A perfect route for a five-day getaway
Pack up your car and let’s start touring the idyllic Cotswolds countryside. Rub shoulders with Oxford Uni hopefuls and then top up our culture levels, with a stay at the charming Shakespeare town of Stratford-upon-Avon.
A watermill in the Cotswolds
Living in Kent in the southeast of the UK our road trips adventures usually start from the ‘Garden of England’. However, our escapade around the Cotswolds, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon essentially departed from Marlow in Buckinghamshire.
We were heading to a friend’s party (pre-Covid19) and decided this gave us an ideal excuse to turn the visit into a road-trip.
It’s all in the planning
Radcliffe Camera in the evening, Oxford
Map, guides and more
When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.
Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.
The inspiration for our chosen locations
The inspiration for this trip may go without saying, as the surrounding countryside and the history of the Cotswolds, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon are incredible. However, this is what lured us.
- The Landscape – The far-reaching rolling hills and the meandering brooks and waterways weaving through the Cotswolds.
- History & Culture – I couldn’t wait to discover the centuries of history in Oxford. Then there are the ancient tales of Shakespeare’s hometown.
- The architecture – The honey-shaded cottages around the Cotswolds villages and the striking colleges through the lanes of Oxford.
Road Trip Checklist
First stop is Henley-on-Thames
So, heading out of Marlow, we were on our way to Henley-on-Thames just around 9 miles (14.5km).
Henley-on-Thames is such a quintessentially English town, with fluttering buntings, snaking their way through the streets. Boutiques and old pubs tempting you in; however, it’s the annual Henley Regatta, the boating gala that this picturesque town is renowned for.
The waterfront at Henley
After a few hours discovering Henley-on-Thames, we are back on the road and heading to our first Cotswold village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire.
We head southwest and pick up the M4 at junction 12. Drive 49 miles (79km) west along the M4 to junction 17, then Castle Combe is just 7.5 miles (12km).
Castle Combe is everything you could wish for in a Cotswold village. Roses are clambering over narrow doorways, picture-postcard cottages and babbling brooks rippling under tiny Cotswold-stone bridges. It is truly idyllic.
The Street, Castle Combe
Our final location for today is Oxford; however, we chose to avoid the M4 and drove cross-country.
Heading north out of Castle Combe, we take the Fosse Way, then the B4040 towards Malmesbury. Pick up the A429 northeast via Cirencester and then onto Northleach all the while passing beautiful scenery. The last stretch is on the A40, B4044 and A420 into Oxford, the total mileage for the day was around 144 miles (232km).
So many to choose from
Day touring the Cotswolds villages
Today we’ll be hopping from one delightful Cotswold village to the next. In fact, we’re off to discover six of the little gems.
Our first stop after leaving Oxford is Bibury. Take the A420, then pick up the A40 westbound and just past Burford jump on the B4425 after 29 miles (46km) Bibury awaits.
Arlington Row in Bibury
Bibury is extremely pretty, and you’re immediately drawn to the picturesque line of cottages along Arlington Row, which quaint little houses rented by the National Trust.
Hopping back in the car we drive the short distance north of 6.5miles (10km) to Northleach. You may recognise this market town for the BBC Three mockumentary ‘This Country’. We enjoyed visiting Northleach and a little quieter than a few of the other locations.
Heading northeast onwards along the A429 for 7 miles (11km) we visit Lower Slaughter. Wow, this village is gorgeous and one you should definitely add to your list. Park up and stroll along by the River Eye towards the Old Mill.
Cottages in Lower Slaughter
Unfortunately, time waits for no man, and we’re also getting hungry. A friend recommended we visit Snowshill and my, this little village didn’t disappoint, and it was so tranquil. When leaving Lower Slaughter head northwest and pick up Buckle Street, Snowshill is just around 11 miles (17.5km) away.
After lunch in the garden of the Snowshill Arms, it was back on the road. Now we are heading to Broadway which is just a short hop north of 3 miles (5km) along Snowshill Road.
The view of Snowshill in Gloucestershire
Broadway is a large village and quite popular with visitors, like the other locations we’ve visited today, Broadway is in the county of Gloucestershire.
Jumping back in the car, we head to our final Cotswold destination, and that’s the small market town of Chipping Campden. Once again, it isn’t too far, take the A44 southeast and then the B4081 northeast for a total of 6.5miles (10.5km).
The war memorial in Chipping Campden
Strolling along the High Street in Chipping Campden
Take a stroll around the town and discover the historic old covered market.
On the roads keep an eye out for the local farm life, as we were winding our way through the countryside, a flock of sheep came trotting towards us. Baaaaing and munching their way along the lane. You really felt like you were deep in the country.
Our next stop is back into Oxford, which is around 40 miles (64km). From Chipping Campden head south and pick up the A44 until you reach the south of Burford, then jump on the A40 east. The last stretch is on the A40, B4044 and A420 into Oxford, our total mileage for the day was around 104 miles (168km).
Escape for a few days
So, you'd love to visit the chocolate-box towns and villages in the Cotswolds, and you’re in search of a tranquil hideaway to unwind in.
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Full day in the city of Oxford
With the car parked up today, we enjoy a full day discovering the historical delights around the ancient city of Oxford.
The architecture in Oxford is incredible, around every corner in the charming city centre is another beautiful honey-coloured college or courtyard to admire.
The Radcliffe Camera
The University of Oxford is known to have been teaching as far back as 1096, which makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
We visited Magdalen College while we were here. However, just strolling around the lanes by Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, the Hertford Bridge and the Sheldonian Theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren was a treat.
The Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford
Inspector Morse fans will certainly recognise Oxford too.
Why not try?
En-route to Stratford-upon-Avon via Bourton-on-the Water
Our next overnight stay is in the attractive town of Stratford-upon-Avon; however, we have a couple of detours on the way.
Our first is to the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water. This picturesque beauty can get very busy, so that’s why we chose to visit first thing in the morning. This enabled us to have a pleasant look around the quaint streets and take a stroll with the ducks along the banks of the River Windrush.
The war memorial across the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water
The route we took when leaving Oxford was slightly different from the direction that we chose on Day 2 of our road trip. This enabled us to enjoy more of the surrounding scenery.
Therefore, take the A44 north, then just beyond Chipping Norton turn left along the A436 westbound. When you reach Stow-on-the-Wold, you can jump out here and take a stroll around the town, and then continue south on the A429 to Bourton-on-the-Water in total 34 miles (54km).
You may want to spend a couple of hours in Bourton-on-the-Water, prior to jumping back into your trusty steed and journeying on.
Our next stop was a visit to the British Motor Museum. Hopping back onto the A429 this time heading north for around 17 miles (28km) north of Halford then take the right spur off to Fosse Way (B4455).
Beautiful historic cars in the British Motor Museum
Just before you reach the M40 turn right onto the B4100 and the British Motor Museum is 3.5 miles (5.5km) along on your right.
Well, anyone that knows Gary will appreciate that he was in nirvana here. As these weren’t just any historic cars, these were ‘British’ historic cars.
I must admit I quite enjoyed it too, Gary’s love of classic cars is rubbing off onto me.
After spending a few hours at the museum, we headed onto Stratford-upon-Avon.
The 14-mile (22.5km) journey is reasonably straightforward. Jump back onto the B4455 and head south for around 5.5miles (8.8km) and turn right towards Wellesbourne. Continue along this route, and you’ll soon be arriving into Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.
Our total mileage for the day was around 78 miles (125km).
Moored up on the riverside in Stratford-upon-Avon
A full day discovering Stratford-upon-Avon
Today the car is safely parked up, and we have the whole day to discover the delights of Stratford-upon-Avon. And what a lovely town it is too.
The Swan Theatre
As you could imagine all through this delight town are references to the famous playwright. William Shakespeare was born here, educated here and is buried here. Although a large amount of his time was spent in London.
The architecture in Stratford-upon-Avon is stunning, half-timbered buildings dotted throughout the welcoming town. Centuries-old inns, ancient schools and tactile statues of the bard’s characters for you to admire.
The Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be drawn to the banks of the River Avon. Rowing boats, canal boats, pleasure boats and even a little chain ferry that’s been operating since 1937.
Stratford-upon-Avon far exceeded my expectations, and the highlight was attending a performance at the RSC. (Which we obtained tickets for on the day).
A guide to Great Britain
There are so many beautiful regions to discover around the UK. From the delightful Kent coast in the southeast to the stunning Highlands of Scotland in the north. The UK is bursting with historical landmarks, castles and palaces.
Grab a copy of the latest DK Eyewitness guide to ensure you don't miss all those incredible sights.
Homeward bound via Bletchley Park
Even though we are heading home today, we couldn’t resist adding one last stopover prior to our journey back to Kent.
The final location was the home of code-breaking during the Second World War, Bletchley Park. I’d really been looking forward to visiting here.
Step back in time at Bletchley Park
Consequently, we wanted to spend as much time at Bletchley Park as we could, so we hopped on to the motorway.
Heading out of Stratford-upon-Avon, we headed north along Warwick Road (A439) and turned north-east onto the A46 towards the M40.
Join the M40 at junction 15 and head southeast until you reach junction 10. Leave the motorway and pick up the A43 heading northeast until you reach the junction for the A421. Now turn right onto the A421 towards Milton Keynes.
Bletchley Park Manor across the lake
Bletchley Park is located south of Milton Keynes, you will need to continue along the A421 until you reach the B4034 (Buckingham Road) where you will need to turn right. Follow the B4034 until you reach Sherwood Drive and turn left. You will now have arrived.
Mileage from Stratford-upon-Avon to Bletchley Park is around 59 miles (95km)
Bletchley Park is incredibly interesting and so informative into the code-breaking lives of all the men and women involved. You could easily spend a whole day here, also grab yourself a picnic to enjoy by the pond.
That was our 5-night/6-day road trip around the Cotswolds, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. The total mileage was 385 miles (620km), give or take a couple of wanderings. For us, it was then homeward bound to Kent.
Our itinerary in summary
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