Public Transportation in the Cotswolds
Public transportation is not the best feature of the Cotswolds. To really see the area you need a car. But, if you don't want to drive, you can get around on public transportation or do some day tours with a car service. Two train lines run through the Cotswolds but these are best for going to London. Use the buses to get around in the Cotswolds. The bus schedules are complicated and some routes do not run every day of the week, so study them carefully.
Cotswold Train Lines
Use the two Cotswold train lines to get into London.
South Cotswold Line: (First Great Western) London Paddington - Swindon - Stroud - Gloucester - Cheltenham. The following stops are in the Cotswolds: Kemble (bus connection to Cirencester), Stroud, Stonehouse, Cheltenham. Service is about once an hour. An Off Peak return, Stroud to London, is about $80 per person (yes!!).
Cotswold Line: (First Great Western) London Paddington - Oxford - Moreton-in-Marsh - Worcester. The following stops are in the Cotswolds: Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Honeybourne. Service is once per hour or once every two hours.
Train Lines Near the Cotswolds
Oxford Express: (First Great Western) The express train from Oxford to London Paddington Station is every 30 minutes. When going to London, make sure to get on the Express train and not the local (like we did). An Off Peak return, Oxford to London, is about $40 per person.
Avon Valley Line: (First Great Western) Bristol - Bath - Bradford-on-Avon (south of the Cotswolds). Use this train when walking the Kennet and Avon Canal from Bath to Bradford (the train stops at Freshford and Avoncliffe).
Bristol Line: (First Great Western) Bristol - Cam & Dursley (in the southwest corner of the Cotswolds) - Cheltenham. Trains run once an hour and take just over an hour between Bristol and Cheltenham.
Train Schedules and Online Booking
National Rail: Schedules, prices and online booking.
The Trainline: Schedules, prices and online booking.
First Great Western: This train line serves the Cotswolds and much of the Southwest of England. Schedules, prices and online booking.
British Rail for US Travelers: British Rail train passes, tickets. I checked the price from Stroud to London return and it is the same as buying from National Rail or The Trainline or purchasing on the day of travel at the station, so you might as well buy your ticket at the station.
Read about the new SIMPLE Rail Fare structure (Slow Travels).
There are bus routes all through the Cotswolds, but they do not run frequently. Study the schedules to figure out the routing and times. Some routes do not run every day, some only in mornings, some run every few hours.
Sample Bus Routes
606 The Cotswolds Connection: Cheltenham - Winchcombe - Broadway. Buses run once an hour during peak times, once every two hours mid-day.
855 Fosse Link: Moreton-in-Marsh - Stow-on-the-Wold - Bourton-on-the-Water - Northleach - Cirencester - Kemble (train station). Buses run every hour in the morning, every two hours in the afternoon.
Cotswolds Transport: The "Explore the Cotswolds by Public Transportation" brochure (link to PDF on this page) gives the best overall information, with sample days out in the Cotswolds using buses and a map showing the popular routes. There are also PDF versions of train and bus schedules for the south Cotswolds, central Cotswolds and north Cotswolds. Printed versions of these brochures are available at the local tourist offices.
AutoEurope: Pick up your rental car at the airport when you arrive or take the train to Oxford or Bath and pick up your car there. If you are staying in London before going to the Cotswolds, take the train from London Paddington Station to Oxford and pick up your rental car there. Read more about renting a car in England.