Here’s a riddle for you: how do you get from London to the Cotswolds without a car?
I have a driving licence (somewhere), but I’ve not been behind the wheel of a car since the day of my test back in 2012. Gary also hasn’t driven in about 8 years, and also he really hates it.
It’s not that far from London to the Cotswolds (two to four hours depending on traffic), but public transport is very limited. So we decided it would just be too much of a hassle to attempt the journey without a car, and we shelved the idea.
I figured maybe we’d go one day in a few years when we inevitably move out of London and start driving again or something…
But there is another way!
Tourist England offer a fantastic London to the Cotswolds Day Tour that includes coach travel from London to four Cotswold villages, as well as a two-course lunch.
I think there’s still a bit of old-fashioned snobbery around coach trips. They’re seen as “touristy” and full of oldies. But I actually had a really great time, and I was surprised at how many younger couples and solo travellers were on my trip.
Our tour guide Lucy was lovely and very informative. She gave us a lot of background info on the villages, but she kept her talks to the coach and left us to actually explore the villages on our own, which suited me perfectly!
The only downside is that you are on a strict timeline, which means you can’t stay anywhere for longer than the allotted time. But it was a great way to get a general feel for the area, and I got to see not one, not two, but FOUR magical Cotswolds villages in one day. (And I even made it home in time for Love Island.)
If that’s not value for money, I don’t know what is!
With only an hour to explore Burford, I made a beeline for the beautiful houses at the top of the High Street. I snapped some photos, had a sniff of the roses, then stopped at a little independent coffee shop for a (surprisingly excellent) oat milk latte.
It’s a lovely village, and definitely worth a stop if you’re exploring the area, but I don’t think it’s one I’d want to stay in overnight. An hour or two is plenty.
I explored some of the antique shops, bought my Dad a Christmas present (in JUNE – well done me), and rounded out the hour with a wander down to the lovely St John the Baptist Church.
Next stop: Bibury!
Bibury is exactly what you’d imagine a Cotswold village to look like. The honey-coloured cottages with steep roofs. The climbing ivy and honeysuckle trailing up the walls. Beautiful gardens full of rosebushes.
The cottages on Arlington Row were built in the 1300s, and they’re one of the most photographed scenes in the Cotswolds. You might even recognise it from the big screen, as the street is used a lot as a filming location (including in my all-time favourite film: Stardust!)
We had our lunch at the Swan Hotel, where they offered us a choice of three meals, including trout from the trout farm across the road. The food was alright, but nothing to write home about, so I just ate mine quickly and headed back outside to snap some more photos.
The main problem with travelling with fifty other people is that, inevitably, everyone wants to take photos of all the same places. In summer time it’s pretty much impossible to get shots without any people in them, unless you’re driving yourself and arrive early (or late) enough to miss all the coaches and tours.
It’s a beautiful village though, and a must-see if you’re visiting the Cotswolds.
Bourton on the Water was our third stop of the day. It’s known as the Venice of the Cotswolds due to the pretty arched stone bridges that cross the river Windrush. The shallow river runs right through the middle of the town, and is a popular place for paddling children and splashing dogs.
In summer time it gets so busy that there are more tourists than locals, but it’s still worth a stop, even if only for an hour or two.
Some of my fellow coach travellers popped into the Motor Museum, or wandered down to the Model Village (which includes a model village within a model village). However I was feeling lazy by this point, so I just bought myself an ice cream and had a little sunbathe on the riverbank!
Stow-on-the-Wold was our last stop on the trip, and my personal favourite. This small market town is bright and busy, full of tiny bookshops, tea rooms (including Huffkins, whose fruit cakes are rumoured to be a favourite of the Queen!), and historical buildings.
Make sure you stop to check out the Medieval stocks in the middle of Market Square, then walk up the street to St Edwards Church. Here you’ll find the beautiful wooden North Door, flanked by yew trees, and rumoured to be the inspiration for Tolkien’s Moria gate in Lord of the Rings. (I can’t find any proof of this, but it’s very pretty and still worth a visit)
I dipped into some of the book shops, and then had a wander down to The Porch House. This beautiful pub was established in 974 and it’s (you got it!) rumoured to be England’s oldest inn.
I’d suggest taking all the rumours with a pinch of salt, to be honest, but they’re fun to think about it!
The last item on my Cotswolds To Do list was afternoon tea, so I finished the day at Lucy’s Tea Room. Warm scones, strawberry jam, and deliciously cold lemonade: the perfect ending to my day trip from London to the Cotswolds.
*I was given a free tour by Tourist England in exchange for a review.