The Cotswolds, hmmmmm….. where do I begin? I’ve visited the Cotswolds (in Southern England) several times and will never mark it off my to-do-list. Each time I visit these charming villages, I find new places to explore and new things to photograph. The Cotswolds are one of my favorite places to visit!
While living (and vacationing) in England, I did not have a driving permit, and could only visit the Cotswolds via private tour. I took several tours with Mad Max Tours and highly recommend them–especially if Charles is your tour guide. My family and I also hired a private care for a bespoke Cotswolds tour one day as well. In case you were wondering, the Cotswolds get their name from “wold” being a hilly place in Old English and Cots from the name of a farmer that used to farm the lands OR sheep enclosures (depending on who you ask).
With Mad Max Tours, I’ve taken both the full-day and half-day tours, I’ve even taken a few of the tours twice! The private car hire was expensive, but a good way to have full-control over your experience. Here’s a bit of info on the places I’ve visited and what I recommend!
Castle Combe – Must See
Often called ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotstwolds’, Castle Combe does not disappoint. It is a very small village, but absolutely stunning-especially if you can catch the flowers in full-bloom.
I shot one of my all-time-favorite images here. I call it ‘The Secret Garden’, though some people get a Tolkien-vibe from it. The best thing about this shot is the rest of the image you don’t get to see. I will leave you with your imagination. See Castle Combe if you can, it is beautiful!
Bibury – Must See
Great for photographers and daydreamers alike, Bibury is a quaint village with some gorgeous scenery. Every time I’ve visited Bibury, I’ve heard the same thing: This is the most photographed village in the Cotswolds and Arlington Row is the the most photographed place in Bibury. I (of course) chose to photograph a different spot, but it is gorgeous nevertheless!
Lacock and Lacock Abbey –
Must See-for Harry Potter fans or Photography aficionados.
For all your HP Fans, you can see Harry’s Parent’s house! Also, many scenes were filmed at Lacock Abbey too! But, the coolest part of Lacock Abbey, for me, is that it contains the Fox Talbot Museum. Henry Fox Talbot is famous for his contributions to the invention of photography (calotype anyone?) and called Lacock Abbey home for some time.. There is a great exhibit there and I was honored to be at one of the birthplaces of photography.
Stonehenge – You should probably see this.
Though not technically in the Cotswolds, it’s close enough to them to be included in this post. Stonehenge was cool to see, though it wasn’t one of the most amazing places I’ve visited. If you are in the neighborhood, may as well pop in and take a look (and an audio-tour). It’s worth checking out, but not a destination in and of itself.
Avebury Stone Circle – Must See.
I found the Avebury Stone Circles much much cooler than Stonehenge actually. A UNESCO World Heritage site as well, Avebury held much more magic for me than Stonehenge, especially since you could walk among the stones and actually touch them. I could write a whole post about the 45min I spent at the Stone Circles, but why not read about it on the English Heritage website?
Upper and Lower Slaughter –Not on my priority list.
Upper and Lower Slaughter are pretty and you can easily visit both within 30-45min. Pop in if you are nearby but there are more interesting places to visit if you are short on time. In case you were wondering, slaughter means muddy place in Old English.
Bourton-on-the-Water – Not on my priority list.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a VERY popular place to visit and can be super crowded. None of our tours stopped at this location due to the crowds (and that our guides felt there were better places to visit). I did visit here one time with my Uni friends on a semi-guided trip. I agreed with our tour guides. The town is nice, there is good food to be had, but I’d rather spend my time elsewhere!
Stow-on-the-Wold – Lovely place to see.
If you are a Tolkien fan, you may like to pop in to Stow-on-the-Wold and take a look at this amazing tree at St. Edwards Church. It is ‘rumored’ to have inspired the Moria door in Lord of the Rings. Pretty sweet if you ask me! The town is small, so you won’t need to spend too much time here!
Tetbury—Not on my priority list.
Tetbury is a nice village with a lot of history, some great cream tea and some wonderful little shops to pop in to. If you have nice weather and great light, you may be able to capture a few nice shots of Tetbury (I did not have such luxury). If you are short on time or the weather is dreary, I’d go elsewhere!
Want to visit the Cotswolds?
I suggest planning your trip in the Spring (in May) and time it so you can see the flowers in-bloom. None of the villages are very big, so it’s easy to see many of them in one day. If you don’t have a car and are happy seeing the highlights, Mad Max Tours is great!
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