Updated December 6, 2023
If you're searching for a region full of quintessential English charm, you need to visit the Cotswolds.
And there's no better village to include in your England travel planning than Castle Combe, in the heart of the southern Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Bursting with lush greenery, fields dotted with sheep, and rolling hills as far as the eye can see, the Cotswolds region is full of lovely small towns and villages, each with its own unique charm. But Castle Combe is one you won't want to miss.
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The charm of Castle Combe
Often listed as the "prettiest village in England," the Cotswold village of Castle Combe is tiny but beautiful village. Think vintage stone cottages, magnificent manor houses, and enchanting woodland paths, all surrounded by charm and history.
There's a reason Castle Combe has been a filming location for movies and TV shows like Downton Abbey, Stephen Spielberg's War Horse, and the original Dr Doolittle starring Rex Harrison. This picturesque village is a place where it's easy to forget the cares of everyday life and lose yourself in the beauty of the historic town around you.
Things to do in Castle Combe
If you look up Castle Combe on Instagram, you'll see many photos and videos of the same spot. The bridge going into town, with Cotswold stone houses lining the street and the Bybrook River babbling below, is a lovely spot.
But the village is more than just an Instagram photo opp. Most visitors stop, take their photos, and move on. But I'd encourage you to spend at least a night or two exploring the village and the surrounding countryside.
In the small village centre you can't miss the historic Market Cross. A market cross was erected when the local aristocracy permitted a village to hold a weekly market, and Castle Combe's market cross was erected in the 14th century.
Just across the small square is the entrance to St Andrews Church, founded in the middle ages. You'll find one of England's oldest clocks inside the church at the foot of the tower. This faceless clock, from the 15th century, was used to ring the bells in the tower.
If you're a car enthusiast, you'll want to see what's happening at the Castle Combe Circuit, just over the hill from the village. From race days to driving experiences and even outdoor cinema days with movies like "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "Days of Thunder," there's usually something car-related to see or do.
One of the best ways to spend a day is walking one of the many countryside paths that wind their way through the hills around the village. You'll want to bring your wellies (waterproof boots) since the paths can be quite muddy if there's been rain.
If you've never walked an English countryside path before, be prepared to climb fences (the areas to climb over are marked, and often a cross-piece is provided to help give you a bit of a boost over the top) and navigate gates and stiles. Fortunately, the paths are well-trodden and well-marked, so it's difficult to get lost.
Where to stay in Castle Combe
For a 5-star stay, you can't go wrong with The Manor House Hotel. It's a beautiful house hotel in a historic Grade II listed building with a Michelin-starred restaurant, lovely afternoon tea, a cozy bar, and many spots to sit with a book by a cozy fire. Each room is unique and historic, and it's a lovely place to spend a few nights.
You'll find a guide to local Castle Combe walks and walking paths in each room, and the hotel provides wellies to borrow if you don't bring your own. Golf enthusiasts can also enjoy a round of golf at The Manor House Golf Club just down the road.
You can stay in a room in the Manor House, or they have lovely cottages between the main house and the village. Some cottages have individual rooms; others are full cottages perfect for a family or friends traveling together.
For a more casual stay, consider The Castle Inn, a 12th century coaching inn located in the Castle Combe village center. The Inn's 12 rooms are each unique, and downstairs in the pub you'll find a delightful menu of seasonally-inspired gastropub specialties.
When to visit Castle Combe
Summer is typically the driest season to visit, but it's also when the village will be the most busy. If you're ok with a bit more mud when you're out walking, I recommend mid-spring to experience the beautiful spring blooms and greenery. We visited in early May, and it was a bit cool but lovely.
The holiday season is also a beautiful time for visiting Castle Combe, with everything decorated for Christmas. Ultimately, the best time to visit the Cotswolds is up to your taste and schedule; there's no wrong time.
I recommend getting out early or staying out later in the day. Castle Combe is a popular day trip, but most people park, take a walk, snap a few photos of the bridge, and then head back out. It can get crowded between mid-morning and late afternoon, especially on the weekends, but you'll have the village to yourself early and late in the day.
The bottom line
When it's time to plan a trip to England and the Cotswolds, make sure Castle Combe is on your list of villages to visit. Spend some time exploring the charms of the countryside, with a magical village to call home after a day wandering the Cotswolds' hills and valleys.
Like this post? Check out more of our Cotswolds travel guides and blog posts!