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The most photographed street in the whole of England is the gorgeous Arlington Row in Bibury.
It’s ridiculously quaint and you couldn’t get a more quintessential area of the Cotswolds if you tried! That’s why it has to be on your UK bucket list.
Sitting just inches away from the banks of the River Coln, you can take a leisurely stroll passed these adorable, photogenic cottages that have been loved by visitors for centuries.
Although these are a tourist and photographer hotspot today, it may surprise you to know that this famous address also has a magnificent history to uncover as well.
From monastic weavers, a muse for literary giants, American businessmen wanting to buy (and transport) the whole street and now is a feature in British passports!
Here is a complete guide for visiting Arlington Row Bibury with the history, top tips and amazing facts you didn’t know before.
What is Arlington Row?
Arlington Row is a pretty set of honey-coloured, grade I listed cottages that date all the way back the 14th century.
They are perched near the banks of the River Coln, next to a Wildfowl Reserve and sit on top of the aptly named Awkward Hill in the Civil Parish of Arlington.
They originally had their humble beginnings as a wool storehouse, then were transformed into weavers cottages. Each building is two stories high, with gables and a cruck slate roof.
Now, they house a handful of trust residents and have become the most coveted address in the country.
It’s also one of the most popular beauty spots in the whole of the Cotswolds!
The history of Arlington Row
These beautiful cottages were built all the way back in the 1380s as a monastic wool storehouse. As there were two mills in the parish in the middle ages, the area became very prosperous from trading.
The storehouse was later converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century and the workers who lived inside these homes would produce woollen cloth.
After the cloth had been made, it would be transferred over to the nearby Arlington Mill for degreasing. Then, the pieces would be left to hang out to dry on the ‘Rack Isle’ in between!
The Rack Isle is a boggy meadow in between the River Coln and the leat of Arlington Mill, with a wooden fence acting as the dryer.
Once Bibury began to be noticed as a tourist attraction with the likes of William Morris calling it ‘the most beautiful village in England’, there felt a need to protect this spot.
In 1929, the Royal College of Arts decided to repair and preserve the property for others to enjoy. Finally, the National Trust restored the area again in 1975.
The National Trust still owns Arlington Row today and lease these amazing properties to select group of tenants. But, they left one free which you can rent for yourself!
Mind boggling Arlington Row facts you didn’t know before;
- Passports – Arlington Row features inside the very first page of British Passports! Surprisingly, the image of this street is a way to tell a real passport from a forgery.
- A film star – This pretty street has featured in many Hollywood blockbusters, most famously Stardust and Bridget Jones’s Diary!
- Henry Ford – An American businessman named Henry Ford tried to buy the whole of Arlington Row. His vision was to dismantle it stone by stone, transport them and rebuild it back on his estate in Michigan. Can you imagine?!
- Emperor Hirohito – In 1921, the Japanese Emperor visited this village on his grand tour of Europe and raved about it when he returned home. The people believed that Hirohito was a living god and ever since Bibury has been considered a spiritual place by the Japanese. Hence why you’ll find so many tour groups here!
- The pesky yellow car – one of the residents in Arlington Row caused a media frenzy when he decided to park his ‘ugly’ yellow car on Awkward Hill. It angered many photographers and tourists as it was ‘ruining the scenery’. Eventually, the car was vandalised! It’s since been replaced with a more mute colour.
Things to do in Arlington Row
There aren’t a wealth of attractions in this street, it’s mainly just a row of houses to oggle at!
But, there are a few things to do around here and just nearby that make it worth visiting. From staying at number 9, a stroll along the Rack Isle and admiring the old mill.
Here is what to do in Arlington Row Bibury;
1. Admire the quaint Cottages
The main thing that you should do here is simply enjoying a stroll down the row and admire all the beautiful ancient cottages.
You’ll find flowers growing in spring and summer, fall foliage colours in autumn and they also look adorable with the winter frost and smoke coming from the chimneys.
There is something all year to see and they are truly timeless.
You’ll love the topsy-turvy architecture, the butter coloured stone with the gables and slate rooftops.
As you meander down Awkward Hill, you’ll get a great view of the wetlands nearby and the River Coln. It’s like losing yourself in a postcard of a Cotswolds village scene.
This is also one of the most photogenic parts of Bibury, so have your cameras at the ready!
Who lives in Arlington Row?
Beyond a tourist attraction, there are tenants living in Arlington Row and this is their home. They will take great pleasure in reminding you of that!
There is no public access to the cottages themselves (save the one you can rent). So, be respectful and don’t pry into windows or walk on private gardens.
But, above all, these cottages are located on a public pathway, so you are entitled to enjoy their beauty too from the outside.
There are always reports of the residents getting angry at tourists for visiting and making them feel unwelcome. Being local, I’ve experienced and seen this for myself.
But, in my mind, why live in one of the busiest villages in all of the Cotswolds and the most photographed street in England, if you didn’t want to see other people?
The National Trust owns this land and lease the properties to trust tenants.
The whole ethos of the trust was to allow for the area to be open for the public and for everyone to enjoy it. Not just a few. Just my two cents, I’ll get off my soapbox now…
Tips for Arlington Row Photography
Another common complaint by visitors is how busy these cottages get and how getting photos is difficult due to the constant stream of tour groups walking by.
However, there are a few tips and tricks I know to avoid the crowds and get some good shots while you’re here.
First off is visiting in the right season. The Cotswolds in summer is always overflowing with visitors. So, if you want less crowds, I’d visit in the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. Also, during the week will be far quieter than a weekend.
Next, is timing. If you want empty shots, you need to get here earlier rather than later. Plus, the lighting is best in the morning as the sun is in front of the cottages. By the afternoon, the sun is behind them making photography difficult.
Saying this, there are always lulls in the crowds. So, if you wanted some empty photos during the day, I’d come armed with some patience. It will pay off.
The best shots, in my humble opinion, can be taken over the River Coln just before you cross over the stone arched Row Bridge.
This way you can bring some attractive foliage into the foreground, get all the cottages in the shot and the people are a lot smaller too.
2. Book a stay at number 9
Did you know that you can call 9 Arlington Row home for the night?!
The National Trust has saved one property on the strip that can be rented as a Holiday Home. So, you can close the door on snap-happy tourists and enjoy this nest all to yourself!
It has two floors, two bedrooms and can house up to 3 guests at a time. There is also a private garden to the rear of the property so you can enjoy absolute privacy.
The only drawback is you do have to rent this for a minimum of 3 nights and prices are not cheap. But, you’re paying for the prime location and the serious bragging rights.
If you wanted to stay at one of the most iconic addresses in the UK, then I’d book well in advance as it’s extremely popular!
3. Walk down the Rack Isle
If you walk down to the end of Awkward Hill and make a right turn, you’ll find the famous Rack Isle that sits next to the wetland meadow.
Here you’ll find a rickety wooden fence that lines the whole walk from the cottages to Arlington Mill. Years ago, this would be where the weavers would hang their woollen cloths after the degreasing in the mill!
Today, it makes a wonderfully shaded walkway to enjoy a stroll with unprecedented views of Arlington Row, the wetlands, and Bibury Village.
4. Check out the National Trust Wildfowl Reserve
While you’re walking along the Rack Isle, the boggy meadow that’s sandwiched between the village and River Coln is part of the National Trust Wildfowl Reserve.
It’s a crucial habitat for many wild animals, fish, insects and plants which live in harmony in this ecosystem.
So, keep your eyes peeled and see what wildlife you can find! There will be water voles, grass snakes, dragonflies, butterflies and kingfishers hanging around.
On my recent visit, we got a great view of the Yellow Flag Iris flower that grows here in summer and you’ll also find the Pink Ragged Robin too.
Another interesting sight is the arrival of Belted Galloway cows, which I call ‘Oreo Cows‘ due to their black fur coat and a white stripe in the middle! They are very sweet and help keep the wildflowers growing.
5. Admire or stay in Arlington Mill
When you reach the end of Rack Isle, you’ll come upon the ancient Arlington Mill. This building has played an important role over the centuries.
Although the mill today is private property, it’s a place that’s been mentioned in the Doomsday books!
Originally, it used to mill corn and later it was used to ‘degrease’ the woollen cloth produced at Arlington Row. Although you cannot enter the mill, you can admire it from the outside and it’s a great photo opportunity.
It’s also another holiday home that you can rent out to yourself in the summer! Click here to enquire.
6. Explore the pretty village of Bibury
William Morris called Bibury ‘The most beautiful village in England’ and, I have to say, I cannot disagree with him. The whole area is effortlessly scenic and around every corner, you’ll find something amazing!
As well as Arlington Row, Bibury has a wealth of attractions that make this area worth exploring.
From the Bibury Trout Farm, where you can catch and cook your own dinner, to a stroll along the River Coln, a visit to the tea shop or just relaxing by the riverside. It’s the perfect spot to spend an afternoon.
Don’t miss a visit to St Mary’s Church which is a little further on than the main hub of the village.
It’s a Grade I listed, an Anglo-Saxon temple built in the 11th century! Although there has been a church here since 899 AD.
Where is Arlington row in England?
Arlington Row sits in the heart of the Cotswolds in the village of Bibury which lies in the Civil Parish of Arlington.
Once you arrive in the village and park up on the main road, you cannot miss this amazing row of cottages!
They can be plainly seen right over the River Coln and the Rack Isle Wildfowl Reserve;
How to get to Bibury
As Bibury is situated in a remote area of the Cotswolds, it is easiest if you arrive here by car. You can easily access the village from the M4 and M5 motorways and via country roads.
It’s around 28 miles from Oxford and 8 miles from Cirencester making it the perfect stop as part of a Cotswolds road trip.
There is plenty of free visitor parking beside the River Coln on ‘The Street’ as you drive into the village.
Also, there is a small car park opposite the nearby Bibury Trout Farm. Although this does fill up quickly!
The nearest train station to Bibury is Kemble. This is around 14 miles from the village and from here you can get a bus or taxi.
There are many bus services that run to Bibury from the nearby Cirencester. Click see to plan your journey!
Where to stay in Bibury
As well as the holiday homes of 9 Arlington Row and Arlington Mill. The Swan Hotel is an iconic B&B in central Bibury.
It sits right on the banks of the River Coln and has 22 boutique rooms to enjoy. Some even have a view of the row!
As well as staying in the hotel, you have the added benefit of a popular restaurant and bar downstairs. In the summer, it’s the perfect place for a drink at sunset.
You’ll often find this place laden with ivy that changes colour with the seasons and its manicured gardens make a popular wedding location. Click here to book.
Looking for more places to visit in the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds is right near my hometown and it’s one of my favourite parts of the UK. It’s definitely the right area to visit if you wanted to see a piece of traditional England.
These see far fewer tourists. If you’re here in summer, I’d also recommend Cotswolds Lavender Fields.
Or, if you’d rather see the busier towns, you have Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold with the magical St Edward’s Church Tolkien Door, Moreton-in-Marsh, or Stratford-upon-Avon – the home of Shakespeare!
There is an endless choice for your visit, so why not take a car for a road trip and explore something new?!