Castle Combe encompasses everything that a beautiful Cotswolds village should be. It’s quaint, picturesque, full of charm and character, and shares a friendly atmosphere and bags of history. It is, most definitely, one of my favourite places to be in the world, as well as the UK. Castle Combe holds a piece of my heart – and that of many others who visit this pretty Cotswolds village.
When it comes to things to do and places to stay and eat, how does Castle Combe feature? From pubs and restaurants through to events and shops, this Castle Combe guide has you covered. Discover everything you need to know about this UK village, ensuring you can maximise your visit.
This may be a tiny village, which many travel itineraries see you scooting through in just an hour. But hopefully I will convince you why it’s worth a longer and more relaxed visit.
And yes, you may recognise it from films like War Horse and various television series.
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Castle Combe – what you need to know
Let’s kick off with a sublimely wonderful fact about Castle Combe. There’s a very good reason why you feel like you’re stepping back in time here: there have been no new houses erected here in 400 years! If you want to see what England was like in the past, this is the place to do it.
Unsurprisingly, that means that you won’t find large scale modern hotels or a convenient multi-storey car park. You won’t even see a satellite dish – all utilities including phone lines and TV cables travel underground.
Expect to feel like you’re experiencing a classic English village in its heyday, because you are.
Where is Castle Combe?
Castle Combe village is in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in northwest Wiltshire. The closest town is Chippenham which is about five miles to the northwest.
There’s been human settlement here since at least the 1100s when a castle gave its name to the village. The castle is long gone, but its legacy and name remains.
This area of the Cotswolds is about two hours away from London by car. And, to be honest, I highly recommend having a car for visiting Castle Combe. Getting there is quite tricky otherwise.
However, if you’re dependent on public transport, you can get a train from London Paddington to Chippenham. Then there are occasional buses from there to Castle Combe.
If you’re coming from the West, then Castle Combe is about 30 minutes from Bath by car.
What about Castle Combe parking?
If you’ve brought your car, you’ll need to know about Castle Combe parking. And that can be a bit tricky. They didn’t have the motor car 400 years ago and you don’t want to be the one to spoil the beautiful views in this village! Indeed, you’ll be encouraged not to by all the double yellow lines. Only residents can park within the village itself.
There is a free car park on Dunns Lane just outside the main village and within walking distance (although watch out for the steep incline). It takes about 10 minutes to walk into the village centre if you’re taking your time.
Alternatively, choose accommodation with parking. There’s a small amount of parking by the pubs too, on a first-come-first-served basis.
It’s popular to cycle to Castle Combe and avoid parking altogether! Another option is to visit nearby and take in Castle Combe as part of a longer walk.
Castle Combe accommodation
Staying in Castle Combe is like staying in a fairy tale and highly recommended. Being such a small village, there aren’t many choices within the village itself. Nonetheless, if staying ‘in’ the postcard is what you want then choose between these two, or browse hotels near Castle Combe:
1. The Manor House
The Manor House is often dubbed the Castle Combe hotel. It’s a luxury hotel boasting a Michelin star restaurant, excellent golf course, and stunning rooms. It’s a true 14th century manor house and you should expect old world charm mixed with contemporary elegance and service. Discover more luxury hotels in the Cotswolds.
2. The Castle Inn
Another Castle Combe hotel is The Castle Inn. This is such a cosy place to stay, within the walls of a thoughtfully restored 12th century inn. Expect comfort and original details in this comforting setting.
Alternatively, many of the properties in Castle Combe have actually been converted into holiday lets. Take a look at sites like Airbnb to find Castle Combe cottages. This is a great spot for exploring the rest of the Cotswolds, so is a good base for your stay.
In addition, there are lots of hotels near Castle Combe. For example, the exquisite Lucknam Hotel & Spa is about 10 minutes’ drive so perfect for a visit. Discover more luxury hotels in the Cotswolds or find your perfect Cotswolds spa break.
Where to eat
There are lots of Castle Combe restaurants and eateries given the size of the village. As well as restaurants and pubs, there are plenty of options for enjoying a perfectly English afternoon tea in the Cotswolds or a tasty Cotswolds brunch.
1. The Castle Inn
The Castle Inn isn’t just for staying. You can eat a wonderful meal here too. It’s a traditional pub and the fare here is British classics done well.
2. The Bybrook
The Bybrook is the Michelin starred restaurant at The Manor House named after the picturesque stream that travels through the village. Make a booking to avoid disappointment and marvel at the wonderful food on offer here.
3. The White Hart
Another popular Castle Combe pub is The White Hart. It’s cosy and won’t win any awards for its hospitality, but it offers heart-warming food.
4. The Old Rectory Tearoom
If you want to watch the world go by and enjoy afternoon tea in the Cotswolds, then The Old Rectory is waiting for you. Check out its social media as they’ve made recent changes to their business due to Covid.
5. The Old Stables
A coffee shop with quaint appeal is The Old Stables where you’ll find a very warm welcome.
6. The Little Picnic Shop
Castle Combe shops don’t really exist; indeed, the ‘shopping hub’ of the village is the honour-based system at the little bakery in the village square. But The Little Picnic Shop is a real shop and the perfect place to get a ready-made picnic.
What to do in Castle Combe
When it comes to things to do in Castle Combe, the beauty of this village is that it encourages ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. You can slow down, go at an easier pace, and simply enjoy the ambience of this iconic village.
Beyond purely soaking up the atmosphere, here are my top recommendations for Castle Combe things to do:
1. Snap photos
Without a shadow of a doubt, your number one wish in Castle Combe will be to capture this blissful place on camera. The Street beckons, with the stone bridge covering the stream. See if you can spot trout in the waters bubbling below.
Balance along the wall, perch with your feet hanging down, and get some Insta-worthy shots. If you want to be sure of a snap that’s relaxed, without pestering tourists in the background, then make sure you catch the early morning light, or visit around dusk. With the golden stone of the surrounding cottages, this will look even more magical anyway!
2. Castle Combe walks
Castle Combe is surrounded by beautiful rolling Cotswold countryside with lots of walking options. A favourite walk for many is the circular walk from Castle Combe to Nettleton Shrub finishing back in the village. It is about three miles and fairly easy. Don’t forget your picnic from The Little Picnic Shop!
An amble around the village will only take you around 20 minutes. Of particular note is the captivating and quirky market cross which you’ll find right in the village centre. It’s a covered cross, which itself is unusual. This was once the spot for selling cloth, as long ago as the 14th century. Now it’s a great place to enjoy a pint!
Another lovely and gentle walk is the four mile circuit taking in the village of Ford which will showcase to you some of the best Wiltshire countryside. Again, the walk starts in the village centre and it takes you through Danks Down – a beautiful untouched meadow, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where you’ll be able to spot lots of wildlife. Stop off in Ford at the pub before beginning your return.
3. Play a round of golf
If golf is your thing then don’t miss out on playing a round at The Manor House course. Unsurprisingly given the setting, it’s a particularly beautiful course.
4. Watch the world go by
From the pubs, or simply a wall in the market square, enjoy some delicious food or a drink and watch the world go by. There aren’t many more relaxing things to do than sit outside one of the pubs enjoying your favourite tipple in spring or summer sunshine, watching the goings on of this sleepy village.
5. Visit St Andrew’s Church
The village church, St Andrew’s, is very pretty and dates from the 12th century. This is also a good place to come and see photos of the various filming experiences that have used Castle Combe as a location. Additionally, you can use their smartphone tour to learn more about the history and architecture of the church.
The Church also sells postcards of the village so grab one and take it outside to write and then post in the village. Again, doing something so steeped in vintage character is all part of the experience!
6. Enjoy afternoon tea
Castle Combe is a perfect setting for afternoon tea. The Old Rectory is the ideal spot, although it is currently only operating as a pop-up private tea room because of Covid, so you’ll need to make a private booking.
The Old Stables or The Manor House are alternative options both offering very different, but equally lovely, afternoon tea experiences.
7. Enjoy honour shopping
Castle Combe has such a friendly atmosphere and this is really evident in the informal kerbside honour-based shopping available. Locals often set up small tables outside their homes and offer things such as fresh cakes and cookies. I’ve seen these plus bunches of flowers, loaves of bread, eggs, crafts, second hand books and plants for sale.
There may be a box right there to pay, or there may be a sign telling you to pop the money through the post box. It’s such a novel experience for many of us, but restores our faith in human nature.
8. Gather speed at Castle Combe Circuit
Castle Combe events of the car and motorbike variety centre around the well-known race track which is found just outside the village, and juxtaposes with the village itself.
There are lots of different individual experiences available here, from laps in a classic car to tackling the rally course. There is a jam-packed calendar of events so look out for race days to enjoy.
9. Take in the film locations
Film lovers can bathe in all sorts of wonders in Castle Combe Of course, with no modern buildings, it makes for a perfect film location! You can wander around the village trying to spot locations from films such as Dr Dolittle (1967), Stardust (2008), Wolfman (2009) and War Horse (2010). It’s also been used for TV shows like Poirot and Robin of Sherwood.
Film buffs may also like to head to nearby Lacock where some scenes for Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were filmed.
10. Pause for lunch
Indulge in a spot of fine dining at The Manor House, or simply opt for a bacon butty at The Old Stables. For a bit of alfresco dining, why not cobble together a picnic from the treats on offer outside the locals’ homes.
Good to know: There are some public toilets in Castle Combe if you walk a little way down from the bridge over Bybrook.
Where else to visit when visiting Castle Combe?
Castle Combe is unquestionably one of the most iconic and beautiful villages in the Cotswolds, but don’t limit yourself to only visiting here. Nearby there are lots of other wonderful places that will also win you over. Explore the beautiful bridges of Bourton-on-the-Water or discover the cosy cafés of Stow-on-the-Wold.
If you’ve got the village exploring bug, then check out my guide to the best Cotswolds villages to visit.
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