Can you take a day trip by train from London to the Cotswolds?
Yes you definitely can get a train from London to the Cotswolds!
But, while the Cotswolds region is relatively easy to get to from London, it’s not always so easy to get around – especially if you don’t have a car.
Read on to discover our solution for a car-free Cotswolds day trip!
Public transport in the Cotswolds
In London and other big British cities, there is a fantastic, easy-to-use, regular and frequent public transport network. There are buses, trams, underground and overground trains every few minutes, more-or-less around the clock.
Sadly, out here in ‘the sticks’, public transport is less readily available.
Only a handful of towns in the Cotswold have a train station. Bus timetables can be complicated, and services are often infrequent – and on Sundays, entirely absent. Many villages are not on a bus route at all. Taxis are expensive, and Uber is virtually non-existent!
But if you want to take a car-free day trip to the Cotswolds from London, then you can! And here’s how.
First, take the train from London to the Cotswolds
Remember I said that only a few Cotswold towns have a train station? Well, Moreton-in-Marsh is one of them.
Even better – it has a direct rail link connecting it to London Paddington station in just 90 minutes. This regular, reliable route passes through some beautiful countryside on the way, so you’ll arrive in the Cotswolds relaxed and ready to explore!
A note about buying train tickets
The UK rail network and ticketing system can be confusing – many Brits get confused by it, so as a visitor, you’re forgiven for being completely baffled by it!
I’ll write another, more detailed post on this subject another time. But, for a day trip from London to the Cotswolds and back again, you’ll need to buy a ‘return’ (out-and-back) ticket, or two ‘single’ tickets (one ticket to travel one way, and one to come back).
You can buy tickets any time from 12 weeks before the date of travel, right up to minutes before the train is due to depart. Some ticketing websites will allow you to buy tickets further ahead than 12 weeks, but you’ll almost always pay the highest price. For the best prices, we recommend booking around 6-8 weeks ahead of your travel date if possible.
Tickets can be purchased in various places online, or in person at the ticket office. For online advance bookings, we think The Trainline website is the clearest and most user-friendly. You can also sign up for alerts to be notified when tickets are cheapest.
Once you arrive at Moreton-in-Marsh station, you might wonder, what now?! Well, you have a few options to explore the Cotswolds.
The #801 bus (timetable here), and the less regular #1/1A/2/2A bus (timetable here) can take you from Moreton-in-Marsh to a few places of interest in the Cotswolds, including Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, Blockley, Broadway and Chipping Campden.
On the plus side, bus tickets are super cheap: a maximum of just £2 for a one-way ticket (rising to £2.50 from November 2023). Downsides though, are that buses are not very frequent, they don’t run late into the night, and most buses do not operate on Sundays at all. It’s difficult to visit multiple villages in one day if you’re solely reliant on public buses.
A taxi can take you anywhere you want to go, any time. If you can get hold of one, that is! Visitors are often caught out because Uber (and other on-demand services like Lyft, Bolt, etc.) is NOT widely available here in the Cotswolds, and it’s near impossible to hail a cab in the street or at a taxi rank.
Most local taxi firms are small companies or sole traders, and once they’re booked, they’re booked. So, you may need to call a long list of phone numbers before you find one with availability. Pre-booking several days in advance is wise – we’ve heard about people waiting HOURS for a taxi at Moreton-in-Marsh station because they didn’t book ahead.
Oh, and taxis are expensive. The current going rate for a one-way journey from Moreton-in-Marsh to Chipping Campden (a journey of 15 minutes) is around £35. Compare that with the bus which takes only 5 minutes more for just £2 one-way!
Did you know, at off-peak times you can take a bicycle on UK trains? Bring your bike on the train to Moreton-in-Marsh, and you’ll have your own transport when you get here! There’s a fancy new bike park at Moreton-in-Marsh station too.
If you don’t have your own bike, then you may be able to hire one. Cotswold Cycles in Moreton-in-Marsh rents out bikes, including e-Bikes.
One of the best ways to see the Cotswolds is on foot! There are miles and miles of walking trails just waiting to be explored across the region.
Ok, if you arrive at Moreton-in-Marsh by train, you won’t be able to get too far without wheels. But, Moreton-in-Marsh itself is a small, walkable town, and there are a few local attractions within a longer walking distance if you’re feeling fit.
5. Guided tour
If you only have one day to spend in the Cotswolds, and you want to make the most of it, then consider a guided tour with Go Cotswolds!
Our small group tours of the Cotswolds depart from right outside Moreton-in-Marsh rail station at 09.30 – perfect timing for the arrival of the 09.17 train from London.
After meeting your guide, and boarding our super comfy Mercedes minibus, we’ll spend a whole day showing you the beautiful sights and villages of the northern Cotswolds. We’ll wind up back at Moreton-in-Marsh station by 17.00. Take a train back to London, or stay for dinner in one of the fantastic pubs or restaurants nearby before heading back!
Why Go Cotswolds?
I know, not everyone likes to be shepherded around by a tour guide with a flag in the air – and neither do we! That’s why our guided tours of the Cotswolds are a bit different.
Small group tours
There are many private tour operators in and around the Cotswolds, and we can provide private tours too. But what sets Go Cotswolds apart is that we specialise in small group tours. Whereas a private tour will set you back upwards of £350, our small group tours cost just £58.30 per person (2023 price).
You’ll share your tour with other people, but the group will never be bigger than 16 people, plus the guide. This group size is small enough to still feel personal, but large enough to create a fun, friendly atmosphere where you can get to know other like-minded travellers from around the world.
In 2023, our 8-hour small group tours cost just £58.30 per person (rising only slightly in 2024). Compare that with a 15-minute taxi journey costing £35… Go Cotswolds provides unbeatable value!
Of course, you do need to factor in the cost of the train fare as well, but you can minimise this cost by booking 6-8 weeks ahead. Plus, did you know, groups of 3 or more travelling together by train can get an automatic ‘GroupSave’ discount equal to one-third off?
More time in the Cotswolds, less time stuck in traffic
Since we’re local to the Cotswolds, we can’t pick you up from London I’m afraid. It’s just too far for our local guides to travel there and back in a day to be legally compliant.
You could choose a London-based tour company to bring you to the Cotswolds. However, with these tours, you’ll still need to navigate to a central London meeting place, and then you’ll need to get in and out of London by road. Heavy London traffic can make this painfully slow and boring – and travelling by road reduces the time you actually get to spend in the Cotswolds.
By taking the train from London to the Cotswolds, you’ll zoom past all that traffic and will arrive at Moreton-in-Marsh relaxed and ready to explore! Most tours departing from London only have time to visit 3-4 Cotswold villages. We visit 6 locations, and take narrow roads that larger coaches can’t use. With us, you’ll get more time IN the Cotswolds.
Friendly, local guides
Unlike London-based tour companies, all of our tour guides are local to Stratford-upon-Avon and the Cotswolds. We have lived and worked in this area for many years, so you’ll get the benefit of local knowledge and stories you won’t find in the guidebooks!
Knowledge and history can be learned – and all of our guides have knowledge in spades. But more than this, all of our guides have been handpicked for their wonderful personalities. Our people are warm, friendly people who make visitors feel welcome, take time to get to know you, and provide you with an experience you can’t get anywhere else.