Things to do in Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds: A local’s guide

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The twin villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter lie on the shallow River Eye, to the north of Bourton-on-the-Water. With flower-draped cottages, stone footbridges and a picturesque water mill, tiny Lower Slaughter hasn’t changed for more than a century, with no building work taking place at all since 1906. So head back in time to this beautiful Cotswold village as our our local expert shares their tips on the best things to do in Lower Slaughter.

Stone footbridge over the River Eye in Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds
Stone footbridge over the River Eye

Lower Slaughter’s history

The Slaughters get their less-than-appealing name from the Old English word ‘slothre’ meaning muddy or miry place, rather than anything more sinister.

And although the River Eye – which is more a stream than a river – runs right through the centre of Lower Slaughter, you won’t usually find too much mud around today. The river is at the heart of the village, and there’s been a mill in Lower Slaughter since the Domesday Book was published in 1086, when Lower Slaughter was listed as ‘Scolstre’.

The village gained a church in the 13th century followed by a manor house in the 17th century, which is when many of the houses you see today were built using traditional Cotswold stone. Although the village doesn’t have many attractions as such, its unspoilt nature makes it a favourite with visitors – and as a filming location, including for the 2020 film Emma.

Traditional Cotswolds stone cottages when visiting Lower Slaughter
Lower Slaughter’s historic heart

Things to do in Lower Slaughter

The Old Mill is the most distinctive building in Lower Slaughter, with its red brick standing out from the Cotswold stone of the rest of the village and the water wheel reflected in the river below. Although the original mill was mentioned in the Domesday Book, the current mill was built in the 18th century – which makes it one of Lower Slaughter’s newest buildings.

The mill was still used to grind flour up until 1958, when Joseph Wilkins became the last of four generations of millers in Lower Slaughter. After the mill closed it was used as the local post office before opening as a museum in 1995. Now you can learn about how the mill worked, traditional breadmaking and the building’s history, and there’s also a gift and craft shop.

The Old Mill museum in Lower Slaughter
The Old Mill museum

Take a walk along Copse Hill Road and admire the view – it was once voted the most romantic street in Britain with its pretty cottages, stone bridges and irises growing on the water’s edge. It’s also home to Lower Slaughter’s Victorian village hall. This was originally built as a reading room, but now hosts events, and you’ll often find exhibitions by local artists.

St Mary’s Church originally dates back to the 13th century, but was heavily restored in 1867 by Victorian architect Benjamin Ferrey. You can see some of the original stonework though as well as the later Costwold stone roof, chancel, nave and organ chamber, and inside there are some historic memorials as well as colourful stained glass windows.

St Mary’s Church in Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds
St Mary’s Church

Lower Slaughter has been the site of a manor house since 1004 AD. It was later a convent for nuns from the order of Syon, before being granted to Sir George Whitmore, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, in 1611, whose family lived in it until the 1960s. It was then converted into a luxurious hotel – you can call in for drinks or a meal if you want to take a look around.

Paths along the River Eye in Lower Slaughter
Paths along the River Eye

Lower Slaughter is linked to neighbouring Upper Slaughter by a one-mile path, which takes around 25 minutes each way to walk. This peaceful waterside stroll is one of our favourite things to do in Lower Slaughter. The path is well marked, starting just past the Old Mill and following the River Eye before crossing fields and a stone footbridge into Upper Slaughter.

Or if you fancy a longer walk, Lower Slaughter lies on the Warden’s Way, a 13.5-mile walking route which connects Bourton-on-the-Water with Winchcombe. The stretch from Bourton to Lower Slaughter is only around 1.5 miles and takes around 35 minutes to walk.

Walking to Upper Slaughter in the Cotswolds
Walking to Upper Slaughter

Places to eat & drink in Lower Slaughter

During the day, you can get sandwiches, ploughman’s lunches and cakes from the Old Mill, who have a café with a riverside terrace for sunny days. And don’t miss their homemade organic ice cream, with flavours like lemon meringue, wild strawberry and butter crunch.

The Slaughters Country Inn* is a traditional country pub which serves pub classic dishes, including a good Sunday lunch, and has a selection of local ales. They also serve afternoon tea and tasty sharing platters of meats, cheeses, breads and homemade pickles.

Or if you’re looking for something special, The Slaughters Manor House* has an award-winning restaurant specialising in sourced locally or foraged Cotswold produce. As well as their dinner menu – with dishes like Herdwick lamb and salt-aged beef – they have an all-day menu with sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea and luxury picnic hampers made to order.

The Slaughters Manor House hotel and restaurant in the Cotswolds
The Slaughters Manor House

Where to stay in Lower Slaughter

With a mix of traditional country house style and contemporary interiors, The Slaughters Manor House* is the most luxurious accommodation in Lower Slaughter. There are 19 rooms, from classic doubles to the romantic ‘Valentine’ garden suite with twin rolltop baths and a private garden. The hotel is set in five acres of landscaped gardens, with its own croquet lawn.

The Slaughters Country Inn* is run by the same owners as the manor, but has a more relaxed, country inn feel. There’s a garden terrace for the summer and log fires, sofas and piles of books and board games in the bar in winter. The inn has 25 guest rooms as well as six cottages which sleep two adults and two children, with highchairs, cots and baby monitors available.

The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter
The Slaughters Country Inn

There are also a few self-catering cottages in Lower Slaughter. As you’d guess from the name, Church View overlooks St Mary’s Church. It dates from the 17th century with original features like an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone floors. The cottage sleeps eight in four spacious bedrooms, with a walled garden and a lawn garden with seating outside.

Or Thimble Mill is a traditional stone cottage close to the Old Mill which sleeps two. It has a patio outside and a woodburner inside, with plenty of character from original beams, thick stone walls, deep windowsills and a rolltop bath. Dogs are welcome for an extra £20 per week.

Pretty cottages in Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds
Pretty cottages in Lower Slaughter

How to get to Lower Slaughter

By car: Lower Slaughter lies off the A429 (The Fosse Way), two miles north of Bourton-on-the-Water and 3.5 miles southwest of Stow-on-the-Wold. The roads around Lower Slaughter are narrow, so be careful if you have a large vehicle. There’s no car park but there is roadside parking opposite The Slaughters Manor House, but it’s limited and fills up quickly on weekends.

By public transport: There are no buses to Lower Slaughter, but you can reach nearby Bourton-on-the-Water by bus from the train stations at Moreton-in-Marsh, Kingham and Cheltenham. The 801 bus takes 20 minutes to reach Bourton from Moreton-in-Marsh and 45 minutes from Cheltenham, or the 802 from Kingham to Bourton takes just under an hour. From Bourton-on-the-Water you can catch a taxi to Lower Slaughter, or it’s a lovely 1.5-mile walk.

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A local's guide to visiting Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds – insider's tips on things to do in this pretty Cotswold village, as well as where to eat, drink and stay | Lower Slaughter Cotswolds | Lower Slaughter travel guide | Things to do in Lower Slaughter | Things to do in the Cotswolds
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Our local experts are Cotswold bloggers or writers who know the area like the back of their hands, sharing insider tips on the best things to do and places to eat, drink, shop and stay in their favourite towns and villages.

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