Looking for a complete travel guide to the Cotswolds without a car? You have come to the right place! In December 2022, my youngest daughter and I ventured to this famous area in the English countryside sans car to see what all the Instagram hype is about.
I had learned about this fairytale-esque part of England from Instagram a few years ago. When my youngest daughter agreed to travel to England for a Christmas holiday with me, I knew we would have a wonderful time together in the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Natural Beauty).
Traveling by car in foreign countries has never been my cup of tea. I much prefer the relaxation of a train, especially while I am in Europe. But Cotswolds AONB is not easily navigated via train which made my planning for our two week England vacation extra important ;).
Below you will find all my suggestions for a complete travel guide to the Cotswolds without a car.
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A Complete Travel Guide to the Cotswolds Without a Car
- How to Get Around the Cotswolds Without a Car
- Best Places to Stay in the Cotswolds Without a Car
- Where to Eat in The Cotswolds
- Best Villages to Explore in the Cotswolds
- What to Wear
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
How to Get Around the Cotswolds Without a Car
When I started my research on how to explore this stunning part of the English countryside without a car using public transportation and walking between villages that are close, I found a few blog posts that were quite helpful.
This one in particular outlined exactly which buses can get you to each accessible Cotswold village ;).
You can find information regarding walking between villages including the Cotswolds Way, on this website.
I have every hope that I can return to explore more of this lovely countryside (clearly not in the winter though!) and do some walking on their popular trails :).
Being that we were in the area right at the tail end of a decent snowstorm with quite cold weather, the beginning of a rail strike, AND our one full day in the area was a Sunday, public transportation and walking between towns turned out to not be an option for us ;0.
Plan B of my plan was simply to rely on taxis. But, we learned while staying in Bath and attempting to get to Castle Combe that taxi availability during a snowstorm and rail strike is quite unreliable as well.
The odds of you having the same sequence of events we had in the area, are pretty slim (or so I hope for your sake!). So I would like to say that relying on the bus system and finding a taxi at any nice hotel should not be too difficult.
Cotswold Tours and Travel
We decided at the last minute to use a tour guide which ended up being an incredible experience!!
Our guide, Colin from Cotswold Tours and Travel, was insanely knowledgeable and friendly.
I would highly, highly recommend spending a day or two with this company.
Not only is your transportation in the area provided, the information you learn and the secret places they will take you to that you likely never would have found on your own, are quite priceless ;).
Best Places to Stay in the Cotswolds Without a Car
The Manor House Hotel in Moreton-in-Marsh
We spent two nights in this Cotswolds property because of its proximity to a train station in the area.
The restaurant and lobby are quite countryside quaint and as mentioned above the location to the easiest train station to navigate in the Cotswolds made this hotel ideal for us. However, the room itself would probably only get a 7 out of 10 review from my daughter and I due to the outdated decor and not necessarily 5* hotel beds and linens ;0.
It should be said that the biggest plus for staying at this hotel when you do not have a car in the Cotswolds is that it is within walking distance of the train station.
Which was very helpful to us as we arrived via train from Bath, England (read that travel guide here) and there were no taxis to be found at this small rural train station :0.
Cotswold House Hotel and Spa in Chipping Campden
While on our tour with Cotswold Tours and Travel, our guide (Colin) told us of two other hotels to stay at the in Cotswolds.
In all my research on where to stay in the Cotswolds if you do not have a car, no place mentioned a couple of the nicer hotels in the area will help you arrange transportation from the train station to their hotel.
However, while in the area, I discovered this is a possibility. The above mentioned guide company even provides chauffeur services.
I wish I would have found this information on any of the many blog posts I read about staying in the Cotswolds as I most certainly would have enjoyed staying at a nicer property in a more quaint town which is what I would have preferred ;0.
Chipping Campden is a much prettier town than Moreton-in-Marsh and on a return visit to the area, I would love to stay at this hotel & spa.
The Lygon Arms in Broadway
This hotel may be my favorite on the list.
While of course, we did not stay here on our quick visit to the Cotswolds, when I saw it in person as well as the location being in a picture perfect Cotswolds town, I quickly added it to this blog post list for you.
This property would also help in finding transportation from the Moreton-in-Marsh train station if need be.
Where to Eat in The Cotswolds
This list includes the places we ate at ourselves during our three day visit to the area however every small town and village we explored had what looked to be quite acceptable pubs to eat at.
White Hart Royal in Moreton-in-Marsh
We had our first official pub dinner in the Cotswolds in this small hotel’s restaurant and could not believe how delicious it was!!
If you do end up staying in Moreton-in-Marsh like we did because of the train station proximity – my daughter and I both would highly suggest having dinner here ;).
The Mulberry Restaurant in Moreton-in-Marsh
As mentioned above, the restaurant at our hotel in Moreton-in-Marsh had incredible food!
And had one of the most picturesque sun rooms to enjoy the newly snow covered garden while eating our tasty meals.
The Queen’s Head Pub in Stow-in-the-Wold
Our Cotswolds tour guide took us to this perfectly traditional town pub where the food was delicious and the atmosphere was exactly what one is looking for when visiting the Cotswolds ;).
Links to Posts Offering Other Options
I have linked a list of the best places to eat in the village of Broadway as well as another post with multiple options in the entire Cotswolds area ;).
Best Villages to Explore in the Cotswolds
Below you will find all the villages (minus Castle Combe) that our tour guide took us to in the 8 hours we spent with him that are all worthy of exploring whether your mode of transportation is walking, taxi, bus, or tour guide ;).
Chipping Campden & Dover’s Hill
The Cotswold Way is a 102 mile trail that starts in Chipping Campden and ends in Bath. When in the Cotswolds, you can do as much or as little of this beautiful walk as you want.
As I mentioned above, the recent snowfall and quite chilly conditions during our visit, unfortunately made it so we were not able to walk any of it as I had originally intended when planning our itinerary.
But I have every intention of returning someday to this area of England to do some walking amongst the picturesque landscape and villages ;).
Chipping Campden has some quaint shops worth stepping foot in.
My youngest daughter was excited to find some warmer wool socks (she came unprepared!), a wool sweater with sheep sewn onto it and a free book on the street as a gift ;)!
Be sure to walk into the neighborhoods of Chipping Campden to see the talents of the thatched roof installers of the area.
There are more thatched roof homes in England than anywhere else in Europe and have become a status symbol throughout the years. It is fun to wander the neighborhoods and appreciate the labor this high degree of craftsmanship entails.
You can also find the second oldest post box in Chipping Campden from the reign of Queen Victoria (so noted by her initials of VR on the box) on Westington.
If visiting during non-inclement weather, you can easily do the one mile walk between Upper and Lower Slaughter on the Wardens Way
But because snow in the Cotswolds can make the roads somewhat dangerous, our tour guide was only able to take us to see Lower Slaughter with his van.
Stow on the Wold
After the first three stops, we continued on to have lunch in the above mentioned pub in Stow on the Wold.
Local legend says that St. Edward’s Church in this small village inspired J.R.R. Tolkien for the Doors of Durin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy ;).
With a high street, one pub, a church, and a majority of thatched houses built with Cotswold stone, this stop is the perfect example of a sleepy small village in the area.
And probably the best photography stop of our day ;).
Colin (our tour guide) explained to us that the homes in the area are named after their use when they were originally built ;).
After our stop in Stanton and on our way to Broadway, we stopped at St. Peter’s Church in Stanway which is next door to a classic Cotswolds mansion for a few snowcovered photos ;).
Our last stop on our tour with Colin was the classically beautiful and festively decorated town of Broadway.
We spent a little over an hour walking High Street and popping in shops.
And taking a peek (from a distance) of the hounds that participate in the big Boxing Day celebration at the kennel ;).
Due to icy roads, we were not able to visit Snowshill nor the other two remaining villages on this list of what villages to visit in Cotswolds.
However, on my return visit, I would love to see all three ;).
In my research of Cotswolds villages to visit, I discovered Bourton-on-the-Water is the most visited.
Which also means it is the most crowded in busy season…
When I travel, I attempt to avoid busy places (and busy season) but this does not take away my curiosity to see this village ;).
What to Wear
Being that I visited in December during an intense cold spell, my suggestions for what to wear are all WARM CLOTHES!!
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
Day 1 Monday December 5, 2022 Fly British Airways San Diego to London
Day 2 Tuesday December 6, 2022 Arrive in London
Day 3 Wednesday December 7, 2022 London
Day 4 Thursday December 8, 2022 London
Day 5 Friday December 9, 2022 Train from London Paddington to Bath Spa 10am-11:20am
Day 6 Saturday December 10, 2022 Bath
Day 7 Sunday December 11, 2022 Day trip to Bristol (sleep in Bath)
Day 8 Monday December 12, 2022 Train from Bath Spa to Moreton in Marsh (Cotswolds AONB)
Day 9 Tuesday December 13, 2022 Cotswolds
Day 10 Wednesday December 14, 2022 Train from Moreton in Marsh to York
Day 11 Thursday December 15, 2022 York
Day 12 Friday December 16, 2022 York
Day 13 Saturday December 17, 2022 Train from York to London 9am-11am
Day 14 Sunday December 18, 2022 London
Day 15 Monday December 19, 2022 Fly British Airways London to San Diego
I hope you found this travel guide to the Cotswolds without a car helpful in planning your adventures in this fairytale land.
I had been wanting to see this incredible part of England for years and can say without a doubt, the wait was worth it!
While clearly I visited in winter and I prefer to avoid the busy travel season of summer now that I am an empty nester and not tied to a school calendar, I would love to do return visits in spring and fall someday ;).
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