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Travel Guide to The Cotswolds {Bibury, Burford, & Bourton-On-The-Water}

April 27, 2017

England is one of those places that I never get tired of visiting, and back in October { this post is long ove due – sorry!} my family and I made the trip back to the UK.  I received so many questions while we were there from everyone following along on Instagram.  Lots of people love to visit London, but not far away is what I consider my favorite place to visit and to dream {pretty much daily} of living, The Cotswolds. Here, I will break down where we stayed and what to look forward to in this picturesque and charming place.

Personal Background

{ left to right: Mum, me, my little sister, Sarah, my older sister, Katie, and her daughter Josephine. }

Both of my parents are from England {my mum is from Oxford and my dad is from Bristol} so growing up, our summer months were spent visiting our family and friends in England.  Quite a few of those trips were spent in The Cotswolds. I am so fortunate for this experience and have always felt at home when I’m back in the U.K. that I hope to one day live there (or to at least go back more frequently).  This year we decided to head back all together to spend time with our friends and family {it’s just my sisters and mum who live in the States}.

In this post, I’ll focus on three villages in The Cotswolds.  They’re not far from each other, but each is worth taking your time to visit during your trip.

Transportation to The Cotswolds

{ Arriving in October, we were treated to stunning colors everywhere we went.}

I highly recommend renting a car and making the drive to The Cotswolds {luckily, it’s a pretty gorgeous drive as you make your way in}. Keep in mind that you will want to pay attention to high traffic times, as this is a commuters’ drive. There is, of course, the possibility of hiring a driver {which my husband did from his UK office during the week}, but once you arrive you will want your own transportation to get from village to village. Don’t worry, you won’t spend a ton of time in the car when you get there — a high point of The Cotswolds is taking long walks, but more on that in a bit.  We were surprised to see that rental cars were not that expensive compared to the States, but make sure to not hit even the slightest thing because they will notice and ding you for it just as you did the car – whoops. Of course, factor in that they drive on the other side of the road; my {amazing} brother-in-laws seemed to have no trouble adapting quickly.

Bibury

{ Arlington Row, you will quickly notice this color green on many doors and shutters throughout The Cotswolds.  Known as “Chartwell Green”, it will quickly become your favorite color.}

{ Take your time to watch the fish and ducks swim up and down the river that flows through the village. Remember the pace is slow and peaceful; don’t try to rush through this village despite its size. }

{ The most beautiful little bridge, which probably adjoins two best friends’ cottages. }

{ Public Footpath signs help guide you through the picturesque walks. }

If you are looking for that storybook view of a little village, look no further than here. It is absolutely stunning; there are great “footpaths” {hiking trails} just off of the main road that you should embark on – there are signs along the way.  The Bibury Trout Farm and Fishery is in the center of the village, which allows an opportunity to try your hand at fishing but is also simply fun to walk past and check out. If you are looking for a lunch spot, walk just up the hill from the trout farm to The Catherine Wheel, which offers a large menu and a back patio that is great for an outdoor lunch. The main center of the village is tiny, but take your time to walk around and allow yourself to get lost among the town streets.

Bibury Accomidation

While I have yet to stay here, I have heard great things about The Swan Hotel, which is located in the center of town and is a cozy place to keep warm after a walk in the hills in the colder months.

Burford

A short drive from Bibury is the quaint village of Burford, and where we chose to stay for a week {my uncle, aunt, and cousin all live here as well – chances are you will run into them – it’s that small}. There is a main road that has lots of little shops to pop into, cafes, restaurants, and of course, pubs {I can’t tell you how many we went to which made my husband, and two brother-in-laws immensely happy}.  This village is also beyond charming, which really should be the title of this post. Everything is picturesque and quaint, making you feel that you are living inside of a postcard.

Burford Accommodation

{ The front door to our cottage. }

{ One of the bedrooms in our cottage. }

The cottage that we stayed in was beyond perfect, though I can’t take the credit for locating it – thanks, little sis. We are talking a big open fireplace, ridiculously low ceilings, and the most beautiful little rooms you could hope for. This cottage is anything but new — it is actually 500+ years old but tastefully updated to make present day living comfortable. Charming { I’ve said that a lot, but it really is} isn’t even a strong enough word for how perfect this little cottage was for us. Located on the main strip with parking out front, it was in a great location for everything you will want to do. We booked our cottage stay, Providence Cottage 26 Lower High Street,  through manorcottages-cotswolds.co.uk,  and it held the 7 of us and a baby perfectly. 

Activities in Burford

{Came across the most beautiful little church.}

{ Nature walks with breathtaking views.}

{ Charming cottages that I instantly wanted to live in. }

{ Open fields and picturesque homes. }

{ The long walk back home to our cottage brought us the most beautiful sights. }

My favorite thing to do in The Cotswolds is to go on long countryside walks that end with a stop at a pub, if we haven’t already stopped at one on the way as well. Again, take your time walking around the town, but discover walks that lead you from rolling hill to rolling hill — you won’t regret it. Be prepared to feel as if you walked onto a movie set.  During a country walk, from Burford to Swinbrook, we ended up at a great little pub {The Swan Inn in Swinbrook}, and sat by the river with our pints. If you love Downton Abbey like I do, you will be pleased to know that this was the set-location for Lady Sybil’s elopement with the family chauffeur, Branson.

{ Drystone walls are an iconic feature of The Cotswolds, which are still being constructed today; they are even protected by local laws. Drystone is a method of stacking stones without the use of any mortar to bind them together – typically on the other side of the wall you’ll find fully white sheep and lambs. }

{ Making friends with the locals. }

One thing I had really wanted to try was Clay Pigeon shooting, but we didn’t plan it in advance and lots of places were booked up. However, we found a local place that would let us first timers try out the sport. While I can’t say it was the most picturesque place, the owner was hilarious and we had a great time. A short drive from Burford, we spent a couple hours taking our time and learning from the pro.

{ We ate here a few times, just steps from our cottage. Chances are this little mini is still outside. }

Compared to Bibury, Burford offers many more things to do, eat, etc. The pubs can stay open late, but don’t expect big crowds or a bustling village at all times. There are little shops that offer great little trinkets, antique stores, gorgeous cheese shops { love that }, and a few clothing shops that are sprinkled with gorgeous items to fill your suitcase. I love a good old pub, but every time I go back they seem to have new owners that have revamped and lost some of the charm. Luckily, you will find the older ones holding on to their charm here in Burford. One of my Uncle’s and my favorites is The Angel, where he hosted a large family gathering due to our visit.

Bourton-On-The-Water

Lots of shops sell ice cream.  On a warm day select my favorite, a 99 {soft serve vanilla with a chocolate flake sticking out}, and stroll along the river.

Little shops to pop in and out of during your visit.

Pub in a pretty much perfect little spot.

Bourton-On-The-Water is another little village, where we went to spend the afternoon, that is driving distance from Burford.  It’s another village that we have been to many times over the years. While still charming, it is more populated with tourists, with the village wrapping around a small river that runs along with little shops and pubs flanking it.  While Burton-On-The-Water is worth the visit, if you have the choice, choose to stay in Burford to feel more a part of the village rather than just visiting it.

How Long Should You Plan To Spend In The Cotswolds?

This is a hard one because it’s a very relaxing place to visit, and the pace is naturally slower than London. So, I would plan at least three days depending on how much you like to get off the beaten path. Make sure to take the opportunity to get lost in each village, chat with the locals, and ask them for their favorite spots to eat or grab a pint.  Taking long countryside walks may just sound okay to you, but wait until you see the views and it will quickly become your favorite activity.  Picture yourself randomly walking and finding a stunningly beautiful, old-and-possibly-abandoned church in a field with fluffy friendly sheep and stunning views for miles without a soul around – until you find a pub – which, of course, is so charming that you’ll want to move there and open one yourself. While I love living in our 100-year old Edwardian here in San Francisco, it feels new compared to the beautiful 500+-year-old homes that are so often converted into pubs and shops to wander in and out of.

If you plan to visit and have additional questions, please ask! The Cotswolds is a magical place that should not be skipped.

We did make a day trip to Oxford from Burford which is about a 45min drive away.  Stay tuned as I plan to post it next week along with a few other cities that I adore. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to get it sent straight to your inbox.

I hope you enjoyed this manicured, travel post.

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