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An Extended Guide to the Cotswolds Best Villages

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The villages of the Cotswolds offer picturesque views, serene countryside, and a typical English charm. As soon as you set foot inside the area, you'll know it. Spanning six counties, stretched out over around 800 square miles, there really is something for everyone. Rich in history, it has a deep connection with the wool and textile industry from as early as the 12th century.

History buffs will be in their element surrounded by original cottages and manor houses, many of which have been left untouched. A lot of buildings have kept the original honey-tinted Cotswold stone, which the area is renowned for.

This is the perfect holiday destination for those who wish to immerse themselves in English heritage and relaxing country life. Each of the Cotswold villages has its own personal story and style.

Let's take a closer look at ten of the most beautiful villages within the Cotswolds, and discover what makes them so unique.

1. Broadway

Broadway is a village steeped in history, which is apparent from the architecture and local attractions. Originally used as the main road between Worcester and London, the village still has the ancient ridgeway running straight through it.

1. Broadway

Broadway is all about small village charm, and food and drink are an important part of this so take your time to explore the local independent food shops. If you're staying in a local cottage, ignore the major chain supermarkets and stock up from the butchers and deli instead. And if you're looking to take home gifts for loved ones, The Cotswold Chocolate Co. shop has an abundance of delicacies just waiting to be devoured.

This village is an excellent base for visiting the surrounding areas and other villages within the Cotswolds. Packed full of cottages and hotels, you're spoilt for choice. Broadway is referred to as the jewel of the Cotswolds and has a prominent artistic background, with artists such as William Morris and Gordon Russell living and working from here. If art and design are your passion, there's a Design Museum to peruse.

There's lots going on here, and the local events diary is full of entertainment. Jazz nights, musicals, festivals, craft shows, and so on. You won't be disappointed by this must-see place.

2. Castle Combe

When you've got big budget Hollywood producers knocking down your door, it's safe to assume you could live up to the title of 'the prettiest village in England.' Castle Combe has played host to numerous movies over the years, including War Horse and Stardust.

2. Castle Combe

Castle Combe is a hot tourist destination and one of the most frequently visited in the Cotswolds. This lovely village lies within a valley, surrounded by greenery and nature. There's a wooded area next to it, which was once the home for Britons, Saxons, and Normans. History runs through the veins of this village, and it has a connection with the wool and sheep trade. Historically, the village would put on trade fairs, which was both an honour and seal of approval.

If you're a keen spotter of birds and other wildlife, Castle Combe won't disappoint. Locals have a firm belief in the conservation of natural habitats and it's a sanctuary for local animals. Take a walk through the nature reserve or the surrounding woods – it'll be a perfect day out, especially in the spring and summer months.

3. Stanton

Stanton stands at the edge of the Cotswolds hills and is just three miles from Broadway. This village is stunningly unique, due to its use of Cotswold stone. All villages have the stone dotted throughout, but Stanton is almost entirely made up of it.

3. Stanton

This historic village is home to many buildings and places of interest, such as St. Michael's Church, Stanton Court and The Manor, which was built in 1577. It has been described as the most distinguished of the smaller villages, thanks to its architecture.

Often photographed for calendars and postcards, Sheppey Corner is home to a grade II listed thatched cottage that was built around 1650. This quintessential Cotswold property was one big house and barn but has since been separated into three individual cottages. It's situated at the top of the high street and is well worth a visit. Just don't forget your camera!

4. Bourton-on-the-Water

The Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water runs along the River Windrush and is a popular attraction for tourists. Alongside the river are traditional cottages and buildings that have been transformed into shops, cafes, pubs and tourist information points.

4. Bourton-on-the-Water

If you're an avid bird watcher, you'll fall in love with Birdland. It showcases local birds, and exotic breeds including penguins. It's a perfect day out for the family, and one to keep the kids entertained. Another fun point of interest is the quirky Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection. It's an excuse for adults to be transported back to their youth, while kids will be fascinated by the toys of old. It's also home to the children's TV star, Brum.

Women will be in fragrance heaven when visiting the Cotswold Perfumery. This small factory makes quality English fragrances. In fact, in 1999 the owner was commissioned to create two perfumes for the Queen herself – you can't get a better seal of approval than that! They now offer perfumery courses, factory tours and even five-star luxury holiday apartments set inside the 300-year-old building.

5. Upper Slaughter

The name of this village can leave some people feeling a bit confused at it has negative connotations. However, the word 'slaughter' is old English for 'muddy place' – this realisation should put any concerns at ease.

5. Upper Slaughter

Upper Slaughter lies within the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and is only one mile from Lower Slaughter. In between the two villages is a combination of grassy hills and the meandering River Eye. For those who enjoy a scenic walk through the countryside, it won't take long to go between the two villages and on a sunny day it's a wonderful walk.

Historically, this village has many points of interest. It was once home to a Norman castle, which, although no longer visible, still has the remnants of the motte and bailey to explore. However, the building that captures the hearts of people who visit the area is the manor house. Now a hotel, it's a combination of 15th-century construction and Elizabethan architecture.

6. Kingham

If you're seeking a peaceful village that's a hub for long walks and fine dining, Kingham is your place. The location of this secluded village is ideal for those who want to escape the city for a long weekend. The village has a regular bus that takes passengers to the train station, which has a mainline service to London.

6. Kingham

Kingham is filled with greenery, fresh air, and traditional Cotswolds buildings. Spending the day in the countryside is made accessible with free downloadable walks to guide you and explain your surroundings. If you're a keen cyclist, this is an ideal destination as there are many beautiful trails through the natural scenery.

Once you've spent the day relaxing in a pub garden, wandering the surrounding countryside, or slogging it out on a bike ride, settle down for an evening of fine dining at one of the highly rated food establishments that Kingham has to offer.

The village is also home to the Big Festival, which takes place annually at the farm of Blur bassist, Alex James.

7. Bibury

The village of Bibury is something of a media darling. Touted as one of the world's most picturesque villages by Fox News and one of the most charming towns in Europe by the Huffington Post, it has a lot to live up to. But it succeeds.

7. Bibury

Sometimes, all you need to make your holiday is to be surrounded by perfection, and this is what Bibury has to offer. There's a calm atmosphere here, which makes the big city blues simply melt away. So when it all gets too much juggling a fast-paced life at home, escaping here for a weekend, or even longer, could be just what the doctor ordered.

Make time to enjoy the Arlington Row of weavers' cottages that are entirely built of local Cotswold stone. They run alongside the River Coin and are close to the Bibury Trout Farm and the Church of St. Mary. And while you're in the area, visit the church itself – in 1992, the Royal Mail Christmas stamp used the image of its 1920s-designed stained glass window, so you know it's going to be pretty special.

8. Bredon

The village of Bredon was made famous by the tales of life between wars by the writer, John Moore. It's the beginning of the Cotswolds and is nestled on the banks of the River Avon. Historical architecture is abundant here due to the 43 listed buildings, which include churches, barns, and rectories. St. Giles is one of England's most adored churches and dates back to the 12th century.

8. Bredon

If you're looking for somewhere off the beaten track, then Bredon is for you. It's not usually associated with groups of tourists nor overly mentioned in guidebooks or websites. You'll find locals dotted around walking their beloved dogs and find perfect spots for food and drink along the way. For visitors who want to be undisturbed, take in nature, and enjoy peace and quiet, this village is a fantastic candidate for your base.

Bredon Barn is a medieval structure that's an official part of the National Trust. It has unique design elements and has been mostly untouched since its construction in the 14th century. Although you're unable to enter the barn, the journey to find it through the foliage and terrain makes an enjoyable expedition for keen walkers and cyclists. Take a picnic and set up around the area for a peaceful day outdoors.

9. Chipping Campden

A hub of the arts and crafts movement, Chipping Campden is packed full of creative wonders. The village is beauty personified with its perfectly crafted architecture and limestone masterpieces. It's an ideal town to visit for a quick, relaxing break or as a base for a touring holiday.

9. Chipping Campden

Its name roughly translates from old English into 'Market Valley' – it was a prominent feature in the wool trade and is well known throughout Europe for its prosperity and fame.
There's much to see and do here, including a long high street rich in character and charm. The oldest house in the village was built in 1380 and was made by an influential wool merchant and London financier, William Grevel. If ancient churches are your thing, the village is home to the 500-year-old St. James's Church.

Chipping Campden hosts music and literature festivals each year and may be the reason you're in town. If so, you're going to be surrounded by perfect tearooms, quirky gift shops, and elegant boutiques. It's a quintessential English village.

10. Lacock

The entire village of Lacock, along with its museum and abbey, are owned by the National Trust. This little village is a well-kept memory of yesteryear, and dates back as early as the 13th century. It's a great choice, both for a day visit with the family, or for serious history buffs to explore. The Abbey was erected in the 13th century and has had additional elements constructed over time. During the 16th century, it was turned into a country house and during the Victorian era, a beautiful garden was developed around the area, which remains immaculate.

10. Lacock

Throughout the Middle Ages, this charming old town was the main route between Bristol and London. Over time, more convenient routes were developed, which took away much of the traffic leaving the village a nice peaceful spot. Chippenham is only three miles away from Lacock and is the best place to stay if wanting to visit.

It's easy to see why the villages of the Cotswolds are a popular tourist destination. They have everything you could ever want from a quintessential English break: history, nature, majestic landscapes and old village charm. These villages will serve as a romantic break for two, a group holiday or a fun-packed family adventure. Hire a cottage for a week and take a whistle-stop tour of some of the prettiest locations in the world.

If you'd like to book a holiday to visit any of these charming Cotswolds destinations, contact Character Cottages today and discover our beautiful holiday cottages.

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