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An epic Cotswolds itinerary 3 days plucked from a fairytale

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Few places in the UK can compete with the almost magical allure the Cotswolds hold. So if you’re planning a trip to this stunning stretch of countryside, our guide to Cotswolds itinerary 3 days is your next best friend.

There’s just something about the Cotswolds that has seen it romanticized for decades. 

Bourton on the Water - Cotswolds itinerary
Bourton on the Water – Cotswolds itinerary

It might be its rolling hills dotted with sheep or the many picturesque villages filled with golden stone buildings. But, once you set foot in the area, you’ll soon see it’s that and so much more.

Sitting pretty along south-central England, the Cotswolds region spans six counties of nearly untouched outstanding natural beauty. So knowing how to make the most of your time here is crucial.

So let’s get you on your way to the Cotswolds.

Perfect Cotswolds Itinerary 3 days: Essential info

3 day Cotswolds itinerary

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Declared an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1996, the Cotswold villages and the peaceful countryside surrounding them have drawn millions of visitors. 

And it’s not hard to see why. 

A quintessentially English destination, at its heart, lies limestone villages, stunning farmlands, ancient churches, and historic cozy pubs. 

Cute houses in the Cotswolds

Add to those streets lined with charming coffee shops, boutique stores, and a craft shop (or three). 

Now that sounds like the perfect recipe for an epic long weekend break or a few days’ getaways. 

But before you get going, let’s look at what you can expect from your three days in the Cotswolds.

Top places to visit in 3 days in the Cotswolds: Itinerary day by day

  • Day 1 of the Cotswolds itinerary 3 days: Castle Combe, Stroud, Painswick, Burford, Bibury, and Cirencester
  • Day 2 of the Cotswolds itinerary 3 days: Bourton-on-the-water, Upper and Lower Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-wold
  • Day 3 of the Cotswolds itinerary 3 days: Hidcote Manor Gardens, Broadway, and Cheltenham

Planning your trip to the Cotswolds countryside

Remaining nearly unchanged for hundreds of years, the Cotswolds is pure rural heaven. 

So to make the most of your stay in the Cotswolds, we’ve rounded up some of the best travel tips to help you plan your trip.

How to get to the Cotswolds

Seeing as the Cotswolds is such an enticing tourist destination, there are numerous ways to reach the stunning villages in the area. 

Arlington Row Cotswolds
The Cotswolds UK

Situated between Bristol and Oxford, sitting just south of Birmingham, for international travelers, London is the best starting point.

With flights heading directly to London daily, it’s, in our opinion, the best spot to start your trip. However, you can also choose to fly directly to Birmingham Airport. 

Other popular gateways to the Cotswolds include Oxford, Bath, and Cheltenham; however, these are better suited if you use public transport such as train lines. 

Speaking of, there are two major lines that will take you to the Cotswolds.

First up is the Cotswolds Line, and the second is the Golden Valley Line. First Great Western operates both and for more info on ticket prices and times, visit the National Rail website here.

Or, if you prefer, you can use the public bus system with starting points in London, Birmingham, and Leeds. 

Two of the biggest bus operators in the Cotswolds are the Oxford Bus Company and Oxford Tube.

Should you choose to get a rental car and head for the Cotswolds, the smoothest route to take is the M40. But, as it might sometimes become congested, you can also use the M5 and M4.

Getting around the Cotswolds

Once you’re in the Cotswolds region, the best way to get around is by using a rental car. 

Lanes of Burford Cotswolds

This makes exploring its villages and surrounding countryside super easy, and you can do so at your own pace.

Sure, you can rely solely on public transport, but many villages in the Cotswolds are sparsely populated, and service is thus limited. 

Tip: Use popular sites such as Rentalcars to get the best deals on rental cars from major car hire companies.

Where to stay for the perfect Cotswolds itinerary

Choosing the best place to stay during your trip to the Cotswolds might not seem as tricky as it is. 

Where to stay in the Cotswolds

Considering that the region is quite large and you want to get as much out of your three days as possible, we recommend staying in a central town within the Cotswolds.

Stow-on-the-wold: Situated close to Roman Fosse Way, this charming village is located ideally for exploring many of the highlights in the area. 

We recommend staying at the Old Stocks Inn, a 17th-century inn that sits within the heart of the village.

Bibury: The hometown of the famous Arlington Row, Bibury is conveniently located and stunning. 

We recommend staying at the Swan Hotel, which lies on the banks of the River Coln.

Upper Slaughter: If you’re looking for more luxury stays during your trip to the Cotswolds, staying in Upper Slaughter is a must. 

We recommend staying at Lords of the Manor, a stunning hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Castle Combe: Considering it’s one of the most photographed villages, Castle Combe is picturesque and ideally located to explore the south of the Cotswolds. 

We recommend staying at The Castle Inn, a historic castle dating back to the 12th century.

Kingham: A bucket list-worthy accommodation is The Wild Rabbit. A modern inn, which is pet friendly, and also has an amazing fine dining restaurant with locally sourced food!

Day 1 of your 3 days in the Cotswolds itinerary: Discover the iconic villages of the Cotswolds

For the first day of your Cotswolds itinerary, you’ll explore some of the iconic villages that make up most of its southern countryside. 

Explore the picturesque Castle Combe (early morning)

Well worth the almost one-hour drive from Cheltenham, Castle Combe is a beautifully preserved 17th-century village. 

View of Castle Combe, a village and civil parish within the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty in Wiltshire, England

However, this tiny village is packed with touristy things to fill up a few days quickly. 

Because this is your first stop for the day, some early morning exploring is on the cards.

As you stroll along its curving main street, its honey-colored cottages are an absolute feast for the eyes. We recommend stopping by St. Andrews Church which dates back to the 13th century.

Village of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, UK. Bridge over River Bybrook
  • Hours: Varied
  • Address: St Andrew’s Church, Market Place, Castle Combe, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 7HT
  • Tickets: Entry to the church is complimentary, with a car park available at an extra cost of 40p per hour.

Afterward, stop by the Old Rectory Tea Room for some breakfast goodies or head out for a short hike along one of the walking routes over majestic rolling hills just off Market Place. 

Optional Tour: If you’re staying in Bath during your trip to the Cotswolds, this private day tour will take you through many villages, including Castle Combe.

Roam the former industrial capital of the Cotswolds, Stroud (mid-morning)

Roughly 45 minutes north of Castle Combe, you’ll find the historic town of Stroud. 

A former industrial focal point set against the countryside surroundings of the Five Valleys.

Stroudwater canal running through Ebley Mills, Stroud
The restored Stroudwater canal runs through Ebley Mills, Stroud, England

While some of the former mills in the town are still open to the public, most come to the town nowadays to experience the eclectic mix of cafes, galleries, and shops. 

Amongst these are quite a few antique shops where you’ll find various possible souvenirs.

If you’re here on a Saturday, we can’t recommend going to the local farmer’s market enough. It’s one of the country’s most famous and worth a visit.

Visit the queen of the Cotswolds, Painswick (early afternoon)

A short 11 minutes from Stroud lies the sleepy village of Painswick, dubbed the “Queen of the Cotswolds”. 

Scenic view of picturesque Painswick, a Cotswolds travel destination town in Gloucestershire, UK
Scenic view of picturesque Painswick, a Cotswolds travel destination town in Gloucestershire, UK

This is the perfect spot for some leisurely strolling, especially along the deceptively named New Street, built during the 15th century. 

The Church of St. Mary and its yard of 99-yew trees is a must-visit attraction here.

Another part of Painswick’s unique landscapes is the Painswick Rococo Garden. Dating back to 1740, this is the only one of its kind in the entire UK, with seasonal events and a quaint cafe perfect for lunch.

  • Hours: Friday – Sunday from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm.
  • Address: Gloucester Rd, Painswick, Stroud GL6 6TH, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Entrance to the garden is free

Traverse the southern gateway town of Burford (mid-afternoon)

Heading east from Painswick, after about 45 minutes, you’ll arrive in the picturesque little village, popular for its heritage as part of the medieval wool trade. 


A stunning village often deemed the gateway to the Cotswolds; it rests on the river Windrush. 

Trust us, one of the best things to do is admire the views of a centuries-old three-arched stone bridge that straddles the river.

The most popular area is the High Street, with rows upon rows of independent shops, cafes, and teashops ideal for afternoon tea. 

Indulging in a cup or two, you can admire the visually striking architecture before heading out.

Burford shops and cafes

Stroll through the stunning village of Bibury (late afternoon)

Named the most beautiful village in England by British icon William Morris, Bibury was once a humble mill town, but nowadays, it’s famed for many other reasons. 

Arlington Row, Bibury Cotswolds itinerary 3 days
Arlington Row, Bibury Cotswolds itinerary 3 days

Visually few places can compare, so much so that films like Bridget Jones’ Diary were filmed here. Getting here late afternoon is the best time to stroll through Arlington Row on Awkward Hill. 

Arlington Row, Bibury Cotswolds

This picturesque lane of 17th-century weaver’s cottages is featured on UK passports. Not bad for a small village, we’d say.

Optional tour: Planning a trip from London, book this full-day Cotswolds group tour highlighting towns such as Bibury and its attractions, including Arlington Row and Bibury trout farm.

Day 2 of your 3 days in the Cotswolds itinerary: Explore the central Cotswolds towns (Bourton-on-the-water, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-wold)

The second day of your stay in the Cotswolds is about its charming central regions. 

Dive into the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-water (early morning)

The first stop for day two is the delightful English village of Bourton-on-the-water. 

Bourton On the Water
Bourton On the Water

If you’ve ever heard anyone talking about the Venice of the Cotswolds, it’s this quaint village they’re referring to.

Beyond its stunning location on the River Windrush, the town brims with tourist attractions. 

Bourton On the Water
Bourton On the Water on a sunny day

The first one worth visiting is The Model Village. A 1/9th stone scale model of the town provides a unique perspective of Bourton-on-the-water.

  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 03:45 pm
  • Address: The Old New Inn, Bourton on the Water, Cheltenham GL54 2AF, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Entry tickets for The Model Village cost £4.50

After visiting The Model Village, head to the Cotswold Motoring Museum, with exhibits on motoring history starting in the early 20th century. It’s a must-visit for any car enthusiast. 

Cotswold Motoring Museum
Cotswold Motoring Museum
  • Hours: Every day from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm
  • Address: The Old Mill, Sherborne St, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2BY, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Admission for adults costs £7.00, children (ages 5 to 16) £5.00, and children under 5 get in free

Spend some time in the twin villages of Slaughter (mid-morning)

Next are the enchanting twin villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter, sitting on the banks of the River Eye. 

Ancient village Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds region
Ancient village Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds region

Collectively known as the Slaughters, don’t be put off by the sinister-sounding names. 

Derived from the Old English word for a “muddy or boggy place”, rest assured, both are very harmless. 

It’s best to start in Lower Slaughter by visiting what was voted the “most romantic street in Britain” by Google Street View, Copse Hill Road. 

Here you’ll find many fantastic restaurants, such as the award-winning eatery at The Slaughters Manor House.

Upper Cotswolds
Upper Cotswolds

After strolling through Lower Slaughter, head towards Upper Slaughter, about one mile from the lively streets of Lower Slaughter along the River Eye. 

Here you should pay a visit to the famous Eyford House. 

Dating back to the 17th century, it is said to be where poet John Milton found inspiration for Paradise Lost.

Explore the classic English gem of Stow-on-the-wold (early afternoon)

Although home to many iconic locations, few in the Cotswolds come close to the status that the idyllic village of Stow-on-the-wold has. 

Girl in Stow-on-the-wold

Easily a favorite for many travelers, its most famous attraction is the medieval St. Edward’s Church. 

So famous that many speculate its iconic doors were the inspiration for Tolkien’s Doors of Durin in Lord of the Rings. After taking in the scenery, it’s time for lunch. 

 St. Edward’s Church
St. Edward’s Church

While the village of Stow-on-the-wold is full of great places to eat if you’ve got a sweet tooth, head to Huffkins Cafe. 

A local gem, you’ll find the tastiest scones and cakes and a homely spot for afternoon tea.

  • Hours: Monday to Friday from 09:30 am to 04:00 pm, Saturdays from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm, Sundays from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm
  • Address: The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold GL54 1AB England

Another highlight of the village is England’s oldest inn, The Porch House, which has been open for more than 11 centuries. 

The Porch, Stow-on-the-wold
The Porch, Stow-on-the-wold

Along with boutique stores selling antique wares, it’s the next best place to delve into the town’s heritage.

Indulge in retail therapy at Daylesford Organic (late afternoon)

After exploring the mesmerizing village of Stow, take a 9-minute walk to the famous Daylesford farm shop. This dreamy spot is the perfect setting to end your second day in the Cotswolds.

We bet you’ll fall instantly in love with its eye-catching decor, and after biting into the cafe delicacies during late afternoon tea, that love will be cemented. 

Specializing in organic, sustainable local foods, almost everything on its menu is grown on-site or locally sourced.

Visit their website to see what’s on sale and on the menu as well as a calendar of upcoming events such as cooking and floristry classes.

Day 3 of your 3 days in the Cotswolds itinerary: Indulge in the historical side of the Cotswolds (Cheltenham, Hidcote Manor Gardens, Broadway)

Your final day in the Cotswolds consists of some iconic landmarks, from the spa town of Cheltenham, the arts and crafts garden of Hidcote Manor, and ending in Broadway. 

Start the day in Cheltenham (early morning)

While most visitors to the Cotswolds begin their trips in Cheltenham, saving it for your final day is the best way to finish things off. 

Traditional Pittville Park in Cheltenham, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England, UK, Europe
Traditional Pittville Park in Cheltenham, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England, UK, Europe

An 18th-century town famed for its annual Cheltenham festival — a 4-day equestrian competition held during March.

Kickstart your day here in its quaint High Street filled with lovely cafes, restaurants, and a pub or two. 

Attractions in the town also include The Wilson Museum and Art Gallery, which feature both permanent and temporary exhibitions.

  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm, Sundays from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm
  • Address: Clarence St, Cheltenham GL50 3JT, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Admission is free. However, you can donate up to £5 towards the museum

Other attractions: If you have time, you can also drive 20-25 minutes to Sudeley Castle and explore it

Feast on culture at Hidcote Manor Gardens (morning)

After spending the early morning hours in Cheltenham, it’s time to head to one of the Cotswolds’ most famous natural attractions. 

A quintessential arts and crafts garden, the Hidcote Manor Gardens is renowned for blending purpose and beauty.

It’s a real treat for the eyes as it comprises different “rooms”, each with a unique character. 

Spend an hour or two exploring the massive collection of vibrant plants, exotic trees, stunning topiary, and numerous fountains and ponds.

  • Hours: Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 04:00 pm
  • Address: Hidcote Bartrim, Chipping Campden GL55 6LR, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Admission for adults is £9.00, and for children, it’s £4.50

Mid-morning shopping on Broadway (mid-morning)

Not to be confused with Broadway in the States, Broadway Village is a jewel in the Cotswolds’ crown. 

Pretty cottages along High Street, Broadway, Cotswolds, Worcestershire, England
Pretty cottages along High Street, Broadway, Cotswolds, Worcestershire, England

Your first stop in this enchanting spot is its distinct High Street, which some consider quite broad for streets in the area.

Getting its name from this aspect, its High Street brims with numerous shops, from boutique stores to antique retailers.

Visit Broadway Tower (early afternoon)

The highlight of a trip to Broadway is, without a doubt, the monumental Broadway Tower, a few minutes walk from the town center. 

Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds of England
Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds of England

This relatively small Gothic castle was built in 1799 and even served as the countryside retreat of William Morris.

Beyond being quite striking, Broadway Tower is also the second-highest point in the Cotswolds. 

It’s the perfect spot to spend the afternoon as the tower consists of graphic heritage displays throughout its three floors.

Then, of course, you can make your way up to the roof viewing platform for unparalleled views of the surrounding countryside. 

After taking in the scenery, stop by the Broadway Tower shop or the Morris & Brown Cafe.

  • Hours: The Broadway Tower Museum has seasonal opening hours. April to October daily hours from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm. November to March daily hours from 11:00 am to 04:00 pm.
  • Address: Middle Hill, Broadway WR12 7LB, United Kingdom
  • Tickets: Visit their website to book your tickets directly

Optional tour: Book this day trip from Moreton-in-marsh that takes you through the Cotswolds villages and Broadway Park and Tower.

Wine and dine in Broadway (evening)

Finally, end your last day in the Cotswolds by spoiling yourself with a glass (or two) of tantalizing wine and a fantastic dinner along High Street on Broadway. 

Broadway in the evening
Broadway in the evening

What’s an evening out in town without visiting a wine bar? We suppose still a lot of fun, but first up for your evening in the village is The Lygon Wine Bar, which you’ll find inside the Lygon Arms Hotel.

  • Hours: Friday to Sunday from 12:00 am to 03:00 pm and from 06:00 pm to 09:00 pm
  • Address: High St, Broadway WR12 7DU, United Kingdom

Next up is a fantastic meal at The Broadway Indian Restaurant. A welcoming and distinct eatery along High Street, you won’t find Indian cuisine better than anywhere else in the UK. 

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday from 05:30 pm to 11:00 pm
  • Address: The Coach House, Broadway WR12 7AA, United Kingdom

Optional early morning alternative for your Cotswolds Itinerary: Bath | Oxfordshire

Technically not part of the Cotswolds, the stunning city of Bath is close enough to be the perfect alternative kickstart to your itinerary. 

Add a trip to Bath: Weekend Cotswolds guide

Known for its Roman Baths, the city also features terrific places to grab breakfast before you begin exploring. 

We highly recommend opting for this Bath City walking tour as it includes optional entry to the Roman Baths.

Optional tour: If you’re keen to explore some of the best areas surrounding the Cotswolds, this day trip from London takes you to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath.

Optional tour: You can always end your first day in Bath with a fun, albeit spooky, guided ghost tour of the city.

Blenheim Palace: Another option is to stop in Woodstock to visit the Blenheim Palace (as you start from London UK). 

This gorgeous site is located just on the edge of the Cotswolds, so it makes for a nice road trip stop before reaching the northeastern part of the Cotswolds. 

From the Palace to the southern part of the Cotswolds is about a 2 hour drive.  

Read more: If you’re planning on even more adventures through the UK and the rest of Europe, our destination guide to travel in Europe has everything you need.

Cotswolds itinerary: Helpful travel tips

Here are some other very helpful bits of information for your Cotswolds itinerary.

Arlington Row
Arlington Row
When is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?

The best time to visit would be during the summer months of July and August. Days are longer and a bit warmer, and the stunning landscapes are in full bloom.

When are lavender farms open in the Cotswolds?

If visiting a Cotswold lavender farm is on your bucket list, you can visit them in Snowshill. It is open towards the end of July.

How many days should you spend in the Cotswolds?

Although it’s possible to drive through the Cotswolds in one day – as most of the villages are a 15 to 20 minute drive away. But you’d be doing yourself an injustice. We strongly suggest planning your trip for between three to five days.

So should you visit the charming villages of the Cotswolds?

Of course, you should! The Cotswolds offer the perfect countryside escape from the busy cities of the UK. Regardless of why you choose to visit, it’s an area that always surprises you with more to do and see.

Bourton on the water
Cotswolds Itinerary 3 days

And that’s a wrap on this fairytale-like Cotswolds itinerary. All you need to do now is pack your bags and prepare for an unforgettable adventure.

Read more: Check out our in-depth Europe travel tips for every bit of juicy info you might not even know you needed. 

Pin: 3 day Cotswolds Itinerary: Road trip ideas + tips

Cotswolds itinerary

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