Wondering what Arlington Row is all about and why it’s so famous and photographed? You’re in for a treat! The absolutely gorgeous Arlington Row, the most photographed street in England, is a picturesque haven and a quintessential Cotswolds gem that takes you back centuries which simply must be on your UK life list.
Situated within steps from the tranquil banks of the River Coln, Arlington Row invites you to embark on a leisurely stroll along its charming cottages, which have captured the hearts of visitors for centuries. While it’s true that this spot has become a hotspot for tourists and photographers today, Arlington Row has a fascinating history that lies within its honey-coloured walls, one that you’ll be delighted to uncover. Ensure you have your camera ready.
When I walked down Arlington Row during my visit to Bibury, I was completely captivated by its idyllic beauty and timeless charm. I had seen this view countless times and felt surreal, stepping into a picture-perfect postcard of the Cotswolds. The honey-coloured cottages, adorned with autumnal flowers and set against the backdrop of the serene River Coln, created a scene so enchanting that it seemed to belong to a bygone era. Set amidst the tranquility of Awkward Hill and Rack Isle in Bibury, I appreciated the celebrated charm of this iconic little street in England, and I’ll tell you all about Arlington Row along with some photographs in this post.
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What is Arlington Row, Bibury in the Cotswold All About?
Arlington Row, England‘s picturesque and most photographed street, is a row of charmingly crooked, honey-coloured Grade I-listed cottages that dates back to the 14th century, and now serve as coveted residences. This famous row of stone dwellings in the Cotswolds boast undulating roofs and wonky windows, adorned with vibrant floral displays and draped in ivy, all elegantly set alongside a gentle, meandering stream, accessed via an equally quaint medieval stone bridge. At first glance, you can’t help but fall head over heels for this quirky architectural wonder, where slated roofs, distinctive gables, and charming Lincoln green doorways converge to create one of Bibury’s most unforgettable moments. It’s a timeless slice of enchanting beauty that beckons you to explore.
This iconic view, quintessential to the Cotswolds, has graced countless calendar covers and postcards, and at one point, even found its place inside the cover of British passports.
Arlington Row, located in the quaint village of Bibury, Gloucestershire, in the beautiful region of the Cotswolds is more than just a street; it’s a charming reflection of England’s rich architectural legacy and historical significance.
What is the history of Arlington Row?
Arlington Row Cotswolds has a remarkably rich history. This narrow street of the iconic row of cottages, located in the picturesque village of Bibury, England, dates back to the 14th century. Made of the famed local honey hued stones, the dwellings were originally built as a wool storehouse.
The historic famed cottages in Arlington Row were built in 1380 and began life as a wool storage facility used by the monks of Osney Abbey. The yarn made by the weavers within these very walls found its way to nearby Arlington Mill for degreasing, Pieces of the wool were laid to dry on racks in the adjacent meadow, now known as “Rack Isle.”
These storage units were later modified and converted to house the weavers in the 17th century. These iconic cottages had stood witness to Bibury’s prosperity as a center for wool trading during the medieval period, which makes for a remarkable testament to British history.
As Bibury’s charm grew, Arlington Row became a muse for literary giants and found its way onto the inside cover of British passports. Emperor Hirohito of Japan, considered it a spiritual place when he visited as a prince. It even attracted the attention of American businessman Henry Ford, who had ambitious plans to transport the entire row of cottages to his hometown in Michigan, USA.
These two-story dwellings, characterized by their gabled roofs and cruck slate structures, now stand as both an architectural treasure and a testament to the village’s industrious past. Arlington Row has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, and has been the most photographed street in the country which makes for a top visit in many visitors life list.
The Rack Isle Today
Rack Isle is situated adjacent to Arlington Row in Bibury. It is a meadowland that lies between Arlington Row and the River Coln, providing a picturesque natural buffer and a lovely setting for a leisurely walk.
This marshy meadow is enveloped by water on three sides and experiences seasonal flooding. Today, this ancient wetland meadow has been transformed into a sanctuary for wildlife, officially designated as a Wildfowl Reserve. Here, protected species such as wildfowl, kingfishers, dragonflies, and water voles find refuge. In the spring and summer, the meadow boasts the vibrant presence of water-loving plants, including yellow flag iris and pink jagged robin. Late summer introduces a captivating spectacle as Belted Galloway Cows make their graceful appearance, offering one of Bibury’s most enchanting experiences.
While this area is under protection, a shaded footpath runs along the meadow’s edge, connecting Arlington Row to Bibury’s center, providing an accessible route for exploration.
Why is Arlington Row famous?
Arlington Row owes its fame largely to Emperor Hirohito who stayed at one of these cottages during his European tour in 1921 when he was a prince. He is famously quoted as saying it was “one of the best times of my life”. Bibury is almost a pilgrimage site for Japanese tourists who want to have a glimpse of this serene haven.
Then, there was Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company who was so enchanted with Arlington Row that he tried to buy the entire row of cottages and have them shipped to the USA. He failed, of course.
Arlington Row made the national news at the end of 2015. A bright yellow Vauxhall Corsa parked outside one of the cottages was accused of “photobombing” and spoiling the scenic view so loved by tourists.
Arlington Row was in the films! In 2007, the romantic fantasy adventure film “Stardust” starred by Charlie Cox, Michele Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, Claire Danes, Sienna Miller and Ricky Gervais. While the village of “Wall” in the film was recorded in Castle Combe, some 48 km (30 miles) away, Arlington Row was featured prominently as the home of Victoria, a character played by Sienna Miller.
The 19th century artist, designer, poet and craftsman, William Morris (1834-1896) referred to Bibury as “the most beautiful village in England” when he visited it.
Even as early as in 1726, the poet, Alexander Pope recognised the beauty of Bibury and is quoted as having a “pleasing prospect”.
What to do when you visit Arlington Row?
There aren’t many things you could do at Arlington Row as it is just one street of quaint and charming old cottages that has been painstakingly preserved. The cottages are occupied, so you can’t get access to them. While Arlington Row itself may not offer a multitude of attractions, the surrounding area holds its own charm. Be camera ready and here are some things you can do while visiting Arlington Row, Cotswolds:
- Take in the breathtaking beauty of the cottages year-round, with flowers in spring, autumn foliage, and cozy winter scenes.
- Awkward Hill offers a panoramic view of wetlands which is absolutely beautiful in the autumn with its golden hues.
- Walk along the footpath of the wetland meadow known as Rack Isle which is a Wildfowl Reserve, situated just by Arlington Row.
- Immerse yourself in the tranquility around the gentle flow and the calmness that surrounds the River Coln, with a walk along the river as you approach Arlington Row, Cotswolds. Ample photo opportunities here.
- There are three bridges that crosses over River Coln, each offering a picture-postcard view of Arlington Row in the backdrop and of a quintessential Cotswolds village.
- Arlington Row’s tenants take pride in their unique address, and while you can’t enter the cottages, the public pathway allows you to admire their beauty respectfully.
- You’ll find plenty of attractions beyond Arlington Row, from the Bibury Trout Farm to the historic St. Mary’s Church.
Explore the village of Bibury. Read the complete guide to Bibury, a quaint village, popularly described as one of the most beautiful English villages in the UK. Learn about where to go for trout fishing, where to stay and best places to park in Bibury.
Photography Tips on Arlington Row
Given its fame, one can imagine how touristy Arlington Row gets. The tiny most photographed street is always filled with people and tourists. Bibury is an essential stop for most tour groups to the Cotswold, and in high-season taking a people-free image of Arlington Row can be a challenging quest. However, I managed to get a couple during my off-seasonal trips. So, if you’d like to get a great photo of Arlington Row, consider the following:
- Avoid the summer season when tourism is high and Bibury overflows with visitors.
- Visiting during shoulder seasons is highly recommended, so you can enjoy the peacefulness of Arlington Row without the overflow of crowds. I visited in late autumn and thoroughly enjoyed the serene ambiance and the vibrant autumn foliage. I managed to get a few people-free photos of this most photographed street.
- Avoid weekends, as this is also highly popular for visitors. Try and visit during the week when it’s less busy.
- Arrive early for best lighting or later in the evening for a chance to see the cottages illuminated in the warm, cozy glow of twilight.
- The stone arched Row Bridge offers a picturesque vantage point.
- For an unforgettable experience, and plenty of photo opportunities inside the famed cottages, consider booking a stay at number 9 Arlington Row, the only property available for rent in this iconic location (more on this further below)
Who owns Arlington Row?
Today, the entire row of cottages in Arlington Row in Bibury, Cotswolds along with the adjacent meadow, Rack Isle are owned and managed by the National Trust. The cottages are lovingly preserved and maintained by the National Trust, ensuring that its historical and architectural significance remains intact.
The National Trust leases these beautiful, delightful time-honoured properties to private tenants. So, these are private homes of people and cannot be accessed for a view.
While most of the cottages are leased to trust tenants, one of them is available for rent to the public, allowing you to experience the charm of Arlington Row firsthand. As a visitor, you have the chance to step back in time, explore their remarkable history, and admire in their timeless beauty, making your visit to Arlington Row Cotswolds a timeless experience.
If you do want to stay in one of these properties, you could, in #9 Arlington Row. The National Trust lets this particular property as a holiday rental.
For an unforgettable experience, consider booking a stay at number 9 Arlington Row, the only property available for rent in this iconic location. Enjoy two floors, two bedrooms, and a private garden with absolute privacy. While prices may be steep and require a minimum three-night stay, the bragging rights are worth it.
Where to stay in Bibury when visiting Arlington Row
Bibury offers a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. I’d suggest a stay at The Swan Hotel, idly situated within a few minutes walk of Arlington Row, highly rated for its quality of services, its restaurant offerings and comfort. You can stay here for any length of time, including an overnight stay, if that’s what you prefer.
The Swan Hotel, Bibury
Description: The Swan Hotel is a charming and historic property located in the heart of Bibury, overlooking the picturesque River Coln. The hotel offers a range of comfortable and well-appointed rooms, many of which provide stunning views of the river or the Cotswold countryside. Every room boasts tasteful decor and comes complete with contemporary conveniences.
Amenities: The Swan Hotel features an excellent restaurant serving delicious British cuisine, as well as a cozy bar where you can unwind with a drink. The hotel also has beautiful gardens and outdoor seating areas, perfect for enjoying the scenic surroundings. Complimentary Wi-Fi and on-site parking are readily accessible to all guests.
Why Stay: Staying at The Swan Hotel allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquility and beauty of Bibury. You can explore the village’s attractions, such as Arlington Row and the River Coln, with ease, as they are just a short walk away.
How to reach Arlington Row by public transport, car and parking
To reach Arlington Row in Bibury, head to the heart of the Cotswolds, where this charming street awaits. Arriving by car is the most convenient option, accessible via the M4 and M5 motorways. Free visitor parking is available along ‘The Street’ near the River Coln, and a small car park is located opposite the Bibury Trout Farm. The nearest train station is Kemble, followed by a short bus or taxi ride.
Visit Arlington Row on a Tour
Joining a small group tour is a fantastic way to reach Arlington Row, the most photographed street without the hassle of coordinating transportation logistics. Explore the village of Bibury along with visits to other villages in the Cotswolds. Numerous tour operators offer day excursions that encompass visits to multiple villages and attractions in this picturesque region. These tours are available from various departure cities:
Departing from London: Although London isn’t within the Cotswolds, it serves as a convenient starting point for day trips and multi-day tours to this enchanting area. Several tour companies provide transportation from London to the Cotswolds and Bibury is an essential stop for its famed most photographed street.
- A day tour to the Cotswolds from London visiting 4 Villages;
- Full day Cotswolds tour with lunch included + 4 Villages;
- An all-day tour from London to Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds Villages + Lunch;
- Oxford and Cotswold Villages from London.
Departing from Oxford: Many Cotswolds tours commence from Oxford, strategically located near the Cotswolds’ southern border. Oxford boasts excellent transportation links, including trains and buses, making it an ideal departure point for Cotswolds exploration.
- A small group tour of Cotswolds Towns and Villages from Oxford;
- Cotswolds Adventurer Trip, exploring sleepy villages and hidden valley;
- Cotswold Explorer Tour with stops at 4-5 villages;
Departing from Bath: Travelers often choose tours to the Cotswolds from Bath, renowned for its Roman baths and Georgian architecture, making it an excellent launching pad for Cotswolds adventures. Various tour options are available for those departing from Bath.
Arlington Row stands as a cherished global icon, captivating travellers with its timeless architecture and picturesque setting. Its presence in literature, cinema, and British passports attests to its enduring charm and significance, making it a must-visit destination that tops every traveller’s list. Its photogenic allure further cements its status as a favourite spot for photographers seeking to capture its enchanting beauty.
Georgina, at Rack Isle footpath
Happy and safe travels always, wherever travel takes you, xx
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