With one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities at its heart, the picturesque city of Oxford is a must-visit for its golden stone colleges and cloisters, museums and punts on the river. But its position just to the east of the Cotswolds also means you can use it as a base for exploring the region, with many destinations accessible on day trips from Oxford to Cotswolds.
Although the easiest way to get around the Cotswolds from Oxford is by car, it is also possible to explore by public transport, which saves having to hire a car or search for parking. But train and bus services don’t always run frequently or connect well, so you need to pick the right destination.
Oxford is on a direct train line which runs through the Cotswolds via Hanborough, Charlbury, Kingham and Moreton-in-Marsh. And there are also bus routes either from Oxford itself or connecting with train stations along that route, which opens up more day trip destinations.
We’ve chosen nine Cotswold towns and villages which are easy to reach by public transport on a day trip from Oxford. Getting there doesn’t involve coordinating multiple complex connections, and most take 90 minutes or less to reach, 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 Oxford by 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 Oxford to Cotswolds
9 easy day trips from Oxford to Cotswolds without a car
The grand Baroque Blenheim Palace, close to the town of Woodstock, is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill. It was built between 1705 and 1722 and is surrounded by 2000 acres of parkland and formal gardens designed by Capability Brown.
Visitors can explore the grounds and the lavish state rooms with their collections of art, tapestry and antiques. And if you travel by public transport you save 30% on the cost of entry – just use the code GREEN30 when you book online and show proof of travel when you arrive.
How to get there: Blenheim Palace is nine miles north of Oxford. The Stagecoach S7 bus runs from Oxford train station and city centre to Woodstock in 35 minutes, stopping near the palace. Or on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays in summer, you can take a train from Oxford to Hanborough (9 minutes) where there’s a free shuttle bus (10 minutes) to the palace every half-hour.
Chipping Norton – affectionately known as ‘Chippy’ to locals – is a historic wool town which has been holding markets since the 13th century. There’s still a market on Wednesdays as well as independent and antique shops to browse. And you can visit the wool church of St Mary the Virgin, learn about local history in the Chipping Norton Museum and swim in the lido in summer.
Or walkers could head out into the countryside around Chipping Norton on an 8-mile circular walk to the Rollright Stones, a group of Neolithic and Bronze Age stone monuments.
How to get there: Chipping Norton is 20 miles north of Oxford. The Stagecoach S3 bus from Oxford bus station to Chipping Norton runs daily and takes just over an hour.
The town of Burford sits on a hillside, with the High Street stretching from Burford Hill at the top with its picturesque Cotswold stone cottages and wide-reaching views, to the medieval arched bridge over the River Windrush at the bottom, passing shops, tearooms and historic houses.
Get an insight into Burford’s history at the Tolsey Building where medieval merchants once met, visit England’s oldest pharmacy Reavley’s, and take a look around St John the Baptist Church, where you can still see carvings made by prisoners held there during the English Civil War.
How to get there: Burford is 20 miles west of Oxford. The Stagecoach S2 bus runs every day and takes an hour to travel from Oxford bus station to Burford. It stops at the Oxford Road Layby on the edge of town, which is a 5–10 minute walk into the centre of Burford.
The small village of Minster Lovell in the Windrush Valley has pretty thatched cottages, the cosy Old Swan pub and the more upscale Minster Mill restaurant. But it’s best known for Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote, a once-grand 15th-century manor house that’s now a crumbling riverside ruin. You can also see the tomb of the hall’s original owner William Lovell in St Kenelm’s Church.
How to get there: Minster Lovell is 16 miles west of Oxford. To get there, take the Stagecoach S2 bus from Oxford to Witney Market Square (40 minutes). Then change onto the Stagecoach 233 for the 9-minute journey to Minster Lovell, stopping by the White Hart pub on the B4047.
Northleach was another important Cotswold wool town, as well as a stop on the coaching route between London and Gloucester. It’s home to the impressive Gothic Church of St Peter and St Paul, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Cotswolds’, as well as half-timbered 15th- and 16th-century buildings, and you can call into the Old Prison Kitchen & Café for lunch behind bars in a former prison.
How to get there: Northleach is 29 miles west of Oxford. The Stagecoach S2 bus runs daily from Oxford bus station to Northleach and takes 1 hour 15 minutes.
The peaceful Cotswold village of Kingham in the Evenlode Valley is a popular destination for foodies, with two well-renowned pubs – The Wild Rabbit and The Kingham Plough. It’s also an easy, 40-minute walk across farmland to the nearby Daylesford Estate, a celebrity favourite farm shop selling Instagram-worthy (and pricey) organic produce, which also has a restaurant and spa.
How to get there: Kingham is 24 miles northwest of Oxford. There’s a direct train line connecting Oxford to Kingham, which takes around 25 minutes.
Moreton-in-Marsh is home to the largest open-air street market in the Cotswolds, which takes places every Tuesday. Its High Street is lined with elegant 17th- and 18th-century buildings, including the Curfew Tower and The White Hart Royal Hotel where Charles I is said to have spent the night during the English Civil War. There’s also the Wellington Aviation Museum for RAF memorabilia.
Moreton is a great destination for garden lovers, with Batsford Arboretum and the Sezincote and Bourton House Cotswold gardens all within a few miles’ walking distance of the town.
How to get there: Moreton-in-Marsh is around 30 miles northwest of Oxford. It’s on the same direct train line as Kingham, taking 33 minutes to travel from Oxford to Moreton.
Historic Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds (and it can get windy so pack a coat!). In its wool era heyday, up to 20,000 sheep used to change hands in Stow’s Market Square. But today you’re more likely to be shopping for art, antiques, gifts and homewares.
Look out for the stocks on the village green and the Yew Tree Door at St Edward’s Church, a wooden door studded with nails and surrounded by gnarled oak trees said to have inspired Tolkien for Lord of the Rings. And don’t miss a traditional afternoon at Huffkins or The Old Bakery.
How to get there: Stow-on-the-Wold is 30 miles northwest of Oxford. To get there, take a direct train from Oxford to Kingham (25 minutes), then catch the Pulhams 802 bus from Kingham train station to Sheep Street in Stow-on-the-Wold, which takes 15 minutes (excluding Sundays).
Or you could catch the train from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh (33 minutes), then take the Pulhams 801 bus to Stow in around 15 minutes (Sunday services only available May–September).
The last of our day trips from Oxford to Cotswolds is to one of the region’s most popular destinations – Bourton-on-the-Water. There’s lots to see and do in Bourton, including the Model Village, Cotswold Motoring Museum, Birdland Park and Gardens and the Dragonfly Maze. It also has some lovely pubs along the River Windrush and tasty sausage rolls from Bakery on the Water.
How to get there: Bourton-on-the-Water is 34 miles northwest of Oxford. Take the train from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh (33 minutes), then the Pulhams 801 bus to Bourton-on-the-Water (27 minutes). You could also take the train to Kingham (25 minutes) then the Pulhams 802 bus to Bourton (40 minutes), but there are only a few services a day and none on Sundays.
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 Oxford 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:
- Bibury: Stagecoach S2 bus from Oxford to Northleach, then Pulhams 855 bus to Bibury.
- Broadway: Train from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh, then NN Cresswell 1/2 bus to Broadway.
- Castle Combe: Train from Oxford to Chippenham (with a change at Didcot Parkway), then Faresaver 95/95A bus to Castle Combe.
- Cirencester: Train from Oxford to Kemble (with a change at Didcot Parkway), then Stagecoach 882 bus to Cirencester. Or S2 bus to Northleach, then Pulhams 855 bus to Cirencester.
- Painswick: Train from Oxford to Cheltenham or Stroud (with a change at Didcot Parkway), then Stagecoach 66 bus to Painswick.
- Tetbury: Train from Oxford to Kemble (with a change at Didcot Parkway), then Stagecoach 882 bus to Tetbury. Or train from Oxford to Stroud, then Stagecoach 69 bus to Tetbury.
- The Slaughters: Train from Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh, then Pulhams 801 bus to Slaughter Pike followed by a 10-minute walk to Lower Slaughter (30 minutes to Upper Slaughter).
Do double-check timetables as services and connections are limited, especially at weekends.
Guided tours from Oxford 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 to take a guided day tour from Oxford to Cotswolds. There are a few different tours available, which vary in duration and in which destinations they visit:
- Half-Day Cotswold Taster Tour:* 5.5-hour minibus tour visiting Minster Lovell, Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
- Cotswolds Towns and Villages:* 7-hour minibus tour including Great Tew, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford and Minster Lovell.
- Cotswold Explorer Full-Day Tour:* 8.5-hour minibus tour to Minster Lovell, Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden.
- Cotswolds Adventurer Tour:* 8.5-hour minibus tour to Bampton (Downton Abbey filming location), Kelmscott, Lechlade, Bibury, Winchcombe, Stow-on-the-Wold and Woodstock.
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