GUIDE TO CASTLE COMBE, WILTSHIRE: BEST THINGS TO DO, INFO AND TIPS
Planning a trip to Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, England and hope to do some really nice things for timeless memories? As a compact village, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what exactly there is to do in Castle Combe, how much time is needed for a visit or where to stay or eat.
No worries at all for I have the absolute superb suggestions for you, curated from my recent visits to this nook of the Cotswolds, England.
In this article, you will find all about the nice and best things to do in Castle Combe, where to stay and eat, along with information and tips to make your visit to be one of the best in the English countryside.
Castle Combe, widely regarded as the “prettiest village in England” is set amidst picturesque wooded valleys at the southern end of the Cotswolds, renowned as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This postcard-perfect English village is rich in history, and has buildings dating back to the 16th century. While named ‘Castle Combe’, this wonderful village does not have a castle today although one existed in the 13th century. What the village offers is a distinct Market Cross, a Medieval church and a dreamy idyllic bridge over the ambling ByBrook that flows through the heart of the village. These are absolutely the best things to experience in Castle Combe. The scene quickly transports you back in time to an era of quiet country life, oblivious to the rest of the world and the bustle of nearby Chippenham.
Surrounded by rolling hills, Castle Combe offers plenty of opportunities to discover the neighbouring quintessential hamlets. This pretty village is a favourite with visitors, both from within the UK and abroad. The village has featured in several films and continues to be a favourite for film-makers. Castle Combe is a great destination for anyone seeking a true experience of an unspoilt quintessential English village. If this is the kind of place you’d like to create special memories of, read on…
My Visit to Castle Combe
While I prefer to travel by train, on this day, I opted for a car journey as I wanted to visit nearby towns as well.
The day was perfect for a day-trip from near London, but we were also blessed with showers while strolling through Castle Combe. The otherwise ambling Bybrook turned to a swift flowing stream but the showers neither stopped us nor did it last very long. When the sun came out, it was all too nice an experience beyond words, and I am pleased to share with you all the splendid things to do in Castle Combe.
Take a look at these two short Instagram reels which I posted from my recent visit: A walk along the Street and the houses along Water Lane, and the fast flowing river after the rain.
The easiest way to visit Castle Combe is to drive there. It is also possible to take the public transportation (train and bus or taxi) if you prefer but this takes several hours. I append information about driving directions and public transportation to Castle Combe further in this article. If you are planning on driving in England, get your car from Discover Cars.
You may want to join a guided tour. This particualr tour departs from the Georgian City of Bath and includes hotel pickup and dropoff. This tour visits Castle Combe along with a couple more Cotswold villages.
Additionally, visit my travel pages about London, England, and Scotland for travel inspiration around the UK. For an idea of how much it may cost when visiting London, go here for a complete breakdown of a week in London to help you budget and plan ahead.
Are you visiting some of the English Heritage sites such as Stonehenge, Dover Castle, 1066 Battle of Hastings and Battle Abbey or Osborne House on the Isle of Wight? If so, you may want to take advantage of the discounted Overseas Visitor Pass. This visitor pass is worth buying if you are visiting more than two of the over 100 sites covered by this scheme.
HERE IS YOUR GUIDE TO THE TOP FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO IN CASTLE COMBE, WILTSHIRE:
An overview of what is covered:
- Is Castle Combe Worth Visiting?
- Where is Castle Combe?
- The Weather in Castle Combe & The Best Time to Visit;
- Where to Stay in Castle Combe; Top Places to Stay in Castle Combe, Wiltshire;
- History of Castle Combe;
- Best Things to do in Castle Combe Village;
- Castle Combe Walks;
- Places to Eat & Drink in Castle Combe;
- Shops in Castle Combe;
- Nearby Castle Combe;
- How Much Time is Needed to Visit Castle Combe?
- How to Visit Castle Combe Without a Car?
- Driving Directions to Castle Combe;
- Parking in Castle Combe;
- Read More about the UK & Europe;
- What’s new.
IS CASTLE COMBE WORTH VISITING?
Castle Combe is absolutely worth visiting for the village presents a charming scene of hills, woods and meadows clothed in green. An earthy paradise hard not to fall in love with.
Castle Combe is a conservation area with much of the buildings listed as Grade II. The village’s scenic beauty, its rich history and heritage along with the plethora of outdoor activities and great places for local pub grub and real ales makes it a destination worth making a trip for.
Reputed as the “prettiest village in England”, Castle Combe truly is everything a quaint English village should be. Charming and characteristic in a picturesque valley surrounded by the rolling hills that Cotswolds is renowned for along with a quaint slow-moving river. Untouched by the passing of time, the village exudes a warm and welcoming atmosphere along with untold heritage at every corner.
This remarkably well-preserved village has a history dating back to the Roman times. The village has had no new buildings added since the 16th century when most of the cottages were built. The village’s charming appearance with stone cottages, narrow alleys, medieval market cross and a 13th century church along with the low-arched bridge is a destination that must be experienced. Some say Castle Combe is a village out of a classic fairy-tale book and I must say, I cannot disagree with this description.
Castle Combe is a charming and picturesque village that is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply soaking up the scenic beauty of the English countryside.
WHERE IS CASTLE COMBE?
Castle Combe is divided into two: Upper Castle Combe and Lower Castle Combe. The Castle Combe village sits in the valley known as Lower Castle Combe and is situated in northwest Wiltshire, England, in the most southwestern part of Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a nearby car park located in Upper Castle Combe which is about 10 minutes walk. There is also a circular walk that begins from the Upper Castle Combe car park (more on this further down the article).
The village is approximately 8 km (5 miles) northwest of the town of Chippenham, and around 19 km (12 miles) northeast of the city of Bath. The village is easily accessible by car via the M4 motorway, and there are also regular bus services that connect the village to nearby towns of Chippenham, and Malmesbury.
THE WEATHER IN CASTLE COMBE AND THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
Castle Combe climate is generally warm and temperate, with mild temperatures and regular rainfall throughout the year.
The warmest months in Castle Combe are typically the summer months of June, July and August. The average high ranges from around 18°C (64°F) to 21°C (70°F). The cooler months are typically December, January and February with temperatures ranging from around 6°C (43°F) to 8°C (46°F).
Rainfall is significantly high and evenly distributed throughout the year. The months with highest rainfall tend to be October through to January. The annual rainfall is 812 mm (32.0 inch).
The best time to visit Castle Combe
The best time to visit Castle Combe is during the warmer months of July and August where the temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is less with July being the driest. These two months are also the high season for tourists. With the village being a favourite for tourists, you may find it a little too crowded.
If you can, try and avoid these peak seasons. Instead, make your trip during the shoulder season when there is less of a crowd. September through to mid November is still a good time to visit and anytime from March onwards is also ideal.
I visited in March. It rained for an hour mid-morning and afterwards, the sun shone bright. The temperatures were mild and the day was pleasant.
TIP: As the weather in Castle Combe is changeable, you may require layers, waterproofs or warm clothing.
WHERE TO STAY IN CASTLE COMBE: Top Places to Stay in Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Castle Combe is a small village and offers a handful of properties in the heart of the village ranging from luxury accommodation to budget cottages. Here is my selection of the best places to stay in Castle Combe.
Luxury stays at Castle Combe
Without a doubt, the 5-star Manor House Hotel and Golf Club in Castle Combe is the place to be for the ultimate sophisticated experience in English country luxury. The Manor House Hotel is surrounded by 365 acres of grounds and includes a golf course.
Built in the 14th century as a manor house in the spot of a former 12th century castle, this impressive hotel is presently owned by the Exclusive Collection Group. The property offers uniquely decorated rooms and mews cottages where a man’s best friend is welcomed as accommodations. Also, comfortable lounges, an award-winning restaurant and a gin bar.
For a sophisticated English country experience, BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE MANOR HOUSE HOTEL & GOLF CLUB.
An affordable option
For an affordable option but still with uncompromising quality of the Exclusive Collection Group, stay at The Castle Inn in Castle Combe. This property is a B&B with a traditional Cotswold pub serving delicious traditional gastro dishes using seasonal ingredients.
The Castle Inn dates back to the 12th century and was once used by Oliver Cromwell as a retreat. This characteristic property has been lovingly restored, offering twelve warmly and uniquely decorated bedrooms and comes with exposed beams, log fires and antique furniture.
FOR AN AFFORDABLE STAY, BOOK THE CASTLE INN, CASTLE COMBE
Cottages in Castle Combe
The Luxury Cotswolds Cottage with optional Hot Tub at the Old Court House is a beautifully restored three-bedroom three-bathroom cottage with a rich history. This warmly decorated property is well-equipped and comes with the optional use of a bathtub. Sleeps up to 6 people. Parking is available.
The Paddock View in Castle Combe offers one bedroom, a living room and a fully equipped kitchen. Sleeps up to 3.
For great value, BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE PADDOCK VIEW
TIP: Castle Combe is a highly touristy destination. While the majority of visitors are here on a day trip, many are here also for an overnight stay to experience the truly rewarding experience of an authentic English countryside. For this reason, accommodations do get booked up early and it is not just during the high season. If you want to stay in one of the properties mentioned above, book early. Alternatively, if these properties are unavailable, go to this link where you will find a wider choice of accommodations in and near Castle Combe.
HISTORY OF CASTLE COMBE
The history of Castle Combe dates back much earlier than the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD. There is evidence that an early Celtic group had their pagan temple where the village’s present place of worship, St Andrew’s Church now stands.
The village is believed to have been an important center of the wool trade during the medieval period.
The origin of the name “Castle Combe”
Following the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror bestowed Castle Combe on a nobleman, Humphrey de L’Isle. Humphrey’s daughter married Reginald de Dunstanville and de Dunstanville became the first Baron of Castle Combe. Reginald de Dunstanville was the illegitimate son of King Henry I.
The origin of the name “Castle Combe” is not entirely clear but it is believed to have come in part from a combination of two Old English words: “Cæster” which means fortified place or castle and “cumb” which means valley or combe.
The first part of the name, “castle” may refer to the 12th century Norman fortified castle which stood to the north of the village. It was built on the site of an old Roman villa by Reginald de Dunstanville during the Civil War between 1135 and 1154. The castle was eventually abandoned in the 14th century and the buildings are long gone, although some stonework is still visible.
A manor house was built on the site of the castle which is the Manor House Hotel today. The manor house underwent extensive upgrading and re-modelling during the Victorian era.
The Romans are believed to have settled in the area around the 1st century AD.
Evidence of their settlement was discovered recently. The archaeological site of a Roman villa is located west of Castle Combe, nearby the forest Out Woods and the peak Truckle Hill. The villa is believed to have been built in the 2nd century AD and was occupied until the 4th century. Excavations have revealed the remains of several rooms, a bathhouse and an underfloor heating system.
The Romans were attracted to the area because of its natural resources, including the nearby River Avon, which was an important source of water for the settlement.
During the medieval era
During the 15th century, Castle Combe was an important center for the wool and cloth trade. A fulling mill was built along the Bybrook River. Castle Combe produces a distinctive Red and White cloth which became famous in the markets around London, Cirencester and Bristol.
The village became wealthy as a result. Many of the cottages and buildings in the village date back to the 15th and 16th century. The cottages in Castle Combe are typically made from local stone, which gives the village its distinctive appearance.
The decline of the wool trade in Castle Combe
In the 16th century, the Bybrook River began to drop. The slower flow of the river meant that the fullling mill could not be powered and wool or cloth could not be produced. Consequently, the trade moved to nearby Gloucester.
Castle Combe today
With the decline of the wool trade, no new buildings have been built since. All the buildings you see here today were built in the 1600s which is what makes Castle Combe a remarkably special village. A village with no sign of modernity. You won’t even see any wires trailing to a telephone pole, satellite dishes or such. Everything is kept underground so to preserve the quintessence of this medieval village.
Today, you’ll find that there are more tourists present here in a day than the 350 or so residents who have made this somewhat magical village that is trapped in time, their home.
*If you want to learn more about the history of Castle Combe, join the “Step back in Time” tour led by a local history expert, Carly Batten
BEST THINGS TO DO IN CASTLE COMBE VILLAGE FOR TIMELESS MEMORIES
Castle Combe is a small hamlet. How small? Well, it will only take literally ten minutes (or less) to walk down the street from the Market Cross to the bridge that crosses over the Bybrook River.
Though small, this quaint hamlet offers quite a lot of special things to do. From the breathtaking scenic views, and medieval architecture to delightful tearooms serving up lardy cakes and beautiful walks in the wooded hills.
Here is my selection of the very best things to do in Castle Combe, Cotswolds for timeless memories.
Take note of the Dower House: The Dr Dolittle House
As you walk towards the village from the Upper Castle Combe, look out for a distinguished lemony house, known as the Dower House. The Dower House was used as the ‘Doctor’s House’ in Dr Dolittle, the musical version of the original movie screened in 1967 starring Rex Harrison, not the one with Eddie Murphy.
For the film, the village of Castle Combe was transformed into a port town set in early Victorian England where Dr Dolittle lives in the fictional village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.
Spot the filming locations in Castle Combe
As you stroll through the village, you may recognise some spots as scenes from a film or drama show. Castle Combe is especially popular with film-makers who produce period dramas and films because it is so old and somewhat seems frozen in time.
There have been several scenes filmed in this village which you may recognise. The famous 1967 musical movie, Dr Dolittle was filmed here. So was Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Stardust, and War Horse by Steven Spielberg.
Looking out for some of the filming locations in the village is one of the best things to do in Castle Combe.
TIP: If you would like to learn more about the specific locations in the village and scenes filmed, head to St Andrews Church. Some of the scenes from War Horse are displayed here.
The Market Cross
As you enter the village, the Market Cross is one of the most recognisable structures that you’ll see.
Situated at a point where the three village streets meet, the Market Cross is an important landmark in the village. It is a reminder of the village being granted the right to hold weekly markets back in 1440 by King Henry IV which helped it prosper.
With the charter to hold weekly markets, the village could sell their famous cloth. People would travel from other cities and abroad to come here to get hold of some of Castle Combe’s renowned Red and White cloths.
The Market Cross in Castle Combe is a unique structure as it has a roof and carvings of shields and crosses in its columns.
There was once a Buttercross here, a place where people would come to buy butter, eggs and milk but this was deconstructed in the 19th century. A mounting block for getting onto the horses still exists.
A market is still held at Castle Combe but this takes place in the village hall a few times in a month. It’s a great spot for homemade jams, and pies, along with local crafts of candles and jewellery.
The Market Cross today is more of a shelter point for visitors when it rains, or a spot to enjoy the warm sunshine over a pint Still, it is a special piece of medieval architecture and a beautiful tribute to Castle Combe’s heritage.
Visit St Andrew’s Church, Castle Combe
St Andrew’s Church is set by the main market square and its spire towers over the village. Built in the 13th century, the church’s nave and tower were added later in the 15th century during the wool heyday. The additions were funded by the wealthy wool traders. It subsequently fell into disrepair and by the 1850s, St Andrew’s Church underwent a complete remodel.
However, the church retained its fan vaulted ceiling at the tower, and the faceless clock built by a local blacksmith at the base of the tower, which are the highlights of the church. The faceless clock at St Andrew’s Church is said to be the oldest working clock in the country.
Another highlight include the statue of Sir Walter de Dunstanville, Baron of Castle Combe. The statue has him cross-legged which means he went on two crusades.
Note: Donations are welcomed here especially if you are taking some photographs. The Church also sells some fridge magnets, postcards and the like as souvenirs if you wish to purchase.
Honesty Stall in Castle Combe
Just by the Market Cross, next to St Andrew’s Church, there is a cottage transformed into a shop. This unique little shop has the village’s famous lardy cakes on display along with offers of coffee or teas.
The adorable thing about this particular cottage-shop is that it operates as a honesty stall. So, you can help yourself to a cake and pop your money, whatever amount you’d like through the letter box. Isn’t this cool? If you like tea or coffee, knock on the door and a fresh cup will be made for you.
Stroll along the Village Street towards the Bybrook Bridge
From the Market Cross, the street ahead is the main street of the village. The view ahead of you will instantly transport you back many centuries. It is unbelievably a pretty street, untouched by modern elements and well-preserved to reflect medieval life.
At every step along this street towards the Bybrook, is a step in history. Imagine walking along a street flanked by charming 500-year old cottages built in soft, mellow coloured stone, with roofs made from split natural stone tiles. There are cottages with named front doors such as “Weaver’s Cottage”, and “Unicorn Cottage”. Absolutely quaint and enchanting.
Visit the Shops in Castle Combe
Along the very same street, there are some cottages who have their doors open and operate as a tearoom or cafes. They serve sandwiches and picnic baskets along with teas and coffees.
Snap-away at the Water Lane Weavers’ Stone Cottages alongside the Bybrook River
Just before you reach the Bybrook bridge, there is a row of really pretty stone cottages on the left. These cottages make the perfect scene out of a fairy-tale storybook and a beautiful backdrop to any photos.
The Bybrook, Castle Combe
The Bybrook ambles through Castle Combe before joining River Avon and there’s an old bridge that crosses over the Bybrook.
Cross-over the bridge, then turn around. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the village where you can get the postcard perfect view. This is one of the best things to do in Castle Combe. In fact, this is one of the best photo locations in Castle Combe and a favourite Instagrammable spot.
As a photo-shoot on the bridge is one of the best things to do in Castle Combe, you may want to get there early in the morning, or later in the day when most of the visitors have gone. It can be almost impossible to have the bridge to yourself during the summer months when tourists flock to the village. So, try and get here as early as you can and during the weekdays instead of weekends.
Note: Just be mindful of passing cars that cross over the bridge, especially if you are standing over the bridge taking the perfect shot.
Explore the grounds of Manor House Hotel
With roots going back to the 14th century, The Manor House Hotel offers upscale accommodation within a gorgeous setting of 365 acres of gardens, lakes and greenery.
If you are here on a day tour, you can still explore the luxurious gardens of the Manor House Hotels and enjoy the splendour of the natural environment free of charge. There’s a lovely little bridge with a cherry blossom tree. Daffodils are dotted everywhere across the manicured lawn. A grand stone staircase leads to the impressive Italian gardens. There is a brook gurgling down a side of the property which makes it more amazing. There’s so much more and I shall leave them to you to discover when you visit. Exploring the grounds of the Manor House Hotel is one of the best things to do in Castle Combe.
TIP: The main entrance to the Manor House Hotel is by the Bybrook but this entrance is always closed for pedestrians. It’s automated for cars. Feel free to walk through when the gates open for the car.
There is a side gate at the top of West Street where you can walk through, near a sign saying patrons are welcome.
Have lunch or afternoon tea at the Manor House Hotel
After exploring the beautiful gardens, why not stop for a quick lunch or a sumptuous Afternoon Tea before making your way back to your car.
A comforting Afternoon Tea or a quick lunch at the Manor House Hotel is one of the best things to do in Castle Combe to roundup your day.
The Castle Combe Race Circuit
Castle Combe Race Circuit sits on the edge of the Upper village and encompasses a 3 km long circuit. It began life as an airfield and was used as a training ground during the Second World War. In 1950, it opened as a race circuit. However, due to noise complaints, the circuit is used for club-level races only these days.