How to Spend a Weekend in the Cotswolds: A Cotswolds Road Trip Itinerary
Having lived in Oxfordshire my entire life, and having blogged for over six years, I have no idea how it has taken me this long to write up my suggestions for a Cotswolds road trip itinerary. I think that, because I have grown up here, I have taken it totally for granted, and I have always prioritised writing about my overseas trips in comparison to favouring UK content. However, with UK staycations becoming increasingly popular post-lockdown, I figured now was the perfect time to help you plan a spectacular Cotswolds road trip itinerary. I have also written a separate post which is all about the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds so be sure to check that out too. All the places that feature in my Cotswolds guides are hand-picked and I have visited them all over the past 27 years. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds, including everything to see and do in the various towns and villages, as well as plenty of recommendations of where to eat and drink too!
Day 1 (Friday)
I have based this Cotswolds road trip itinerary on having 3 nights from Friday-Sunday so that you can really make the most of your time in the Cotswolds and see as much as possible. If you don’t have the time, it can of course be cut down to 1 or 2 nights depending on which places you want to see, so you can remove the areas you might have visited already or aren’t too bothered about, but this itinerary is a great place to start if you’re totally new to this neck of the woods. It is also worth pointing out that this itinerary only really works if you have a car. If you don’t have one and are arriving by train or plane into London (1hr by train from Oxford or 2hrs by car) I would really recommend that you hire one as public transport isn’t one of our strong points down here!
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Beautiful #Burford… the gateway to the #Cotswolds 😍 I've been adding the finishing touches to my Cotswolds road trip itinerary this afternoon and I can't wait to FINALLY hit publish very soon! 💻 Fun fact #1: I went to school & sixth form here for 7 years 📚 Fun fact #2: I popped over last night with my cousin and her baby to feed the ducks by the river 🦆 Fun fact #3: I stood in the middle of the road to get these shots (don't do that kids) 📸
Assuming you’re travelling to the Cotswolds on the Friday, either morning or afternoon, I would 100% recommend starting in Burford and basing yourself here for the duration of your stay. Perched on a medieval hill and also known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford is conveniently located just off the A40, allowing easy access to the likes of Oxford, Cirencester, Cheltenham and more. I went to school and sixth form in Burford for seven years so I am totally biased, but I just love it so much and it is definitely not to be missed off your Cotswolds road trip itinerary! Highlights include Huffkins tea rooms (they do the best cakes), the stunning St John the Baptist church at the bottom of the hill, and the upmarket Burford Garden Centre, frequented by many a local celeb. Cotswold Wildlife Park, just a few minutes outside of Burford, is also well worth a visit if you have time and are looking for a family day out.
Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire
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It's not about waiting for the storm to pass… it's about learning to dance in the rain ☔️ Come rain or shine, the #cotswolds will always be here to welcome you 🇬🇧 . . . #bourtononthewater #bourton #cotswoldlife #discovercotswolds #igerscotswolds #thecotswolds #cotswoldhome #gloslive #gloucestershire #igersglos #gloucestershirephotography #weloveengland #englandtravel #england #england_insta #englandsbigpicture #britain #visitbritain #bbcbritain #lovegreatbritain #britishsnaps #capturingbritain #natgeotravelpic #uksnapshots #uk #igersuk #staycation #ukstaycation
After having lunch and wandering around Burford, head over to nearby Bourton on the Water (15 min drive) for a lovely stroll around one of the best loved villages in the Cotswolds. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Bourton is brimming with boutique shops, classic tea rooms and cosy pubs. Bourton is home to many different bridges that stretch across the river Windrush and the water is at the heart of this village. Travelling with kids? You won’t want to miss Birdland, an enormous wildlife park with penguins, pelicans and parrots, home to over 500 bird species. In the height of summer Bourton is very busy with tourists, so get away from the crowds and take a countryside hike out to Upper and Lower Slaughter instead – these picturesque villages are a must on any Cotswolds road trip itinerary.
Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire
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Happy New Year from everyone here in #StowOnTheWold. Who’s visiting our lovely #Cotswold town this year? 📷 by @theinteriorsnoop • • • #stow #visitstow #glos #glospotd #thecotswolds #visitengland #visitbritain #mybritain #igersuk #englishtown #visitthecotswolds #bestofstow #england #uk #tourism #church #churchdoor #yewtrees #stedwards #stedwardschurch #repost #magic #magical #ihavethisthingwithdoors #doorsofengland #lordoftherings #newyear #2019
On your way back from Bourton, make a stop at the historic market town of Stow on the Wold. Brimming with cafe’s, shops and restaurants, this place is classic Cotswolds in a nutshell and is worth a visit, although there isn’t a huge amount to do. St Edward’s Church, with its heavy oak doors, is said to inspire JRR Tolkien’s Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings, and makes a perfect photo opportunity. I’d also recommend a stroll down the high street so you can dip in and out of the many antique shops, as well as an evening meal at either The Old Butchers or The Queen’s Head, serving delicious dinners until late.
Day 2 (Saturday)
After a busy first day of your weekend in the Cotswolds, today is no different as you explore a whole host of famous chocolate box villages. Continue exploring more of pretty Gloucestershire as you tick more Cotswolds landmarks off your bucket-list. This itinerary still works well if you’re staying in Burford, as I have previously mentioned, but stays at either Cheltenham or Gloucester would work fine too. Don’t forget that you’ll still need a car to get around as transport links between these places are pretty non-existent!
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Beautiful day out at Broadway Tower… how have I lived in the Cotswolds my entire life but never been here before?! 😍 Exploring new places close to home is how I've been spending my lockdown and I'm going to continue it over the coming weeks and months too! I just love discovering more of our beautiful country 🇬🇧 . . . #broadway #broadwayuk #broadwaytower #broadwaycotswolds #worcestershire #igersbroadway #cotswolds #thecotswolds #igerscotswolds #discovercotswolds #cotswoldslife #cotswoldway #cotswoldsuk #cotswoldvillages #visitcotswolds #visitengland #visitbritain #lovegreatbritain #weloveengland #england #england_insta #englandmylove #englandtravel #britishsnaps #englandtourism #bbcbritain #capturingbritain #scenicbritain #beautifulbritain
Somewhere I have only visited recently is beautiful Broadway and it’s famous tower. Broadway is a stunning market town lined with honey coloured cottages, antique shops and cutesy cafe’s and is one of the most visited spots in the Cotswolds. It can get super touristy and really quite busy on weekends, so I would recommend going first thing in the morning or later on in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. No visit to Broadway is complete without a stop off at Broadway Tower, a few minutes drive (or approx an hour’s walk) away. Completed in 1798, this Saxon designed tower is a museum/viewpoint housing historic exhibitions and boasting stunning views. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views reaching as far as 16 counties, as well as an aerial view of the resident red deer in the park below. There are many circular walks you can take at Broadway Tower, along with a shop, cafe and interesting nuclear bunker onsite too.
Cotswold Lavender Farm, Gloucestershire
Located just a 4 minute drive from Broadway Tower, close to the teeny tiny village of Snowshill, Cotswold Lavender is one of the most instagrammable places in Gloucestershire. A must visit for any Cotswold road trip itinerary during, a stop off at Cotswold Lavender makes a great addition to a day out in Broadway. For just £4 you can access the beautiful lavender farm and walk along the many rows of gorgeous lilac flowers that stretch as far as the eye can see, but please bear in mind that the farm is only open from mid June – early August. There’s also a vibrant yellow field right next to the lavender too, which is perfect for even more photos. Dogs are welcome if they are kept on leads, and there’s also a small shop and distillery on site if you want to purchase some pretty lavender infused goods! If you have time, drive 3 mins down the road to nearby Snowshill and enjoy a drink or a pub lunch at the Snowshill Arms.
Famed for its annual race days, Cheltenham is a great place to while away a few hours on your weekend in the Cotswolds. On your way back from Cotswold Lavender/Broadway, stop off in Cheltenham for an afternoon of shopping or fine dining. Regent Arcade and the Promenade are great for high street and designer shops, whilst the Brewery Quarter and Montpellier are the best places to find all your favourite restaurants – The Ivy is a particular favourite of mine! Enjoy an ice cream at Imperial Gardens if the weather is good, and look out for the Neptune Fountain just around the corner. If you have time, head to nearby Bishops Cleeve to walk up Cleeve Hill which boasts impressive panoramic views over the valley below.
Make beautiful Bibury your last stop of the day before you head back to your accommodation for the evening. Perched on the river Coln, Bibury is a very small village but is hugely popular with tourists. Lined with iconic Cotswold stone cottages, Arlington Row attracts coachloads of visitors at the height of summer, so avoid going in the middle of the day and head out late afternoon/early evening instead. Walk around the village over the bridge and past the trout farm, where you can spot plenty of rainbow trout splashing in the stream below. Round off your day with an evening meal at either The Swan or The Catherine Wheel, both perfectly located in the centre of Bibury and both offering delicious lunches and dinners.
Day 3 (Sunday)
It’s the third and final day of your Cotswolds road trip itinerary, and I’ve only added two morning stops so that you can spend the majority of the day exploring beautiful Oxford! Head out on an early morning walk to Minster Lovell before stopping for brunch in Woodstock where you’ll then wander around Blenheim Palace. From there head into Oxford to marvel at its university buildings and dreaming spires. You could easily spend 2 whole days in Oxford, but I’ve listed the highlights below for you and these can easily be done in a day if you’ve got your walking shoes on!
Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
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I hope you've had a lovely Easter weekend staying at home 🏡 Every time I walk past this gorgeous cottage I want to live there! Haven't been to this little village in #Oxfordshire since we went into lockdown 3 weeks ago, and I can't wait for the day when we are able to drive 10 mins to the next village/town to enjoy a long walk or a pub lunch rather than being confined to our back gardens for the foreseeable future ✨ This easter has been a little different – last year I had just got back from being in Australia – but when all of this is over, I'll look back and be so grateful that I have my family, my health, a lovely home & 2 pretty gardens to enjoy in the sunshine ☀️ Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we must continue to #stayhome ❤️ The world will be waiting for you to visit when we are able to, and the #Cotswolds certainly isn't going anywhere 🌎 . . . #happyeaster #uklockdown #minsterlovell #littleminster #lovethecotswolds #cotswoldstyle #thecotswolds #loveoxfordshire #weloveengland #visitbritain #instatravel #lovegreatbritain #capturingbritain #photosofbritain #loveengland #photosofengland #visitengland #thisisengland #igersengland #igersuk #igersoxfordshire #cotswoldslife #oxford #experienceoxfordshire #oxfordshire #countryside #oxfordshirelife #travelblogger
The first stop on the last day of your weekend in the Cotswolds is Old Minster Lovell, a tiny Oxfordshire village located near the market town of Witney (also worth a visit if you have time). Park at the Wash Meadow and walk across the fields to Minster Lovell Hall & Dovecote, the ruins of a 15th century Oxfordshire manor house. Complete with crumbling hall, tower and nearby dovecote, the ruins date back to the 1430s when they were built by William Lovell, one of the richest men in England at that time. Occupying a peaceful setting beside the River Windrush, you can take a walk in the nearby woods before circling back to the car park via St Kenelm’s Church and passing the gorgeous cottages that line the main road.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Before you head into Oxford, I’d really recommend spending an hour or so at beautiful Blenheim Palace, one of the most famous palaces in the country, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Book in advance if you want to check out the state rooms inside the palace itself, otherwise you can turn up on the day to explore the grounds and gardens. With history spanning 300 years, there’s plenty to see and do during your visit to Blenheim. Check out the ‘finest view in England’ (according to Churchill) as you stroll around the grounds past the enormous lake, or let the kids run riot in the maze and pleasure gardens.
In my humble opinion, no visit to the Cotswolds is complete without a day trip to the dreaming spires of Oxford! Famed for its historic university, its enviable location on the river Thames and its secret Harry Potter filming locations, Oxford makes a fantastic place to end your weekend in the Cotswolds. As well as visiting the iconic college buildings, be sure to tick the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and Bridge of Sighs off your Oxford bucket list. All that walking will have you working up a thirst, so I’d highly recommend stopping at rooftop bar The Varsity Club to enjoy a drink with a view of the spires in the distance. The Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean museums (both free entry) are worth a visit if you have time, and don’t forget to head to the newly opened Westgate Centre to get your shopping fix (there are lots of rooftop bars/restaurants there too). You can read more about things to do in Oxford in my other blog post, but you can definitely see most of the sights in a day! Finish up with a hearty meal at The Chequers, just off the high street, and indulge in yummy pub grub at the heart of the city centre.
So there we have it, a bumper guide on how to spend a weekend in the Cotswolds. I really hope this helps you to start planning your Cotswolds road trip itinerary and gives you plenty of travel inspo. I’m well aware that this itinerary is completely jam packed and I have probably included way too many stops for a short three night break in the Cotswolds, but I really want to share all my favourite places with you as there are SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!! This itinerary therefore is of course totally adaptable, so feel free to remove or add any places that you do or don’t want to see depending on how much time you have. A weekend in the Cotswolds is a lovely idea for a UK staycation, and there’s so much to see that you’ll struggle to fit it all in, but that just gives you all the more reason to come back again another time!
Have you been to the Cotswolds before? I’d love to know which parts you’ve visited!