Although it might be easiest to explore the rural villages and rolling hills of the Cotswolds by car, it’s definitely possible to visit the region without one. But if you do, one of the most important decisions to make is where to stay. Which town or village is best? Do you choose whichever is the easiest to get to, or go for somewhere prettier with more character which is harder to reach?
We’ve picked five of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds without a car which give you the best of both worlds. Each has suggestions of where to stay as well as showing you which destinations in the Cotswolds you can easily visit without having a car, whether on foot, by bus or train.
Bus services are limited on some routes (and often don’t run on Sundays), so do make sure to check timetables – you can find links to all of them in our Cotswolds public transport guide.
The town of Moreton-in-Marsh in the north Cotswolds is known for its weekly Tuesday market, the largest in the region. It also has a historic High Street lined with 17th- and 18th-century buildings, an aviation museum and literary links to JRR Tolkien. Moreton is one of the few Cotswold towns on a mainline train line, making it an easy base for visiting the Cotswolds without a car.
How to get to Moreton-in-Marsh
Moreton-in-Marsh is on a direct train line to London Paddington (1.5 hours away). The same train also stops in Oxford (35 minutes). Or you can change trains at Worcestershire Parkway for connections to Cheltenham (1 hour) and Birmingham New Street (1.5 hours).
Where to stay in Moreton-in-Marsh
The Manor House* hotel dates back to the 16th century and has plenty of historic character, with wooden beams, leaded windows and log fires. It’s dog-friendly, and has a two AA Rosette restaurant as well as a bar, brasserie and library, and is surrounded by tranquil walled gardens.
The White Hart Royal* is a 17th-century former coaching inn which hosted Charles I on his way to the Battle of Naseby in 1645. It’s a popular place to eat, and also has a selection of guest bedrooms, ranging from good-value small doubles to deluxe rooms with seating areas.
Places you can visit from Moreton-in-Marsh
On foot: Batsford Arboretum is an easy 1.7-mile walk from Moreton along a stretch of the Monarch’s Way. You can also continue on to Bourton-in-the-Hill, Sezincote House and Longborough (7 miles circular) or walk one-way to Stow-on-the-Wold (6 miles) and catch a bus back.
By bus: The Pulhams 801 bus connects Moreton to Stow-on-the-Wold (20 minutes), Bourton-on-the-Water (35 minutes) and Slaughter Pike (32 minutes), a 10-minute walk from Lower Slaughter. The 801 runs around once an hour, but Sunday services are only available May–September.
You can also reach Blockley (13 minutes), Broadway (25 minutes) and Chipping Campden (40 minutes) on the less-frequent Stagecoach 1/2 bus. Or catch the Pulhams 51 bus to visit Stratford-upon-Avon (50 minutes). But neither of these services run on Sundays.
By train: Moreton-in-Marsh is on a direct train line to Oxford (35 minutes), which also stops in the small Cotswold villages of Kingham (7 minutes) and Charlbury (20 minutes).
By tour: Go Cotswolds run two day tours from Moreton – a Cotswolds Tour* to Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water. Or a Cotswolds Walks and Villages Tour* which visits Broadway and the Broadway Tower, the Windrush Valley and Burford.
Regency Cheltenham is located just west of the Cotswolds, but has good transport connections both by bus and on the vintage Gloucestershire–Warwickshire Steam Railway. The town is home to the Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, Holst Victorian House and Pittville Pump Room. It also has some great places to eat, drink and shop, and is famous for its festivals and horse-racing.
How to get to Cheltenham
Cheltenham is on a direct train line to London Paddington (2 hours). You can also catch direct trains to Bristol Temple Meads (40 minutes) and Birmingham New Street (45 minutes).
Where to stay in Cheltenham
The Queens Hotel* was one of the country’s first purpose-built hotels when it opened in 1838. It’s a short walk from the town centre, looking out over Imperial Gardens. There are 84 guest bedrooms as well as Victoria’s Restaurant, a summer terrace, lounge and the Gold Cup Bar.
Neptune Apartments have 12 self-catering apartments on the Promenade, each named after a different Cotswold town or village. Apartments vary in size but each sleeps two and has a lounge and kitchen, all decorated with jewel colours with luxury fabrics and high-end appliances.
Places you can visit from Cheltenham
On foot: Just outside of Cheltenham are Cleeve Hill to the north and Leckhampton Hill to the south, both of which have circular walks which run along part of the Cotswold Way (6 miles/4.5 miles). You can access the start point for the walks via a short journey by local bus.
By bus: From Cheltenham you can catch the Stagecoach 66 bus to Painswick (35 minutes) and Stagecoach 51 to Cirencester (40 minutes). Or the Stagecoach S2 bus calls at Northleach (30 minutes) and Burford (40 minutes) on its way to Oxford. All of these run daily.
The Pulhams 801 connects Cheltenham to Bourton-on-the-Water (45 minutes) and Stow-on-the-Wold (1 hour). The Stagecoach W bus runs north of Cheltenham to Winchcombe (25 minutes). As does the slower Pulhams 606 bus, which continues on to Broadway (1 hour 40 minutes) and Chipping Campden (2 hours) – though this is fairly infrequent and doesn’t run on Sundays.
By train: The GWSR steam train travels from Cheltenham Racecourse to Winchcombe (25 minutes) and Broadway (70 minutes). It’s a great way to travel, with vintage carriages and scenic views. Though check timetables as trains don’t run every day and timetables vary.
Riverside Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most popular destinations in the Cotswolds. It has plenty to see and do, including the Cotswold Motoring Museum, Model Village, Birdland and Dragonfly Maze. There’s no train station in Bourton so it takes a bit more planning to get there, but when you do you’re within easy reach of many of the Cotswolds’ prettiest spots, particularly if you like walking. And staying overnight means you get to see it without the daytime crowds.
How to get to Bourton-on-the-Water
The nearest train station to Bourton-on-the-Water is Moreton-in-Marsh, which is connected by the Pulhams 801 bus (30 minutes). You can also catch the train to Cheltenham and take the 801 bus in the other direction, which reaches Bourton-on-the-Water in around 45 minutes.
Where to stay in Bourton-on-the-Water
Chester House Hotel* is a Victorian Cotswold stone property with 22 en-suite bedrooms decorated in a modern country style (some of which are dog-friendly). There’s a mix of double, twin and family rooms, and the hotel also has a good Italian restaurant, L’Anatra (the duck).
Lansdowne Guest House* is a family-run B&B which has won awards for its breakfasts. It’s a five-minute walk from the village centre and has 14 bedrooms, including one with a four-poster bed. They also rent several self-catering cottages in the village, sleeping four–eight people.
Places you can visit from Bourton-on-the-Water
On foot: Pretty Lower Slaughter is only 1.5 miles from Bourton, or you can visit both Upper and Lower Slaughter on a 5.4-mile circular walk. You can also walk between Bourton and Stow-on-the-Wold (4.2 miles one way). Or take a peaceful circular walk to Wyck Rissington (4.6 miles). There’s also the Windrush Way and Warden’s Way which run for 14 miles to Winchcombe.
By bus: The Pulhams 801 bus runs from Bourton-on-the-Water to Stow-on-the-Wold (10 minutes) and Moreton-in-Marsh (30 minutes), including Sundays from May–September. And the Pulhams 802 connects Bourton with Kingham in around 40 minutes, excluding Sundays.
This historic Roman town of Cirencester is known as the ‘capital of the Cotswolds’, and you can go back in time at its Roman Amphitheatre and Corinium Museum. There are also two weekly Charter Markets, which are some of the oldest in the country. And you can shop for local arts and crafts at the New Brewery Arts Centre or catch a concert or show at the Barn Theatre.
How to get to Cirencester
Cirencester doesn’t have a train line but it’s easy to reach by bus. The closest railway station is Kemble, connected by the Stagecoach 882 bus (12 minutes), except on Sundays. Or you can take the Stagecoach 51 bus from Cheltenham (40 minutes) which runs daily. Cirencester is also connected to London by a direct National Express coach service, which takes around 2.5 hours.
Where to stay in Cirencester
The Corinium Hotel* doesn’t date quite as far back as the Romans, but it was built in 1595. It has original oak beams, a walled garden and four-poster beds and antiques in the character rooms. And it also has a restaurant serving locally sourced produce and a Courtyard Bar.
Ingleside House* is a colourful boutique hotel, with 11 bedrooms in a Grade II listed building next door to the Barn Theatre. There’s a theatrical, Art Deco-inspired décor in both the hotel and its Téatro restaurant, garden room and piano bar, with vivid colours and modern artworks.
Places you can visit from Cirencester
On foot: There’s an easy 2.5-mile circular walk around Cirencester which visits the Roman Amphitheatre. You can also head further afield to visit Cirencester Park and the village of Stratton (5 miles) or walk to the source of the River Thames along a disused railway line (9.5 miles).
By bus: From Cirencester you can take the Pulhams 855 bus to Bibury (17 minutes) to see the picturesque cottages of Arlington Row. There’s also the Pulhams 882 to Tetbury (30 minutes to an hour, depending on stops) and the Coachstyle 93 to Malmesbury (50 minutes).
Or the Stagecoach 77 bus runs east of Cirencester, calling at Fairford (25 minutes) and then Lechlade (50 minutes), which is just outside the Cotswolds but has a scenic location on the banks of the River Thames. Though note that none of these buses from Cirencester runs on Sundays.
If you want to get away from it all, the small village of Kingham is a good place to stay in the Cotswolds without a car as it’s on the same direct train line from London as Moreton-in-Marsh. The village is in the tranquil Evenlode Valley and has two good pubs – the Wild Rabbit and Kingham Plough – as well as being close to Daylesford Estate with its farm shop and restaurant.
How to get to Kingham
Kingham is on a direct train line to London Paddington (1.5 hours) and Oxford (25 minutes).
Where to stay in Kingham
The Kingham Plough* is a traditional village pub with six en-suite bedrooms, decorated in a cosy country style with antiques and vintage finds. They also have a two-bedroom Little Barn Cottage, which sleeps four in two bedrooms and has a kitchen and lounge with woodburner.
The Wild Rabbit* is run by the Bamford family, owners of nearby Daylesford Organic, and is a high-end pub-restaurant. There are Cosy, Classic, Spacious and Family rooms available, as well as several cottages to rent, both in the village and in the countryside around Daylesford.
Places you can visit from Kingham
On foot: It’s an easy 40-minute walk from Kingham to Daylesford Estate. Or there are a couple of routes to Chipping Norton – one via Adlestrop and National Trust Chastleton House (6/9 miles one way) and another via Churchill and Bliss Tweed Mill (5.5 miles one way). You could take a bus or taxi back to Kingham from Chipping Norton, or combine them into a longer circular walk.
By bus: The Pulhams 802 bus connects Kingham to Stow-on-the-Wold (15 minutes) and Bourton-on-the-Water (40 minutes), excluding Sundays. There’s also the Village V9 bus to Chipping Norton, but this only runs once a day, Monday–Friday, so you may need to take a taxi one way.
By train: There are direct trains to Charlbury (8 minutes) and Moreton-in-Marsh (7 minutes).
As well as our five recommended places to stay in the Cotswolds without a car, you could also stay in one of the larger towns and cities on the fringes of the region like Oxford, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon and make it a combined city break and Cotswold trip if you’re short on time.
The historic university city of Oxford is on a direct train line to Kingham, Charlbury and Moreton-in-Marsh. You can also visit Blenheim Palace using the Stagecoach S7 bus (35 minutes), Chipping Norton on the Stagecoach S3 (1 hour) and Burford on the Stagecoach S2 (1 hour). Or take the S2 as far as Witney, then change onto the Stagecoach 233 to visit ruined Minster Lovell Hall.
Bath is a good base for exploring the southern Cotswolds, though journeys normally involve a change en route. You can walk along the canal or take a short train trip to Bradford on Avon. Or catch a train to Chippenham and change for the Faresaver 95/95A bus to Castle Combe (20 minutes), Coachstyle 99 to Malmesbury (35 minutes) or Faresaver X34 to Lacock (13 minutes).
Shakespeare’s birthplace isn’t on a train line to the Cotswolds, but you can explore the north of the region by bus. The Stagecoach 1/2 bus connects Stratford-upon-Avon with Chipping Campden (40 minutes), Broadway (1 hour) and Blockley (75 minutes). You can also take the Stagecoach 50 bus to Shipston-on-Stour (30 minutes) and Chipping Norton (50 minutes).
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