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Help with itinerary- Cotswolds + ?

My husband and I are going to England in the fall. We arrive at Heathrow about 9:30am on Oct 19. I have Eurostar tickets to Paris at 12:24 on Oct 27. We've been to London a few times and to areas south of London so we thought we would like to rent a car and visit the Cotswolds area. We are planning to visit Bilbury, Burton-on-the Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold and also see Blenheim Palace, Sudeley Castle, and Snowshill Manor.

Questions: Where should we rent the car? Can anyone suggest an itinerary to best use our time? I'm wondering the best location to stay while exploring the area. Any recommendations for a base and/or is there a village and/or hotel or bnb that might be more budget friendly compared with some others? Also any suggestions for other sites/villages are welcome.

I don't think we will spend more than 4-5 days there so we thought we could return the rental and take a train (from Oxford or ??) to York or Edinburgh for the last couple of days. We would have to be at St. Pancras in plenty of time to catch our train on the 27th. Alternative places are Cardiff, Wales or possibly Mousehole or similar in Cornwall. However, I'd wouldn't mind staying in the area if that's recommended. We have driven in Wales before so we are familiar with narrow roads and left hand shifting so if needed we can keep the car and drive if that works better. We love beautiful scenery, castles, manor homes, history, art and architecture. England has so many possibilities!

We don't want to be stressed or exhausted (ages 62 & 58) but also want to see as much as we can in the short time we are there. (Doesn't everyone!) If any of the options above seem crazy, I'm open to ideas and, there's always spending more time in London.... I know this is a bit convoluted but I need help to get this decided so I can start booking lodging and tickets. Thanks!

Posted by
5346 posts

I am an American planning a four week drive tour of Wales and England next year. I have tentatively planned six days in the Cotswolds. Chipping Campden is where we plan to stay. From there we will visit the Cotswolds, Oxford, Blenheim, Stratford on Avon and Warwick (perhaps in route to York).

Oxford is not a car friendly city, so we will probably take the train in for a day trip.

Posted by
1830 posts

We went to the Cotswolds and London last summer. We arrived Heathrow and rented a car upon arrival at the airport. It was an easy drive to the Cotswolds - yep, even jet legged from the west coast and rented a nine person van for a three generation family trip for 7 people! Well, it was easy for me anyway since I was just the co-pilot!

I would look online for a really good map of the Cotswolds so you can see the locations of each place you want to visit.

By laying down a map and circling my sites I wanted to see I was able to find routes that would include lots of small villages while still hitting the bigger sites I wanted to see.

I found an adorable cottage in a very tiny village that we rented. It was located in Great Ressington which was very central to everywhere we went.

After visiting Blenheim Palace we stopped on our way home in Bampton and walked the old village where they film Downton Abby. We loved it!

I would rent at Heathrow and then find a return near you want to exit the car. Just give AutoEurope a call
and they can help you find a drop location.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
5346 posts

Rick Steves has a suggestion in his guidebook

Day 14: Driving Through the Cotswolds
For your final day in England, arm yourself with a good map and set out to explore the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds.
From Cheltenham, and by doing some crisscrossing here and there, you can take in the best of the Cotswolds. Scenic highlights of your day will include Upper and Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Burford, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Moreton-in-Marsh. Finally, in the north Cotswolds, you arrive in the most scenic town of Broadway, with what is arguably the most beautiful High Street in England. However, it's overrun with visitors in summer and charges very high prices. Make your way northeast to the even more charming village of Chipping Campden, which you can walk around and explore in 2 hours, spending the night before heading back to London and your final destination in the morning.

Posted by
26 posts

Great advice from all three! Thank you so much. I'm going to check out car rental from Heathrow and some of the other villages mentioned. Should I plan to go to one of the other areas I mentioned or just stay in the Cotswolds for the 8 days? Is one place easier to get to than another by train or car? Thanks!

Posted by
703 posts

we stayed in and toured around the cotswolds using Broadway as a base, last year, in june. we had a car and enjoyed visiting the small villages.( however the lack of car parking sometimes made it more difficult to see some places- perhaps the time of year?)
on the same trip we also toured cornwall, wales and the south west. we visited the places you list in the Cotswolds. some of the villages are very small. almost blink and you miss them. and some of the attractions are a reasonable distance apart. its more of an 'area' to visit. no doubt you could find things to do there for 8 days. depends on how interested you are to visit other areas?

the Cotswolds was nice but not 'earth shattering' by comparison. we found the gardens and palaces etc are certainly worth visiting, but we found just as nice ( if not nicer) villages elsewhere on our travels.
I am definitely not saying don't go there, but if you happen to decide to go elsewhere you will no doubt see similar quaint villages and scenery. IMO.
while travelling around , south west of london, the best advice we received was when we called into the tourist office in a very small town. they suggested places/villages to see that were not touristy but exceeded the 'known' attractions.
I wonder if marketing has a lot to do with it?

hope this helps.

Posted by
26 posts

glennlorrainer, Good to know! How many days would you suggest we allow for the Cotswolds, and can you think of any of the less touristy towns/villages in the southwest? We would much prefer that, too. My only problem is I want to have a schedule/route before leaving so we don't waste time trying to find a BnB or deciding where to go once we're there since we have so little time.
I would love any recommendations for places to go that on not on the usual tourist itinerary!

Posted by
703 posts

adrienne, we came across to the cotswolds from ludlow ( and the black and white trail towns, which were nice and interesting) we spent 4 days ( 3 nights) in Broadway and drove around to the following towns/attractions. snowshill, moreton in marsh, stow on the wold, bourton on the water, upper and lower slaughter, stratford on avon (nothing special) , chipping norton and Blenheim palace, Hidcote manor gardens, Snowshill lavender. spending enough time at each to have a nice look around. places like Blenheim can take up half a day.
We could have spent another day or so, as we missed out going to Oxford. ( lack of time)

for us Broadway was good as a base, it was a toss up with Chipping Norton ( which we visited also, and was nice)

I don't think I can recommend other areas, others may be able to help. as it very much depends on what you are interested in.
however we did enjoy lots of places on our way driving from london to cornwall via the south west area, like the jane austen museum at chawton ( quaint little village) Salisbury, Dorset , milton abbas, gold hill, avebury ( and surrounding area and attractions) and the list goes on. too many to mention.

I hope this helps.

Posted by
14 posts

We did this leg between Bath and Scotland 6 years ago and it was great. We hit all the same sights you mentioned and enjoyed them all. We stayed at Windy Ridge House, a BnB in an old manor house. The grounds felt like something out of a fairy tale and the hosts were wonderful, quick to offer suggestions and advice. We spent 3 nights there on a 3 week trip and it is the accommodation I remember most vividly. Also they had the best breakfast of the whole trip, homemade croissants and English strawberries! It was definitely in the country so there aren't any eating options around the corner, but it's centrally located so nothing in the region is more than 10 miles away. Have a great trip!

Posted by
171 posts

We did something similar last fall. We too landed at Heathrow but we took a cab to Windsor. We did the castle and wandered the town and Eton on arrival day and the next morning and we really enjoyed it. Around noon on our day 2 we rented a car (actually in Slough I recall, about 10-15 minutes with an inexpensive cab ride) and drove to Witney where we stayed for the next 6 nights at The Witney, an adorable little hotel We took the bus, which stopped about a block away from the hotel, into Oxford one day (no sane person ever suggests you should drive into Oxford).

We also drove, on various days, to Blenheim/Woodstock, Warwick Castle, Bletchley Park, Hidcote Manor Gardens, Chastleton House. On our way to/from these places we drove through many of the well-known and lots of the hardly known villages of the Cotswolds. It was really a terrific week for us. On our last day we dropped off the car in Oxford, got on the train and went to London.

Obviously, it is your trip and you get to decide, but we loved Witney because it was convenient, with lots of choices of pubs and dining but not, frankly, very touristy. We found the pattern of a "big" site to head for every day mixed in with picking a route through villages on our way there or home was just perfect.

Posted by
214 posts

we just returned from staying at the Sudeley Castle Cottages, I cannot tell you how happy we were for this choice ! We travel to the Cotswolds yearly and yes they are about 20 mins. from Stow etc. it was still worth it. They have a self contained kitchen and it is a 4 min walk to the Co-op shop.