As one of the larger of the charming Cotswolds towns and villages, Stow-on-the-Wold makes a great base for exploring the area. Whether as a day trip or longer stay, Stow offers plenty to its discerning visitors.
This guide to visiting Stow-on-the-Wold takes you through all you need to know about this beautiful market town. We’ll cover the top places to stay and eat as well as Stow-on-the-Wold walks and what to do when in town. Read on so you can plan your perfect visit to this lovely part of England.
Stow-on-the-Wold – what you need to know
Where is Stow-on-the-Wold?
Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest town in the Cotswolds and can be found on the historic Fosse Way, an ancient Roman route. In a sense all local roads lead to Stow, as several important routes connect at the crossroads here.
Stow is in the centre of the Cotswolds, and can be midway between the popular locations of Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water. The town is within the county of Gloucestershire.
Parking in Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold parking is relatively good, making this one of the best Cotswolds spots to drive to. There is some time-restricted parking on the square, as well as a longer stay facility on the Fosse Way.
Maugersbury Road in central Stow also has a pay and display car park, and disabled parking can be found at all locations.
Hotels in Stow-on-the-Wold
From boutique hotels to centuries old inns, Stow-on-the-Wold offers a handful of fantastic accommodation options. For something nearby, have a read of my guide to the best luxury hotels the Cotswolds.
Crestow House offers boutique-style Stow-on-the-Wold accommodation in a renovated Victorian manor. Situated on the edge of the town, it overlooks the Cotswolds countryside while being within easy reach of local amenities.
It’s a homely yet refined retreat from everyday life, with beautiful comfortable rooms, attentive service and a relaxed ambience. Crestow House has a gorgeous garden with outdoor pool, an exclusive residents’ bar, and offers guests a sublimely stylish base for their stay in Stow.
The Porch House
As possibly the oldest inn to be found in England, The Porch House can be found in the heart of the town. This is one of the best Stow-on-the-Wold pubs for drinking and dining, and it also offers a superb range of rooms.
The style is elegant, countryfied chic. It brings an amalgamation of exposed stonework, floral, checked and striped prints, padded headboards, and deluxe linens. Each room is packed with character. Some have features like a freestanding curved bathtub or a cosy window seat.
The Old Stocks Inn
This 17th century pub is also one of the finest Stow-on-the-Wold hotels to be found in the town centre. Despite its age, the Old Stocks Inn is fresh and contemporary in style and outlook. Think pops of cobalt blue, yellow and tea, modern furnishings, and oodles of comfort.
Accommodation options range from cosy guest rooms to charming garden rooms and a selection of cottages. The inn also has a bright, stylish bar and restaurant.
Number Four is located just outside town by the Fosse Way, an ancient Roman road that runs through the Cotswolds. With just 18 rooms in total, the hotel has an intimate, romantic feel. Not least because of the honey-toned stone courtyard that the accommodation huddles around.
The award-winning eatery is one of the top Stow-on-the-Wold restaurants to dine at, while rooms are sleek, well-equipped and comfortable, with luxury linens, flatscreen TVs and mini fridges.
Where to eat in Stow-on-the-Wold
Pubs & restaurants in Stow-on-the-Wold
There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than hunkering down in a cosy pub. Stow-on-the-Wold offers a number of excellent eateries to choose from.
The Old Butchers
Named in honour of the site’s former incarnation, The Old Butcher’s is one of the best places to eat in Stow-on-the-Wold. With a firm focus on rare cuts of meat, it’s a carnivore’s paradise. It also boasts a pretty impressive wine list to match.
The nose-to-tail ethos is evident throughout the menu, as is the fact that this is very much a family affair. Husband and wife Peter and Louise are at the helm, while their children oversee front-of-house and quality control.
Every bit as buzzing as its name might suggest. The Hive serves the finest food and drinks throughout the day, from freshly roasted coffee to homemade artisan produce. Whether you drop in for a drink or a full-on meal, a laid-back ambience awaits at this fully licensed eatery.
The courtyard garden is a delight during clement weather, and well-behaved dogs are also welcomed inside. The Hive is where it’s at when brunch o’clock arrives, for locals and first-time visitors alike.
The Bell at Stow
Low beamed ceilings, honey-coloured stone and an elegantly rustic look – The Bell has Cotswolds character in abundance. It’s a great place in which to enjoy British classics done really well, such as a lip-smackingly moreish home baked pie with creamy mash.
Locals and tourists alike flock here for real ale and a seasonal menu that draws on the freshest available produce. Expect a warm welcome, comfortable and stylish surroundings, and a delicious and very satisfying feast.
Housed in a character 17th century building, The Sheep on Sheep Street is thoroughly modern in style. As one of the best restaurants in Stow-on-the-Wold, the wood fired pizzas and craft ales bring this timeless Cotswolds town into the twenty-first century.
The menu’s other dishes are also infused with the unique smoky flavour that is The Sheep’s signature. While the drinks list includes a range of tempting cocktails as well as beers, wines and spirits from all over the globe.
The Queens Head Inn
Located slap-bang in the centre of Stow in Market Square, The Queen’s Head is about as traditionally English as you could expect a pub to be. Discover character features in every corner, nook and cranny.
A warm atmosphere can be expected at this welcoming inn that’s open to four-legged friends as well as their human companions. As well as a moreish menu and attractive selection of drinks, The Queen’s Head is just a stone’s throw from historic St Edward’s church in Stow-on-the-Wold.
The Stag at Stow
Housed in an elegant Georgian townhouse, The Stag can also be found in Market Square in Stow-on-the-Wold. The setting combines the contemporary and the classic flawlessly to create a refined yet relaxed ambience.
Guests can enjoy the pub’s food in the surroundings of the bar or the restaurant. Options range from hearty fare to fine dining dishes executed with flair and elegance.
Cafés in Stow-on-the-Wold
There are so many options for a civilised afternoon tea in the Cotswolds. Stow-on-the-Wold is no different, offering a plethora of cute cafés to choose from.
This cosy Stow-on-the-Wold café and bakery is also located on Market Square. Huffkins is an upmarket local venture offering handmade cakes, luxurious hampers and gifts with an afternoon tea theme, as well as the on site café.
As such it’s one of the top places in the Cotswolds for an afternoon tea. Options include classic, celebration and royal cream teas. If it’s a lighter treat you crave, peruse the menu ranging from bacon, sausage and plant-based ‘huffkins’ to eclairs, scones and other appealing bakes.
Lucy’s also occupies one of the listed stone buildings huddled around Stow-on-the-Wold’s main square. Traditional and family-run, it has a glorious little courtyard garden out the back and a warm, welcoming atmosphere within.
Open daily between 10am and 4pm, Lucy’s is perfect for a pitstop while exploring Stow or browsing the antique shops. Or it’s equally suited to a longer, more lingering lunch break. The ever-changing menu features both plant-based and seasonal dishes.
New England Coffee House
Attention to detail is the name of the game at the independently-owned New England Coffee House. Flakes of real chocolate are used to make the hot chocolate, and only the best coffee beans have been carefully sourced.
With every kind of cake or coffee you could dream of sold here, it’s paradise for those with a sweet tooth or a penchant for caffeine.
The Old Bakery
If you want to sample a traditional British afternoon tea while in Stow-on-the-Wold, The Old Bakery is one of the top places in which to do exactly that. This welcoming café also offers homemade cakes and light meals.
All food is freshly prepared to order, so it’s not the place to go if you’re in a rush. Here it’s all about the genuine welcome, enjoyable conversation – and of course the delicious sweet and savoury morsels made here on site.
Stow Town Coffee
This local venture began roasting beans in 2010 and is one of the UK’s smallest commercial coffee bean roasters. Stow Town Coffee supplies bespoke blends to local businesses, mostly within a 20-mile radius.
As such it’s all about the coffee here more than anything else. You can enjoy an incomparable cuppa either in the Espresso Bar or the upstairs lounge.
Things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold
1. Stow-on-the-Wold walks
Taking a walk to soak up the scenery found in the town – and the breathtaking Cotswolds countryside – is one of the simplest and best things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold.
The most popular options include:
- Water Mill to Lower Slaughter loop
- ‘Battle of Stow’ route
- Warden’s Way
- Moreton-in-March route
- St Mary’s church loop
These vary in length from 4 to 12 miles, and also in difficulty due to the type of terrain.
2. See ‘The Hobbit Door’ at St Edward’s Church
St Edward’s church is one of almost 100 Grade I listed buildings in Stow-on-the-Wold. This mediaeval church is known for its ‘Yew Tree Door’ or ‘Hobbit Door’. This can be found when heading around the churchyard to the north porch.
The door is said to have inspired Tolkien himself, and whether or not that’s true it’s certainly incredibly photogenic. This human-sized, solid wood door is topped by a pretty, intricate arch and framed by evergreen foliage.
3. Visit the local tearooms
The good people of the Cotswolds do cakes, coffee and afternoon tea very well indeed. With a great choice of tearooms, Stow-on-the-Wold is one of the best places to kick back and relax while being served fluffy scones, freshly baked cakes or more delicate sweet treats.
Take a look at my top picks above for inspiration. Or you could simply wander the streets before popping into whichever local place looks most inviting.
4. Soak up the atmosphere at Market Square
Stow-on-the-Wold’s charming Market Square is very much at the centre of life in this Cotswolds town – both physically and otherwise. It’s a surprisingly spacious meeting point, lined with quaint pubs as well as plenty of the antique and antiquities shops Stow is famous for.
Simply wandering the square, people-watching and dipping in and out of shops and cafés is a lovely way to spend a morning, afternoon or evening in this gorgeous Gloucestershire town.
5. Cotswolds Cheese Company
With stores located in nearby Moreton-in-Marsh and Burford as well as Stow-on-the-Wold, the Cotswolds Cheese Company has certainly made a name for itself as a supplier of the finest artisan cheeses.
Whether it’s soft, hard, goat’s, blue or ewe you prefer, you can sample and buy them all at this local deli and gift shop.
6. Explore Fosse Gallery
Fosse Gallery was established in 1980 and is renowned for its collection of contemporary works by British artists. It is regarded as one of the most important venues of this type outside London.
Located in the Manor House on the square, the gallery holds regular exhibitions and events. It also sells modern artworks that can be yours to own and admire forever.
Where to visit near Stow-on-the-Wold
Spending time in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds is highly likely to whet your appetite for exploring more of this glorious area. While you’re in the region, other top local places to discover include Bourton-on-the-Water and Castle Combe.
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