Travelling to the Cotswolds without a car can be difficult so finding the best Cotswold town to base yourself in is an important decision.
You will be pleased to know that it is, with a little planning and imagination easy to explore the Cotswolds without a car. Many of the towns and cities offer train transport and there are good bus links to get around.
The Cotswolds is an area in England that covers parts of five counties in south west England:
- North East Somerset.
The area is unusual not only because it incorporates several counties but also because a lot of the beauty is manmade. The main attraction is the honey-coloured stone buildings, bridges and boundary walls. The architecture is what defines the Cotswolds.
To add to the beautiful architecture the Cotswolds is An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB and quite rightly so. The Cotswolds includes the famous town of Bath which also has UNESCO world heritage status.
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Where to Stay in the Cotswolds Without a Car
Here are my top recommendations and accommodation options to suit all requirements and budgets.
Burford is just a few miles from Oxford and a short bus ride away. It is also easy enough to get a bus direct from London which will take about 2 hours.
On a hill, Burford nestles into its surrounding countryside in typical Cotswold fashion. The High Street, in particular, is worth walking up one way and down the other, the houses are stunningly beautiful and the wide roadway means you can easily see the ancient buildings.
Burford is a Mecca for antique collectors and the medieval buildings, twittens and alleyways are the perfect backdrops to the antique and boutique style shops.
Where to Stay in Burford
For luxury and comfort go 5 star and stay at Burford House a boutique 6 bedroom hotel that dates back to the 17th Century. Burford House can be found on the High Street near Witney Street and a third of the way up the High Street.
The Bull at Burford is a 14th Century Coaching Inn that retains much of its ancient character whilst meeting 21st Century standards and expectations.
It’s located about halfway down the High Street hill and almost opposite Sheep Street, which has the distinctive Tolsey Museum is on the corner.
Lord Nelson and Charles II have both stayed at the Bull in Burford.
Greyhounds have featured in Gardens Illustrated & Country Life magazines and are described as ‘the finest B&B in Burford’. Less than a minutes’ walk from the town centre, Greyhounds is a tranquil and peaceful haven for the traveller who wants to explore, but unwind at the end of the day.
5 Burford Hill Mews
At the top of the hill, No 5 offers up to 4 guests a home from home. The property has a modern layout, being clean and crisp and benefits from a nice garden too.
Where to go from Burford
Burford is a great place to stay and explore the Cotswolds from. Simply take the number 233 bus from Burford to Woodstock and explore the pretty town and Blenheim Palace a famous stately home and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
To find the bus timetable, simply enter the bus number into this planner.
Whilst there, The Black Prince near Blenheim Palace is a good 16th Century pub serving real ales, good food and has a great atmosphere.
The 233 bus will also take you to Witney, which is the largest Oxfordshire market town that prospered from the wool trade and became world-famous for blankets. The town has twice-weekly general markets on Thursday’s and Saturday’s as well as its historical architecture.
Minster Lovell is another short hop away from Burford and the picturesque and atmospheric ruins of Minster Lovell Hall and nearby dovecote are well worth a visit, the ruins can be found adjacent to Minster Lovell Church and only a short walk from the bus stop outside the White Hart Pub.
Historical cathedral city Gloucester is a relatively easy place to get to and from as there is a railway station and good bus links. A frequently running train from London Paddington will take +/- 2 hours depending on which train you get.
Gloucester Cathedral is beautiful and well worth a visit as is the medieval priory house Blackfriars and the historical Gloucester docks.
Film and TV buffs will love that Gloucester has often featured in television and film including Dr Who, Harry Potter, Wolf Hall and Sherlock.
Where to stay in Gloucester
The Spalite Hotel
The Spalite offers basic but award-winning accommodation and is a grade II listed building convenient for the docks and the well-known designer outlet centre The Quays.
The Station Hotel is a big imposing Georgian Style building right opposite the train station. Built-in 1880, the hotel is actually Victorian and offers a convenient place to stay within five minutes of the city centre.
City Lodge Guest House
Situated at Gloucester Park, City Lodge offers a great location for a stay in Gloucester. It is within easy walking distance of the city centre, yet they offer the peace and quiet of their park location with the convenience of clean modern rooms and easy convenience for getting around.
Judges Lodgings is a lovely historic building in the Spa Road area of Gloucester handy for the restaurant quarter at the docks and Gloucester Park. Number 5 is a ground floor apartment beautifully finished and is furnished with a collection of unique and antique items many of them judge related.
The dockland area of Gloucester has undergone a good deal of redevelopment in recent year and it is very easy to find a self-catering stay in one of the converted apartments, many of which offer the familiar contemporary style expected of such developments.
Where to go from Gloucester
There is a Gloucester walking tours app, which features 3 tours of the city to take on foot.
Once you have spent a day exploring the docks area and the history of Gloucester, you could easily spend some time people-watching at one of the dockland cafes or you could further explore the local Cotswolds, or, of course, you could do both.
There are frequent buses and trains between Gloucester and Cheltenham and some pretty villages in between.
The Cotswold Discover One Day Pass allows free travel for a day on most rail and bus routes in the area. So, it is a great way to go exploring, gain access to attractions and places that you might not have otherwise seen.
With a train station and good bus links at Gloucester, buying a couple of day passes is such a great way to go exploring for a couple of days.
P.S. In May you can attend the cheese rolling festival! Be warned there are a lot of broken bones and injuries so not for the faint hearted.
Cheltenham has its Regency and Gloucester has its docks, if you want Cotswold Stone and the Cotswolds in under an hour and a half from London then Stroud is ideal. By train typically 1 hour 28 minutes from Paddington.
A perfect place to walk from Stroud is famous for the five valleys walk and is on the Cotswold Walk Way. The canal is also undergoing restoration at Stroud and is also worth a look.
Stroud is a place well known for its Bohemian vibe and contemporary arts.
Stay in Stroud which is handy for Gloucester and the Roman town of Cirencester as well as great travel links to get around.
Where to stay in Stroud
The Imperial Hotel
Being just a short walk from the railway station the Imperial is ideal for those without a car. Over 200 years old the hotel boasts a blend of its original coaching inn character and period features with modern comforts.
The Clothiers Arms
The Clothiers Arms is a pretty building and offers down to earth, spotlessly clean and friendly B&B at a pub.
For somewhere completely unique for your Cotswolds stay Butterow Gate.
Butterrow Gate is a grade 2 listed unique and quirky building that stands at the top of Butterow Hill on the outskirts of Stroud and has far-reaching stunning views. This lovely place is great to come back to after a day exploring the local area. Butterow gate is a landmark building.
Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site and known as one of Britain’s most beautiful cities. The beautiful Cotswold stone buildings and the layout of the old sector of Bath is certainly a lovely place to spend time.
Spend a day in Bath and you’ll be left wanting more; so Bath is an ideal place to stay when visiting the Cotswolds or alternatively a place to come back to one day. Bath is tucked in a corner of North East Somerset and sits at the bottom of the Cotswolds, not far from Bristol.
Long famous for its Roman Baths and Hot Thermal Spa waters, Bath also has some beautiful, stunning Georgian Architecture and two universities. Spend a day just perusing the shops and having lunch by the river, or enjoying the museums and historical attractions.
To get out and about from Bath, there are plenty of onward train and bus options, but probably the easiest way to see the Cotswold villages that you might not otherwise see without a car is to take a bus tour with Mad Max Tours from Bath, they visit such Cotswold Gems as Castle Combe, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and more and have you back to your accommodation in time for dinner.
Where to stay in Bath
The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa
You can actually stay at the hotel that forms part of the famous Georgian Royal Crescent. Olde Worlde charm, luxury and a spa, The Royal Crescent offers everything you expect from a 5 star hotel.
Pratts is right by the river and within metres of many attractions such as The Roman Baths and Bath Abbey each 250 metres away, also just 250 metres from the bus stop and a little over 1000 metres from Bath Spa railway station, a stay at Pratts is at the heart of historical Bath an ideal for the traveller without a car.
The Bath House
500 metres from The Royal Crescent and The Roman Baths and very handy for the theatre and museums The Bath House offers Boutique B&B where comfort is assured. The Bath House is a slightly longer walk from the bus station than Pratts and a short taxi ride from the railway station.
The Artpad, Great Pulteney Street
The Artpad is a generously proportioned Georgian ground floor apartment centrally located for the Bath attractions and travel links and very handy for viewing the famous Pulteney Bridge.
Dursley is a charming Cotswolds market town on the west side of the Cotswolds, between Bristol and Gloucester. Train times from London Paddington vary between just under 2 hours to around 2 and a half hours and change at Bristol.
Where to stay in Dursley
Ye Olde Dursley Hotel
Who can resist a name like Ye Olde Dursley Hotel? Offers clean and simple rooms, friendly staff and a pub atmosphere downstairs.
Woodland House is a family-run B&B in a quiet cul-d-sac five minutes’ walk from the town centre. As well as comfortable, well-appointed accommodation a laundry service is offered and they also do Sports Massage if you are aching after all that walking.
Ewelme Manor is a lovely old house that sleeps up to 26 people, so if your party is larger or your budget allows, then this Georgian Manor house just 8 minutes from the town centre should be a strong contender.
Featuring heaps of country house luxury and charm and an outdoor heated swimming pool the house has the Cotswolds Way footpath pass right by, so great for walkers.
Being a principal market town where many roads converge, Moreton-in-Marsh is an ideal location to explore the Cotswolds without a car. Dating back to the 13th Century and on the famous Fosse Way, Moreton-in-Marsh is just approximately an hour and a half from London Paddington and with onward trains to other Cotswold places and bus routes; this is almost a secret destination. I may have just saved the best till last!
- The number 2 bus will take you to Blockley, Chipping Campden and Stratford upon Avon and a return journey back.
- The number 803 to Longborough, Upper Oddington and Bourton-on-the-Water and back.
- The 801 to Cheltenham, via Bourton-on-the-Water and Andoversford and back to Morton-in-Marsh.
Remember: If you buy the Cotswold Discover One Day Pass to use these and many of the other buses from Morton-in-Marsh and hop on and off the buses to experience the places en-route that you fancy.
Where to Stay in Morton-in-Marsh
The Manor House Hotel
The Manor House is very handily situated in the High Street and offers comfortable accommodation in beautiful surroundings.
The Bell Inn
A typical traditional Cotswolds Coaching Inn, the Bell Inn is said to have been the inspiration for the ‘Prancing Pony’ Inn that featured in J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Martha’s Coffee House
Martha’s is a friendly, family run coffee house in the centre of the town that offers a comfortable room. The coffee house is a pretty little Cotswold stone terrace that Picturesque views of the pretty town. Breakfast is extra, but that gives the opportunity to grab a coffee and try other cafes for breakfast.
Positioned around the back of the town centre is Honeystone Cottage, the views from the cottage are over gardens and towards the church. Honeystone is just one minute walk from the town centre, yet gives guests peace and tranquillity in a comfortable, welcoming cottage with great facilities, character and a garden.
With these ideas of places to stay in the Cotwolds without a car, you will get a sense what towns suit you and things to do nearby.
Bath is a must on a visit to the Cotswolds and is one of my top amazing places to see in England outside of London.
Whatever you do, do visit some of the villages as that is where the real charm comes to life.
Enjoy your Cotswolds Stay!