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7 easy day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds (without a car)

Its fascinating Roman history, vibrant markets, art galleries, boutique shops and acres of green space from the Abbey Gardens to Cirencester Park have made Cirencester is a popular place to visit. But the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’ can also be used as a hub for touring the region.

It’s easiest if you have a car to get around, but you can also explore the Cotswolds from Cirencester by public transport. But it does involve some planning, as Cotswold bus services only run to certain destinations and don’t always run that frequently or connect to each other well.

The Church of St John the Baptist in Cirencester
The Church of St John the Baptist in Cirencester

So we’ve chosen seven Cotswold destinations which are easy to reach from Cirencester without a car. You don’t need to coordinate multiple connections and each of our day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds take less than an hour, so you can easily get there and back within one day.

They all uses local bus services – which makes them great value at the moment as most single bus fares in England are capped at a maximum of £2 until at least the end of 2024.

The Swan Hotel, Bibury
The Swan Hotel, Bibury

And if there’s a different Cotswold town or village you’re looking to visit, we’ve also rounded up other places you can reach by public transport from Cirencester at the end of the post. Though these are more suited to a longer visit due to limited services or more complex connections.

For links to all bus timetables, see our guide to the Cotswolds by public transport. And if you’re travelling by car instead, our town and village guides give details of parking.

Cecily Hill in Cirencester
Cecily Hill in Cirencester

Map of day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds

Map of day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds
Bus routes from Cirencester to Cotswolds

7 easy day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds without a car

1. Cotswold Water Park

Just south of Cirencester, the Cotswold Water Park covers 42 square miles and has over 180 lakes. It’s an important habitat for birds and wildlife, with several nature reserves where you can see species like bitterns, crested grebes, marsh harriers, nightingales, water voles and otters.

There are lots of activities available, on and off the water. As well as paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing, there’s an inland beach and the Aquaventure inflatables at the Cotswold Country Park. Or you can hire a bike or follow one of the walking routes.

How to get there: The Cotswold Water Park is five miles south of Cirencester. You can get there using the Stagecoach 51 bus, which takes 20–30 minutes and stops at various points through the park, including at the Gateway Centre. The 51 runs hourly (every two hours on Sundays).

Lakes in the Cotswold Water Park
Lakes in the Cotswold Water Park

2. Bibury

Despite its small size, Bibury is one of the Cotswolds’ most famous – and most photographed – villages. Admire the pretty cottages along Arlington Row, which were originally built in 1380 by monks from a nearby abbey to store wool before later being converted into weavers’ cottages.

Take a stroll around the edge of the peaceful Rack Isle water meadows, visit England’s oldest working trout farm to catch your own fish, or have lunch in the waterside Swan Hotel. There’s also a lovely 6.7-mile circular walk from Bibury to the nearby village of Coln St Aldwyns.

How to get there: Bibury is eight miles northeast of Cirencester. To get there, take the Pulhams 855 bus from The Forum or the Beeches Car Park in Cirencester to Bibury. The journey takes 17 minutes and the 855 runs three–four times a day in each direction (excluding Sundays).

Arlington Row in Bibury
Arlington Row in Bibury

3. Northleach

Located off the main Cotswold tourist trail, Northleach has kept an unspoilt feel. It’s best known for the impressive Church of St Peter and St Paul – the ‘Cathedral of the Cotswolds’ – which was built using the proceeds of the wool trade. It also has medieval cottages and half-timbered Tudor houses, a maze of alleyways leading off the market square, and a former prison-turned-café.

How to get there: Northleach is 11 miles northeast of Cirencester. It’s also linked by the Pulhams 855 bus in around 35 minutes, which stops by the Market Place. There are five services a day (some of the 855 buses bypass Bibury and go straight to Northleach), except on Sundays.

Northleach's Church of St Peter and St Paul
Northleach’s Church of St Peter and St Paul

4. Tetbury

The Market Hall in Tetbury was built in 1655 and still holds markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays each week. Tetbury is also a great place to shop for antiques and collectables. Or call into the Highgrove Shop to pick up produce from the King’s estate, which is only two miles away.

There’s also the Georgian Gothic Church of St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalen, the cobbled Chipping Steps with their row of medieval weavers’ cottages and the Goods Shed Arts Centre. And if you’re visiting in May, look out for the quirky Woolsack Races and Wacky Races events.

How to get there: Tetbury is 11 miles southwest of Cirencester. You can get there using the Stagecoach 882 bus from The Forum in Cirencester to The Ormond in Tetbury. It takes 35 minutes with five services a day from Monday–Friday, three on Saturdays and none on Sundays.

Tetbury's Market Hall
Tetbury’s Market Hall

5. Stroud

The bohemian town of Stroud is known for its independent shops, cool eateries and its Saturday Farmers’ Market, which has won awards for its mix of local produce, crafts, food and drink. There’s also art at the Museum in the Park and music and theatre at the Subscription Rooms.

Or take advantage of some of Stroud’s great walking trails – stroll along the towpath of the Stroudwater canal, walk a stretch of the Cotswold Way to Selsey Common, have an ice cream from Winstones on Rodbourough Common or meet the Highland cows on Minchinhampton Common.

How to get there: Stroud is 15 miles east of Cirencester. They’re connected by the Cotswold Green 54 bus from The Forum to Merrywalks in Stroud. The journey takes 40 minutes and buses run every 90 minutes Monday–Friday, with three services on Saturdays and none on Sundays.

Canal walks from Stroud along the Stroudwater navigation
Canal walks from Stroud

6. Malmesbury

England’s oldest borough, the hilltop town of Malmesbury is packed with history. Twelfth-century Malmesbury Abbey is the jewel in its crown, with part lying in ruins and part still in use as a parish church. Then explore the flower-filled the Abbey Gardens on the banks of the River Avon.

You can also learn more about the area’s history at the Athelstan Museum, explore the Congyre Nature Reserve and have a drink at The Old Bell Hotel – said to be the oldest hotel in England.

How to get there: Malmesbury is 13 miles southeast of Cirencester. The Coachstyle 93 bus runs from South Way car park in Cirencester to Cross Hayes in Malmesbury, taking around 50 minutes. There are five services a day in each direction, except on Sundays.

Malmesbury Abbey
Malmesbury Abbey

7. Lechlade-on-Thames

The town of Lechlade sits on the banks of the River Thames, with boat trips along the river and the scenic Halfpenny Bridge across it. You can also follow the Thames Path National Trail to the lakes of the Cotswold Water Park in one direction and stately home Kelmscott Manor in the other.

Lechlade’s Church of St Lawrence has beautiful stained-glass windows, and its churchyard inspired the poet Percy Shelley to write A Summer Evening Churchyard. And the town also has antique stores, craft shops and several riverside pubs where you can soak up the views.

How to get there: Lechlade is 13 miles east of Cirencester. To get there, take the Stagecoach 76/77 bus from The Forum to Lechlade’s Market Place, which takes 40 minutes. There are four–five services a day (except Sundays) but they’re not very well spread out so check timetables.

The Halfpenny Bridge over the Thames in Lechlade
The Halfpenny Bridge over the Thames in Lechlade

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 Cirencester 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: Pulhams 855 bus from Cirencester to Bourton (this only returns from Bourton to Cirencester in the mornings so wouldn’t work for a day trip). Or Stagecoach 51 bus to Cheltenham, then Pulhams 801 to Bourton-on-the-Water.
  • Burford: Pulhams 855 bus to Northleach, then Stagecoach S2 bus to Burford.
  • Painswick: Stagecoach 51 bus to Cheltenham, then Stagecoach 66 bus to Painswick. Or Cotswold Green 54 bus to Stroud, then Stagecoach 66 bus to Painswick.
  • Stow-on-the-Wold: Stagecoach 51 bus to Cheltenham, then Pulhams 801 to Stow-on-the-Wold.
  • The Slaughters: Stagecoach 51 bus to Cheltenham, then Pulhams 801 to Slaughter Pike followed by a 10-minute walk to Lower Slaughter (30 minutes to Upper Slaughter).
  • Winchcombe: Stagecoach 51 bus to Cheltenham, then Stagecoach W or Pulhams 606 bus (or travel in style on the GWSR steam train) to Winchcombe.

Do double-check timetables as services and connections are limited, especially at weekends.

Burford Hill in autumn
Burford in autumn

Guided tours from Cirencester to Cotswolds

If time is tight and you want to visit several places around the Cotswolds in one day without hiring a car, another option is a guided day tour. There aren’t any regular day tours from Cirencester to Cotswolds currently available, but if you are in a group it may be worth hiring a car and a driver for the day. Reliance Taxis and Cirencester Taxi both offer services from Cirencester.

Black Jack Street in Cirencester at dusk
Black Jack Street in Cirencester

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7 easy day trips from Cirencester to Cotswolds, which you can do without a car using public transport, including Bibury and Tetbury | Cirencester day trips | Cotswolds without a car | Cotswolds by public transport

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