Crafting a Memorable 48 Hours Exploring the Cotswolds by Car

Imagining a Tranquil Getaway in the English Countryside? This laid-back two- or three-day driving itinerary in the Cotswolds is designed to unveil the region’s most captivating highlights.

During my journey, the aim was to explore a significant amount within two days, ensuring a well-paced experience without the sensation of being hurried or dedicating excessive time to driving. If you share the same preference, this guide aspires to cater to your desire for a comprehensive yet leisurely exploration.

Crafting an itinerary for your Cotswolds road trip is an exciting endeavor, and the proposed route is thoughtfully designed to span two or three leisurely days. During my own journey, I opted for three stops per day, finding it to be a manageable pace. Nevertheless, for an even more relaxed experience, I recommend spreading the itinerary across three days with two stops per day, allowing ample time to fully immerse yourself in each charming village and enjoy moments of relaxation in between.

Alternatively, another approach is to establish a central base, such as Bourton-on-the-Water, for a few days. From this hub, you can embark on day trips to explore stops one and two on one day and stops four to six on the following day.

However you choose to structure your adventure, these carefully selected destinations promise a delightful and rejuvenating Cotswolds road trip experience.


Commence your scenic Cotswolds road trip with a visit to the quintessential village of Bibury, situated near Cirencester. Renowned for its undeniable charm, Bibury serves as an ideal introduction to the Cotswolds, offering a glimpse into the picturesque beauty of traditional English villages.

Arlington Row, located at the heart of Bibury, stands out as one of the most visited and photographed sites in the region. This collection of 17th-century weaver’s cottages, crafted from the warm hues of honey-colored stone with steep grey slate roofs, exudes timeless allure. Notably, Arlington Row gained cinematic fame as the backdrop for the 2007 film Stardust (contrary to some misconceptions about Bridget Jones, which was filmed in Snowshill).

Bibury’s charm has not gone unnoticed, with William Morris describing it as “the most beautiful village in England.” However, be mindful that Arlington Row can attract significant crowds. To make the most of your visit, consider arriving early in the day (before 10 am) or during the late afternoon to avoid peak tourist hours.

While in Bibury, immerse yourself in the following activities:

  • Capture a memorable selfie against the backdrop of Arlington Row.
  • Stroll along the scenic River Coln.
  • Admire the historical significance of Arlington Mill.

These experiences promise to make your visit to Bibury a delightful and unforgettable part of your Cotswolds road trip.


While many Cotswolds itineraries concentrate on the eastern half of the AONB, where popular villages and attractions are located, it’s worthwhile to venture a bit to the west. Following the bustling visit to Bibury, the serene and often overlooked village of Slad offers a perfect contrast.

Nestled on the edge of the picturesque Slad Valley, not far from Stroud, this quaint village is embraced by woodlands and nature reserves. Slad holds historical significance as the former residence of the renowned writer and poet Laurie Lee, famous for “Cider with Rosie.” The Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, a 5-mile walking route adorned with ten posts, each featuring one of Lee’s poems, provides a delightful way to explore his literary legacy. The trail itself offers a scenic woodland walk with stunning vistas of the valley.

Top Things to do in Slad:

  • Walk the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way
  • Visit Laurie Lee Wood, especially during the enchanting bluebell season
  • Enjoy a drink at the 300-year-old Woolpack Inn


Our next destination is the charming village of Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as the “Venice of the Cotswolds.” Situated along the picturesque River Windrush, this village stands out as one of the most enchanting in the region.

With a larger size compared to some of its counterparts, Bourton-on-the-Water attracts its fair share of tourists, offering a myriad of activities and a wealth of excellent pubs and eateries. Its size and amenities make it an ideal hub for exploring the Cotswolds.

Top Tip: For those following this three-day Cotswolds driving itinerary, consider arriving in Bourton-on-the-Water early on your second day to beat the crowds.

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

  • Explore the model village, a one-ninth stone scale replica of the town
  • Stroll along the picturesque River Windrush
  • Visit the Cotswold Motoring Museum
  • Embark on a brewery tour at the Cotswold Brewing Company

The Slaughters

Experience the charm of two villages for the price of one as you explore Upper and Lower Slaughter, two exceptionally scenic hamlets located just a mile apart along the banks of the River Eye.

The intriguing name finds its roots in an ancient English term signifying “wet land” or “muddy.” Given the close proximity of both villages, you can conveniently leave your car in one and leisurely stroll between the two.

The sight of warm, gold-beige stone cottages mirrored in the tranquil waters of the river will undoubtedly convince you that Upper and Lower Slaughter rank among the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds.

Top Things to do in Upper and Lower Slaughter:

  • Take a leisurely 1-mile walk along the river from Upper to Lower Slaughter or vice versa.
  • Explore the Lower Slaughter Museum housed in a 19th-century flour mill, complete with a working waterwheel.
  • Indulge in a delightful meal at the Lords of the Manor Hotel, a stunning 17th-century manor house.

Broadway Tower

Embark on a journey towards the northern fringes of the Cotswolds to discover Broadway Tower, marking a departure from our village-centric driving itinerary.

Constructed in 1799, Broadway Tower is a striking Gothic-style folly, a building designed without a specific purpose. Perched atop Broadway Hill at an elevation of 1,024 feet above sea level, this 65ft tower offers breathtaking panoramic views of the picturesque countryside.

Situated within a 200-acre estate of parkland, Broadway Tower provides an opportunity to explore various walking routes amidst the captivating natural surroundings. Keep a keen eye out for the resident deer and other wildlife that inhabit the area.

Top Tip: Enthusiasts of the film Bridget Jones might consider a detour to Snowshill on the way, as this scenic village served as a filming location for Bridget’s parents’ countryside home.


Concluding our Cotswolds driving route is the enchanting village of Stow-on-the-Wold. This is another gem among the prettiest and most frequented villages in the Cotswolds, serving as an excellent hub for further exploration.

Stow-on-the-Wold, with its fairytale charm, is renowned for the historic Yew Door in St. Edward’s Church. This impressive large wooden door, flanked by two towering yew trees, is believed to have inspired JRR Tolkien in crafting the Doors of Durin in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Top Things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold

  • Visit the iconic Yew Tree Door
  • Explore the array of independent boutiques, art galleries, and antique shops around Market Square
  • Take a countryside stroll to the nearby village of Maugersbury

Where to Stay in the Cotswolds

Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper Slaughter, and Stow-on-the-Wold emerge as ideal central locations for completing this Cotswolds itinerary. All three villages boast a variety of hotels and inns, offering convenient accommodation options.

For those planning a multi-day exploration of the Cotswolds, coupled with a desire for a tranquil countryside retreat, a self-catering cottage might be the perfect choice. Classic Cottages offers an array of exceptional properties across the UK, allowing you to discover your dream cottage. Among the favorites is Stonewell Cottage in Stow on the Wold.

Stonewell Cottage, Stow on the Wold

Sleeps 4 + cot

Stonewell Cottage, a single-story stone retreat with a rich history, welcomes you with its thick wooden beams and exposed stone walls. The combination of its historical charm and modern, airy decor creates the perfect countryside escape. Additionally, the outdoor patio area provides an ideal setting for al fresco dining or simply relaxing on sunny days.

Park Farm Cottage, near Malmesbury

Sleeps 8 + 2 cots

Relish in the expansive vistas of the countryside at Park Farm Cottage, a charming farmhouse located on the southern edges of the Cotswolds. This detached stone cottage offers a delightful ambiance, highlighted by a striking fireplace, a spacious flagstone kitchen, and the preservation of original features throughout. Step outside to discover a large enclosed garden complete with a patio, an orchard, and two paddocks, covering a sprawling three acres of picturesque landscape.

Little Maunditts Cottage, Sherston

Sleeps 6 + 2 cots

Situated along a tranquil lane in the delightful village of Sherston, Little Maunditts Cottage offers a quintessential experience of Cotswold village living. This snug cottage features a charming garden, complemented by expansive bi-fold doors that invite the refreshing summer air indoors on pleasant days. For cooler days and nights, the underfloor heating adds a warm and inviting touch, making it an ideal retreat, especially during the winter months.

Driving Tips for Exploring The Cotswolds

Consider Compact Cars: When selecting a vehicle for your Cotswolds journey, favor smaller cars if possible. The region’s narrow lanes and limited street parking can pose challenges for larger vehicles.

Map Download: Due to intermittent signal coverage in The Cotswolds, it’s advisable to download offline maps, such as Google Maps, to your device. This precaution ensures you won’t lose your directions in case of signal drops.

Pet-Friendly Travel: The Cotswolds is a haven for travelers with dogs. Keep driving times between stops relatively short, as longer drives may make your four-legged companion restless. Luckily, Classic Cottages offers a variety of dog-friendly holiday cottages with hot tubs in the Cotswolds, providing a relaxing retreat for both you and your furry friend at the end of the day.

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