Looking for things to do in England’s most picturesque fairytale village? Here’s my personalized guide to Castle Combe. Enjoy!
I’d seen it too many times. A bridge that looked like it was cut straight out of a British fairytale, beautiful cobbled walkways, and quaint English cottages. A little digging later, I discovered it was none other than Castle Combe. Could this be England’s most charming fairytale village? The answer is, yes.
A hidden gem in the Cotswolds, Castle Combe is a picturesque village most popularly known for the backdrop to the Dr. Doolittle movie in the 1960’s. Back in the day (15th century to be exact) the red and white fabrics made in the area were called “Castlecombe” and the name shortly followed.
Between its postcard-perfect appeal and a charming antidote to the London grind, it’s been one of the best city breaks I’ve had to date.
So, if you ever find yourself in need of some English charm and enough photo-ops to make your head spin — here’s my complete guide to Castle Combe. But first, some practicals…and a little history.
History of Castle Combe
If you can believe it, this quaint little area dates back all the way to the 5th Century — originally home to a deserted Roman Villa.
But Reginal de Dunstanville decided to make it his new castle grounds (i.e Castle Combe) and the area was brought to life. Kind of. By the 14th century, the castle was left to despair and the Manor House was promptly built-in swap.
When the cloth industry started to boom — Castle Combe became a medieval hub for villagers and weavers alike with the Bybrook River nearby and plenty of sheep to get the job done. But by the 16th-century cloth manufacturers moved over to the Gloucestershire area, leaving behind the beauty of present-day Castle Combe.
Prettiest Village in England?
Yep, and it’s not just me. Castle Combe consistently ranks both officially and unofficially as the prettiest village in England, and it’s clear why.
Although this inevitably leads to more popularity towards the area (cue me Insta-stalking the Castle Combe bridge for 3 hours) it still hasn’t lost its cozy village charm.
Where is Castle Combe?
Castle Combe is in Wiltshire, England — around 5 miles from Chippenham (the closest town) and apart of the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds are areas of rolling hills and land are protected in England for their natural beauty.
The village itself is quite secluded, nestled along the Bybrook River. But if you’re looking for even more practicals the postcodes are SN14 SN14 7HL – SN14 7HY. Your welcome — Google Maps.
Map of Castle Combe
Just in case.
How to get to Castle Combe
Although we took the train I would definitely recommend driving to Castle Combe if you can. The area is quite secluded and if you’re relying on public transit you’ll have to take the village bus or a taxi to get to the train station on your way back.
The bus only operates on weekends so in our case we ended up taking a taxi. But if we drove we definitely would’ve been able to discover more of the Cotswolds while we were there. But if you’re driving just beware of the…
Parking in Castle Combe
If there’s one argument for taking the train, it’s the parking situation.
To preserve the village feel of the area parking is extremely limited. The top of the hill has a free car park but you’ll have to make sure you snag a spot as they go quite quickly. To be on the safe side don’t park in the village itself as parking fees can get quite hefty if you end up parking in the wrong spot.
London to Castle Combe: How to Get to Castle Combe from London
If you are taking the train, you’ll mostly likely be going from London to Castle Combe.
It takes around 2 hours and the best train to get is from Paddington Station. Not only is the station beautiful but you can grab a yummy Cornish Pasty for the road!
You can buy your ticket online or at the station — either way it’ll set you back around £55 for a return ticket. The train will take you to Chippenham and from there you’ll need to take a 20-minute bus ride to Castle Combe (Bus 35 to Grittleton on the town bridge right outside the station).
Trains also run from Chippenham to Bath if you’re looking to pair your day trip (which we did) with another part of the Cotswold. And a short drive or taxi can pair your Castle Combe visit with a day trip to Lacock!
Bath to Castle Combe: How to Get to Castle Combe from Bath
If you’re not coming from London, my second guess is that you’re coming from Bath. You can take a train as well to Chippenham and again, get on bus 35 from the Town Bridge. If you’re driving — take the A4 followed by the A350 to A420 and the signage will lead you the rest of the way.
Castle Combe Hotels: Where to Stay in Castle Combe
Because it was a super last minute trip for us we stayed in an Airbnb close by in Chippenham rather than Castle Combe itself. But after looking at all the hotels, I totally regretted it. So let me take the research out for you! Here’s the top places to stay in Castle Combe.
Starting with the crème de la crème of old-world charm Manor House looks like something out of an old English country magazine. A luxury hotel with Michelin-Star dining, a golf course, and a gin bar (yes, please) the pictures alone are worth the stay. You can find their website here.
The Castle Inn
A charming pub and B&B the Castle Inn takes a bespoke approach to hospitality with home-cooked meals and a unique feel to each room. You can find their website here.
The White Hart
Another original gem the White Hart aims to please with everything that English charm brings to mind. A local pub with 11 suites to match it’s quintessential England in a nutshell. You can find their website here.
The Old Museum
If you can snag it (as there’s only one room) you can stay in the quaintest holiday home in the village. Detached from Colham Farm it sits nicely in the village center. You can find their website here.
Random Quick Tip: If you’re not staying in one of the hotels on site Castle Combe has Public WC or you can pop into one of the cafes.
Things to do in Castle Combe
Although it’s rather small there’s a fair amount of things to do in Castle Combe. In terms of time you could easily spend a day or a lazy afternoon here — up to you really!
You’ll notice that a lot of these things to do in Castle are also extremely close to each other due to the size of the village. So to truly make the most of your time I’d suggest spending a bit at each place to really get a feel for the area.
1. Market Cross Monument
If you’re feeling a bit medieval you’ll definitely want to check out the Market Cross Monument.
It’s hard to miss at the crossroads of the city center and I’ll be honest, I spent a few minutes staring at it trying to figure out what it was. But a cool history fact for your pocket — it’s an old 14th-century cross they back in the day as a “permission slip” if you will to hold weekly markets.
2. See Dr.Dolitte at The Dower House/Upper Manor
Okay, not really. But if you want to see the film location for the 1967, ta-da!
A huge yellow-stoned building at the entrance of Castle Combe stands the Dower House. Present-day it belongs to the Scope family with a notable crest on the door front. It’s one of the first things that caught my eye when we reached Castle Combe and of course — a photo-opp had to ensue.
3. Visit St.Andrews Church
Of course, it couldn’t live up to it’s reputation as the prettiest village in England without the prettiest church to match.
Right next to Market Cross you’ll find the rusticly charming St.Andrew’s Church. Built-in the 13th century the building oozes with historic gems and if you’re as nerdy as I am, you’ll find it houses one of the oldest working clocks in the country!
The grounds are super well-kept and after you have a nosey around the church you can walk along the beautiful graveyards (is it weird to call graveyards beautiful?) and if you’re lucky — catch the flower arrangements left by the parish.
If you visit on Sunday they welcome guests to sit in on a service 🙂
4. Experience Castle Combe Walks
There’s city walks, and then there’s Castle Combe walks.
If you keep walking past the Market Place you’ll find a footpath into Castle Combe’s woodlands. Now, this definitely depends on whether you packed the right shoes because it’s a bit muddy. But if you’re feeling adventurous you can walk some (or all..I did some) of the 5.5-mile loop to see Castle Combe from a new perspective.
5. Take Pictures on Castle Combe Bridge
Okay, okay, okay. I know why you really came to Castle Combe. At least it’s why I did (no shame).
The infamously beautiful Castle Combe bridge is where you’ll want to end up at some (if not many) points of your day. The Southern tip of the Market Place serves the most iconic 18th-century views of the village — and makes for a very Instagrammable photo op.
Since we visited in the off-season there was only one couple there, making it easy to get a few shots without other visitors in the background. But unless your photoshop game is unmatched, I definitely suggest making the Castle Combe Bridge your first stop in the morning so you won’t spend the whole day worrying about getting a picture.
6. Have Afternoon Tea at The Old Rectory Tearoom
Did someone say tea time? A 13th-century tearoom Old Rectory Tearoom has some of the best home-baked cakes in the Cotswolds.
Locally owned Anna makes you feel like you’re the only guest in the room. And the Gooseberry Crumble. Out of all the things to do in Castle Combe, two words. Gooseberry Crumble.
7. And English Roast at the Castle Inn
If your taste buds are fancying the savory — pop into the Castle Inn for an English Roast. The interiors scream rural charm and they’ve got roaring fireplaces and craft pints to match. The best part is you don’t have to book a room in the inn to have a meal inside or dine al fresco in the courtyard.
8. Have an “Honesty Boxes” Picnic
First, let me just say this could only exist in the countryside. But if you’re looking to have a little restored faith in humanity (and a lovely lemon cake) buy a few bits for a picnic outside a local “honesty box”.
Unhindered displays of foods and price tags mean you simply pay through the door, take your treat, and be on your way. I’m guessing they change the items each day, but again, the lemon cake was amazing! And only £2 at that.
If you’re reading this blog I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said. But just be sure to pay the correct amount as it really ruins the system for everybody if not. Regardless you would NEVER see something like this in London, so definitely a novelty for me.
9. Taste of Castle Combe Pubs at Pint at the White Hart
Dinner, dessert, and now…drinks! If there’s one thing England is known for, it’s pub culture. And it shows at the White Hart. Warm and stylish it’s the perfect place to cozy up village-style before you head home from Castle Combe.
10. Embrace the Village Life
Not a “thing to do” per say but I’d argue in the Castle Combe it’s truly about embracing the area. I can’t tell you how many minutes we spent simply pursuing the chocolate box houses, walking around the village and taking in how unspoiledly beautiful this tiny nook of the UK is.
Even though our trip was brief Castle Combe was everything I could’ve hoped for (and more). I hope you get the chance to experience this dreamy village for yourself.