Day Trips from London: Visiting the Cotswolds
If you're visiting London, you might want to consider scheduling in a day trip (or two) to visit a few other destinations just outside of the city center while you're there. The transportation system within the UK allows you to easily travel within the country at a pretty affordable rate. Some day trip destinations outside of London could be York, Oxford, Brighton, Bath, or--my personal favorite--The Cotswolds.
What is the Cotswolds?
Contrary to what many people think, the Cotswolds is actually an area in the south central region of England that runs through 5 counties (Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire). Located just a quick 1 hour and 40 minute train ride outside of London, the Cotswolds is an incredibly picturesque and charming part of England that will make you instantly feel like you've been transported back in time to a different era.
One of the best things about seeing the Cotswolds--besides being in awe of the gorgeous rolling hills and honey-colored cottages that line the village streets--is getting to see each of the individual towns, which each have their own unique personality and sense of style. Throughout your visit, you're very likely to see a few lively markets, local pubs with people enjoying a pint, castles, cottages, and country houses, and even some sheep and cattle grazing the natural surroundings.
*Fun fact: The word "wold" is an old English term used to describe the hills; it's said that term Cotswolds is referring to "the sheep enclosure in the rolling hillside." Makes it fun to know when you actually see the sheep along the hills when you're there!
What is the best way to experience the Cotswolds?
There are a few different ways to experience the Cotswolds: You can rent a car, drive out to the country, and take your time experiencing the area. You can even stay the night at local hotels, cottages, or inns that are located throughout the villages (my personal favorite is The Slaughters Manor House, photos below). You can also take the train from London, rent a car or hire a driver when you arrive to the area, and explore on your own.
BUT, if you want to save time, money, and frustration on your Cotswolds experience (all while simultaneously getting some insider scoop from a real local), I would personally recommend getting yourself a spot on the incredibly popular Secret Cottage Tour. Make sure to book in advance because this tour is incredibly popular for a reason (reservations fill up fast) and there is limited availability for every group! I promise that you won't be disappointed you signed up for it...
Experiencing the Cotswolds with The Secret Cottage Tour
When You Arrive
After you've been confirmed on the Secret Cottage Tour, you'll receive an email with clear directions on how to get to the Cotswolds area, including what time to book your train tickets and what stations you can depart/arrive from. Seriously--the process of getting there couldn't be easier with their help: you buy your train ticket in advance online, show up to the station, get off the train at the designated stop, and your tour guides will be right there to pick you up. It's super simple!
My favorite part is that, besides arranging for your train ride, you don't have to worry about transportation at all when you sign up for this tour. Not only does the Secret Cottage Tour team pick you up at the train station when you arrive, but they also drive you from village to village throughout the day and take you back to the train station in the late afternoon once the tour is concluded. It makes for a really great day trip for people wanting to experience the countryside of England without having to take the time figuring it out themselves.
After you join the rest of your group at the station in the morning, you're ready to start your day exploring the Cotswolds!
What to Expect
In addition to having your transportation throughout the Cotswolds included, you'll also be treated with 3 delicious meals (breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea) throughout the full-day tour. The best part about those meals is that they are each served in the charming cottage home of Robin and Becky, who own and operate the Secret Cottage Tour.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in one of the cottages you see throughout the Cotswolds villages, this is the perfect opportunity to "experience" what it could be like and ask them questions about their unique home and lifestyle. I guarantee you won't leave without a full and happy belly, too, because the food is awesome!
In between each meal, your tour guides will take your group from village to village to explore the idyllic area and explain a bit of the history along the way. I especially loved how diligent their team was at showing the group the best of the best within the region. They'll keep you away from the overpopulated (or sometimes overrated) villages and spend more time taking you to the more remote and picturesque locations that, often times, only locals know about.
Make sure to ask questions if you have any because the team is extremely knowledgable on the area and they are very passionate about sharing information that they know. I learned so much from them on my trip and was able to see some areas that I had never even seen in pictures before!
What You'll See
Each tour is a little bit different in terms of what you might see or do, but you can definitely expect to explore and learn about a number of unique villages throughout the Cotswolds region during your visit. When I was on the tour, every town we saw seemed to be more beautiful than the last.
One of my favorite parts about having the Secret Cottage Tour team guide us around was that they were able to take us to the more secluded and picturesque locations of the Cotswolds that are a little bit lesser known to tourists. It really made for some epic shots!
This tour offered a great itinerary for a quick day trip outside of London, while enticing you to want to return to the area and spend more time. There really is so much to explore in the Cotswolds region, which you'll quickly see after going on this incredible tour.
How to Secure Your Spot on the Tour
If you're visiting the Cotswolds, I highly recommend going on this tour whether you're traveling solo or with other people. The team is incredibly friendly, the food was amazing, transportation was super easy, and the setting was more charming than you can imagine. It's one of the best tours I've ever done!
You can book your reservation on the Secret Cottage Tour right here! Tickets are £95 and includes food, drink, and transportation within the Cotswolds area, as well as to and from the train station.
*Update: If you're interested in seeing what 16th-century pub life and local village cafes are like, there is another option to experience the Cotswolds on a full-day tour that takes you on a slightly different route than the SCT. To book your seat on the Cotswolds Mystery Tour for £75, click here!
Have you ever been to the Cotswolds? What are your favorite parts of the area? Comment below with more suggestions, tips, or questions!
Thank you to Robin and Becky from the Secret Cottage Tour for hosting me during my stay! All opinions are my own.