When you ask anybody to think of the Cotswolds, chances are they will picture one of two places: Bibury or Bourton on the Water. Both are beautiful, but no village in the UK has a more significant claim to fame than Bibury. The famous cottages that everyone loves and knows from Bibury are actually pictured in the British passport!
Bibury is a very special village that attracts many tourists day in and day out, especially if the sun is shining! William Morris once commented that it was perhaps the prettiest village in England. He isn’t wrong! It is beautiful in the most quintessential English way. The now greying golden Cotswold stone buildings and the shallow river Coln, which runs down the middle, make Bibury (and neighbouring Arlington) one of the most postcard-perfect towns in the Cotswolds.
Personally, I prefer the more underrated villages and towns that dot the Cotswolds countryside, like Moreton in Marsh or Stanton. However, it would be wrong to come to the area and not visit the most popular one! My only recommendation would be to arrive early or late! Most people visit Bibury as part of a single-day Cotswolds tour seeing Cirencester, Burford, Bourton on the Water, and Stratford upon Avon. Few people stay in Bibury, so when you plan your visit, make sure to take that into account if you want to avoid a selfie-stick to the eye!
How to get to Bibury
The easiest way to reach Bibury is by car since it is in a remote area of the Cotswolds. Although there is public transport, you will need to be willing to have an adventure!
If you are coming from London, you could always take the train to Kemble, which is roughly 14 miles away. However, to get from Kemble to Bibury, you will need to get a bus to Cirencester first. You have two options, Bus 882, which runs 5 times a day, or bus 93, which runs twice a day. Both of these will drop you off at The Forum in Cirencester from where you will need to catch Bus 855 to Bibury. Unfortunately, this bus only runs 3 times a day.
When you arrive at Kemble station, the other option is to get a taxi to Bibury. There is usually a taxi or two waiting, but if not, give Taxis of Kemble a call on 03338000750. You should expect a roundtrip to cost you roughly £50-60 with them.
An alternative to the train would be to come to Bibury from London by bus. Thre is a bus service from Victoria Coach Station that will take you to Cirencester, where you will need to swap on to the local bus to get to Bibury. This is by far the cheapest option.
However, there is a 4th alternative, which would be to join a Cotswold Day Trip tour from London. These will take you not only to Bibury but also to several other destinations within the Cotswolds. Although this wouldn’t be my choice, it is an excellent choice if you are short on time. A quick Google search suggests you should expect to pay about £100+ for an organised day trip.
Best Things to do in Bibury
You have made it to Bibury! The question now is what to do? There is plenty to do for such a small village, so fear not, you won’t be bored!
Peek at Pretty Houses at Arlington Row
The rickety old row of crooked limestone cottages in Bibury, known as Arlington Row, is perhaps the most photographed place in all of the Cotswolds! They also happen to be included on the first page of all British passports! The building was first constructed in the 14th century as a monastic wool store and later turned into weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. Today, the row of cottages are Grade I listed buildings and form part of a larger architectural conservation area.
The cottages are now home to a number of National Trust tenants. I always wonder whether they get annoyed with the hoards of tourists taking snaps of their homes every day?! I know I would definitely want more privacy than they get! However, if you think it is something you’d like to experience, even if just for a night, then number 9 can be booked for visitors.
If you are a fan of looking for movie sets, you are also in luck since the cottages in Arlington Row feature in Bridget Jones’ Diary and Stardust.
Address: Arlington Row, Bibury, GL7 5NJ
Admire the Architecture at the Church of St Mary
Even if you are not an architectural buff, you won’t be able but help but be in awe of the Church of St Mary. Located just out of town, this Grade I listed Anglo Saxon Church was built in the 11th century and is highly indicative of the extreme wealth that existed in this area thanks to the wool trade.
Visiting this church is one of the best things to do in Bibury, especially if you’re an architecture enthusiast or you want to escape the crowds! Most don’t venture out of town! Its nave, clerestory, buttresses, and the 15th-century belfry will all make you stare in wonder! It also features beautiful stained-glass paintings.
Address: Church Rd, Bibury, GL7 5NR
Go Back in Time at Bibury Court
Bibury Court is yet another Grade I listed building in Bibury. Grade I and II listed buildings are something we are not missing in the Cotswolds! Bibury Court is a Jacobean-era country house with the River Coln flowing right behind it. The house was first built in 1509 and has since passed down several hands and several owners. This outstandingly lavish building is made almost entirely of Cotswold stone. The court estate features a mill house, a dovecote, and stables to complete its ‘back in time’ feels.
Check out Arlington Mill
One of the most iconic buildings in Bibury is the old Arlington Mill. It started off as a corn mill in the 11th century before then playing a pivotal role in the wool trade in the 16th century. The facilities within Arlington Mill were used to degrease the cloth produced at the Arlington Cottages. Once the wool trade moved away from the Cotswolds, Arlington Mill became a museum.
The mill still has the wheels and old machinery in place, even if they are no longer used. And excitingly, you can rent out the entire space for a one-of-a-kind stay! It can sleep up to 12 people and is perfect for a group getaway in the Cotswolds countryside!
If you are not staying there though, you can still admire the impressive building from the outside.
Take a Stroll along Coln River
One of the most beautiful features of Bibury has to be the smooth flow of the Coln River, a tributary of the Thames. Though Bibury is the general name of the region, the river actually separates the hamlets of Bibury and Arlington. As you take a gentle stroll, expect to see plenty of ducks waddling through its waters, and if you look hard enough, you will also spot trout swimming in the river. In addition, there are several charming footbridges crossing the river, which make perfect photoshoot opportunities for wedding photographers and Instagrammers alike. A stroll by the River Coln is one of the must-do things in Bibury.
Discover Roman History at the Bibury Roman Villa
Even in Roman times, Bibury was considered a desirable location! Coins and pottery dating back to the Roman Empire have been found here, and in 1880 Geoge Witts accidentally stumbled upon a Roman villa!
The villa is located by the mill and enclosed by private property, so there isn’t much to it besides reading the information board. However, if this kind of thing interests you, I’d recommend visiting nearby Cherworth Roman Villa. It is only 8.5 miles from Bibury and has some fascinating and very informative exhibitions. It might just be one of the best things to do near Bibury!
Entry fees: £12 for Adults and £6 for children
Address: Chedworth Roman Villa, Cheltenham GL54 3LJ
Explore one of the many footpaths near Bibury
Wherever you are in the Cotswolds, you can guarantee a plethora of footpaths nearby. Because the entirety of the Cotswolds is crisscrossed with well-maintained paths, you can choose to stay as close or go as far as your fitness and available time allows! Here are some of my favourite ones.
The Bibury Circular trail is one of my favourite 10 km loops for running along since it is super picturesque and not overly hilly. If walking it, I would expect it to take you somewhere in the region of 3 hours depending on how fit you are and how often you stop to admire the beautiful area. It passes through what I like to call Chocolate Box Country; by that, I mean picture-perfect villages and rolling countryside begging to be explored and photographed! The walk will take you through Coln Saint Aldwyns – a village steeped in history and mostly known for its beautiful church with stained glass windows. It’s a great walk if you’re interested in exploring nearby villages apart from Bibury, all the while being accompanied by great countryside views.
The Rack Isle is a well-marked walk that begins directly across from the cottages at Arlington Row. It is called Rack Isle because of its large meadows where weavers would keep their racks to hang dry their wool back in the day. Rack Isle is now an important wetland area and falls under the National Trust Wildfowl Reserve. In the summer, the meadows are covered in pink ragged robins and yellow flag irises, which attract many beautifully coloured butterflies. You can also expect to see dragonflies, grass snakes, water voles, and the prettiest of them all: kingfishers!
But even if you don’t see any of those, it is still a beautiful place to walk and relax and simply absorb the serenity of nature.
Places to Eat in Bibury
Moving on from the top things to do in Bibury to the best places to eat, we start with one that could probably feature on either list, since it is both an activity and a restaurant!
Bibury Trout Farm
The Bibury Trout Farm is not only one of the best places to eat in Bibury but is also located at one of the prettiest sites in the entire village. The farm has been functional since 1902, making it England’s oldest running trout farm! Eating here is a whole experience in itself – you can fish your own trout and book a barbeque place to have it cooked right in front of you – just the way you like it. The trout farm isn’t only for fish lovers though. The Deli also has a range of sandwiches and soups for those not keen on trout. If you are looking to get sandwiches to go to enjoy a relaxing picnic by the river, why not grab a bottle of the local Poulton Hill Wine too?
Address: Bibury, Cirencester GL7 5NL
The Catherine Wheel
The Catherine Wheel is Bibury’s only pub. It also doubles as a B&B for those looking to stay in a quaint traditional English inn. The pub is housed inside a 15th-century building, making the experience of having a drink here all the more exciting! Originally this building had it’s own stable and orchard. In the 19th century, this was converted into a pub by the beer retailer and barrel maker J Hathaway.
What I like most about the Catherine Wheel is the fact it has a seasonal menu that focuses on making dishes from as much fresh and locally sourced produce as possible. The Catherine Wheel Pub is definitely one of the best places to eat in Bibury.
Address: Arlington, Bibury, Cirencester GL7 5ND
Where to Stay in Bibury
I have already mentioned that Arlington Mill is a great place to stay for groups; however, if you are traveling as a couple, the following options might be better suited to your needs!
The Swan Hotel
The Swan Hotel is perhaps the most sought-after place to stay in Bibury, and not without reason! It is located right on the banks of the Coln river and promises an indulgent tranquil stay. Relax in the garden with a glass of wine during the summer, or sit by the roaring firing with a nice glass of port in the cold winter months. Whenever you visit, it is sure to be memorable!
The Swan Hotel is an old coaching inn that has been very tastefully decorated to appeal to those who enjoy luxurious comfort and attention to detail. I have not stayed at the hotel myself, but I did attend a wedding here, which was perfect in every way. In fact, The Swan Hotel is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the Cotswolds.
The hotel has 22 ensuite bedrooms – 18 within the hotel and 4 individual cottages with a private garden in each. A stay at the Swan Hotel will most definitely complete your typical English vacation!
Address: Bibury, Cirencester GL7 5NW
Number 9 Cottage
The Number 9 Cottage is the only one of Arlington Row cottages that can be booked for a short-term stay while on holiday in Bibury. It is booked well in advance so make sure you plan ahead of time! This is an independent, self-catering cottage owned by the National Trust. It has two bedrooms and can accommodate a maximum of three guests. This historic cottage dates back to 1380 and is, in my opinion, the best way to experience “the real” Bibury!
Address: 9 Arlington Row, Bibury, Cirencester GL7 5NJ
Consider staying in Cirencester
If you want a more comprehensive range of accommodation, then I’d definitely recommend checking out Cirencester. It’s only 7.5 miles away and is one of the best spots to base yourself if you are planning on exploring both North and South Cotswolds, since it is pretty much in the middle.
If you intend to travel via train, then using Cirencester as your base is probably a good idea, since buses from Kemble to Cirencester are much more frequent than those to Bibury. In addition, it will make planning your visit much more straightforward. You will also find a much larger variety of restaurants and hotels to suit all budgets.
How long should I visit Bibury for?
I’m a big advocate for slow travel and would always recommend you spend as much time as you can in any given place as it helps you truly understand what life is really like there. However, if you are just looking to admire the “most beautiful village in England,” as William Morris once said, then a few hours is also enough. So whether you just come for an hour or for an entire weekend, please do support the local economy by eating at the restaurants or shopping in the local postal office.
If you are looking to explore more local villages, then I’d highly recommend you visit Burford, Bourton on the Water, and Stow on the Wold as part of your Cotswolds tour. If you have time, try to catch the sunset at Broadway Tower too. Wherever you go though, I am confident you will really enjoy it.
Other great spots in the Cotswolds
- Chipping Campden
- Moreton in Marsh
- Stow on the Wold
- Bourton on the Water
- The Slaughters
- Castle Combe