The beautiful city of Bath is famous for its golden stone Georgian terraces, Roman history, steaming spa waters and links to literary figures like Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. But Bath’s location at the south of the Cotswolds also means you can use it as a base for exploring the region.
Although the easiest way to take day trips from Bath to Cotswolds is by car, you can also do it using public transport – which has the bonus of avoiding Bath’s busy traffic and the search for parking spaces. But bus and train services in the Cotswolds don’t always run very frequently or connect well with each other, so you need to choose the right destination for your day trip.
Unlike places like Cheltenham and Oxford, Bath’s limited bus connections make it a bit more difficult to use as a base for visiting the Cotswolds. But we’ve picked out six destinations which you can easily visit on a day trip from Bath, using a combination of buses and trains.
Getting there doesn’t involve coordinating multiple connections, and most of the destinations take under 90 minutes to get to from Bath, so you can easily get there and back in a day.
If your favourite spot isn’t on the list, we have also rounded up other destinations in the Cotswolds that you can get to from Bath using public transport at the end of the post. But these have more complicated connections or limited services so may be better suited to longer trips.
Map of day trips from Bath to Cotswolds
6 easy day trips from Bath to Cotswolds without a car
1. Bradford on Avon
The Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon makes an easy day trip from Bath, and shares the same golden stone buildings along with a scenic setting on the banks of both the River Avon and Kennet and Avon Canal – perfect for walks on the towpath or canal boat, kayak or paddleboard trips.
Explore the town’s range of ancient buildings, which includes a Saxon church, Norman bridge and one of the best preserved medieval tithe barns in the country. There’s also a great selection of independent shops and restaurants, including in the pretty cobbled street The Shambles.
How to get there: Bradford on Avon is eight miles southeast of Bath. There’s a direct train line connecting Bath Spa station to Bradford on Avon, which takes around 12 minutes. There’s also the First D1 bus from Bath bus station to Bradford on Avon which takes 40 minutes.
Or you can walk between Bath and Bradford on Avon. It’s around 7.5 miles on a panoramic route via Claverton Down and the Kennet and Avon Canal (taking 3–3.5 hours one-way). Or there’s a flatter 10-mile version which follows the canal the whole way (taking 4–4.5 hours one-way).
2. Castle Combe
Castle Combe’s historic charms have made it a popular film location, featuring in movies like Stardust and War Horse. Not much has changed in the village for generations, with many original 15th-century buildings. Take a photo at the bridge over the By Brook – one of the Cotswolds’ most photographed spots – or head out into the countryside on a 6.2-mile circular walk.
You can also treat yourself to lunch in the grand Manor House Hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant or in the cosy Castle Inn and White Hart pubs. Or head up to the Castle Combe Race Circuit in the upper part of the village to try out car racing or watch their car and motorbike events.
How to get there: Castle Combe is 12 miles northeast of Bath. To get there, take a direct train from Bath to Chippenham (11 minutes). Then catch the Faresaver 95/95A bus from Chippenham train station to Castle Combe. It takes around 20 minutes but isn’t all that frequent, with five services a day in each direction on weekdays, three services on Saturdays and none on Sundays.
Known as ‘The Queen of Hilltop Towns’, the market town of Malmesbury is the oldest borough in England. Explore the spectacular Malmesbury Abbey, which was built in the 12th century and later turned into a parish church, with part lying in ruins and part still used for worship.
Visit Abbey House Gardens next door to the abbey to wander around the five acres of gardens and admire their collection of roses. Find out about the town’s history at the Athelstan Museum. And have a drink at the Old Bell Hotel, rumoured to be the oldest hotel in England.
How to get there: Malmesbury is 25 miles northeast of Bath. Take the train from Bath to Chippenham (11 minutes). Then catch the Coachstyle 99 bus from Chippenham train station to Malmesbury, which runs once an hour and takes 35 minutes (excluding Sundays).
Lacock is just east of the official Cotswolds boundary, but is often included as part of the region and makes a great day trip from Bath. This unspoilt village is owned by the National Trust, and despite it only having four streets there’s lots to see, plus a selection of shops, cafés and pubs.
Tour Lacock Abbey, a country house which started life as a nunnery and appeared as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Visit the Fox Talbot Museum to learn about one of the pioneers of photography. And shop for jams, plants and crafts from honesty boxes outside local homes.
How to get there: Lacock is 14 miles east of Bath. Take the train from Bath to Chippenham (11 minutes), then the Faresaver X34 bus from Chippenham bus station to The George Inn in Lacock (13 minutes). It runs every 30 minutes on weekdays, hourly on Saturdays and not on Sundays.
The historic wool town of Tetbury has the Royal seal of approval, with King Charles III’s home at Highgrove just a few miles away. Take a walk up the Chipping Steps, a medieval set of cobbled steps lined with former weavers’ cottages which used to be an old entrance to the town.
Visit the Gothic Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalen, which has the fourth tallest spire in the country. And look out for bargains in the town’s antique shops. Tetbury is also known for its quirky festivals like the annual Woolsack Races and Wacky Races in May.
How to get there: Tetbury is 25 miles north of Bath. The Stagecoach 620 bus runs from Bath bus station to Old Sodbury (65 minutes), where it meets the Stagecoach 69 bus which carries on to Tetbury (30 minutes). There are around five services a day, but none on Sundays.
6. Westonbirt Arboretum
Close to Tetbury, Westonbirt Arboretum has one of the best collections of trees and shrubs in Europe. It was founded by Victorian collector Robert Holford, who sourced specimens from across the world, and now has over 15,000 trees from 2500 species across its 600-acre site.
Follow a seasonal trail to see rhododendrons and azaleas in spring, magnolias in summer, colourful leaves in autumn and the Enchanted Christmas light trail in winter. Head up into the canopy on the Treetop Walkway, join a guided walk or follow the family-friendly Gruffalo Trail.
How to get there: Westonbirt Arboretum is 3.5 miles south of Tetbury. To get there, follow the same route as for Tetbury but get off the 69 bus earlier after around 15 minutes.
How do I get to…?
Is your favourite Cotswold town or village not listed above? We’ve included the main destinations you can reach easily on day trips from Bath to Cotswolds without a car. But if you don’t mind a slower and more complex journey with more changes along the way, this is how to visit:
- Bourton-on-the-Water: Train from Bath to Cheltenham (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads), then Pulhams 801 bus to Bourton-on-the-Water.
- Burford: Train from Bath to either Cheltenham or Oxford (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads or Didcot Parkway), then Stagecoach S2 bus to Burford.
- Cirencester: Train from Bath to Kemble, then Stagecoach 882 bus to Cirencester.
- Painswick: Train from Bath to either Cheltenham or Stroud (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads or Swindon), then Stagecoach 66 bus to Painswick.
- Stow-on-the-Wold: Train from Bath to Cheltenham (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads), then Pulhams 801 bus to Stow-on-the-Wold.
- The Slaughters: Train from Bath to Cheltenham (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads), then Pulhams 801 bus to Slaughter Pike followed by a 10-minute walk to Lower Slaughter or a 30-minute walk to Upper Slaughter.
- Winchcombe: Train from Bath to Cheltenham (with a change at Bristol Temple Meads), then Stagecoach W or Pulhams 606 bus to Winchcombe.
Do double-check timetables as services and connections are limited, especially at weekends.
Cotswolds tours from Bath
If time is tight and you want to visit several places around the Cotswolds in one day without hiring a car, another option is to take a guided day tour from Bath to Cotswolds. There are a few different tours available, which vary in duration and in which destinations they visit:
- The Cotswold Villages Experience:* 9-hour minibus tour visiting Castle Combe, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Malmesbury.
- The Hidden Cotswolds and Dark Age England:* 8-hour history-focused small group tour visiting Malmesbury, Castle Combe and Corsham, which includes lunch and refreshments.
- Beyond the Cobbled Streets: Untold Cotswolds & Oxford:* 9-hour combined tour of Oxford and the Cotswolds by minibus which visits Bibury and Burford.
- Cotswolds Private Day Tour:* 8.5-hour private group tour for up to six people with hotel pickup, visiting Castle Combe, Tetbury, Upper and Lower Slaughter, and Bibury.
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