Home Destinations How to Get to The Cotswolds from London, around the UK & Beyond!

How to Get to The Cotswolds from London, around the UK & Beyond!

by Michele
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How to Get to The Cotswolds - Broadway
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With such a large area to explore, it can not only be tricky to know what to do in the Cotswolds and where to stay, but also how to get to the Cotswolds in the first place, and the best way to get around. This guide will help you pick the best way to get to and around the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds span roughly 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (140 km) long, from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon in the north to Bath in the south. On the whole, getting to the Cotswolds is fairly simple thanks to both the excellent domestic rail and motorway links. Located midway between major cities such as London, Bristol and Birmingham, there are many ways to get to the Cotswolds; no matter your budget or duration of your stay.

If you’re travelling internationally, both Heathrow or Birmingham airports offer direct transfers by road or rail so you can arrive at your destination with little stress.

With that said, let’s jump in!

How to Get to The Cotswolds - Burford6 things you should know before visiting the Cotswolds.

Since there are so many fantastic things to do and beautiful villages to see in the Cotswolds, it’s important to choose your mode of transportation for getting around based on how much time you have to explore the region. 

  1. Short on time? Book a tour – If you only have one day and want a taster of various highlights around the Cotswolds, then I recommend you check out these organised day trips. 
  2. Spending a long weekend? Base yourself in a central location –  If you have a bit more time on your hands, such as a long weekend, I recommend basing yourself in a town that’s well connected from other major UK cities and is in easy reach of other places of interest. For example, I took the train from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh then stayed 15-minutes down the road in Stow-on-the-Wold. This means I was no more than a 15-20 minute drive to other must-see villages, including The Slaughters, Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford, and Broadway
  3. Don’t rely heavily on the bus services – Unfortunately, there is no one bus service that covers the Cotswolds, instead there are severa. On top of that, many villages, including well-known places such as Broadway run very limited bus services – sometimes just two or three a day, sometimes with none on Sundays – while others have no buses at all. Even popular attractions, such as the Cotswold Farm Park, are inaccessible by public transport. Check the bus schedule here, on Pullman Coaches, and RailBus for a better idea of where and when services run.
  4. Uber, Lyft and other ride-share services don’t operate in the Cotswolds – It might feel a little old school, but you can’t just pick up your phone and book an Uber. This is the countryside after all! Outside of the limited rural bus network, pre-booking a private taxi is your only other option for getting around. 
  5. Staying a week or more? Hire a car – Each village in the Cotswolds requires no more than one day to visit it properly. Undoubtedly the best way to cover more ground is to hire a car. Not only will you have more freedom, but you’ll be able to reach smaller villages and places of interest that aren’t connected by public transport. There are no car-hire companies based within the Cotswolds, so you will need to pick up the car first before arriving in the Cotswolds. Compare prices and hire your car here.
  6. Expect inflated prices during summer – It’s not surprising that visitor numbers to the Cotswolds swell during the warmer months. If you’re visiting from outside the UK, be prepared for higher than usual rental fees and fuel costs.

How to Get to The Cotswolds - Castel CombeHow to Get to The Cotswolds - SnowshillHow to get to the Cotswolds

By Train

Reaching the Cotswolds via rail is a great option, especially if your visit is short – one or two days and you won’t be renting a car. 

The main train stations in or near the Cotswolds are Banbury, Bath, Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Gloucester, Kemble (serving Cirencester), Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Charlbury, Kingham, Stratford, and Oxford.

Getting from London to the Cotswolds by train

There are several options to get to the Cotswolds from London. To get right into the heart of the Cotswolds, I took the London Paddington station to Moreton-in-Marsh service (1h 37m). This route also stops at Kingham and Charlbury along the way, both part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

There is also a shorter and direct train from London Marylebone station to Banbury which takes just 51 minutes and is located on the northeastern edge of the Cotswolds. To reach the southern part of the Cotswolds by train, take the direct service from London Paddington station to Kemble (1h 11m), Stroud (1h 29m), or Stonehouse (1h 32m). 

Internally, only a handful of the largest villages have their own stations. For example, across the northern Cotswolds, there are stations at Charlbury, Kingham and Moreton-in-Marsh. However, for onward travel, you’ll need to either take a rural bus service or a private taxi from the station.

Below are a list of routes that run regular rail services:

  • Between London Paddington and Cheltenham via Swindon, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse and Gloucester
  • Between London Paddington and Moreton in Marsh 
  • Between Cardiff and Cheltenham via Gloucester
  • Between Birmingham and Bristol via Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Dursley

The average journey to Moreton-in-Marsh by car are as follows:

  • From Bristol – 2 hour 20 minutes
  • From London – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • From Cardiff – 2 hours 8 minutes
  • From Birmingham – 2 hours 10 minutes
  • From Manchester – 3 hours 55 minutes

To check more routes and book your rail tickets, visit The Train Line here

By Coach

The largest bus network in England is run by the National Express with services to Stroud and Cheltenham from London; Oxford from Birmingham and Liverpool; Bath from London; and Cheltenham and Cirencester from Leeds, Birmingham and London. I recommend booking well in advance to take advantage of the many discount fares and travel passes offered by National Express

Getting from London to the Cotswolds by coach

From Central London, National Express run services to popular villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Chipping Norton. 

Another option is the Oxford Tube which runs over 150 coaches a day in each direction from London. Coaches departure every 15 minutes at peak times. 

By Car

The Cotswolds is well-connected by several major motorways such as the A40, M4, M5 and M40. The M40 gives you access to the Cotswolds from the east. The M5 skirts the western edge with several gateways to the heart of the Cotswolds. The M4 sweeps through the southern portion of the region, giving you quick access to places like the postcard village of Castle Combe before continuing onwards to Bristol.

Almost splicing the Cotswolds in two is The Fosse Way, an old Roman road running north to south and connecting Cirencester to the likes of Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Moreton in Marsh.

The average journey to Moreton-in-Marsh by car are as follows:

  • From Bristol – 1 hour 20 minutes to 2 hours 10 minutes
  • From London – 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes
  • From Cardiff – 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes
  • From Birmingham – 50 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes
  • From Manchester – 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 50 minutes

Need a car? Compare prices and hire your car here.

By Air

There are several international airports you can fly into: London Heathrow (LHR), London Gatwick (LGW), London Stansted (STN), Luton (LTN), Birmingham (BHX), Bristol (BRS), East Midlands (EMA) and Oxford (OXF).

If you have the option, the quickest and easiest airports to reach the Cotswolds are from Birmingham and Bristol, which are just 1 to 1.5 hours drive, London Heathrow which is 90 minutes, or London Gatwick roughly 2 hours away. From Heathrow you can also get a non-stop coach with National Express to Oxford (1 hour 20 minutes) or take the Heathrow Express to London Paddington and change for a train to Moreton-in-Marsh (1 hour 30 minutes).

If you’re coming from Belfast, the Isle of Man or Jersey, Gloucestershire Airport is another option. Located just 10 minutes from Cheltenham Spa and the Roman city of Gloucester.

To find the best deals on flights, I always use Skyscanner whenever I book a trip.

How to Get to The Cotswolds - Blenheim CastleHow to Get to The Cotswolds - Bourton-on-the-Water

How to get around the Cotswolds

By car

As I mentioned earlier, trains and coaches are fine reaching the Cotswold, but to do some serious sightseeing and to optimise your time there, relying solely on the limited public transport system in the Cotswolds isn’t advisable. Some villages and attractions are either completely inaccessible by public transport or services are very limited (running once an hour or not all on Sundays). In a nutshell, you need a car. 

Since there aren’t any car rental companies within the Cotswolds, you will need to hire your car here and pick it up in major towns that skirt the edge of the Cotswold such as Bristol, Chippenham, Oxford, Cirencester, Gloucester, Oxford, Cheltenham. Alternatively, pick up your car rental at the airport and skip the coach or train service altogether.

Compare prices and hire your car here

By bus

If your stay is short and you plan your days well there’s no reason why using the local bus services won’t suffice. There are dozens of bus companies that operate throughout the Cotswolds, so to see all available routes and times use Traveline.info to help plan your itinerary.

By taxi

As I mentioned above, you can’t rely on services like Uber to help fill the holes in the local bus service. Private taxis operate throughout the Cotswolds and are either located outside of train stations or by pre-booking via phone. Sorry, there is no website or app you download or one single phone number to call either. 

Each major village has several independently operated taxi drivers who you will need to find via a quick Google search. Call and book your taxi at least one hour before you need to be picked up as they could be on the other side of the Cotswolds on another job! The first time I ordered a taxi I had to ring three other drivers before finding one who was just 10 minutes away. 

I recommend saving the number of a local taxi driver based where you’re staying and use them repeatedly until you either leave or move to a different village. This creates goodwill with the drivers and ensures he’s never too far from home to come and pick you up.

By foot

How to Get to The Cotswolds - The Cotswold WayThe Cotswolds is famous for its beautiful countryside and picturesque villages, so if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, why not explore it on foot?

There is an excellent network of public footpaths throughout the Cotswolds with varying degrees of length and difficulty. I recommend this detailed guide as it includes footpaths, roads, towns and villages with tourist attractions highlighted.

The Cotswold Way National Trail runs just over 100 miles (160km) from Bath to Chipping Campden, following the Cotswold escarpment for most of the way. For more details of the route, pick up a copy of the Cotswold Way National Trail Guide here.

Cotswolds Discoverer Pass

The Cotswolds Discoverer is a one-day ticket that gives you unlimited travel and entry to a wide range of attractions including gardens, museums, and historic buildings. For only £10.50 for an adult ticket, Cotswolds Discoverer Pass is a great way to save money on your travel costs.

You can pick up a pass at any mainline train station throughout the UK and up to 3 months in advance of travel.  Here is a map showing you where the ticket can be used to get around the Cotswolds by train and bus.

Want to see more of the Cotswolds? Join one of these top-rated tours.

Don’t miss my Cotswolds travel guide for more tips

Planning a trip and need travel insurance? Get a free quote from World Nomads here.

Visiting the UK? Check out my other posts

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How to Get to The Cotswolds - The Ultimate Guide

Over to you!

Do you have a question about visiting the Cotswolds? Ask me below! Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

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