Day trip to the Cotswolds - 1 day itinerary for first time visitors
Updated: May 7
Cotswolds is definitely one of my most favourite places in Britain. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the 60s, the Cotswolds exemplify some of the best sights of British countryside. The glorious stone-built villages and historical architecture would make you feel as if you walked into another era.
I've been to the Cotswolds five times for work and for leisure and every time I got there, I was blown away by its splendid scenery and fell in love with its golden coloured houses and quaint cottages. You can easily spend a week in Cotswold to immerse yourself in British countryside. However, if you have only one day to spend, where should you go to get the best out of your time? Don't worry, in this post I've picked out some scenic gems that would give you the best experience of the natural beauty. I've also noted down some guide to getting to and getting around in the Cotswold.
When is the best time to visit the Cotswolds?
Summer. If you want to visit anywhere in the UK, summer is always the best time. You will get to enjoy the sunshine, longer daylight, more outdoor activities and people tend to be happier and active.
Getting to and getting around in the Cotswolds
The easiest way is by car. If you drive, you can easily get around everywhere. However, if you don't have access to a car, you can still visit the Cotswolds. Take the train to one of the main rail stations near the Cotswolds and then take buses to get around. Check for information in the Cotswolds District Council website. You will need to plan carefully ahead because buses are not so frequent. Check the timetable for buses in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty website.
Alternatively you can get a tour that takes you to visit villages in the Cotswold. You can rest and enjoy the day as they organise everything for you.
Broadway is renowned for its golden coloured houses. Being one of the bigger villages in the Cotswolds, it has an abundance of restaurants, cafes and independent shops and art galleries. Have a walk down the high street and check out the shops, you will be charmed by the yellow stoned houses and cottages. And ìf you come during spring or summer, you'll be charmed by the hollyhocks and pots of blooming flowers outside the houses, which really adds colours to the town and makes it even more lively.
Snowshill lavender field
Only about 2 miles from Broadway is the Snowshill lavender farm, which is a wonderful attraction in the summer. If you happen to be in Broadway in the summer, around June-July time, it's definitely worth visiting the lavender field in its blossom season.
Lavender blossom season may vary slightly so it's best to check the Cotswold lavender field website to ensure you get there in the right time of the year. You don't want to go there at start of the season when the flowers have not bloomed or at the end of the season when they start to fall apart and wither.
There is also a nice cafe and a shop where you can buy lavender products such as plants, seeds, small souvenirs, etc.
Snowshill lavender field can get extremely busy during season as it attracts a large amount of tourists. I've been there a couple of times and there were always coaches full of tourists in the car park. So do expect a large number of tourists but don't worry, you'll be to some spots to take that perfect instagram photos ! I'd reckon an hour is just about enough to enjoy the lavender field however if you want to do a photoshoot, it can be hours !
Only 15 min drive from Broadway is Blockley, a peaceful charming village that was once known for its past glory of mills and silk production. It's a tiny residential village and there isn't much going on there. Having said that, it's a very typical Cotswold village and the best part is that it's NOT touristy at all hence you can enjoy the village in quietude. Since it's so close to Broadway, I think it's worth driving through the village and if you like it, you may stop by for a walk.
Often referred as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, Burton-on-the-water is only 20 min drive from Broadway or Blockley. It is known for pretty little bridges that cross the river Windrush, which flows through the centre of the village. This village is my personal favourite. The river is no doubt the prized feature of Bourton-on-the-water, adding to the charm of the village. On both sides of the river are the yellow stone built houses and rows of trees, The scenery is so gorgeous. And it of course, is touristy, but nowhere near Bibury, which you will read about in the next section.
There are a railway museum, a motor museum and a model village (where they built a miniature replica of the village) for those who are interested in learning more about the village. In addition, there are quite a few nice pubs , cafes and shops in the village for you to have a look around. The one thing I love about villages is that there are usually no chain shops. Shops are independent and more unique.
20 min drive to the south is Bibury. Situated by the river Coln, Bibury is referred by many as the prettiest village in the Cotswolds. Whether it deserves the crown I think it is up to a debate because other villages are also very picturesque. However, it surely is the most well known and touristy village in the Cotswolds.
There were SO many tourists when I was there. I'm talking about coaches full of tourists. If you are bothered by tourists, Bibury isn't for you. Go to some other villages, you will not miss out. Having driven through the Cotswolds, I can confidently say that Bibury isn't any more typical of the Cotswolds than other villages.
But if you're happy to be surrounded by a lot of tourists, I'd recommend you visit this village. Being a tourist place has it perks. It means that this riverside village has more cafes and shops than most other villages. You can have a drink after a walk around the village and look for some souvenirs. There is a trout farm in the village, which makes a nice tourist attraction. Here are some photos of the riverside village.
I would spend about two to three hours in Broadway, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury, half an hour to an hour in Blockley. If you've been to two to three villages you'll realise that they share a lot of similarities. Architecture is similar, quaint cottages built from honey coloured stones. Even so, I still find each village has its own charm and I love going back to the Cotswold now and then to see different villages.
Have you been to the Cotswolds before? What do you think of it and what are your favourite places in the Cotswolds?