Plan the perfect Cotswolds Day Trip Itinerary

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The Cotswolds is a designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the southwest of England. The Cotswolds is famous for its quintessentially quaint English villages, rolling green hills and open countryside.

Visiting the Cotswolds is a perfect option for a staycation in the UK, but a Cotswolds day trip is also completely possible if you’re in the south-central area of England or even coming from London. Thanks to the relative proximity of some of the main sights, a day out in the Cotswolds is the perfect day trip if you want to make the most of your weekend without breaking the budget!

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Cotswolds day tour options

Although this guide is an itinerary for a self-guided driving trip to the Cotswolds, if you would prefer to have your day trip planned for you or perhaps you don’t drive or don’t have access to a vehicle, there are some incredible options for day tours to the Cotswolds.

Cotswold tours from London

This Full day tour from London to the Cotswolds is the highest rated tour on Get Your Guide and starts at £96 per person. You’ll see four of the most well-known villages within the Cotswolds and coach travel to and from London is included, plus lunch at the beautiful Swan Hotel.

If you’re on a budget, there is a similar tour but without lunch included for just £55 per person which is also highly rated.

If you would prefer a private tour for just your group and a more bespoke experience, Get Your Guide also offers a private Cotswolds day tour for £700 per group (groups of up to 6).

To fit even more in your day, this tour is incredibly highly reviewed and combines the Cotswolds, Stratford Upon Avon and Oxford into a day trip from London.

circular stone building in oxford, home to the Radcliffe library
Oxford University

Cotswolds day trip from Oxford

If you’re perhaps visiting Oxford and would like to spend a day exploring the neighbouring Cotswolds, there are also great tour options from Oxford, which is just a short 30-40 minute drive to Burford, the gateway to the Cotswolds.

This tour gives you the option to combine a tour of the Cotswolds with Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare.

This incredible Cotswolds day trip from Oxford includes a pub lunch, visiting the main Cotswolds villages and entry to Blenheim Palace and gardens, starting from just £149 per person with a guided tour and lunch included.

Plan your weekend in Oxford while you’re in the area too!

Cotswolds in a day itinerary: self-driving route

Because of the nature of the Cotswolds and lack of public transport, especially between the rural villages, it is highly recommended to have your own vehicle for your day trip to Cotswolds villages.

This also gives you the freedom and flexibility to spend as much or as little time in each location as possible and follow your own schedule.

This Cotswolds itinerary for 1 day focuses on the north Cotswolds, as the proximity of many villages and sites means you will get the most out of your day.

To cover the south Cotswolds, I recommend at least a weekend trip to the area, follow this guide for spending two days in the Cotswolds.

This is a full day itinerary, the recommendation is to start your day as early as possible based on how far you will have to drive from your start location to the Cotswolds.

This whole route without stops takes about 50 minutes, so while the proximity is close, make sure to leave enough time to adequately explore each stop.

Bourton on the Water

low stone bridge over the river in bourton on the water on a day trip in the cotswolds
Bourton on the Water

Assuming you’re coming into the Cotswolds on one of the main two routes – the A40 or A429, Bourton-on-the-Water might not necessarily be the first place on this itinerary that you drive by, however it is highly recommended that you start here first because it is the most popular Cotswolds destination and the tourist coaches arrive at 10 am. Arriving before 10 am will give you a chance to enjoy the village in all its glory without the crowds!

Bourton-on-the-Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, due to the idyllic rivers and low stone bridges throughout the centre of the village.

Bourton-on-the-Water also has the most activities and attractions to enjoy so it’s a great starting point to pack as much into your day as possible.

There is a free car park on the High Street, if you arrive early enough or on a weekday or in winter then you should have no problem parking here. If you’re on a weekend or in peak season, there are two more paid car parks on Station Street if the High Street parking is already full.

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water:

  1. Wander around and take in the quaint streets and the stone bridges over the river with willow trees blowing in the breeze.
  2. Visit the Model Village, a spectacular one-ninth to-scale replica of the village itself!
  3. If you’re an automotive enthusiast, visit the Cotswolds Motoring and Toy Museum
  4. Tuck into morning coffee and cream teas at the idyllic Rose Tree Cafe along the river, it’s only served until 11.45am!
  5. Explore the boutique shops like The Little Nook or buy a souvenir at the Cotswolds Perfumery

Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter

The Slaughters are made up of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, two villages with the River Eye running through them and just a few minutes drive south along the A429 from Bourton-on-the-Water.

Lower Slaughter has slightly more to see and do, although both their extremely small sizes and picturesque setting makes them a great stop for those quintessential Cotswolds village photos.

Lower Slaughter is home to a 19th century water mill with an old waterwheel and chimney, located on the river as it snakes through the stone cottages.

You can visit the Old Mill Museum which is also home to a tearoom and gift shop.

There is a lovely walk from the Old Mill in Lower Slaughter to Upper Slaughter which takes around 25 minutes and covers 1 mile across fields and along the river. This is a great option for a short walk, especially if you’ve managed to find a parking space and don’t want to move again to see Upper Slaughter!

The Slaughters Manor House is a stunning luxury country hotel located in Lower Slaughter, definitely a treat stay! But they also offer dining in their restaurant to non-guests where you can enjoy the stunning decor and the garden too.

river flowing through the village of lower slaughter in the cotswolds
The Slaughters

Stow on the Wold

Stow on the Wold high street busy with people on a day trip
Stow on the Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold is the nearest town to the Slaughters, a short 6 minute drive. Stow-on-the-Wold is also a slightly bigger market town where you’ll find a bigger range of shops and supermarkets available.

If you’ve seen pictures of Stow-on-the-Wold, it’s very likely you’ll have seen the famous St Edward’s Church in the town, where two old yew trees have grown either side of the church door, so it now looks as if the old wooden church door is grown from the trees itself! It’s well worth visiting beautiful church and its unique entryway.

There is also the well-known Lucy’s Tearoom in the town, although it’s a beautiful tearoom, it can get extremely popular. Little Stocks Coffee Shop on the opposite side of the square is a great alternative.

Stow is a historic meeting place as the traditional junction of the Cotswolds can be found here – the Fosse Way dates from Roman times!

Daylesford Organic

English cream tea
Cream tea

Travelling east out of Stow-on-the-Wold, you’ll quickly reach Daylesford, a privately owned village in the Cotswolds.

It’s worth making a stop at Daylesford Organic, an incredible farm shop with sustainably produced and organically grown produce from the farm, plus retail space, a garden to wander, a cafe and even a wellness spa and cookery school all on site.

If you’re a fan of garden centres, farmshops and organic produce, this is a great stop for a late lunch, a cake and coffee treat or to take some produce home with you.

Burford

After Daylesford, drive out via Kingham – a beautiful village to drive through and enjoy the countryside route on your way to Burford.

Burford is known as the gateway to the Cotswolds, being the easternmost town and the first Cotswolds town you reach on the A40 as you arrive from the direction of Oxford.

There is free parking in Burford Car Park, just off the High Street. The Hill is the main road that runs through the town and it’s a beautiful street to admire the Cotswolds stone houses  and the higgledy piggledy street as it runs down the hill.

With local Cotswolds stores, antique shops and pubs, you can come to Burford for a quick visit or for a longer stop.

If you visit in the summer, the area around Burford (seen from the A40) is full of poppy fields!

poppy fields in the Cotswolds
Poppy fields
gin glass full of gin and apple slices
Maytime Inn Gin

The Maytime Inn or Bibury

There are two options for your last stop (or do both if you’ve still got time!). 

If you’re heading out of the Cotswolds area on the A40, The Maytime Inn is a highly recommended stop by locals and guest alike thanks to its picturesque Cotswold stone exterior, beautiful beer garden and incredible gin pantry!

With over 100 different gins, there is a refreshing, fruity and citrusy gin cocktail for everyone, just ask the bartender for their recommendation or use their comprehensive gin guide to decide which takes your fancy!

It’s a great last stop for a pub dinner and a drink (or takeaway drink for the designated driver) to finish off your Cotswolds day trip itinerary.

Bibury

If you’re heading south on your way home (or you’ve still got time to spare!) Bibury is a great last stop before you head home.

Frequently called the prettiest village in the Cotswolds thanks to the famous Arlington Row cottages, this village was called the prettiest village in England by famous 19th-century artist William Morris.

You also might recognise Bibury’s Arlington Row as the village street depicted on the inside page of a British Passport, making it one of the most depicted villages in the world.

The cottages are owned and protected by the National Trust, but you can actually stay overnight in one of them!

Spend some time wandering this beautiful village and also enjoy the water meadows where you can see a variety of wildlife including voles, birds and dragonflies.

Day trips Cotswolds itinerary summary

The Cotswolds is a large area with popular and lesser known hidden gems spanning across six counties! But this Cotswolds day trip guide is the perfect starting point to make the most of a self-drive day trip to this beautiful part of England.

Pin this for later to help you plan your future trip!

Pinnable image with four images of various village streets in the Cotswolds England. Text reads Cotswolds day trip itinerary

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