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Lower Slaughter is hands down one of the most gorgeous villages in all of the Cotswolds.
Sure, it has a name that sounds like you’re heading into a blood bath however it is anything but horrible.
This quintessential hamlet is built around the scenic River Eye with butter stone cottages and a quaint water mill. It’s tucked away in amongst the rolling hills of the Gloucestershire countryside.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that you have just stepped through an oil painting hanging in a gallery somewhere.
This place looks like it’s been frozen in time. I am absolutely certain you’ll fall head over heels in love with Lower Slaughter.
So, here’s a complete guide for visiting with all the amazing things to do here!
Why is it called Lower Slaughter?!
I get it, the name does sound like you’re walking into a murder scene! But don’t fret, the name slaughter in this village has nothing to do with death!
The name derives from the Olde English term for wetland which is ’slough’ or ‘slothre’ meaning ‘muddy place’ (also miry place).
But, if you visit these villages today they are far from muddy!
You’ll just find idyllic limestone cottages and pretty footbridges that cross over the River Eye.
A brief history of Lower Slaughter
In the Domesday Books in 1086, the village was logged as “Sclostre” with a working mill. So, there has been a recorded history of workers here in the village for more than a thousand years!
But, it is thought to date back much further than that… In the 13th century, St. Mary’s church was built on the grounds and by the 14th century, the mill was called the Slaughter Mill.
In 1611, Lower Slaughter Manor was rebuilt on the land for the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Sir George Whitmore. It remained in his family until 1964.
Most of the beautiful cottages and buildings around the area date back to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The Slaughters Inn was also a Grammar School for Eton College.
The Village Hall was opened as a reading room in 1888 and then eventually became a community area. There was also a boy’s school established in 1863 but closed in 1911.
Today, the village is extremely popular with tourists as it has largely remained unchanged since the 19th century.
The Old Mill is now a popular museum and you’ll most likely see snap-happy tourists with their cameras trying to capture its beauty!
Why visit today?
Compared to the likes of Bourton-on-the-Water, there aren’t many ‘attractions’ here so to speak. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing and worth your time!
In fact, having visited many times over the years, I would say that Lower Slaughter is even better simply because there are fewer crowds.
You can take it down a notch and just enjoy the scenery rather than battling with endless crowds. It makes the perfect stop on a sunny afternoon and there is plenty to get up to.
You can walk down Britain’s most romantic street, cross over stone footbridges over the River Eye, admire the honeycombed buildings, learn the workings of the Old Mill and access plenty of country walks too!
Things to do in Lower Slaughter
1. Stroll along Copse Hill Road
Lower Slaughter is effortlessly picturesque and a stroll down to the village along Copse Hill Road is like walking through a postcard. It was voted as Britain’s most romantic street once upon a time and it’s easy to see why.
With weeping willows sighing into the River Eye, colourful wildflowers like Yellow Flag Iris on the banks, quaint cottages perched at either side, you get the picture!
It’s here you’ll spot the Village Hall with the old clock, the Slaughters Inn, and eventually the Old Mill over the water.
It will certainly be hard to stop taking photos along this road as there is so much beauty behind every corner.
2. Cross over the River Eye on the adorable footbridges
The whole of Lower Slaughter is built around the River Eye whose name derives from the Old English of ēa, meaning “The River”.
It snakes through the whole village and continues on passing the Roman Fosse Way towards Upper Slaughter and the Wardens Way towards Bourton-on-the-Water.
As the village is split over two sides, there are two historic stone footbridges that allow you to cross over The Eye. They are ridiculously pretty and make an awesome photo opportunity.
Make sure you have a look in the river to see what you might find, there are plenty of ducks that call it home. Or, on a sunny day, why not dip your toes in? You’ll always find plenty of people and horses having a paddle here.
3. Visit the Old Mill Museum
The Mill at Lower Slaughter is the main tourist attraction in the village.
It has been mentioned in the Domesday Books in 1086, then became part of the Lower Slaughter Manor in the 16th century. But, what became of the mill after that?
Well, by the 18th century, it became an independent business outside of the manorial estate. It was then the property of the Wilkins family who was cousins with John Wilkins & Sons.
They ran the mill at Bourton-on-the-Water which is now The Cotswold Motoring Museum.
From 1918 until 1958, it was owned by Joseph Wilkins who was the last miller in Lower Slaughter to produce flour from the mill.
Unfortunately, once he passed away with no sons, the business could not continue.
It was then owned by Alfred and Edith Collet in 1959 who transformed it into a Post Office and shop but went out of business in 1992.
Ever since 1995, it has opened its doors as a delightful museum, café, and shop for everyone to enjoy!
Inside, you can learn about the fantastic history of traditional bread making and how the mill would have functioned years ago.
As well as the museum they have an award-winning gift and craft shop on site and the Riverside Tearoom for some tea and cake.
Don’t forget to try some of their scrumptious hand-made organic ice creams as well, it’s famous around these parts.
4. Have lunch in The Slaughters Inn
If you’re looking for where to eat in Lower Slaughter, then look no further than the gorgeous Slaughters Country Inn which sits by the river in the village.
As well as having cosy rooms to rent for the night, they have a popular restaurant and bar which sees many locals and tourists alike.
They serve a wholesome menu of locally sourced food for lunch and dinner. So, you can pop in any time to sample their locally made dishes. A popular favourite though is the yummy Sunday Lunch which is definitely worth booking.
No visit to the Cotswolds would be complete without an indulgent afternoon cream tea!
You can treat yourself at the inn to homemade scones with lashings of cream and jam, loose leaf tea, and also some finger sandwiches too.
Booking a table at the inn is highly recommended, see here for details
5. Pop inside St Mary’s Church
The Anglican Parish Church of St Mary has a history dating back to the 12th century when it was built into a castle.
Then, in the 13th century, it was extended and you can still see some of the Norman architecture inside like the archways and the font.
However, most of what we see today is a Victorian creation. It was planned out by the architect Benjamin Ferrey and was completely rebuilt in 1867.
At that time they installed the Cotswold stone roof, a chancel, nave, and an organ chamber as well as other bits and pieces. Thankfully, they did retain some of the earlier stonework.
It’s definitely worth popping inside the church while you’re here in the village. It’s a peaceful place with some gorgeous architecture, stained glass windows, and memorials.
Entrance to Lower Slaughter church is completely free but donations are always welcome.
6. Admire Lower Slaughter Manor
Originally called the Manor of Slaughter, this building has been recorded as belonging to the Crown in the Domesday Books.
It was originally granted to a Knight under William the Conqueror, Philip de Sloitre. This makes it over a thousand years old!
In the 15th century, it became a convent for the Order of Syon and then again returned to the crown under King James I in 1603.
The manor house we see today was built back in 1611 when the land fell into the hands of Sir William Whitmore. He was the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire at the time. His son hired the renowned architect Valentine Strong for the redesign.
The Whitmore family then owned the manorial estate for several centuries until 1964. Now it runs as a luxury hotel that you can spend the night in!
7. Walk up to Upper Slaughter
As well as the gorgeous Lower Slaughter, the neighbouring village of Upper Slaughter is certainly worth checking out.
It doesn’t have any attractions like museums but it is a pretty place to wander around and see what you can find!
You can pop along to the Ford which has another quaint footbridge or check out the prized Lutyens cottages dotted around the town. Another place worth seeing is St Peter’s Church which has stood here since the 12th century.
The walk from Lower Slaughter to Upper Slaughter is around a mile one way and will take you around 20-30 minutes.
I would recommend bringing some good shoes to walk along the country paths, it can get muddy. It’s well signposted and you’ll be surrounded by the beautiful hills of the countryside!
Lower Slaughter Emma film locations
When the trailer popped up for the recent Emma movie, I was so pleased to see Lower Slaughter as a location. It’s a light-hearted movie based on the classic Jane Austen comedy!
The plot follows Emma Woodhouse who sees herself as cupid and gets herself entangled in all sorts of misguided matchmaking.
This also sees her gain many suitors including Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley. Lower Slaughter featured in the 2020 film production as the charming village of Highbury. You’ll find the Village Hall doubled up as the Haberdashery.
Many characters stroll through the market square and a Mr. Knightly runs over the River Eye in the village, chasing after Emma’s carriage! Plus, you’ll recognise many of the quaint cottages.
Where to stay in Lower Slaughter
If you would rather extend your stay here in the village, there are plenty of options to book a room for the night.
That way, you can have this place to yourself once the crowds go home for the day!
It’s far less busy than the likes of Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water, so you’ll have privacy and peace and quiet.
- Lower Slaughter Manor – the property that has stood here for a thousand years and was home to the Whitmore family is now a luxurious hotel. They offer a range of deluxe rooms from classic to suites! They have a glorious garden to enjoy where you can play a traditional game of croquet and a Billiards Room! A restaurant that offers a 7-course menu with wine flights and some snugs to hide into by the fire. Click to book.
- Slaughters Country Inn – Just across the way next to the River Eye, you can check in to the Slaughters Country Inn. They have a range of boutique rooms with some clawfoot bathtubs! As well as your comfy dwelling, you have the added benefit of a top rated restaurant and bar onsite. Click for rates.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit the Cotswolds would be the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. In summer, the villages and towns see endless crowds and tour buses that swarm the streets!
Although Lower Slaughter sees far fewer crowds than the likes of nearby villages such as Bibury, it still does get quite busy in the season.
So, if you would rather avoid the crowds, I would aim to arrive in March, April, May, September, or October! That way you’ll still have pleasant weather (fingers crossed) but places will be less busy.
Where is Lower Slaughter and how to get there?
Lower Slaughter is a village in Gloucestershire that is part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It is really close to the popular touristy town of Bourton-on-the-Water, you could walk to Lower Slaughter from there along the Wardens Way.
Or, you could drive here from Stow-on-the-Wold which is 4 miles away from The Slaughters.
The easiest way to get here would be to drive as public transport is infrequent in this part of the countryside.
Saying that you could get a bus heading to either Moreton-in-Marsh or Bourton-on-the-Water, alight near the Slaughters turnpike and walk from there. Click here to plan a bus journey.
Parking options: There is free parking opposite the Lower Slaughter Manor, however, it is limited. On a busy day, these can fill up quickly. If that area is full, you can head through the village towards Upper Slaughter and park on the country roadside for free as well.
Places to visit near Lower Slaughter
There are plenty of amazing villages and towns to visit after The Slaughters that are a mere few miles away. They make perfect stops for your Southern Cotswolds road trip itinerary.
You can visit the oh-so busy Bourton-on-the-Water sitting on the River Windrush. Here you’ll find the famous model village, the motor museum and the dragonfly maze.
Bibury was once called “the most beautiful village in England” by William Morris and you can see why as soon as you get here. It sits by the River Coln and is home to the iconic Arlington Row cottages – one of the most iconic addresses in the country!
Four miles away is the quaint Stow-on-the-Wold which is home to St Edward’s Church. The two yew trees that wrap themselves around the door was supposedly the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.