The Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is an attractive rural area defined by its rolling hills (the 'wolds'). Many buildings are constructed from the local honey-coloured stone making the villages and small towns especially picturesque.
There are few railway stations inside the Cotswolds AONB but with several stations around the edge and bus services through the area it is possible to explore the Cotswolds using public transport if you plan carefully.
Most bus services in the Cotswolds are infrequent and timed for local residents rather than tourists. Please check routes and times with Traveline to ensure you have up-to-date information.
For a Cotswolds bus network map I recommend Bus Atlas UK (see Map 16, South Midlands).
If you are looking for an organised day trip to the Cotswolds the Cotswolds Tour conveniently departs from Moreton-in-Marsh station which has direct trains from London Paddington and Oxford. It will give you a taste of the beautiful countryside, picturesque villages and attractive towns nearby, including some free time for lunch and shopping.
To properly explore the Cotswolds by train and bus it is well worth staying in the area for a few days. Somewhere with a station and bus services clearly makes this easier and I recommend Moreton-in-Marsh for the northern Cotswolds as it is a transport hub for the area with trains from London (Paddington) and Oxford plus buses to picturesque towns and villages nearby.
Accommodation in Moreton-in-Marsh (with distance from station):
For somewhere quieter with a station I recommend Charlbury, a peaceful and attractive small town which feels almost like a village. There are buses to Blenheim Palace, Chipping Norton and Witney, and it is less than 20 minutes by train to Moreton-in-Marsh for buses to other places.
Accommodation in Charlbury (with distance from station):
If you are happy to stay somewhere without a railway station I suggest the attractive large village of Broadway or the picturesque market town of Chipping Campden. Both have bus services to the surrounding area, including Stratford-upon-Avon. From London the easiest route to these places is a train to Moreton-in-Marsh and then a bus or pre-booked taxi from the station forecourt.
Other places to consider for accommodation are Oxford and Cheltenham (both well worth visiting themselves). For the southern Cotswolds the best base with a station is Stroud but Cirencester (bus or taxi from Kemble) and Bath are worth considering too.
The Cotswolds area is famous for its picturesque cottages and you may like to book a self-catering cottage for a relaxing holiday. Check the location carefully for public transport and remember to plan your grocery shopping if you choose to stay in the countryside or a small village.
In addition to the northern Cotswolds transport hub of Moreton-in-Marsh there are several villages and small market towns with bus services such as Blockley, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Chipping Campden, Mickleton and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Snowshill, near Broadway
Walking is a great way to explore the beautiful countryside and picturesque villages of the Cotswolds. There's a good network of public footpaths throughout the Cotswolds as well as some minor roads with little traffic so there are many opportunities for walks of various lengths and difficulty. I recommend the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Cotswolds map as this shows great detail including footpaths, roads, towns and villages with tourist attractions highlighted.
Luggage transfer If you intend to walk the Cotswold Way (or other routes) without returning to your starting point each day you may find these services useful:
The Cotswolds are spread over several counties, most of the area is in Gloucestershire with a smaller but significant part in Oxfordshire. The map below shows railway lines and stations in and near the Cotswolds:
Anne Hathaway's Cottage Ashdown House & Woodland NT Avebury Manor & Garden NT Batsford Arboretum Blenheim Palace Bodleian Libraries Botanic Garden, Oxford Bourton House Garden Charlecote Park NT Cirencester Amphitheatre EH Cirencester Park Coughton Court NT Gloucester Blackfriars EH Gloucester Greyfriars EH Hall's Croft Harcourt Arboretum Hidcote NT Holst Birthplace Museum Kiftsgate Court Garden Lacock Abbey NT Lydiard House and Park Mill Dene Garden Oxford Castle Unlocked Oxford University Colleges Painswick Rococo Garden Sezincote House & Garden Snowshill Manor & Garden NT Tewkesbury Abbey Woodchester Mansion Woodchester Park NT
Alexander Keiller Museum EH/NT Almonry Heritage Centre Ashmolean Museum Bate Collection of Musical Instruments Broadway Museum Charlbury Museum Chippenham Museum Chipping Norton Museum Christ Church Picture Gallery Corinium Museum Cotswold Motoring Museum Court Barn Museum Fox Talbot Museum NT Gardens Gallery Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery Gloucester Folk Museum Gordon Russell Design Museum Gloucester Waterways Museum Holst Birthplace Museum MAD Museum (The) Modern Art Oxford Museum in the Park Museum of Computing Museum of History of Science Museum of Oxford Nature in Art New Brewery Arts Oxford Bus Museum Oxford Univ. Mus. of Natural History Oxfordshire Museum Pitt Rivers Museum Richard Jefferies Museum Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum STEAM, Museum of Great Western Rly Swindon Museum & Art Gallery Tailor of Gloucester Museum Tewkesbury Heritage Centre Tewkesbury Museum Wellington Aviation Museum The Wilson Museum & Art Gallery Witney & District Museum Yelde Hall
All Things Wild Nature Centre Bird & Deer Park Birdland Park & Gardens Butterfly Farm Coate Water Park Cogges Manor Farm Museum Cotswold Falconry Cotswold Water Park Greystones Farm Nature Reserve John Moore Countryside Centre Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Charlecote Mill Combe Mill Cotswold Motoring Museum Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Rly Gloucester Waterways Museum Gordon Russell Design Museum Oxford Bus Museum STEAM, Museum of Great Western Rly Swindon & Cricklade Railway Wellington Aviation Museum
Avebury EH/NT Bourton-on-the-Water Broadway Broadway Tower Chipping Campden Chipping Norton Cirencester Coate Water Park Cotswold Water Park Dragonfly Maze Gloucester Cathedral Hailes Abbey EH/NT Heelis NT Central Office Honeybourne Pottery Studio Lacock village NT Model Village, Bourton-on-the-Water Nympsfield Long Barrow EH Shakespeare attractions Silbury Hill EH Stow-on-the-Wold Tewkesbury Upper & Lower Slaughter West Kennet Stone Avenue EH Windmill Hill EH Witney Woodstock