, maybe due to the lack of shops.
Instead, the high street is lined with ancient houses, making it feel like a true step back in time.
Finish your amble around the village with a trip to The Mount Inn, which has beautiful views over the village and the hills beyond.
Not only does this traditional inn serve gorgeous views, but incredible food.
Accompany the giant portion sizes of locally sourced food with the extensive choice of real ales and draught beers.
Known commonly as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford’s ancient, timbered high street makes it a popular spot for visitors, and the perfect afternoon trip from Oxford.
It has all the makings of a perfect English town: medieval bridge, an impressive church, and pubs galore.
In fact, it was even included by Forbes on its list of most idyllic places to live in Europe in 2009, and it’s certainly lovely to visit, too.
Set in a former weaver’s cottage, The Lamb Inn is a must-visit in this beautiful village.
Its open fire and flagstone floor adds to the cosiness.
And when they offer a fantastic Sunday lunch in their fine dining restaurant, how could you say no?
Moreover, there are plenty of independent shops where you can browse and support the local economy.
The Madhatter Bookshop has unmissable charm, and an expansive book collection to match.
This village has a rich past for those literature-lovers around.
Asthall Manor was once the home of the Mitford sisters, of ‘The Pursuit of Love’ fame.
Sadly, the manor is closed to the public except once a year for the sculpture exhibition, On Form.
Nonetheless, the village is wonderful to walk around, and there are very few Sunday roasts to rival that in The Maytime Inn.
For the full Cotswolds experience, you need to visit a very over-the-top farm shop and overspend on unnecessary in-season produce.
Luckily, the lovely village of Kingham has Daylesford Organic Farm Shop for all your bougie farm-to-table needs.
However, if the farm shop doesn’t cut it for you, visit The Wild Rabbit, a Michelin-starred restaurant, for more of your foodie needs.
This homely inn serves seasonal dishes and is a pilgrimage site for city-dwellers visiting the Cotswolds.
Sometimes known as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’ for its picturesque scenery and traditional architecture, Painswick has a gorgeous combination of golden stone houses and Tudor beamed buildings.
The Painswick is a famous boutique hotel in the Cotswolds that draws tourists to this otherwise sleepy village, thanks to its 16 decorated bedrooms and luxurious restraint.
And just outside the village is the only surviving complete Rococo gardens in the country, imaginatively named the Painswick Rococo Gardens.
These secluded landscaped gardens offer true escapism into the magic of nature.
Near Stow-on-the-Wold, Naunton is often overlooked but well worth a visit.
This sleepy little village is over a thousand years old, and the honey-stone streets hold a lot of history to soak up.
Naunton is famed for its 15th-century dovecote.
But the real gem here is the hilly walk to the top of the village that offers a sweeping panoramic view across the luscious rolling fields of the Cotswolds.
Bring a flask of tea and watch the sunset from the view for a money-can’t-buy moment of rural tranquillity.
16. North Nibley
On the edge of the Cotswolds, this charming village has more than meets the eye.
Near the gorgeous town of Wotton-Under-Edge, North Nibley is a small but beautiful village with plenty of access for fantastic country walks.
Just outside the village, up a short – albeit steep – wooded walk, you’ll reach Tyndale Monument, which offers spectacular views of the Cotswolds.
On a clear day, it’s even possible to see to the Malvern Hills and Wales!
The Cotswolds Way – a well-trodden country path across the area – runs through the middle of North Nibley.
This makes it a great access point for fantastic country routes out to neighbouring villages.
Although this is a small village on the fringe of the Cotswolds, you could spend hours wandering Lacock and enjoy the simple pleasures of country life.
This medieval market village is perfectly preserved, trapped in time as one of England’s oldest villages.
Many of the buildings in the village date back to the 15th century and are now protected by the National Trust.
The thatched cottages and timber houses look like a truly postcard-perfect scene.
Not one to miss, get out your National Trust card and take a visit to the famous Lacock Abbey, the home of many on-screen scenes.
Harry Potter fans, you might recognise the Abbey Cloisters as Hogwarts hallways in many of the films.
However, there are other scenic spots throughout the Abbey that were also used in filming, making for a very magical day out.
Additionally, on the grounds of Lacock Abbey are beautiful walks through the pleasure gardens and along the riverside.
Guide books refer to Broadway as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’, so this isn’t one to miss.
The village is centred around one wide, historic high street, lined with independent shops and cafes.
On a sunny summer’s day, find ice cream stands on the street for added extra charm.
One must visit is the Broadway Deli, which stocks all the finest locally sourced ingredients and fresh produce.
The Deli also has a café that serves a delicious all-day brunch menu with both outdoor and indoor seating.
After enjoying brunch, take a walk to Broadway Tower just outside the village.
It’s the second-highest point in the Cotswolds, but the walk is worth it for the breathtaking views.
Sit with a picnic on the hill, and you might even see some wild deer around in the area.
If you want to go to the top of the hill, I’d recommend booking in advance as it can get very busy (especially at weekends).
However, it’s worth going out to visit even just to explore the beautiful countryside walking trails around the area.
A hilly little village with unspoilt views over the Severn Vale, Snowshill is beautiful addition to your Cotswolds travel list.
I’d recommend combining your visit with Broadway – you could do them both in a day due to their size.
Just outside the centre of the village is the eccentric National Trust owned Snowshill Manor.
This is one of the more unusual manor houses to visit.
Its previous owner, Charles Wade, was a collector of unusual objects and the house and gardens are full of weird and wacky objects, juxtaposed by the traditional symmetrical honey stone of the house.
Nearby the village is the famed Cotswold Lavender fields, which you shouldn’t miss during the blooming seasons of June to August.
For only £7, you can soak up the scent of endless lavender fields, and get a photo with the rolling purple backdrop.
Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the best villages in the Cotswolds to go for afternoon tea, thanks to its wonderful selection of traditional tearooms.
Both The Old Bakery Tearoom and Lucy’s Tearoom have freshly-baked cakes to re-energise you after exploring the many shops the village has to offer.
Nothing says ‘Cotswolds’ like independent brands bought locally with an air of smugness, and Cutter Brooks is just the shop for such purchases.
There’s a disproportionate number of antique shops, filled with a treasure trove of mahogany and silver.
Moreover, you may recognise the ancient wooden doors of St Edward’s Church from many photos of the tree roots growing around them.
But it’s worth visiting in person for the magical and atmospheric view.
21. Chipping Norton
Of the Soho Farmhouse fame, Chipping Norton is the Londoner’s preferred destination in the Cotswolds – the perfect blend between country life and city taste.
So of course, it deserves its place on this list of the best villages in the Cotswolds!
In Chipping Norton you’ll also find some brilliant gastropubs and a wide selection of Airbnbs.
It’s a great first timer’s destination in the Cotswolds.
After exploring the market town, it’s about time you deserve some good food!
Head to Wild Thyme Restaurant, known for miles around for its delicious food and tasteful setting.
Moreton-in-Marsh is one of the easiest villages to get to on a day trip from London with direct trains taking you into the village from the city.
And yet this thriving 13th-century small market town somehow still manages to be an underrated Cotswolds gem.
Watch the world go by from inside The Bell Inn, which is said to be J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle Earth’s most famous pub in Lord of the Rings, the Prancing Pony.
After enjoying some good food, it’s time to see what the rest of the town is about.
And luckily for you, there’s something for everyone along this quintessential high street.
It’s also worth visiting Bourton House and Gardens – only a short car journey outside the town – for an afternoon.
The tickets are reasonable and there’s a wonderful café for afternoon tea.
Spend an afternoon enjoying all the delights of the gardens under the view of a glorious honey-coloured country house.
(It’ll give you huge property envy, that’s for sure!)
This delightful market town sits at the top of a hill, with a choice of cafes and nearby farm shops.
Minchinhampton keeps use of its 17th-century market house with a weekly local market at the heart of the town, which takes place every Thursday.
The Cotswolds is hardly short of green spaces.
But the 600-acre hilltop common of Minchinhampton is in a league of its own.
With rewilded conservation areas and stunning views of the valleys around, this National Trust-owned land is perfect for your dose of fresh air and wide-open space.
If you’re bringing your furry friend, this is one of the best places for long dog walks.
Just make sure they’re on leads in the fields where cattle that roam free!
Known as the Capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester has a vibrant history dating all the way back to Roman England.
If the history of this traditional market town interests you, spend an afternoon exploring the Corinium Museum.
It holds one of the UK’s largest collections of Ramano-British artefacts, all found locally!
Unless you’re a parent, avoid visiting during the school holidays as it tends to be painfully busy with children.
But it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours off-peak and well worth the £6 admission fee.
Additionally, the golden stone of the town centre has plenty of green spaces.
You can’t miss the church of St John the Baptist and the Abbey grounds, which blends the gothic architecture on the church with the site of what once was an Augustinian monastery, where only an archway now remains.
Afterwards, head over to Cirencester Park, which has extensive walking routes and trails to get lost in the landscaped forestry.
Finally, on this list of the best villages in the Cotswolds, we have Cheltenham.
On the western edge of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham is a thriving Regency town with plenty to do and see.
Famed for its literary and jazz festivals throughout the year, this spa town is a must-visit Cotswolds destination.
For the most authentic regency feel, reminiscent of sister spa towns like Bath, the Montpellier district of Cheltenham is a gorgeous area of grand columned buildings and charming shops.
There are plenty of places to go for a bottomless brunch in Cheltenham, and for your dinner plans, No.131 has quickly become the destination to visit.
It has multiple restaurants and bars stemming from the stylish Georgian hotel onto a street-view terrace.
The blend of regency grandeur and modern convenience in the centre of the city makes for a great exploration.
It’s a wonderfully walkable town!
For nature lovers, Pittville Park is a gorgeous green space to the north of Cheltenham.
There’s a charming boating lake to make you feel like a Jane Austen extra.
And the Pump Rooms are a breathtaking focus to the park and homage to its spa history.
So there you have it: the 25 best villages in the Cotswolds!
It’s safe to say the Cotswolds is home to so many pretty villages and towns, but which are you going to visit first?
Please let me know in the comments below!