10 stunning villages to visit in the south Cotswolds
PUBLISHED: 09:24 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:38 05 February 2018
The Cotswolds are famed world-wide for their adorable villages, and this time we’re visiting the south of the region. In no particular order, we pick 10 of the most delightful south Cotswold villages just waiting to be explored
Along a row of picture-perfect houses lining the street, you’ll find the entrance to Badminton House and Estate, home to the Duke of Beaufort. While it remains a private family home, the estate extends its welcome to thousands of visitors each May during the Badminton Horse trials. Families, and four-legged friends, can enjoy three days of equestrian events, shopping, food and drink, and plenty of entertainment.
Set in a stunning deer park, the House and Estate also provides an idyllic backdrop for weddings and special events, as well as opening its gates for The Badminton Shoot each year.
Comprised of Great and Little Badminton, the quiet village boasts a small shop and post office, and is a short drive away from neighbouring Didmarton with its boutique country inn, the King’s Arms. Expect plates of seasonal game by the fire in the winter and wood-fired pizzas and cider in the large beer garden during the warmer months.
Surrounded by rolling Cotswold countryside, Ampney Crucis, the largest of the three Ampney villages, boasts an abundance of charming stone cottages, picture-perfect properties, a village hall and a primary school. Village events include the monthly ‘Ampney Crucis Rural Cinema’, in partnership with Cotswold District Council scheme, where residents can enjoy a film screening from the comfort of the village hall.
There’s also a reindeer herd that call the village home before they venture out to the rest of the region come Christmas time.
End a leisurely stroll through Ampney Crucis, admiring the pretty scenery at the village pub – the Crown of Crucis. On warmer days, take a seat by the babbling brook in the pub garden on a warm day or cosy up by the fireside during the winter months.
No list of south Cotswold villages would be complete without mentioning the fairytale location of Castle Combe, once named the ‘prettiest village in England.’ It has provided a gorgeous backdrop to a number of films including War Horse and Stardust.
Row upon row of low-beamed, honey-coloured homes, with pretty floral hanging baskets, surround the 14th century Market Cross and St Andrew’s Church whose faceless clock is reputed to be one of the oldest working clocks in the country.
Stop by the bottom of The Town Bridge, looking up Water Street, to admire the village’s unspoilt beauty. Residents usually sell drinks and cakes from the front of their homes, and there are plenty of other places to enjoy a drink and bite to eat after you’ve explored the village.
With a small population of just over 1000 (according to the 2011 Census), it’s surprising that this south Gloucestershire village is a commuting spot for passengers on their way to Swindon and London while the nearby, much-larger town of Cirencester doesn’t have a train station at all.
The Tavern, positioned right next to the station, is a popular spot for locals and those travelling alike. The Arkell’s managed pub still retains its traditional charm after recent renovation and visitors can expect a warm welcome and fuss-free menu of homemade dishes. There’s also the Thames Head Inn, a couple of minutes drive from the village, serving an extensive menu of fresh home cooked food daily in an inviting setting. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, lucky you – the roast dinner is delicious!
Once hosting the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic display team, Kemble is also home to Cotswold Airport which is still in use today by light industry, flying clubs and private aircraft owners. At the end of August, thousands flock to Kemble airfield to enjoy three days of bluegrass, Americana and old-time music from an array of UK and international artists during the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival.
A small village of grey stone cottages, adorable door knockers, floral displays and hanging baskets, Bisley may not attract tourists like some of its other Cotswold village counterparts but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less pretty. Its hilltop position ensures stunning views out across the River Frome and surrounding countryside.
Bisley is home to a primary school which was founded in 1732, making it one of the oldest schools in Gloucestershire. There’s also All Saints’ Church with a peaceful churchyard containing the Poor Souls Light. The small hexagonal building was a place for masses to be said for the redemption of the souls of the poor. It is believed to be the only outdoor one of its kind in the country.
Positioned at the top of George Street, The Bear Inn has a history going back to 1639, and has been sat at its current address since 1766. The historic watering hole is rich in tradition, and locals and visitors return again and again to soak in the pub’s pleasing atmosphere, great range of beers and tasty dishes.
With Cotswold stone cottages perched high on a steep valley side, its little wonder that Chalford has earned the title ‘the Alpine Village of the Cotswolds’. Donkeys were once used to carry goods up the hill to houses, a practice that still occasionally happens today.
One of the village’s distinctive features, and well-photographed spots, is the Round House, one of five built by the Thames and Severn Canal Company along the canal which remains a private residence.
Chalford is also home to two churches, a quintessentially country pub by the name of the Ram Inn a mile away in nearby Bussage and even a couple of famous faces. Kath Kidston and Jamie Dornan both call the village home!
Standing in for Hogwarts in two of the Harry Potter films, eagle-eyed Potterheads will recognise the original medieval cloisters of Lacock Abbey from the first and sixth instalment. The Abbey sits in a picturesque village, owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust since 1944, with quaint cottages, four pubs, a bakery, gift shops, a National Trust shop, grocery and a number of other stores.
The Fox Talbot Museum is worth a visit; the museum of photography celebrates William Henry Fox Talbot, a former resident of the Abbey and whose descendants gave the Abbey and village to the National Trust, the inventor of the negative/positive photographic process.
Each year, scarecrows in all manners of shapes and sizes are entered into the Lacock Scarecrow Trail each year which is a fun, family-friendly event organised by the Friends of Lacock School.
Just over four miles south-west of Stroud, you’ll find the small village of Nymspsfield. So small in fact, only 382 residents call it home (according to the 2011 census). Among the pretty Cotswold stone cottages, the village is also home to a primary school, St Bartholomew Church and the Rose and Crown, a 17th century traditional watering hole serving tasty pub classics.
Nearby, you’ll find the unfinished gothic architecture of Woodchester Mansion and Coaley Peak, a popular walking and picnic spot, as well as the home of the Nympsfield Long Barrow. Constructed in the Neolithic period, it has long been the subject of local legends.
Nestled in the unspoilt countryside of Slad Valley, the sleepy village of Slad is a small cluster of grey stone cottages, the Holy Trinity Church and a thriving local pub, The Woolpack Inn. Sit back with a pint of real ale in hand and enjoy the views out across the beautiful rolling greenery.
Immortalised through the words of famous writer and poet Laurie Lee, Cider with Rosie accounted his childhood growing up in his ‘special corner of England’. He bought a cottage in the village with the proceeds from the book, and returned to live there permanently during the 1960s, after being away for 30 years.
Stroud-based poet Adam Horovitz refers to the valley as “a little wild pocket that seemed far more remote than it really is.” Rambling through the valley, with its tall grass, orchids and fox earths grazing your feet, and wild garlic bursting from the banks in the summer, allows for everyday worries to feel a world away.
Every year thousands flock to the Cotswold Water Park, an area made up of 140 lakes generally used for leisure activities including fishing, sailing and water skiing. It’s also abundant in a variety of wildlife, only adding to the pleasures of strolling round the gorgeous landscape.
Lying within the Cotswold Water Park is the community-spirited village of South Cerney, home to All Hallows Church, the remains of a former Norman Castle and Ann Edwards Primary School. An attractive row of gabled cottages from the 16th and 17th century can also be found on Station Road.
You won’t go hungry or without a pint in South Cerney. Alongside a range of local amenities, there are plenty of places to eat and drink including the character-rich pubs, The Old George and The Eliot Arms.
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