In the south of England, covering over 800 square miles of lush countryside, the Cotswolds is an area that’s easily accessible by train from many major cities. Its rolling hills and tiny towns are famous for their idyllic, unspoilt scenery, making it ideal for day trips and weekends away.
Although the area is rural, you can get to most parts by train. A Cotswolds day trip is a great option for those hankering for some countryside.
“Visitors to the area will be spoilt for choice”, says Sally Graff from Cotswolds Tourism, “The Cotswolds has stunning scenery, over 5000 km of footpaths and town walks, honey-coloured stone villages and lots of independent shopping.
“You can stay in a traditional pub, a tiny inn or a luxury hotel. Or go glamping if the weather’s fine and you want to be unique!
“If the outdoors is more your style then we have more than 5000 km of footpaths and town walks. Serious walkers will enjoy the challenge of the Thames Path or Cotswold Way national trails, but slow down and explore short routes such as Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, stopping off at the Woolpack Inn.
“Or, you can join a walk with the Cotswold voluntary wardens, who organise hundreds of free guided walks.”
When is the best time to do a Cotswolds day trip?
Day trips to the Cotswolds can be made all year round. When you choose to go depends on the season, but you’ll find something to do in all weathers.
Spring walks provide the chance to see blooming daffodils and lambs in fields. In summer, pub gardens tempt you with tea, cake and Pimms on the lawn. Rug up in front of a roaring fire after a bracing autumn walk, or pay a visit to a tiny town all lit up with festive Christmas lights in December.
If you’re happier planning a trip in advance, you can contact one of the tourist information centres for Cotswold day trip itineraries. You may just prefer to pop in when you’re in the area. To help you plan your visit, check out our Cotswold ideas, from pub lunches to quirky museums.
Best towns to visit in the Cotswolds
Bourton-on-the-Water is an idyllic village nestled right in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton boasts wonderful stone bridges over the River Windrush as well as plenty of charming cottages It also has a bustling High Street filled with independent shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Whether you're looking to relax by the river, explore the vast countryside, or learn about the village's extensive history, Bourton-on-the-Water is a perfect day trip in the Cotswolds.
A quintessential Cotswold village, Bibury is home to the famous Arlington Row, a collection of ancient cottages that date back to the 17th century.
Surrounded by dramatic rolling hills, peaceful streams, and lush greenery, Bibury is the ideal destination for nature lovers, history lovers, and anyone looking for a deserved escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
A charming market town with a rich history and plenty of character, Stow-on-the-Wold is another pretty Neglihs village. With verdant countryside and rich hills, Stow is a great destination for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors.
The town itself is home to cafes, restaurants, and shops, as well as notable landmarks like St. Edward's Church and the Market Square.
Moreton-in-Marsh is another historic market town that dates back to the 13th century. Known for its architecture, lively market, and charming High Street, Moreton provides a true taste of English country life.
Whether you're looking to explore the countryside, learn about the town's history, or simply relax in a quaint Cotswold pub with a pint, Moreton-in-Marsh has something for everyone.
Things to do on your Cotswolds day trip
Planning your Cotswolds day trip means knowing what you want to do. Are you an organised tourist, checking your sightseeing spots off a list? Do you love mooching around cute shops and high streets, and exploring museums? Or is the aim to sample as many cream teas as you can in one day?
With so much history in and around the Cotswolds, you’ll love visiting the area’s storytelling centres. Sally Graff has the following recommendations for organised tours and day trips to Cotswolds towns and villages:
Cotswold Wildlife Park
Meet the residents at Cotswold Wildlife Park. The park is just two miles south of Burford in Oxfordshire, which is a town on the River Windrush. Here you can pay a visit to giraffes, zebras, lions, meerkats and more. Children might enjoy being a Junior Keeper for the day.
The Friendly Line
Ride the steam train from Cheltenham to Broadway. This 29-mile round trip on the Friendly Line takes you through stations that include Cheltenham Racecourse, Winchcombe and Toddington.
Cotswold Motoring Museum
Journey back in time at Cotswold Motoring Museum in Bourton on the Water. Collections include cars, toys and vintage memorabilia, and the museum is dog-friendly so pooch can join in too.
Visit beautiful Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. On your visit, take a free guided tour through the rooms, roam the gardens, dine in one of the restaurants, or have tea on the lawn.
Enjoy a sensory walk at Westonbirt Arboretum. Home to 2,500 species of trees from around the globe and thousands of plant types, there’s a tree-top walkway, a restaurant and a souvenir shop.
Learn all about the Romans on a day tour to historic Cirencester. On an organised walk, you’ll hear about the ancient Roman town of Corinium, which is buried just beneath the streets you’ll walk.
Witney Blanket Hall
Read up on the Witney wool trade. A trip to Witney Blanket Hall explains how the wool trade had a huge impact on the countryside and architecture. There’s a wool shop, of course, and a pie shop if you’ve built up an appetite.
Painswick Rococo Gardens
Discover snowdrops at Painswick Rococo Gardens. This verdant haven, tucked into a valley, offers art events, garden trails, lots of follies to explore, and there’s even a little bit of outdoor theatre. During your visit, find your way out of the maze with family and friends.
Taste Cotswolds Distillery gin. Take a founders tour, learn to blend gin or whisky, or treat yourself to a Tour & Tasting, where you’ll sample local spirits and liqueurs. Locations at Bourton on the Water, Stourton and Broadway.
Hook Norton Brewery
Sample local ale at Hook Norton Brewery, near Banbury. With a personal guide, you can watch beer being brewed and enjoy lunch. While you’re here, say hi to the working shire horses who are an important part of the brewery to this day.
Other things to do on your Cotswolds day trip
- A stay at the gorgeous Lygon Arms in Chipping Campden
- A whizz over to Castle Combe circuit for racing and car shows
- Scaling Broadway Tower to reach the roof platform for panoramic views
- Browsing farmer’s markets for local produce in Stroud and Moreton-in-Marsh
- Visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford upon Avon
- A tour of Sudeley Castle and its stunning, flower-filled gardens
- A browse around the pretty limestone town of Stow on the Wold
- Snapping pics of the beautiful 17th-century cottages at Arlington Row
Cotswolds day trips by train
You can visit the Cotswolds as a day trip from London, and also from other big cities like Reading, Bath, Bristol, Oxford, Cardiff and Birmingham.
Train routes into the Cotswolds
Direct connections to some of the smaller stations within the Cotswolds are possible from most mainline stations. Popular routes include:
- London Paddington to Gloucester
- Oxford or Worcester to Moreton-in-Marsh
- Swindon to Stroud
- Reading to Woodstock
- Bath to Chippenham
- Hereford to Great Malvern
Cotswolds train stations
The Cotswolds has several stations connecting its towns and villages to bigger cities, so it’s easy to travel to the area from the rest of the UK. Some visitors prefer to drive, while others love the buzz of a train trip, with passing scenery and no need for a car park or permit.
There are lots of major rail stations in the Cotswolds, including:
Smaller stations on The Cotswold Line include Charlbury, Kingham, Evesham, Great Malvern, and Ledbury.
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