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Home | Cotswold Road Trips | South Cotswolds Explorer Road Trip
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South Cotswolds Explorer Road Trip

Take the scenic route to discover hidden Cotswold treasures

Although this road trip technically starts in the north, it very rapidly heads south. It takes in some beautiful, but often lesser-known, of the Cotswolds gems, and includes a few of our favourite places. It also allows you to get off the beaten track a little bit too.

Take, for example, the longer but far more scenic drive between Burford and Bibury, by simply turning off the main road you’ll get to see a little part of the Cotswolds that many just fly past. Cirencester, Tetbury and Nailsworth are delightful Cotswold towns filled with history and beautiful buildings. Tetbury is a favoured haunt of royalty with Highgrove House and Gardens, home of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, close by. Nailsworth has developed its own strong identity and evolved into a real foodie hotspot. Even if you’re not hungry, you should stop for a browse or to pick up sustenance for the rest of your drive. From here your drive then takes you northwards again, through the Slad Valley to the Regency town of Cheltenham Spa, famed for its literary, jazz and music festivals and of course, horse racing.  

Burford

Start your drive in beautiful Burford. Often regarded as the Gateway to the Cotswolds, its much-photographed high street sweeps down towards the River Windrush and is the perfect jumping-off point for your Cotswolds road trip.

Bibury 

16 miles / 45-minute drive

There is a faster, more direct route to Bibury, but you’d miss some gorgeous villages, and this drive is far more interesting. It follows the Windrush River Valley and is typified by sweeping views, drystone walls, and gently flowing trout streams. Head for Great Barrington and then on to Sherbourne – the National Trust estate is beautiful. Think beautiful woodland walks and lots of wildlife.

Bibury itself was once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England’ and is best known for Arlington Row, a terrace of cottages dating back to the late 1300s and one of the most photographed images in the country. It’s even appeared on the inside cover of UK passports!

Cirencester

8 miles / 16-minute drive

From Bibury, head out along the old road to Cirencester. You’ll pass through Barnsley and the village pub, which is simply named The Village Pub.

Cirencester is one of the oldest and finest market towns in the country with a market square that was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book from 1086. There is still a market here every Monday and Friday.

Tetbury

15 miles / 30-minute drive

Take the Stroud road out of Cirencester for a gentle meander through the countryside. The Jolly Nice Farm Shop is worth a stop whether it’s just for coffee, one of their fabulous toasties, or a browse of the local produce.

With a history that ambles back through time for more than 1300 years, Tetbury is a very special treasure in the Cotswold crown. Beloved by our own royal family (Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall’s cherished home at Highgrove is close by), this is a charmingly unspoilt corner of England, where honey-hued buildings, quirky pastimes and winding, cobbled streets are the order of the day.

Nailsworth

13 miles / 28-minute drive

From Tetbury, take a short detour for a stroll around the beautiful arboretum at Westonbirt before heading north to Nailsworth. Nailsworth is nestled in a beautiful, wooded valley formed by the Nailsworth Stream, which runs into the River Frome at nearby Stroud. Sitting at the southwestern edge of the Cotswolds in South Gloucestershire, Nailsworth was recently selected by The Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in Britain. If you haven’t already eaten, Nailsworth is a fabulous place to stop for lunch and over the last few years it has cemented its place on the Cotswold foodie map. Increasingly recognised eateries have opened in town including William’s Fish Market, Food Hall & Oyster Bar, Hobbs House Bakery (founded by The Fabulous Baker Brothers), and Wild Garlic.

Cheltenham

18 miles / 30-minute drive

Wend your way north towards Cheltenham via the Slad Valley, forever immortalised by Laurie Lee in his famed novel Cider with Rosie. Visit the tiny village of Slad and then pootle across the bottom of the valley to Painswick, a charming hilltop town surrounded by glorious countryside. Stretch your legs with a walk to the top of the Painswick Beacon (you can also drive most of the way and walk for the final 10 minutes).

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