Thanks to its old-world charm and unspoilt scenery, the Cotswolds is full of towns and villages that are worth visiting. This is especially true for Londoners who need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Fortunately, when planning a day trip to the Cotswolds, London hosts many rail routes to this idyllic location. Here’s how you can plan the perfect day trip to the Cotswolds from London.
Why visit the Cotswolds?
There are many reasons to plan a London-Cotswolds day trip. You can enjoy: Unspoilt English countryside: Nature lovers can explore the Cotswolds’ winding rivers, rolling hills, and green valleys. You’ll also find plenty of nature reserves, like the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Trust attractions.
Quaint villages: Step back in time by following the twisting and turning streets of Cotswolds’ villages. You’ll find stone houses and historic churches, a world away from busy London.
Historic sites: History lovers can visit the Cotswolds’ many stately homes, castles and prehistoric sites
Outdoor activities: Those looking for adventure can fill their day with activities like hiking, cycling, horse riding, water sports, and golf
Great food: Whether you eat in or out, the Cotswolds is famous for its afternoon teas and outstanding restaurants. You can also sample the local produce, which includes cheese, honey, beer and cider.
Planning a Cotswolds day trip from London
Getting from the Cotswolds to London is easy via public transport. But before you book your train tickets, you’ll need to decide where you want to visit during your Cotswolds day trip from London.
These four villages and towns can make great day trips.
In the heart of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is bursting with natural beauty. It’s no surprise tourists consider this village the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’. The River Windrush trails through the village, with stone bridges criss-crossing over the water.
The surrounding hills and meadows also make for a variety of scenic walking and hiking opportunities. After a walk or two, visit the traditional high street to explore the historic buildings and independent shops and eateries.
Bourton-on-the-water also has plenty of family-friendly attractions on offer, such as:
The Model Village: A miniature replica of Bourton-on-the-Water Birdland Park and Gardens: Here you can see extraordinary wildlife and more than 500 types of exotic birds. England’s only breeding group of King Penguins lives here, too.
The Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection: Here you can explore the history of 20th-century motoring
The Bourton Model Railway Exhibition: This houses an impressive collection of cars, motorcycles, toys, and motoring signs
The Dragonfly Maze: A traditional yew hedge maze with 14 clues to find. Once you’ve cracked the clues, you’ll find the golden dragonfly in the roundhouse at the centre of the maze.
Stow-on-the-Wold is a popular location for those who love history and scenic beauty. The town sits in the east of the Cotswolds and dates back to the 11th century. Today, you can visit landmarks like the Old Stocks, the Market Cross, and St. Edward’s Church.
Work your way out from the traditional market square to explore the town’s independent shops, cafés and restaurants. Stow-on-the-Wold is famous for its local, traditional dishes, including fish and chips, lamb stew, and steak and kidney pie.
Like all Cotswolds towns and villages, Stow-on-the-Wold offers beautiful walks and hikes. Time your trip right, and you could pair these walks with:
The Stow Cotswold Festival: This runs every other year on the third Saturday of July. The festival celebrates traditional Cotswolds life, heritage and crafts. Locals and visitors celebrate the festival in the market square.
The Stow Horse Fair: This takes place every year on the Thursday nearest 24th October. The fair dates back hundreds of years and has evolved from a sheep fair to an event full of stalls and horse-drawn caravans. The fair takes place in the fields on Maugersbury Road.
The Stow-on-the-Wold Christmas Tree Festival: This takes place every year in early December at St Edward’s Parish Church. This community event raises money for charity, and the best trees win prizes.
3. Cirencester and Bibury
Based in the southwest of the Cotswolds, the market town of Cirencester dates back to Roman times and features several historic landmarks. Start with the Corinium Museum, the Cirencester Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, and the Roman Amphitheatre.
Meanwhile, the nearby village of Bibury has its own historic landmarks to offer. Visit the 14th-century Bibury Court, a Grade I-listed Jacobean country house. The National Trust’s Arlington Row, a string of weavers’ cottages from the 17th century, is also popular.
Adventure lovers can enjoy hiking, cycling, and horse riding through Cirencester’s countryside. Plus, you can make the most of the Cotswold Water Park, which offers water sports, bird watching, and fishing.
While you’re in Bibury, you can take a boat ride along the River Coln. This river threads through the village, with stone cottages lining the riverbanks. There’s also Rack Isle, a nature reserve that sits between the river and Arlington Row.
If you’re bringing your children, visit the Cotswold Country Park & Beach. Here, you’ll find lakeside walks, a playground, and a man-made beach.
Cirencester and Bibury are bursting with local eateries and shops that sell local produce. You can also visit the Bibury Trout Farm, which has produced trout since the 1900s.
Like Stow-on-the-Wold, Cirencester hosts festivals that are worth catching:
The Cotswold Show and Food Festival: This takes place over two days in early July in Cirencester Park. Visit the animals, browse the trade stands, sample local cuisine, watch craft demonstrations, and enjoy the arena schedule.
The Cirencester Christmas Market: This takes place over two days in early December. Local businesses sell a variety of goods, all from the doorstep of St. John’s Church.
4. Broadway and Chipping Campden
Broadway and Chipping Campden, a village and town in the north of the Cotswolds, are also popular with visitors. Widely referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds,’ Broadway is full of period houses, honey-coloured cottages and a chestnut-tree-lined high street.
You’ll also find many historic buildings and churches here. Chipping Campden dates back to the Middle Ages. You can visit buildings like the Almshouses and the Market Hall, which were originally built in 1612 and 1627.
Local produce is on sale throughout Broadway and Chipping Campden, especially cheese, meat, and wine. There are also many independent boutiques that sell antiques, clothes, and homeware.
Broadway and Chipping Campden also boast thriving arts scenes with several galleries, theatres and events:
The Broadway Arts Festival: This takes place every June. The festival features more than 80 events, including a photography competition, and a woodturning workshop. The Chipping Campden Literature Festival: This takes place every May. Literature lovers travel far and wide to enjoy talks, interviews, and workshops.
The Chipping Campden Music Festival: This takes place in May, too. This event spans several days, giving you some leeway to plan your day trip. Enjoy a variety of genres of live music while soaking up the town’s natural beauty.
Day trips to the Cotswolds from London
Once you’ve chosen a Cotswolds town or village, you can decide whether you’d like to visit independently or on a Cotswolds tour from London. There are several ways to tour the Cotswolds from London. Plus, with a guided tour, you can explore the local area with an expert.
Alternatively, you can plot your day trip to the Cotswolds from London around local train stations. Many of the more direct routes depart from London Paddington and London Marylebone.
You can get the train from London to these stations in or near the Cotswolds:
Cam and Dursley
Getting the train from Cotswolds to London
At the end of your Cotswolds day trip, you’ll need to get the train back to London so you can return home. With Avanti, getting home couldn’t be easier after a day trip or a weekend away from London.