From quaint stone cottages to a nude — yes, nude! — garden, here’s how to spend a perfect day in England’s most beautiful countryside, the Cotswolds.
In 1966, Natural England named the Cotswolds an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — and for good reason. Each and every mile in this charming section of English countryside is better than the next. It starts with picturesque honey-colored homes nestled side by side in small, thatch-roof-lined villages. A quick drive up to the more rural Cotswolds neighborhoods will bring you face to face with large stone houses set alongside vibrant gardens and grazing sheep.
The Cotswolds are roughly two hours from London, accessible by car or train. Both times I visited the Cotswolds, we arranged a tour with a resident to get that authentic local perspective (more on that below!). You can also rent a car and drive yourself — something on my bucket list for the future!
If you find yourself in London with a day to spare (tough, I know), definitely add the Cotswolds to your agenda. There’s a reason this area consistently makes the must-see lists, so go explore it for yourself!
The Cotswolds Must-Dos:
The Abbey House Gardens
Flower gazing in The Abbey House Gardens feels a bit like you’re crashing the Queen of Hearts’ croquet match, minus the evil queen and her hedgehog croquet balls. The gardens are home to a maze of perfectly sculpted bushes, larger-than-life chess boards and a honey-stone cottage covered in layers of lavender wisteria.
And that’s just the start. Behind the central house lie acres upon acres of forest, streams and more gardens ripe for adventuring.
For those interested in getting their Alice in Wonderland garden explorations on, the Abbey House Gardens ticket prices are about 10 pounds, and it’s located in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
For those interested in garden explorations in the nude, the Abbey House Gardens has “Clothes Optional” days one Sunday per month from May through September.
Yes, you heard me right. The Abbey House owners are well known “naturalists,” and true to their roots, they extend this clothes-free pleasantry to garden visitors, too.
Cotswolds Driving Tour
If you don’t have access to a car in the Cotswolds, you can easily find a local driving tour. There’s just too much to see on foot, especially if you’re taking a day trip.
My family and I have used Rob Little of Let’s Tour England during both Cotswolds visits. He lives in the Cotswolds, so you really get the local perspective. You can either instruct on what you want to see, or just sit back and let him take you to the top spots. (Word to the wise — let him choose! We were beyond impressed both times.)
The small, rural village of Bibury is just so quintessentially Cotswolds. It’s a popular spot for travelers embarking on their first Cotswolds journey, and with the peaceful River Coln, iconic stone cottages and traditional shops, it provides quite the warm Cotswolds welcome.
The River Coln, which connects to the Thames, runs along the base of Bibury. A quick jaunt up past the river leads to Arlington Row, an inclined street filled with 17th century, faded stone cottages contrasted by vibrant, mossy-green grass, trees and shrubs. Arlington Row is one of the most photographed scenes in rural England, and it’s definitely on my must-see Cotswolds list.
Know before you go
The Cotswolds is beautiful, but, like the rest of England, it can get rainy. Really rainy.
But Mother Nature doesn’t have to ruin your trip.
Even if the weather predicts straight sun, bring along a jacket and umbrella, because you never know when the clouds will roll in.
Prior to your Cotswolds/ England trip, it’s wise to invest in a waterproof camera. While getting lost in the rain is great for a Wanderlost soul, it’s terrible for an ill-prepared Wanderlost photographer.
Visit the Cotswolds with a rain-proof camera, and you’ll be able to capture every moment of your once-in-a-lifetime, wet and wonderful Wanderlost adventures. (And hey, if you don’t have rain in the Cotswolds, I promise you’ll encounter it at least one day on your trip to England, so that waterproof camera will come in handy!)