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The Cotswolds by public transport: How to visit the Cotswolds without a car

Spread over 800 square miles of countryside, the Cotswolds isn’t the most obvious place to visit by public transport. But although it’s undeniably easier to get around by car, it doesn’t mean you can’t visit the Cotswolds without one – it just might need a bit more planning. Our bumper guide to public transport in the Cotswolds explains just how to do it, with details of train and bus routes across the region and five great itineraries for visiting the Cotswolds without a car.

Looking down to Winchcombe
The Cotswolds

Can you get around the Cotswolds without a car?

Some people might say visiting the Cotswolds by public transport is too difficult to bother, but we disagree! Yes there are some villages and attractions which you can’t get to without a car – or which would take too long or involve too many connections to be worth it.

But local train and bus links are good enough to reach the Cotswolds’ main towns and villages without a car, so not having access to one or not wanting to drive shouldn’t put you off visiting.

House in Painswick in the Cotswolds

There are a few things you need to be aware of though if you’re planning on visiting the Cotswolds by public transport. One is that transportation around the Cotswolds doesn’t run very frequently. Although you can reach most of the main towns and villages using a combination of train and bus, if you want to get out and explore then you’re limited by the bus timetables.

Busy routes might have one bus an hour each way, but many smaller services only have two to four buses a day – and on Sundays or public holidays there might not be any. So you need to plan carefully and keep an eye on the time, especially to make sure you don’t miss the last bus.

Looking down on Cheltenham from Cleeve Hill
Looking down on Cheltenham from Cleeve Hill

And with services usually finishing by 6pm, if you want to stay out for dinner you’ll probably need to take a taxi (it’s a good idea to book in advance, especially at weekends).

If you’re planning to visit the Cotswolds without a car and only have a few days to spare, our advice is to base yourself in one place and take trips out.

Stroudwater navigation
The canal through Stroud

You could either catch a train to one of the bigger towns or cities like Oxford or Cheltenham and do day trips by bus into the Cotswolds. Or connect on to one of the smaller places like Broadway or Bourton-on-the-Water and stay there, using buses and footpaths to explore nearby.

Our Cotswolds public transport map shows the main train and bus connections – and at the end of the post we have five simple itineraries for exploring by public transport to get you started.

Market Hall in Chipping Campden
Market Hall in Chipping Campden

Cotswolds public transport map

The map below highlights the towns and cities in and around the Cotswolds which have train stations (shown in black with the British Rail logo) and also shows the main bus routes around the region (excluding services which only run once or twice a week). You can also click here to download and print a larger PDF version of our Cotswolds public transport map.

The Cotswolds by train

There are three main train routes which run through the Cotswolds – one in the north, one in the centre and one in the south, calling at:

  • Worcestershire Parkway > Pershore > Evesham > Honeybourne > Moreton-in-Marsh > Kingham > Charlbury > Hanborough > Oxford (and on to London)
  • Cheltenham > Gloucester > Stonehouse > Stroud > Kemble > Swindon (and on to London)
  • Bristol > Yate > Cam and Dursley > Gloucester

There are also railway stations in larger towns and cities just outside the Cotswolds which are on different train lines: Stratford-upon-Avon, Chippenham, Bradford on Avon and Banbury.

Though one thing to beware of if you’re planning on travelling around the region by train is that the routes don’t link up all that well. So often it’s quicker and easier to catch a bus between two places rather than having to change trains and hang around waiting at stations.

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

There is also another train service which you can use to explore the Cotswolds – the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Steam Railway. This heritage railway runs steam trains along the following route:

  • Cheltenham Racecourse > Gotherington > Winchcombe > Toddington > Broadway

Their trains don’t run every day and the timetable varies through the year, but it’s a scenic way to travel around the Cotswolds – and is particularly useful for visiting Broadway from Cheltenham which is fiddly by bus. You can get normal single and return tickets as well as rover tickets which let you use the service all day and cost £25 for adults and £10 for children aged 5–15.

Steam train on the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Steam Railway
GWSR train

The Cotswolds by bus

Although the Cotswolds is pretty well connected by bus, it’s not the easiest thing to get your head around – not least because services are run by six different bus companies! The map above shows the route numbers and below you can find a list of the routes by number, showing the main stops and with a link to the timetables to check days, times and where the bus stops are.

  • 1/2: Stratford-upon-Avon > Chipping Campden > Broadway > Moreton-in-Marsh (Stagecoach)
  • (Rural) 4: Evesham > Broadway > Willersey (NN Cresswell)
  • 41: Malmesbury > Old Sodbury > Yate (Coachstyle)
  • 50: Stratford-upon-Avon > Shipston-on-Stour > Chipping Norton (Stagecoach)
  • 51: Cheltenham > Cirencester > Cricklade > Swindon (Stagecoach)
  • 51: Stratford-upon-Avon > Shipston-on-Stour > Moreton-in-Marsh (Pulhams)
Pulhams bus in Chipping Campden
Pulhams bus in Chipping Campden
  • 60: Dursley > Wotton-under-Edge > Thornbury (Stagecoach)
  • 63: Gloucester > Stroud > Nailsworth > Forest Green (Stagecoach)
  • 64: Gloucester > Stonehouse > Stroud (Stagecoach)
  • 65: Stroud > Uley > Dursley > Stonehouse > Gloucester (Stagecoach)
  • 66: Cheltenham > Painswick > Stroud > King’s Stanley > Stonehouse (Stagecoach)
  • 69: Old Sodbury > Westonbirt > Tetbury > Nailsworth > Stroud (Stagecoach)
  • 76: Lechlade > Fairford (Stagecoach)
  • 77: Lechlade > Fairford > Cirencester (Stagecoach)
  • 84/85: Yate > Chipping Sodbury > Wotton-under-Edge (Stagecoach)
Visiting Castle Combe: A Local's Guide
Castle Combe
  • 93: Malmesbury > Cirencester (Coachstyle)
  • 94: Cheltenham > Gloucester (Stagecoach)
  • 95/95A: Chippenham > Castle Combe (Faresaver)
  • 99: Swindon > Royal Wootton Bassett > Malmesbury > Chippenham (Coachstyle)
  • 233: Burford > Minster Lovell > Witney > Hanborough > Woodstock (Stagecoach)
  • 488/489: Chipping Norton > Hook Norton > Banbury (Stagecoach)
  • 606: Chipping Campden > Broadway > Stanton > Winchcombe > Cheltenham (Pulhams)
  • 620: Bath > Yate > Chipping Sodbury > Old Sodbury (Stagecoach)
  • 801: Cheltenham > Andoversford > Northleach > Bourton-on-the-Water > Stow-on-the-Wold > Moreton-in-Marsh (Pulhams)
Winchcombe almshouses and high street
  • 802: Kingham > Stow-on-the-Wold > Bourton-on-the-Water (Pulhams)
  • 855: Cirencester > Barnsley > Bibury > Northleach (Pulhams)
  • 882: Gloucester > Cirencester > Kemble > Tetbury (Stagecoach)
  • S2: Cheltenham > Northleach > Burford > Witney > Oxford (Stagecoach)
  • S3: Oxford > Charlbury > Chipping Norton (Stagecoach)
  • V19: Chipping Norton > Kingham (Villager)
  • W: Cheltenham > Prestbury > Winchcombe (Stagecoach)
  • X9: Chipping Norton > Charlbury > Witney (Pulhams)
  • X31: Chippenham > Corsham > Bath (Faresaver).
Balloons in the sky over Bath Spa
Balloons over Bath

Cotswold travel passes

If you’ll be travelling around a lot, there are couple of passes available which can save you money on travel. The Cotswolds Discoverer One Day Pass costs £10.50 for adults (£5.25 for children or £6.90 with a Railcard*) and includes unlimited travel on many buses and trains.

You can buy the passes at train stations or on board buses. But there are a few conditions – it only covers Stagecoach buses (excluding the S2 between Cheltenham and Oxford) and trains after 8.50am between Oxford and Moreton-in-Marsh, Swindon and Ashchurch, and Gloucester and Yate.

Stagecoach also has an Explorer ticket which gives you one day of unlimited travel on their services in the west, including the Cotswolds. You can buy them on the bus or online with their app (which saves you a bit of money). Adult tickets cost £7 or there are versions for children under 15 for £4.80, concessions for £5.30 or groups of up to four people travelling together for £15.

St Mary's Church in Painswick
St Mary’s Church in Painswick

5 Cotswolds public transport itineraries

If you want to visit the Cotswolds without a car but have no idea where to start planning your trip, these five sample itineraries might give you some inspiration. Each itinerary involves basing yourself in one place and visiting nearby places by bus or train over a few days.

The itineraries keep it simple so you don’t have to manage connecting buses or spend your entire time travelling.

Autumnal house in Broadway
Autumnal house in Broadway

1. Moreton-in-Marsh

The biggest benefit of basing yourself in Moreton-in-Marsh is that it’s on a direct train line from London, so it’s an easy place to stay to explore the Cotswolds without a car, as many bus services stop by 6pm so aren’t much use if you’re heading off after work. Moreton is a traditional market town in the Evenlode Valley with plenty of charm and a good selection of places to stay and eat.

From Moreton you can reach some of the Cotswolds’ best-known towns by bus. Catch the 801 bus to Stow-on-the-Wold (20 minutes) or Bourton-on-the-Water (30 minutes).

You can also take the 1/2 bus to Broadway (25 minutes) where you can walk up to the Broadway Tower, or carry along on the same line to Chipping Campden (45 minutes). Though the 1/2 doesn’t run on Sundays and the 801 has three services on Sundays but only in summer.

The Broadway Tower
The Broadway Tower

2. Cheltenham

The Regency town of Cheltenham lies to the west of the Cotswolds, with good train connections to London, Birmingham and Bristol. It’s also linked to many towns in the central and northern Cotswolds by bus. The 801 runs northeast to Bourton-on-the-Water (45 minutes), Stow-on-the-Wold (60 minutes) and Moreton-in-Marsh (70 minutes), with around nine services a day.

The W connects Cheltenham with Winchcombe (30 minutes), as does the less-frequent 606, which carries on to Broadway (1 hour 35 minutes) and Chipping Campden (2 hours). You can also reach Painswick using the 66 bus (35 minutes) or head to Cirencester on the 51 (40 minutes).

Alternatively, you could catch the train to Stroud where it’s a seven-mile walk along the canal to Stonehouse, where you can pick up a return train to Cheltenham.

Read more: 9 easy day trips from Cheltenham to Cotswolds (without a car)

Pittville Park in Cheltenham
Pittville Park in Cheltenham

3. Cirencester

The ‘capital of the Cotswolds’, Cirencester is a market town dating back to the Romans. Although it doesn’t have a train line, it does have plenty of bus connections. You can reach Cirencester via trains to Swindon, Kemble, Gloucester or Cheltenham. Kemble is the closest, with the 882 bus connecting to trains from London and only taking 12 minutes to reach Cirencester.

From Cirencester you can head north on the 855 bus to visit Bibury (17 minutes), where Arlington Row is one of the Cotswolds’ most photographed spots. You can also head south on the 882 bus to visit the town of Tetbury (35 minutes), or take the 93 bus south to Malmesbury (50 minutes), which is surrounded by the River Avon and known as the ‘Queen of Hilltop Towns’.

St John the Baptist church in Cirencester
St John the Baptist church in Cirencester

4. Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most famous villages in the Cotswolds – and one of the busiest. Even off-season its riverside gets packed by day-trippers, but using it as a base means you can have it almost to yourself in the early mornings and evenings.

The easiest way to reach Bourton by public transport is via the train to Cheltenham or Kingham. From Cheltenham the 801 bus takes 40 minutes to reach Bourton. Or the 802 connects with trains from London at Kingham and will take you to Bourton in just under an hour.

From Bourton it’s a lovely 1.5-mile walk along the River Windrush to Lower Slaughter, where you can do a short diversion to neighbouring Upper Slaughter, and on to Stow-on-the-Wold. Then it’s only 10 minutes from Stow back to Bourton on the 801 bus. You can also reach Northleach (12 minutes) on the 801 bus or visit the foodie hub of Kingham (55 minutes) on the 802.


5. Oxford

You could easily spend a few days in the ‘city of dreaming spires’ and not run out of things to do. But as well as having colleges, museums and gardens to visit, Oxford is also a good base to explore the eastern Cotswolds. And just outside the city is grand Blenheim Palace – easy to reach on the S3/7 buses (50 minutes), and you get a 30% discount on entry if you arrive by bus.

The S3 bus carries on past Blenheim to connect Oxford with Charlbury (1 hour) and Chipping Norton (70 minutes). Or you can take the S2 bus to the medieval town of Burford (50 minutes), which calls at Northleach (65 minutes) on its way to Cheltenham. The train line from Oxford also makes it easy to visit Charlbury, Kingham and Moreton-in-Marsh.

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford [photo credit Canva]
The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford

Cotswold tours

If you’re limited on time or want an easy way to visit the Cotswolds without a car, there are also a range of guided tours that let you see some of the highlights in a day and include travel.

There are of Cotswolds tours departing from London* and most include similar stops – Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, Burford and Stow-on-the-Wold – but some also visit Oxford* and/or Stratford-upon-Avon.* There are also some tours starting in the Cotswolds, which cuts down on time on the bus, with one from Moreton-in-Marsh* and another from Oxford.*

Bibury in the Cotswolds

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How to visit the Cotswolds by public transport, featuring train and bus routes and five itineraries for exploring the Cotswolds without a car | Cotswolds travel guide | Cotswolds by bus | Cotswolds by train | Cotswolds without a car

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Lorin Yakiwchuk

Wednesday 23rd of November 2022

Hello Lucy 2022 was our 28 th trip to the Cotswolds we are from Vancouver Canada

I have always used a car for travel this year I decided to try only Bus/Train It was a totally impressive, different character holiday. I believe for two reasons, Age lol ! No Car!

I could write a book on the simplicity/experiences and the care of the services and people, especially in the Bourton area.

I am begining to plan the 2023 3 wk holiday and in my search I came across your layout/design and character of your website I am impressed with the straightforward help and support Thank You

Lucy Dodsworth

Thursday 19th of January 2023

Thanks so much! Hope you have a great trip.


Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Hello Lucy! Such a helpful article, thank you very much. My boyfriend and I will be visiting the Cotswolds this December from Spain. We would love to go from Stow-on-the-Wold to Castle Combe by public transport, do you think it's viable? If so, could you recommend what would be the best way to do it? Of course, we are staying for some days so we have time. Thank you in advance!

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 12th of September 2022

Hi Sara, Stow to Castle Combe is a bit of a challenge! The buses don't tend to line up all that well and it would take most of the day but you could take the train from Moreton-in-Marsh/Kingham to Chippenham – the bus from Stow to Moreton is fairly regular but you may need to take a taxi to Castle Combe. The train takes about two hours though with a change in Reading. Another option would be to get a driver for the day though likely to be more expensive.


Monday 1st of August 2022

Thank you so much! Although I am a little bit lost with something. If I want to go to Stock-on-the-wold, Burton on the water, Bibury, Bath, Castle Combe, Stanton and Bath.... How can I make it? How many days do I need? Where is it better to sleep the night? I would be so thankfull if anyone could help me. (Sorry for the bad english, chilean here)

Lucy Dodsworth

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

Hi there, if you want to cover all those places you will need a few days and it'll be easier if you stay in different places. Would suggest you break it down as Day 1 Bath (overnight Bath), Day 2 train to Chippenham and bus to Bibury (overnight Northleach), Day 3 bus to Bourton and Stow (overnight Moreton-in-Marsh), Day 4 bus to Broadway then walk or bus to Stanton. Then you can backtrack to Moreton to catch the train onwards.

David Lally

Monday 11th of April 2022

For a long time- I had been put off visiting the Cotswolds due to my lack of transport knowledge in the area. This blog has been sooo useful- especially the train/bus map. So now I have a few days off work- I'll be visiting various villages in the Cotswolds- loaded with your information Lucy. Thanks.

Lucy Dodsworth

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Thanks David, great to hear it's been useful and enjoy your Cotswold travels!

Sid Jain

Wednesday 16th of March 2022

The is one of the best blogs I've found on the web. Thank you for writing this Lucy.

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 21st of March 2022

Thanks so much, great to hear it was useful.