It's easy to do a Cotswolds day trip from London. The main attractions of this picturesque region are its unspoilt countryside and quaint villages. Direct train services from London serve several towns located within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That makes them the ideal bases for a day trip to the Cotswolds.
To help give you an idea of what to expect, we've put together a Cotswolds day trip itinerary for you. Start planning your trip now, and look forward to fresh air, long country walks, authentic pubs, and a completely different pace of life from the city.
Which are the Cotswolds' train stations?
The Cotswolds are at the heart of the British Rail network with mainline trains to the Cotswolds from London, the Midlands and the North and the South West of England. The main train stations in or near the Cotswolds are Banbury, Bath, Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble (serving Cirencester), Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Charlbury, Kingham and Oxford.
Getting from London to the Cotswolds by train
You can take a 51m direct train from London Marylebone station to Banbury, 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). To get right into the heart of the Cotswolds, take the service from London Paddington station to Moreton-in-Marsh (1h 37m). This route stops at Kingham and Charlbury along the way, both within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
09:00 Arrive in Charlbury
The 07:22 service from London Paddington should get you to Charlbury around 08:40, just in time to see this charming little town come to life. Charlbury is a typical Cotswold town nestled in the Evenlode Valley, surrounded by what remains of the great ancient Wychwood Forest. Its sand-coloured stone buildings are fine examples of Cotswold stone, with slate roofs quarried from the nearby town of Stonesfield. Author and academic J.R.R. Tolkien often visited Charlbury, and stories of him abound in the town.
Take some time to wander Charlbury's web of narrow streets and browse the unique collection of local shops. Keep an eye out for the 16th-century Armada Cottage and neighbouring Old Talbot Inn, a pair of local architectural landmarks found on Thames Street. Don't miss Lee Place Cottage, the Duchess of Marlborough's gorgeous residence. The Charlbury Museum gives a great introduction to the history of the Cotswolds in general, particularly Charlbury and its peak as a key centre of the glove making industry.
11:00 Countryside walk from Kingham
Take the 10m train from Charlbury to Kingham around late morning. Surrounded by rolling hills, Kingham is a quiet traditional village that's an excellent place to start a country walk into the Cotswolds. From the train station, you can find the start of the 9-mile Kingham Station Circular Walk. Perhaps a better option for a Cotswolds day trip from London is the 3.5-mile Kingham Station Short Circular Walk. This trail will take you a little over an hour, at a leisurely pace. It passes through beautiful countryside, down narrow country lanes, and passes several good viewpoints. For something, a bit longer, the 5-mile Mills and Meadows Walk crosses the lush open meadows between Kingham and Chipping Norton.
13:30 Lunch in Moreton-in-Marsh
Whichever walk you choose from Kingham, you'll easily make it back to the station in time to take the train to Moreton-in-Marsh before lunch. Up to 20 trains run per day from Kingham to Moreton-in-Marsh, and the journey takes as little as 8m. Moreton-in-Marsh is a lively old market town located on the Fosse Way, the old Roman road linking Exeter to Lincoln. This historical town has a large market square at the heart of the town centre, with a wide, easy-to-walk High Street lined with boutique shops and busy restaurants. Moreton-in-Marsh also has more than its fair share of authentic country pubs, which provide an excellent source of rest and recuperation after your morning walk—and since you're taking the train it's okay to enjoy a pint at lunch.
15:00 Explore Bourton-on-the-Water
From Moreton-in-Marsh, it's worth taking the local bus (30m) or hailing a taxi (15m) to beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water. Sometimes called the "Venice of the Cotswolds", Bourton-on-the-Water is a very picturesque little town with the River Windrush flowing right through its centre. Small stone bridges, drooping trees, and traditional old buildings line the river banks. Bourton-on-the-Water is a lovely place for a quiet stroll or a lie-down in the park. If you're feeling more active, this is also the location of the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Birdland nature park, which is home to over 500 types of birds. There's also a model village of the town itself, dating from the 1930s.
17:30 Return to London
From Moreton-in-Marsh, simply take the train back to London Paddington. There's an average of 22 trains per day on this route. In case you're so spellbound by the beauty of your day trip to the Cotswolds and want to hang around for a few hours, don't worry. The last service to London departs Moreton-in-Marsh at 23:22.
Like the sound of a Cotswolds day trip from London by train but need more info? Go to our Journey Planner. From ticket types and train times to destination information and pictures, you'll find everything you need to make your trip a reality.