Are you ready for a trip around the Cotswolds countryside, where you will see Cotswolds hidden gems and also some of our favourite photo shoot locations?
Planning a trip to the Cotswolds?
Then you need to read this article. We’ve got lots of Cotswolds hidden gems tips on locations you must see and why, so you know exactly where to go.
Did you get engaged and all you can think of is a countryside wedding?
This article will also help you in finding some incredible places you can start with when scouting for your dream barn or wedding venue.
Whether high-end, stylish but non-conformist or just very intimate, your wedding in the stunning Cotswolds English countryside is most definitely a great option.
Apart from weddings, the Cotswolds countryside is also a gorgeous place to visit for a weekend or more, with so many beautiful and quirky villages, great spots for dining in or with a view, long walks and a whole lot of fresh air.
Here’s our 15 Cotswolds hidden gems and photo shoot locations we recommend you visit
Probably one of the most famous (and instagrammable) villages in the Cotswolds is Castle Combe. Get there and you’ve instantly got that feeling of being taken back in time to the village’s honey-coloured Cotswold stone with its dinky streets, rich history and natural beauty.
Only for a day out or a weekend away from the buzz of the city?
Welcome to the ‘prettiest village in England’. You’d be hard-pressed to argue otherwise since Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse was filmed here, an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and a host of other films. What can you balance this with? The Castle Combe Circuit, of course, for the adrenaline and speed junkies.
Want the ultimate photo shoot for your wedding?
Then add some spice to it and escape the wedding party for just a few minutes to get from Market Place to the southern part of the village. It’s where the weavers’ cottages, the rippling river underneath the bridge and the surrounding woodland all mix for the envy of any photographer’s Cotswolds photo shoot.
Naturally, any tourist location boasts the best views, the richest history, the most beautiful sceneries. But Chipping Campden is one hard to match up to. This ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’ is really a must-see in the UK.
We’d suggest you visit the High Street for some nibbles as well and then let yourself get lost through the side alleys and see where they lead. There’s always a hidden gem around the corner or a potential for a photograph.
If you plan your wedding in this area, you’re even better off. There’s plenty of choices for it too.
Minutes away from the village centre, Lapstone Barn, a newly renovated barn in the countryside, awaits for it’s guests. Another wedding venue so close to where we live and to Chipping Campden, is Mickleton Hills Farm Barn. It’s a family owned business, with so many fantastic features and a newly build wedding barn for your reception. It’s pretty hard to beat when it comes to their amenities.
We’ve shot weddings at both this wedding venues and could not recommend them more highly.
For something different, Hidcote Manor Garden, made up of blooming garden rooms, each with its special character, or Kiftsgate Court Gardens – boasting three generations of women gardeners and stunning views surrounded by an abundance of plant life.
You’d be forgiven if the first thing that came to mind was shows, lights and fine dining, when reading the name of our next preferred location.
Far from the cosmopolitan life lies this quaint, picture-postcard village tucked in the heart of Cotswolds. With its honey-coloured limestone period buildings, orderly horse chestnut trees, the historic ‘broad way’ High Street, or many of its vintage car shows, food festivals, art exhibitions, there’s something for everybody.
Broadway Activity park
However, if you just want a place to spend the day out with your family, but don’t want to do much, prepare a picnic and go to Broadway activity park. Hidden a bit from the High Street, just look out for a sign post to Activity Park and Picnic area, beside the Ashmolean Museum Broadway. If you see horses on your right, you’re in the right place. A very narrow path will take you to an open field with brilliant areas for different age groups for kids, all with the view of the Cotswolds Hills and forests, a picnic spot to remember.
Broadway Tower – one of our personal most visited Cotswolds hidden gems
Minutes away by car, you get to Broadway Tower. There, you will find plenty of parking and a cafe-restaurant you must go to for delicious food and why not, a bit of shopping. With the most scenic views and breath-taking panoramic scenes of the English countryside this place should definitely be on your list.
How many counties can you count from the roof of the tower?
If you plan for an engagement shoot or a family portrait session, we would always recommend Broadway Tower. We did quite a few portrait sessions here already as it’s really intimate and easy to find locations without any tourists around. If you love more natural shots and forests, this is definitely the place for it.
If John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher, had received the hand of Miss Kirkham (Stanton Rector’s daughter) in marriage, the history of Stanton, Cotswolds and possibly the world would probably look different.
Still, when it comes to history, Stanton is not one to be falling short. Although little changed in 300 years, many things did happen in Stanton where the little idyllic Cotswold village can trace back its roots for over four thousand years!
This unspoilt village is best visited on a fair Summer’s day. Stop by Hailes Abbey for a picnic among its tranquil ruins, and pop in the Church of St Michael and All Angels to discover its history and list of benefactors such as Scott family who restored many properties and generally upgraded the village itself.
Cotswolds Riding stables
If you’re in for a bit more than ambling about the wonderful village, which in fairness will please you alright, you can crank up your day and saddle up for some riding lessons at the Cotswolds Riding stables.
Stanton Guild House
Stanton appeals to the corporate world as well with its Stanton Guildhouse, where self-catering accommodation and training, team-building facilities, or creativity and development workshops can be held. It’s also ideal for reunions and family get-togethers.
While we’re on about gatherings… Only a stone’s throw from Stanton is Stanway House, a stunning stone medieval building. Acres of lawn, duck pond, unspoilt parkland, record-breaking gravity water fountain and the perfect backdrop for photos for a unique day.
Does that spell w-e-d-d-i-n-g to anyone?
Before you think of leaving this page in a horrified state, we’ll put you at ease by letting you know we’re not so macabre as to recommend a slaughter house as the attraction spot for one of The Cotswolds’ most coveted villages! In fact, the name comes from the old English ‘Slohtre’, a word which actually has nothing to do with killings, but means just… ‘muddy place’. Funny language, right?
That too needn’t put you off either, because Upper and Lower Slaughter are not muddy places. On the very contrary, they are the picture-perfect example of civilised Cotswold, placed in the most idyllic of countrysides. These two villages are among the prettiest in the area.
The link between Upper and Lower Slaughter is the River Eye. A simple wander on its banks seems like a prized privilege. And with such a privilege are rewarded the many visitors who come here for nature walks, days out and checking out historic buildings, like The Old Mill, on whose site, the Doomsday Book of 1806 actually records the place of a mill.
Lower Slaughter Mill & Café
Once you get here, make sure to pop in to Lower Slaughter Mill & Café. It’s totally worth a visit!
Of course not everybody comes to The Slaughters to check out historic buildings. Some visit for delightful pictures. One of which could also be a picture of you! Just imagine: yourself in a picturesque spot that has been used for filming and productions.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?! Do reach out to us and we’ll be over the moon to meet for a photo shoot session. Do we see eye to Eye? (pun totally intended).
One of our favourite Cotswolds wedding barns to shoot at is Hyde House, extremely close to this location, so you might want to put that on your list! It’s definitely worth the visit!
Still looking for a wedding venue? The Slaughters Manor House is on our map!
Another of our favourite and also one of the most famous villages in the Cotswolds… We say this for many, because it’s true!
Quick trivia question: Who described Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’?
If your answer is William Morris (1834-96), British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist, then you are correct. And your knowledge of The Cotswolds is next level! Yes, we totally had to Google this one..
So the next step is to visit this place and make sure you bring a good photographer with you, because once you’re in one of ‘The Most Charming Towns in Europe You’ll Want to Visit ASAP’ (Huffington Post), you don’t want to fiddle around with a phone camera. Do yourself a favour and take our word for it. You know how to find us..
Here’s where we’ll take you for unforgettable memories:
Featuring a row of weavers’ cottages built of local stone, located next to River Coln. Built in 1380 as a monastic wool store and converted into weavers’ cottages, this makes for probably one of the most photographed Cotswold scenes.
The Church of St Mary
A Saxon Church dating back from late 11th century with a stained glass window that featured on the 1992 Royal Mail Christmas stamp. Plan your wedding ceremony here to make it even more memorable.
Bibury Trout Farm
One of the oldest and definitely most attractive trout farms in the country. Should you get tired from trying your hand at catching your own fish (equipment provided), or feeding the ducks and other wildlife in the area, you can delight yourself at the local fish counter with smoked trout or deli as you watch the kids play in the play area. Don’t want to spend too much on bought food? No worries, pack a picnic basket, or fire up the BBQ in the designated BBQ area. Parking’s free, so…no rush.
Looking for the wedding barn of your dreams? Then you found it! Cripps Barn is located extremely near and it’s only 1 of 8 wedding barns they own in the Cotswolds that will take your breath away. I would hurry, though, Cripps Barns are extremely popular in the Cotswolds!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has a match in The Cotswolds. No, not really in the shape of a tower, but in old town Burford’s main street rests a row of dignified old houses and ancient cottages which stand as witnesses to history past all the way back to the Tudors. Although leaning at precarious angles, they still stand to this day, testament to the town’s history and wealth acquired in wool trading.
Through this ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’ you’ll see lots of visitors, being a major Cotswolds attraction. Quite frankly, if you really want to make the most of a day out in Burford, walk on the side alleys, discover the town’s hidden gems sparkling in the form of pubs, tea shops and small hotels.
If you do decide to visit this beautiful town, I dare you, though to push a pram or stroller uphill!
Parish Church of St John the Baptist
Towering over the little town stands tall the Parish Church of St John the Baptist with its 15th century spire. It is really worth your time visiting the church, especially – if you’re visiting over the weekend – during one of their services. It’s also a beautiful church to get married in as they take pride in being there for the newlyweds.
Did you know that Burford was voted as one of the best places to live in Europe by Forbes? Within an easy commute to London but a lifestyle just as pricey probably, it’s definitely worth a visit and a family or a couple photo session, of course.
Just a stone’s throw (or two) away from this village, you can find Oxleaze Barn further South and Merriscourt Barn, further North. Both, being beautiful wedding barns you can hire for your dream ceremony and reception nestled in the Cotswolds countryside.
Since our previous favourite Cotswolds attraction got us thinking of Italy, Bourton-on-the-Water will carry on in the same fashion. It has been described as ‘Little Venice’. Why? Plan a day out during the summer months and this little town straddling river Windrush will delight you with elegant low bridges, stone banks and neat tree-shaded greens. Perfect place for a lazy couple of hours in the afternoon, after visiting the traditional Cotswolds buildings, now transformed into tourist shops for day-trippers like yourself.
There’s plenty to do for grown-ups and children too.
Here’s just a few.
You can visit the Birdland, an authentic zoo for birds, with a remarkable collection of fun penguins. Can you imagine penguins in the Cotswolds? Well this one, you got to see for yourself.
Model Railway Exhibition
Or the Model Railway Exhibition, with 500 feet of track – one of the finest operating indoor model railway layouts in the country.
Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection
Boys young and old will not be let down by the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection, also housing Brum, the children’s TV daring four-wheeled hero.
Side note: do you like James Bond films? Part of the Ice Chase scenes (Die Another Day, 2002) were filmed in Bourton.
Cotswolds Perfumery Shop and Factory
This is another worthy stop. Did you know that they’ve made personalised scents for the Queen herself? Your Insta Story needs to tell all your followers that you and the Queen got perfumes from the same shop! Don’t forget about the penguins, though!
Bourton-on-the-Water is definitely one of our favourite Cotswolds hidden gems (OK, maybe not so hidden). It also seems like the perfect place for a multi-stop photo session if you can avoid the touristy spots, of course.
For the newly engaged couples.. Not too far away lies another Cotswolds wedding barn, the Barn at Upcote. A charming wedding venue surrounded by hills, quaint villages and just so beautiful. Planning your wedding already? Definitely worth a visit!
We should have probably started with this one since it’s actually the place where we now live! A very small village, yet so rich with history and so welcoming.
This is indeed one of Cotswolds hidden gems as it’s such a small yet vibrant village. There’s always something going on in the village of Bretforton that everybody will find something to suit their taste. And it should be so, since Bretforton was nominated in the Channel 4’s 2018 series ‘Village of the Year’.
And for good reason, am I right?
The people in the village are a jolly bunch who like to keep themselves entertained while entertaining others. If you like music, there’s music: they’ve even run a ‘Bret’s Got Talent’ competition, not to mention the Bretforton Silver Band with roots back to 1895!
The Fleece Inn
Worth coming if only for a meal at The Fleece Inn (a famous pub) and if it’s May Bank holiday, then The Asparagus Festival is a must.
There’s people dancing in funny costumes and an actual asparagus roaming around and taking pictures with people. Get some cash with you, they’re running an Asparagus Auction, which is great fun! But the food at the Inn is sooooo good and the pub is so quaint, it’s most definitely worth a lunch visit (or dinner).
They even host weddings at The Fleece so what are you waiting for?
Speaking of the Inn, if you’re into ghost hunting, legend says the ghost of former landlady Lola Taplin is haunting the Inn.
So if you’re ever in the area and want to gift yourself some family photos or an engagement shoot or anything in between, get in touch. We live in such a pretty place and we can’t wait to show you around. Here’s a bit of our story if you care to know more.
I’ll admit. This might not be the first place on my list of must visit villages in the Cotswolds. Far from it. It’s a very small village, but mostly popular because this remote corner of the country has produced what is known as the Cotswolds Arts & Crafts Movement of the 20th century. Three things need to make it to your ‘Sapperton Day Out List’:
Upper Dorval House
As photographers, our aim is to make each photo a piece of art, the first suggestion is the Upper Dorval House. Although a visit inside the house might not be possible, the grounds and the delightful garden will provide a rewarding time, even more rewarding if accompanied by a photographer. Hint! Hint!
Sapperton Canal Tunnel
The second one is Sapperton Canal Tunnel, which although blocked can still be visited on boat trips into the tunnel in the winter months.
The last on the list is not for everybody, but it’s the most rewarding! It’s the best way to soak in the beauty of the place, the intentional slowness to breathe in the nature and history surrounding at every step.
We’re talking, of course, about the Sapperton walks around the village, by the church, along the remains of the old canal to Daneway, where a timeless pub invites trekkers in for a breather. Carry on along the old canal still displaying charming 18th century bridges and finish at Cirencester Park, known as one of the finest landscaped gardens in England.
As the name suggests, if there’s any snow, you’re most likely to find it first in Snowshill. This is due to the fact that, while in a charming Cotswolds setting, it rises steeply over three nearby villages.
Still, don’t be quick to pack your skiing gear just yet. Snowshill is not to be visited for winter activities, but rather for what can be seen throughout the rest of the year, particularly in the Summertime. So let’s put the adrenaline to one side for now and head off to something a bit calmer.
This secluded little village tucked away in one of Cotswold’s prettiest settings, receives you with a strong sense of ancient charm and peaceful ambling in a setting now familiar: yellow stone buildings lining small streets in a surrounding of exceptional unspoilt beauty completed by views over the Severn Vale.
Only a short distance away from Snowshill is what is known as Snowshill Lavender. It’s every photographer’s preferred natural setting for weddings or family portraits.
But nature is not everything Snowshill has to offer. No. No.
There is more. The village is renowned for its manor house, a construction with a very interesting architectural mix; on the outside boasting beautiful terraced gardens while on the inside displaying an eccentric collection. You’ll need to buy tickets to see the Manor, but if you have a National Trust membership it should be free for you. Just check availability with them.
Guess where you’ll most likely find us. Go on, take a wild guess.
Arrange in order of preference:
Delicious specialty-baked breads from locally-sourced ingredients,
Honey-coloured streets hiding something new around every corner,
Rolling hills that stretch as far as the eye can see,
Rich history with interesting local legends,
Eclectic mix of boutiques, tea rooms, art galleries and restaurants,
Stately homes and gardens.
Whichever way you arranged the above would be right. But it’s not all Stow has to offer. I can honestly say that Stow-on-the-Wold is a personal favourite!
So rich a history in such a beautiful natural setting and with so many things do to. Absolutely inviting!
St Edward’s Church
A totally must see here is St Edward’s Church and particularly the North door, which is guarded by a (very real) pair of yew trees! Another great attraction is the original stocks historically used for public punishment. You can still see one in the market square.
When in the area, you must take a quick trip to Daylesford Organic Farm. It’s another one of our favourite spots to go to for some shopping and delicious organic food. I promise you it’s worth the visit!
If you’re planning a wedding, you have no better options than in Stow. There are some exceptional venues, with enchanting gardens, offering beautiful photo opportunities, wedding coordinators, Civil Ceremony License and accommodation nearby. We recommend Hyde House and The Porch House for a more boutique wedding.
Blockley is one of the larger villages to visit in the Cotswolds. Boasting a rich history at the heart of the wool industry that later turned to silk production and supplying material for mills in the Midlands, it will soon show any visitor the central place it held in these now faded industries.
Fast forward to today and this largely unspoilt spot of English countryside is still a unique collection of buildings reflecting the past but rather different in character to the other north Cotswolds villages. Consider that it was called one of the Cotswold’s best-kept secrets!
The undoubted natural attractiveness of the village is as good a choice as any for peaceful walks that lead from the village into the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Do check out the weather before heading to Blockley. If it’s forecast to be nice, pack up a picnic basket. Picnic in a peaceful setting is unbeatable. Take my word for it.
Mill Dene Garden
After some rest and with tummies full do set out to check the Mill Dene Garden, which is a delightful 1-hectare garden spanning over a number of shallow terraces. A stream runs calmly through the middle of the property as fragrance engulfs any visitor, offering the perfect excuse to hang about. You do need to purchase a ticket, but it’s totally worth it. Once inside you can wander at will or follow the provided trail. Really the best place to escape the world.
According to The RHS, ‘the garden itself is a romantic story of a young couple falling in love with each other and a beautiful Cotswold stone water mill.’ That’s so cute!
Anyone for a proposal photoshoot?
Let’s make this a challenging one: what do ‘The Casual Vacancy’ (J. K. Rowling), Rococo Gardens, children embracing a church, “Puppy Dog” pies and 99 yew trees all have in common?
In one word: Painswick. You can find them all here.
I wouldn’t want to spoil a good ol’ enterprise of discovery of Cotswolds hidden gems in the must-see villages so I’m thinking of leaving you the joy of connecting the dots.
The Queen of the Cotswolds
Suffice to say that Painswick has been often referred to as ‘the Queen of the Cotswolds’ due to the pale grey limestone buildings, while the outskirts of the town house the well-known Rococo Gardens of the 18th century. The options for beautiful photoshoots are just countless. If not sure where to start, we’re happy to point you to the best ones to make your day memorable!
The village is an all-year round visitor destination. Characterised by tranquillity and peace during a holiday or weekend break, or a cosy stay-in by the log fire in an original hearth in the cold winter months, or maybe a delicious cream tea in the beautiful Summer days.
For the more energetic of you, there’s an 18-hole golf course, a Squash club, riding stables and tennis courts nearby.
Located mid-way on the 100-mile Cotswold Way footpath from Bath to Chipping Campden, Painswick is a useful stopover for a couple of days’ rest. But it could also be the ideal start for many delightful walks in the area. It’s all up to you.
Did you know that ‘Winchcombe’ has nothing to do with hoisting loads in a combs factory? The name actually means ‘valley with a bend’ and to this day the little town still retains streets which curve along the ‘combe’.
There is much to be discovered in this ancient Anglo Saxon town, which – interesting fact – was known in the 1600s for tobacco growing. Walk the streets, pop in restaurants, pubs and shops, sleep in its timbered inns and you’ll discover a town full of character of times past. Such character is also displayed at the Prescott Speed Hill Climb, where a beautiful range of classic cars can be seen and major motor racing championships can be enjoyed.
Sudeley Castle & Gardens
There’s one thing that you must do, though, visit Sudeley Castle & Gardens. A true attraction in Cotswolds and the only private castle to have a queen buried within the grounds. Another one of the Cotswolds hidden gems you should definitely see. The castle, not the queen..
The 1,200-acre estate Gardens provide a splendid variety of colour from Spring to Autumn. A day out with the family here will keep everybody entertained: new rooms opened to the public, artefacts, works of art, Katherine Parr’s love letters, picnic area, gift shop, café and adventure playground – everybody’s happy!
Thankfully you can plan your wedding at the ‘most romantic castle in England’. They will work with you to make your dream wedding a reality. The venue is splendidly unique and the romantic ruins situated in the award-winning gardens create the most dramatic backdrop for wedding pictures.
If you made it ’till the end, well done, you!
If you skipped some points, no judgement! It is preeeety long…
But if this helped shape your trip and gave you ideas on things to visit and do in the Cotswolds, my heart is happy.
If you also want a family shoot or a couple / engagement session, we can’t wait to meet with you!
Even more, if you got really excited about your future wedding in the countryside and have a few places on your list now, I would highly recommend you to also check my article on every Cotswolds wedding barn. The title says it all.
My purpose with this article was to make you excited about visiting some of these Cotswolds hidden gems and hopefully, our paths will one day, cross as well.
Hey, we’re Diana & Sam!
We are a husband and wife team based in the beautiful Cotswolds area. We love the outdoors and shoot primarily non – traditional barn weddings and elopements for the adventurous wild at heart couple. We help remove the stress and pressure from your wedding day and do our best to make you feel at ease and extremely relaxed in front of the camera, so you will dearly remember your experience. We are also founders of Mad Hat Photo Booth
, a wedding and events photo booth hire in the Cotswolds, Birmingham, Gloucestershire and beyond!