Castle Combe In The Cotswolds: A Visitor’s Guide
Nestled within a wooded valley in the Cotswolds, Castle Combe is often hailed as the ‘prettiest village in England’.
With no new houses built since the 1600s, the village is a perfectly preserved slice of medieval history and architecture, and is regularly used as a film location, with its most famous appearances including Stardust, The Wolf Man and Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse.
A Day Out In Wiltshire Just 25 Minutes (12 Miles) From The King’s Arms
Once you have finished exploring this truly unique village, we recommend you head to The King’s Arms in Melksham. With delicious food, award-winning Butcombe beer and comfortable en-suite rooms, it is the perfect place to drink, dine or stay.
A Brief History Of Castle Combe
The village takes its name from a castle built on the hill to the north of the village in the 12th century, of which little now remains except earthworks.
During the Middle Ages, the village, along with much of the Cotswolds, enjoyed prosperity due to the growth of a thriving wool industry. Numerous weavers’ cottages were erected from local stone, and these ancient honey-hued buildings remain one of the village’s standout features today.
The village was known in particular for manufacturing a red and white cloth known as ‘Castlecombe’, which was renowned in the markets of Bristol, Cirencester, as well as London and abroad, and in 1440 King Henry VI granted Castle Combe the right to hold a weekly market, with the unmistakable Market Cross monument still standing proudly today.
What To See At Castle Combe
Head straight to the heart of the village to find the medieval Market Cross monument, the old village water pump, and a set of small stone steps which were used by horse riders to mount and dismount from. From there, head to the pretty church of St Andrew, where you will find the faceless Castle Combe Clock – allegedly the oldest English medieval clock still in use.
Next, stroll down the hill through the village, admiring each of the fairy-tale cottages that line the street, before stopping at the river bridge to snap a picture from the village’s classic photography spot, where the weavers’ cottages, babbling brook and wraparound woodland all come together in one postcard-perfect view.
Once you’ve explored the beautiful village close-up, venture out to the surrounding hills to view it from afar. The woodland footpath can be found at the top of The Street, and will take you on a gloriously muddy, 5.5 mile loop!
Castle Combe On Screen
One of the most fascinating things about Castle Combe is its strict ban on modern attachments such as TV dishes and external wires to the exterior of its houses – restrictions that have been instrumental in helping the historic village to maintain its authentic appearance.
As a result, the village has become a popular location for film crews, with productions including the 1967 filmed musical Doctor Dolittle, Stardust and The Wolf Man all shot within the village.
Most famously, Castle Combe was a key filming location for Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse. To recreate a 1914 setting, the village’s tarmac through-road was closed and covered with a temporary muddy surface, its modern street lamps, signage and post boxes were either covered or removed altogether, and its white window frames were repainted with more muted colours. It took a full week afterwards to return the village back to its former state!
Castle Combe Race Circuit
The Castle Combe race circuit is possibly one of the biggest draws to the area. Just shy of 3km in length, the track runs around the perimeter of an old World War II airfield.
It was built shortly after Silverstone, making it one of the longest-running race circuits in the country, and in its heyday attracted star names such as Stirling Moss and John Surtees.
Due to its location and complaints about the noise, there are no longer any major racing events held here, but visitors can still see club level car and motorbike races, or give the circuit a spin themselves!
Directions To The King's Arms From Castle Combe
The King’s Arms is a newly refurbished 18th-century pub and inn in the heart of Melksham. Located just 12 miles from Castle Combe, it is the perfect place to drink, dine or stay after a day exploring the Cotswolds.
To reach the King’s Arms from the free visitor car park in Upper Castle Combe, you must head north-east on Dunns Ln towards B4039. Continue on the B4039 for 3 miles before making a slight left onto Bristol Rd/A420.
At Bumpers Farm Roundabout, take the 4th exit onto West Cepen Way/A350 and continue towards Lackham Roundabout where you must take the 3rd exit onto the A350. At Farmers Roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Bradford Rd/A3102 and continue onto Market Place where you will find the King’s Arms on your left.