Stow-on-the-Wold is a beautiful little market town in the heart of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are lots of fantastic things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold such as exploring medieval buildings and art galleries, visiting shops, trying out the many restaurants, and stopping by one of the oldest pubs in England.
I’ve been visiting the Cotswolds for years as I have friends in the region, and I love checking out all the cool places to visit in Stow-on-the-Wold whenever I’m in the area. It’s one of the prettiest small towns in England and has plenty of excellent eateries serving seasonal, local dishes.
The town is perched on a hilltop overlooking the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and has been an important trading center for centuries. It’s the highest town in the region and stands at 800 feet (244 meters) above sea level. It also hosts a regular farmers’ market selling local produce that attracts many visitors eager to browse regional goods.
Best Things To Do in Stow-on-the-Wold
Below, you’ll find a selection of the best Stow-on-the-Wold attractions from medieval castles to age-old markets, gardens, shops, and pubs. There’s something for everyone in Stow and the place deserves to be high on the list of any traveller to England.
1. Visit the Market Square
One of the best things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold is to see the Market Square which is the main hub of the town. There’s a farmers’ market here on the second and last Thursday of the month, from April to September, and on the second Thursday from October to March.
The market is the perfect place to pick up fresh, local produce from across the Cotswolds and the southwest. From jams and preserves to chutneys, cooking sauces, and locally made beers, ciders, and gins, this is one of my favorite places to shop for artisan foods and goodies.
The Market Square is the town’s beating heart and is surrounded by gorgeous buildings made of honey-colored Cotswold Stone. You’ll find a range of shops and cafes around the square selling everything from second-hand books and antiques to cream teas and other local specialties.
2. See St Edward’s Church
The medieval St Edward’s Church is a Grade II listed building that dates back as far as the 11th Century with over 1,000 years of history. This Norman church was first consecrated in 1086 making it one of the most historical buildings in the Cotswolds, and indeed the whole of England.
One of the most impressive things about St Edward’s is its north-facing door which is flanked by two large yew trees growing as if from the church walls. The doorway looks like it’s been taken straight from the set of The Lord of the Rings and you might find the odd Hobbit hiding behind.
The picturesque churchyard makes a great escape from the bustling town center and is one of my favorite places to sit and take a few minute’s away from it all. It’s also very photogenic, especially the ancient doorway. The church and grounds are open to the public, and visiting is one of the best free things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold.
3. Have a Pint in the Oldest Inn in England
The historic Porch House is one of the oldest inns in England. This beautiful, rustic building made of trademark Cotswold stone has been dated back as far as the year 947 making it well over 1,000 years old. The pub has a lively bar, a gorgeous outside terrace, a conservatory, and a restaurant.
Whether you’re looking for a quick lunchtime nibble, a three-course evening meal, or just a few drinks in the beer garden, you can’t go wrong. I love a good, traditional pub and The Porch is one of the finest I’ve ever been to. There’s an excellent selection of local beers and ciders too.
The restaurant serves upmarket pub food with a modern twist. The chefs use local and seasonal produce to craft exquisite dishes from sizzling steaks to king prawn curry, and an excellent Sunday roast. The quality and service is outstanding, and the pub has prices to match. It’s a great option for a special occasion.
4. Browse the Artworks at the Fosse Gallery
Fans of contemporary art should head to the Fosse Gallery which has been showcasing artworks since 1980. The gallery is recognized as one of the most important in the UK and has housed works by contemporary artists such as Fluer Grabow, Mary Feddon OBE, and James Donovan amongst a host of other luminaries.
I’m not the biggest fan of modern art but even I enjoy some of the interesting pieces on display at the Fosse, and with frequent guest exhibitions, there’s always something new to discover. The gallery is open from 10:30 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday. Entrance is free; making this another of the great free things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold.
5. Shop at the Tara Antiques Centre
Stow is famed for its antique shops and people come here from all over the world looking for a bargain. The Tara Antiques Centre is one of the best places to visit in Stow-on-the-Wold if you’re looking for an interesting gift or souvenir to pick up. The center is located in the Grade II listed Manor House just off Market Square.
Here, you’ll find everything from fine silverware to jewelry, household items, and much more. I love browsing old antique shops and Tara is one of the best places in the country to do so, with over 30 antique dealers represented over three floors. If you’re looking for a special gift, you’re sure to find it here.
6. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at the Cotswold Sweet Company
If, like me, you love a sweat street now and again then you’ll want to head to the Cotswold Sweet Company in the center of town. Here, you’ll find a huge selection of homemade sweets, candies, toffees, and fudges (my favorite), and it’s the perfect place to pick up a taste of the Cotswolds.
You’ll find nostalgia with the selection of retro sweets, special gift hampers, sweet jars, chocolate bars, and even sugar-free candies. I could spend all day in this shop smelling the sweet aromas and spend a month’s wages on the different fudges and other delicious treats.
Browsing (and tasting) at the Cotswold Sweet Company is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold, especially if you have kids (young or old). The shop is open from 10:30 am until 5 pm Monday to Saturday and from 11 am until 4 pm on Sunday.
7. Visit Blenheim Palace, Home of the Churchills
Historic Blenheim Palace is a large country mansion that was built between 1705 and 1722. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of England’s finest examples of Baroque architecture. Blenheim is the ancestral home and birthplace of former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Visiting Blenheim is one of the best places to visit near Stow-on-the-Wold and is a must for history lovers like myself. You can explore the house and grounds, and there are plenty of events hosted at the palace throughout the year (check the website to see what’s going on during your stay).
The palace is open daily from 10 am until 4:45 pm. Tickets cost £22.50 for adults and £11.50 for children (the ticket is then valid for an entire year). There are lots of facilities onsite including a number of cafes and restaurants and a gift shop, making it a great day out for the entire family.
Address: Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP
8. Go Hiking in the Nearby Countryside
The countryside around Stow is perfect for hiking thanks to the miles of trail across rolling hills and valleys. This is one of my favorite places to hike in the whole of the UK; mainly due to the gorgeous views (but also because of the quaint country pubs along the way). There are lots of routes from Stow ranging in difficulty from short walks to full-day and multi-day hikes.
The Heart of England circular walk is just 3.6 miles (5.8 km) and takes around 90 minutes. If you’re more of a seasoned hiker then you can go ahead and try the 7.7 mile (12.4 km) Stow-on-the-Wold to Upper Slaughter hike. This route takes around 4 hours and Upper Slaughter is well worth a visit for its gorgeous village scenes and River Eye.
Hiking is one of the best things to do around Stow-on-the-Wold thanks to the beautiful views from the high vantage points around the village.
9. Visit Medieval Sudeley Castle
The 15th Century stately home at Sudeley Castle is an excellent day out for the whole family. From guided tours of the house to getting lost in the beautiful gardens complete with mazes, orchards, and wildflower walks, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained. There’s an onsite cafe called the Pavilion that sells some of the best cream teas and other homemade snacks in the Cotswolds – make sure you arrive with an appetite to try some of these!
The gardens are open daily from 10 am to 4 pm and the castle from 11 am to 4 pm. Tickets cost £19.50 for adults and £8.75 for children and include access to the house and grounds.
10. Shop for Local Produce at Daylesford Organic
Daylesford Organic Farm is just a short drive from Stow and makes for a great day out. Here you can eat and drink in the onsite cafes and restaurants, shop for organic produce in the farm shop, or walk around the stunning grounds in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The farm hosts regular events from food and drinks festivals to cookery workshops and is open from 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Saturday and from 9 am to 6 pm on Sundays.
11. Take in the Fresh Air at Batsford Arboretum
The 56 acres of land at Batsoford Arboretum includes thousands of rare plants and trees from around the world. From snowdrops to bamboo, Japanese shrubs, and species from the rainforest, Batsford is the perfect place to experience some of the most stunning nature in the country.
The arboretum is located in the small market town of Moreton-in-Marsh just a few miles from Stow. The park is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and from 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays. Tickets cost £9.95 for adults and £3.50 for children. This is definitely one of the best places to visit near Stow for the whole family and even features a play area for kids.
12. Visit Nearby Broadway
Broadway is another of the charming Cotswold villages and is famed for its large tower offering panoramic views of the nearby countryside. The village is also famed for its arts scene with lots of galleries and arts spaces, and an annual arts festival that takes place every June.
Broadway is just 12 miles (19 km) from Stow and takes under 30 minutes to drive. There are lots of pleasant walks around the village and through the 200-acre deer park. Nearby Snowshill Manor is worth a visit for its charming gardens, and plenty of great pubs to stop in – my favorite being The Swan.
13. Go to Chipping Norton
Chipping Norton is a quaint market town less than half an hour’s drive away and one of the best places to see near Stow-on-the-Wold. There are lots of wonderful things to do from exploring the bustling high street and its many shops to browsing the weekly farmers’ markets.
The town is the famous home of many celebrities from Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson to former prime minister David Cameron. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, an art space and theater, and lots of beautiful Cotswold architecture from the Almshouses to Bliss Tweed Mill and more.
The best way to get to Chipping Norton is to drive (follow the A44) as there aren’t any local buses for this route. Another great way to see the town and other highlights of the Cotswolds is to take a tour like this half-day tour from Oxford that also includes Bourton on the Water and other beautiful villages. Click here to book.
14. See the Stunning Village of Bibury
The charming village of Bibury is located in the heart of the Cotswolds, just 15 miles (24 km) from Stow-on-the-Wold. There are lots of fun things to do and the village is Known for its picturesque stone cottages and idyllic country scenes.
Bibury is home to many historic landmarks such as Arlington Row, a row of 17th-century cottages that have been beautifully preserved. I’ve been visiting the Cotswolds for years and Bibury is one of my favorite villages thanks to its picturesque cottages and charming location.
15. Take a Cotswold Walking Tour
This villages walking tour is an excellent way to experience Stow-on-the-Wold and other nearby villages like Broadway, Burford, and Bibury. You’ll get to explore sleepy villages and gorgeous, rolling countryside while learning something about the history of the area from an experienced guide.
While most tours of the Cotswolds are spent driving from place to place, this tour is different in that it focuses a lot more on walking. The eight-hour experience costs £65 per person and includes transport from nearby Stratford-upon-Avon (the former home of Shakespear) or Moreton in Marsh which is just a few miles from Stow. Click here to book.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Stow-on-the-Wold
Below, you’ll find a few itineraries to help you get the most out of your visit while sightseeing in Stow-on-the-Wold. Whether you have just one day to spend or a week to explore, these itineraries include all the top things to see in Stow-on-the-Wold to take the pressure off planning your trip.
1 Day in Stow-on-the-Wold Itinerary
With just a day to spend in Stow, be sure to walk around the charming town center and Market Square. Browse for books, local foods, and antiques at the many independent shops. Make sure to pick up some tasty candy from the Cotswold Sweet Company (I highly recommend their homemade fudge).
Check out the artworks on display at the Fosse Gallery and take time out to appreciate the architecture and solitude at St Edward’s Church. Be sure to stop by the Porch House, perhaps the oldest pub in England dating to 947AD, and grab a pint of local ale or a bite to eat in the excellent restaurant.
2-3 Days in Stow-on-the-Wold Itinerary
If you have a few days to explore Stow-on-the-Wold then head out for a walk or hike in the nearby countryside. This 3.6-mile (5.8 km) circular walk takes in some of the finest English countryside imaginable. Try some of the other pubs and restaurants in the town such as the excellent Talbot, Alexiou’s, and The Old Butchers.
1 Week in Stow-on-the-Wold Itinerary
If you have a week to explore Stow, follow the above itineraries for your first three days and include some day trips to nearby places of interest. Visit nearby Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of wartime British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, and wander the beautiful house and grounds.
Visit the nearby towns and villages of Chipping Norton, Bibury, and Broadway which are some of the most beautiful places in the Cotswolds. There’s lots to find here from a model village to the Broadway Tower to climb, walks, and hikes, and of course plenty of wonderful rustic pubs for refreshments.
Where to Stay in Stow-on-the-Wold
These are a few of the best places to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold for tourists:
Davenford Stow Gardens – Best for First-Time Visitors
Central Davenford Stow Gardens is the perfect place for first-time visitors in Stow thanks to its location in the heart of the town. Rooms come with a large double bed, an en-suite bathroom, free WiFi, and tea and coffee-making facilities. A choice of continental, á la carte, or vegetarian breakfast is included. Click here to book now.
Woodland Guesthouse – Best for Families
The gorgeous Woodland Guesthouse is located just over a mile from Stow in a beautiful rural setting. The ivy-covered stone building has a range of rooms from doubles to twin and singles, making it a great option for families. All rooms come with a private, en-suite bathroom and flatscreen TV. Click here to find out more.
The Cozy Shed – Best for Couples
The scenic Cozy Shed is a one-bedroom apartment a few minutes walk from Market Square and the center of Stow. The property comes with a gorgeous garden and terrace in a tranquil, rural location. Rooms come with a deluxe, kingsize bed, an en-suite bathroom, and free WiFi throughout the property. Click here to learn more.
Best Restaurants in Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold is an excellent destination for foodies with many fine cafes, pubs, and restaurants in and around the town. Below are five of my top picks.
The Porch House: There’s been an inn on the site of the Porch House since at least 947 making it one of the oldest pubs in the country. As well as a well-stocked bar and picturesque beer garden there’s a restaurant that serves local specialties and contemporary European cuisine. It’s a little pricey, but worth every penny. Click here for directions.
The Hive: The Hive is a quaint, dog-friendly cafe/restaurant in the center of town is an excellent place for breakfast or brunch. From options such as porridge, a full English, or smoked salmon and eggs, the mouthwatering menu makes this one of my favorite places for a bite in Stow (try the Hive Breakfast). Click here for directions.
Alexiou’s Restaurant: The Alexiou’s Restaurant is an excellent restaurant and bar serves up the best Greek and Mediterranean food this side of Thessaloniki but in a beautiful rural setting in the heart of Stow. From humous to halloumi and mousaka to medallions, this is one of the top restaurants in the town and is very reasonably priced. Click here for directions.
The Old Butchers: The Old Butchers is wonderful seafood restaurant in a former butcher’s shop (thus the name; don’t be fooled) has been wowing diners since 2005 with expertly cooked British dishes using local and seasonal produce. From Cornish lobster to Dover sole and beer-battered fish and chips, this is the place to come for a taste of the sea. Click here for directions.
The Talbot: The Talbot is an excellent pub and restaurant with a quaint courtyard overlooking the shops of Market Square. Feast on pub classics like ham, egg and chips, scampi, or homemade burgers (including vegetarian). The lasagne is excellent, and all this can be washed down by local craft beer or cider. Click here for directions.
Getting to Stow-on-the-Wold, Cotswolds
The closest international airport to Stow is Birmingham Airport which is about an hour’s drive away. It’s best to rent a car if you wish to explore the Cotswolds further as public transport in this rural area isn’t comprehensive.
From London, it’s a two-hour drive along the M40. There aren’t any direct trains from the capital, however, the journey can be made in around two hours by taking the train from London Paddington to Kingham, and then taking a taxi for the final 5.6 miles (9 km) to Stow. Taking a Stow-on-the-Wold tour is also a great way to see Stow.
As it’s a small town, all the major attractions in Stow-on-the-Wold are within walking distance. However, to visit some of the nearby landmarks like Blenheim Palace and Batsford Arboretum it’s best to have your own transport or rent a car as public transportation isn’t great in this part of the country.
Things To Do in Stow-on-the-Wold: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Stow-on-the-Wold:
Stow-on-the-Wold is known for its many historical buildings from the medieval St Edward’s Church to the Porch House, one of the oldest pubs in the whole of the UK. The town is also famed for its antique shops such as the Tara Antique Center.
The best time to visit Stow-on-the-Wold is spring or fall. The village can get rather busy with coachloads of tourists during the summer months so try and avoid the high season if possible. May, June, and September are great times to visit when the weather is good enough for walking and dining outdoors.
Stow-on-the-Wold is definitely worth visiting as it’s one of the most picturesque market towns in the Cotswolds. With so many attractions in Stow-on-the-Wold and easy day trips, it’s one of my favorite places for a weekend away.
Two to three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Stow-on-the-Wold as this will give you enough time to see the top sights in the town. If you want to take some day trips to nearby villages and historical places such as Blenheim Palace, then a week is better.
Like most villages in rural England Stow is a very safe place for tourists. Violent crime is almost unheard of, however, due to the sheer number of visitors in July and August, take the usual traveler precautions such as not leaving doors unlocked or valuables on display.
Shopping for antiques is one of the most popular things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold and people come from far and wide to browse all the town has to offer. Walking around the charming town center and Market Square, and popping into the many excellent pubs and restaurants are also popular ways to pass the time here.
The small alleys, known as “Tures”, were used to move sheep from their pastures to the market for sale which is why there are many of these small alleys around Sheep Street and leading to Market Square.
If you have a sweet tooth then you should definitely try some of the fudge or other handmade sweets and candies from the Cotswolds Sweet Company. It’s also popular to try some of the local real ales and ciders in one of the many pubs like the Porch House.
Wold means hilly or high region in old English so Stow-on-the-Wold literally translates as Stow-on-the-Hill (it is indeed on the highest peak of the Cotswolds).
Some of the old buildings around the Market Square are said to have interconnecting tunnels and the Kings Arms Hotel had a tunnel leading out of the town. Usually, such tunnels were used for illicit trading and smuggling; similar to those found under houses in Cornwall.
Now you know what to see and do in Stow-on-the-Wold from shopping at the monthly farmers’ markets to gorging on delicious sweets, exploring the Tolkein-like St Edward’s Church, or sinking a few pints in one of the oldest inns in the country. Stow is a fantastic destination and a quintessential English rural town.
With so many excellent tourist attractions in Stow-on-the-Wold, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular holiday destination. The town is also a great base for exploring nearby places of interest from Blenheim Palace to the picturesque villages of Bibury, Broadside, and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.