With 100 miles of winding trails through quaint villages, the Cotswolds is a popular holiday spot in the UK. If you're planning a trip to the Cotswolds, you'll want to know the best ways to fully appreciate this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In this guide, we will explore some of our local highlights, as well as all the available Cotswolds train stations.
Why visit the Cotswolds by train?
Whilst driving to the Cotswolds is a popular choice for travelling there, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of public transport when it comes to this kind of break. When you take the train, you can:
Enjoy the striking scenery
As you approach the Cotswolds, you’ll see your surroundings morph into some of England’s prettiest countryside. Rather than driving, you can sit back with refreshments and enjoy the rolling hills and patchwork fields.
Protect the environment
Travelling by train is far more environmentally friendly than driving, especially considering you’ll be travelling to a part of the UK that relies on the preservation of its environment.
Fuel, car rentals and taxis can all be costly. But you can get your hands on cheap train tickets by booking in advance, booking in groups and using a Railcard. You can also take advantage of our Best Fare Finder.
Five things to do in the Cotswolds
The list of things you can do in the Cotswolds is huge. Whether you plan your own itinerary or sign up for a day tour, there’s something for everyone.
Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Visit Cirencester
Cirencester is a historic market town on the east edge of the Cotswolds. If you’re looking for a spot to admire the age-old architecture, absorb the local history and enjoy the quaint charm of a classic English town, Cirencester could be what you’re looking for.
You can visit:
The Corinium Museum: Dive into the town’s Roman, mediaeval and modern history
Cirencester Park: Follow walking trails, stop for a picnic and enjoy the park’s outstanding natural beauty. You’ll also find Cirencester House, a country estate, in the middle of the park.
Cirencester’s town centre: Admire the historic architecture, browse the independent shops for local crafts and souvenirs, and stop at one of Cirencester’s excellent cafés or restaurants
The Church of St. John the Baptist: Explore this mediaeval church, which dates back to the 12th century
Cirencester’s Farmers Market: Shop at this rustic market to find local crafts, produce, and baked goods. The market runs on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.
Cotswold Way: Follow this long-distance walking trail, which passes through a Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Equestrian centres: If horse riding is your thing, you’ll find opportunities for riding lessons and guided rides throughout this part of the Cotswolds
2. Take a walk down Arlington Row
The National Trust site Arlington Row is a line of weavers’ cottages along the River Coln in Bibury. This village is only a 25-minute bus ride from Cirencester, so you can easily combine this trip with your Cirencester visit.
The cottages were built in the 14th century as a monastic wool store and converted into weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. Today, Arlington Row is a designated Conservation Area.
People travel from near and far to admire the architecture and enjoy the riverside walk. Arlington Row is one of the most photographed locations in the Cotswolds and has appeared in several well-known photographs, paintings and films.
3. Explore Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is a world-famous, 600-acre botanical garden in Gloucestershire. Nature and animal lovers can enjoy the walk through more than 15,000 trees, with 2,500 species from all over the world.
Westonbirt Arboretum holds one of the largest, most diverse collections of trees on the planet, and many consider it a masterpiece of landscape design. Today, the Forestry Commission manages the arboretum and opens it to the public all year round. Visitors can follow the park’s walking trails, enjoy a picnic in the meadows, and sign up for guided tours and educational programmes. Time it right, and you can also make the most of seasonal festivals, live music, and workshops.
4. See Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Oxfordshire. The palace is one of the most notable historic sites near the Cotswolds, but also in the UK.
Visitors can walk through the palaces’ magnificent state rooms, library, private apartments, and the Churchill Exhibition. This exhibition features Churchill’s personal items, letters, and photographs.
Once you’ve explored the palace, there are beautiful gardens to enjoy, too. You’ll find formal gardens, a rose garden, an Italian garden, a lake, and water terraces. The palace also has more than 2,000 acres of parkland, which is home to deer, rabbits, and pheasants.
Blenheim Palace hosts several events, themed tours and exhibitions throughout the year.
5. Stop at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens
The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, Oxfordshire, offers a great family day out. Visitors can work their way around the animal enclosures, which house more than 260 species, such as rhinos, penguins, monkeys, giraffes, and lions. You’ll also find a tropical house, reptile house, and aviary.
After seeing the animals, you can walk around the landscaped gardens, grounds, and collection of endangered trees. There’s also an adventure playground for children.
Getting the train to the Cotswolds
You can get the train to the main Cotswold railway stations from most stations in the UK. When you arrive at your Cotswold train station, you may need to catch a bus to connect you to your destination.
London to Cotswolds train route
If you’re booking a weekend away from London, you’ll find many connections to the Cotswolds from London Paddington and London Marylebone.
From London Paddington, you can take trains to Moreton-in-Marsh, Cheltenham Spa, and Kingham. From Marylebone, you can take trains to Oxford, where you’ll find Blenheim Palace and can catch trains and buses to Cotswolds towns and villages.
You can also take trains from London Euston, Victoria, and King’s Cross St. Pancras. But you’ll likely need more connections to reach the heart of the Cotswolds.
Cotswolds train stations
Wherever you’re taking the train from, you should be able to reach these Cotswolds train stations. From there, you can catch a connecting train or bus to your final destination.
You can catch trains from Banbury (North Oxfordshire) to Moreton-in-Marsh, Cheltenham Spa, and Stroud. There are also bus connections to Chipping Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, and Broadway.
You can catch trains from Bath to Chippenham, Kemble, Stroud, and Moreton-in-Marsh. There are also bus connections to Tetbury, Chipping Campden, Cirencester and Bourton-on-the-Water.
Cam and Dursley
You can catch trains from Cam and Dursley to Stroud, Stonehouse, Gloucester, and Cheltenham Spa. There are also bus connections to Stroud, Nailsworth, Tetbury and Gloucester.
You can catch trains from Cheltenham to Gloucester, Stroud, Evesham, and Moreton-in-Marsh. There are also bus connections to Bourton-on-the-Water, Cirencester, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Tetbury.
You can catch trains from Gloucester to Cheltenham Spa, Stroud, Stonehouse, and Kemble. There are also bus connections to Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester, and Bourton-on-the-Water.
You can catch trains from Moreton-in-Marsh to Oxford, Evesham, and Cheltenham. There are also bus connections to Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Chipping Campden.
There aren’t any direct trains from Stroud to other Cotswolds towns or villages. However, you can catch trains from Stroud to Gloucester and Cheltenham. There are also bus connections to Nailsworth, Cirencester, Tetbury, and Gloucester.
With so many train routes to the Cotswolds, download the Avanti West Coast app to book your tickets and keep your travel information in the palm of your hand.