Plans that include a visit to the nearby areas of the city are also one of the best things to see or do in London if you have enough time in your visit to do so.
I invite you to read the compilation of options that I have prepared so that you can choose the one that interests you the most and the one that best suits the limitations of your pocket. Different means of transport, but the same destination, choose the one that is most interesting and practical for your family.
Organised Excursion: the best option
The best way to ensure that an excursion to a new destination is a real success is with the help of a guide who specialises in the history and geography of that place.
This is exactly what the Cotswolds and Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon tours offer in one tour, as well as all the other tours that take you to the Cotswolds from London.
The journey takes place in a luxury coach that is air-conditioned to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Most include a professional guide who will accompany you at each of the stops which usually include a guided tour of the centre of Oxford, entrance to Warwick Castle and entrance to the house where William Shakespearewas born .
- Prices: Adults usually pay around 75 euros, children between 3 and 16 pay around 64 euros and senior citizens have a rate of 70 euros. Please note that most of these tours have free cancellation and infants under 2 years get on the bus for free.
- Duration: A tour like this usually takes about 10.5 hours from the time the bus leaves the agreed departure point in central London until it returns to the same place in the late afternoon. The Cotswolds section of the tour usually takes about an hour.
- Advantages: This is an excellent alternative for those interested in getting to know the Cotswolds in a quick way. Bear in mind that this is an area characterised by its natural beauty rather than its architectural beauty.
Cotswolds Day Tour, with stops at Blenheim Palace
If you think a guided bus tour is the best way to visit the Cotswolds, but you're not convinced by a non-stop alternative, don't worry - you can also book a tour that takes you to Bourton-on-the-Water and Burford, two of the region's most important villages.
The most interesting aspect of this tour, however, is that it also includes entry to Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
The itinerary usually continues with a quick 45-minute stop in Bampton, the village where most of the landmarks featured in the famous TV series, Downton Abbey, were filmed.
Stops in the two Cotswolds villages take 1.5 hours each and this is the perfect opportunity to get a closer look at the area and have lunch before your return to central London.
- Prices: Adults usually pay around ¤98, while children between 3 and 16 years of age receive a discount of just over 10%. You have to take into account that the guide will give explanations in English.
- Duration: it usually lasts about 10 or 11 hours like the rest of the excursions that go to the Cotswolds and has a return the same day.
- Advantages: an activity like this usually has free cancellation of the reservation, the means of transport is almost always a coach more comfortable than a bus and even usually have free wifi on board the vehicle.
Self-guided tour of the Cotswolds
This type of transfer does not have a private guide as in the previous alternative, but is similar in that it departs from an accessible point in central London, usually Victoria Station.
From here the journey begins, taking you to a number of villages in the region, including Burford with its medieval aesthetic and Bibury with the historic church of St Mary's.
Other small communities such as Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-in-the-Wold may be part of the itinerary, but it all depends on the tour you choose.
Some of these services include main meals such as breakfast and lunch, while others may offer a typical English afternoon snack and tea at some of the end points along the route.
- Prices: Approximate rates for a tour like this will never be cheaper than a private tour and are typically in the region of 150 euros per adult. Children usually get a 10% discount on these amounts depending on their age and the company's policies.
- Duration: 10 and a half hours is also usually the duration of one of these tours, which, for many, are among the best excursions from London.
- Advantages: With a tour like this you can get a more complete understanding of the towns that make up the Cotswolds region, but bear in mind that the bus conditions are not as luxurious as those of the best London sightseeing buses.
How to get to the Cotswolds from London by train?
Excellent public transport is one of the UK's great strengths and specifically connecting towns and cities by train is the most convenient way for most locals and tourists looking for fun outside of London.
For this reason, taking a train from the centre of London to visit some of the Cotswolds' most picturesque villages is the third option on this list.
There are several different routes you can take, but the most direct and convenient of all is the Great Western Railway. This route takes you from Paddington station, located in an area full of London's finest museums, and then drops you off at the small railway station of Moreton-in-Marsh.
The journey itself is quite a special experience, taking around 1.5 hours and passing through a number of natural settings worthy of a film. If you intend to spend the night in the Cotswolds, you could also take advantage of a stop in Oxford to experience this university town on your own terms.
My recommendation is that if you opt for this alternative, you should complement your visit with two options. The first would be to hire a car from one of the agencies near Moreton-in-Marsh railway station so that you can explore the nearby villages of this northern edge of the Cotswolds.
Alternatively, you could use the local bus system or pay for one of the tours that are also offered around the perimeter of the railway station.
- Prices: Train ticket prices vary greatly depending on the time of year and the time of day you plan to travel. Trains leaving London mid-morning and mid-afternoon have lower fares than those at the times most popular with people returning home from work. The scale of fares can range from around 20 euros to around 40 euros depending on these conditions.
- Advantages: Travelling by train is a very pleasant experience and for most people it becomes an element of self-entertainment. The frequency of departures is at all times of the day from before dawn until 10:50 at night. So it's entirely feasible for you to go and see this part of the Cotswolds and return the same day after sunset and then join some of the best things to do in London at night.
How to get to the Cotswolds by private car?
If you don't feel uncomfortable driving the English way, i.e. with the steering wheel in the right-hand seat and driving in the left-hand lane, then you can hire a car for a route along the national motorways which would also take you to Moreton-in-Marsh or the neighbouring community of Stow-on-the-Wold.
Please note that this may take a little longer to get there, as you become dependent on the daily traffic on these motorways and also adjust to the speed of your own driving.
With a private car you will have a much more intimate experience with your family and you also have the possibility to travel through a larger number of towns in a single day. This is provided you know where to find your way around using digital geolocation tools.
The M4 and M5 motorways will take you to the Cotswolds' major centres of population. Therefore, I advise you to choose a car rental agency that is close to these roads, as leaving central London in the morning with a lot of traffic can delay your tourist planning.
- Prices: it all depends on the type of vehicle you choose and the company you prefer for this service. Prices for a daily car rental in London range from 19 euros to 45 euros for a standard car without any additional luxuries. You will have to consider variants in the contract, such as the extension of the rental if you would like to stay overnight in the Cotswolds and whether it is compulsory to return the vehicle to the same agency where you picked it up.
- Advantages: Having a car at your disposal can be a good escape from the heat during a too-sunny day. For this reason, this alternative means of transport to the Cotswolds is one of the best things to do in London in the summer if you're interested in getting out of the city in favourable conditions.
How to get there on a private tour in a luxury car?
Exclusivity is fun and if you can afford it without breaking your budget, even more so. If this is the case, you'll probably be interested in the benefits offered by private tours of the Cotswolds villages in a luxury car from your hotel in London.
Without going into too much detail, these are an excursion in which you hire a chauffeur to take you from your hotel to the villages you want to visit in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This is almost always an expensive vehicle, such as a Mercedes, as air-conditioned seats and comfortable cabins are expected to be a minimum requirement of the experience.
This is a good plan that belongs on the list of things to do in London with children because of the fact that in the privacy of a private car they won't be restricted in their behaviour and have Wifi connectivity that allows them to be entertained while you enjoy the views of your surroundings.
- Prices: the rental of a service like this which includes a chauffeur who is a specialist in the history of the Cotswolds does not usually go below 600 or 700 euros.
- Disadvantages: You should bear in mind that food is usually completely forbidden and it is a plan that can only accommodate 4 people due to the lack of seating, which is further reduced by the presence of the driver.
Getting to the Cotswolds from London using the UK public bus system
The final alternative available to you is to take advantage of the UK public bus system to reach other parts of the Cotswolds at low cost. That is, without having to pay the fares of a service that is marketed from a much more tourist-oriented approach.
These buses also depart from Victoria Coach Station and depending on the destination can be a much longer or shorter journey than the other options.
For example, the route to Moreton-in-Marsh remains between 1.5 hours, while the route to Gloucester or Cheltenham can extend to around 3.5 hours driving time.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that this alternative is the most complicated of all when you consider the fact that you are almost obliged to stay in Cotswolds accommodation if you want to visit more than one village on the route.
- Prices: Fares are usually very similar to rail travel and are also adjusted according to the date you choose and the time you buy your ticket. You'll end up paying between 40 and 60 euros for a round trip.
- Advantages: These buses are also air-conditioned and are generally just as comfortable as the other alternatives if you leave out the luxury bus of the first excursion. So it's a good way to get to the Cotswolds if you're in London in August as you're guaranteed to be well protected from the heat during the journey.
Tips for visiting the Cotswolds by any of these modes of transport
The first piece of advice I can give you about using any of these transport alternatives to visit the Cotswolds from London is to assess your own needs. It is not the same to be travelling alone or as a couple as it is to be participating in a family trip with more than 10 people.
The second is the issue of staying in the area, as the Cotswolds is a fairly large geographical area that can offer you much cheaper entertainment than other countryside areas outside London for more than a day.
There are hundreds of small hotels that will allow you to extend your visit if you feel like it, which is interesting if your trip to London is long enough and you have opted for one of the public transport alternatives.
As with the rest of the country, there is a relatively high rainfall rate, so it is advisable to bring waterproof coats, even if you are visiting on a summer's day.
Sunscreen is a must, as the Cotswolds sightseeing itinerary focuses on nature walks and street tours of the small picturesque villages in the area.
How busy is the Cotswolds?
All UK tourist destinations have significant variations in visitor numbers depending on the time of year, with summer being the most popular time of year for everyone. This is due to the arrival of millions of international tourists and the same movement as the northern hemisphere school holidays.
However, the Cotswolds in general is a highly visited part of the country, but at the same time is so vast that it is not perceived in this way.
So the chances are that no matter what time of year you visit, you will never encounter a scenario where it is impossible to enter a church or historic establishment because it is too crowded.
- Between 64 and 150 € depending on age
- Advantages: An excellent alternative for those interested in seeing a large part of the Cotswolds in one tour.
- Disadvantages: It is the most expensive option and tends to be a little tiring.
- Between €20 to €40 depending on the time you travel
- Advantages: It has a wide frequency of departures and is very comfortable.
- Disadvantages: You need to use another means of transport to get around the area.
- Private car
- 10 or 20 € depending on the time of year and time of day
- Advantages: You will be able to enjoy a much more intimate experience and also have the chance to visit a larger number of villages.
- Disadvantages: Driving on the left hand side of the car, the experience for the driver can be a little uncomfortable.
- Luxury car
- Hire from £600 - £700 includes a driver who is a specialist in the history of the Cotswolds
- Advantages: It's a fairly exclusive and comfortable experience, where you'll learn more about the history of the Cotswolds.
- Disadvantages: Only 4 people can join and no food is allowed.
- €40 or €60 depending on the time of year and time of day
- Advantages: It is the cheapest alternative and offers great comfort.
- Disadvantages: You will only be able to visit one or two villages, unless you wish to spend a few nights in the area.