Category: Holiday Activities

The 10 Best Places To Visit In The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of Britain’s most popular holiday destinations. Tourists come to the area all year round, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, picture-perfect streets of houses and local food and drink establishments.

This picturesque part of the country is very well known for its beautiful little villages, but if you’re visiting the area then you may be looking for more things to see and do than just day trips to quiet, idyllic towns. There are plenty of places to go in the Cotswolds to learn more about the area’s history, enjoy the countryside and support local businesses and tourist attractions, the best of which we have included in this guide of where to visit in the Cotswolds.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water frequently comes recommended as one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds and is one of the most popular parts of the area all year round. The picturesque town is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’ because of how the River Windrush flows right through the centre, crossed by five pretty bridges that you’ll see in the majority of photos taken here.

There is a wide range of things to see and do in Bourton-on-the-Water that are suitable for all ages, including the Cotswold Motoring Museum, a model village, Birdland Park and Garden and the nearby Salmonsbury Meadows wildlife nature reserve. There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants in the town that make it a great place to potter about in the afternoon, although be wary that it can get particularly busy in the summer months on days when the weather is good.

Cirencester

The large town of Cirencester is frequently called the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’ and should definitely be on your list of places to visit if you’re looking to see one of the most interesting parts of the area. Dating right the way back to Roman times, Cirencester is a market town that was the second-largest settlement in the UK after London at one point in the past, and still retains a historic air throughout the cobbled streets and traditional gold stone houses.

Cirencester’s main market square is home to several different markets a month which are particularly popular amongst tourists and locals alike, including a craft market, farmers market, antique market and home and garden bazaar.

Other popular Cirencester points of interest include the impressive, cathedral-like Parish Church of St. John Baptist, a preserved Roman Amphitheatre, the family favourite Corinium Museum and the beautiful Cirencester Park and Abbey Grounds. It’s a really picturesque part of the Cotswolds that offers a livelier alternative to the classic, sleepy villages out in the countryside, and is a great place to base yourself for a holiday exploring the area.

Sudeley Castle

One of the most popular places to go in the Cotswolds is Sudeley Castle, which is perfect for families, couples, history fans and lovers of impressive gardens and grounds. 

The castle itself is known for being the home of Catherine Parr, the last surviving wife of King Henry VIII, who lived and died there and has made Sudeley the only private castle in England to have a queen buried in the grounds. The history of the place has many royal connections from as early as 1469, where it was sold to the Crown during the War of the Roses, and there are plenty of exhibitions housed in the building that provide more detail on past inhabitants.

The grounds of Sudeley Castle are just as impressive as the castle itself, consisting of 10 different, award-winning gardens that each showcase certain aspects of landscape design. St Mary’s Church is also found in these gardens, along with an adventure playground for children and two cafes near to the castle that cater to visitors to the property and passers-by.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Allegedly the second-largest parish church in England, Tewkesbury Abbey is a popular Cotswolds tourist attraction in the medieval riverside town of Tewkesbury that is also notable for its traditional blank and white timbered buildings. The abbey was consecrated in 1121 and is the former residence of an order of Benedictine monks, which then became the town’s place of worship in the 1500s after the dissolution of the monasteries.

Tewkesbury Abbey’s most impressive feature is its Norman tower, which can be seen from all over the town and is an iconic part of Tewksbury’s skyline. Fans of medieval architecture in particular will find a lot to appreciate throughout the huge building, which is elegantly furnished and has some very impressive stained glass windows. 

Tours are available around the abbey and up the tower at various points during the day if you would like to find out more about the significance of the building and what other historic events it has been involved with. There is also a shop and a tea room for visitors, which is particularly popular with those coming to Tewksbury for the day.

Westonbirt Arboretum

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is one of the biggest collections of plant and tree species in the UK. Owned by Forestry England, there are over 2,500 species of trees in the gardens here which play a key part in conservation efforts and research, as well as showcasing rare and famous specimens such as Japanese maple cultivars and the Madeira mountain ash.

The Arboretum was founded in the 1800s by Victorian landowner Robert Holford, who was a passionate horticulturalist that unusually wanted his collection of rare trees and plants to be displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner in his gardens, instead of just organising them by species or location. Forestry England was given the area in 1956 and worked to turn it into an attraction that is now one of the best places to go in the Cotswolds.

There are plenty of activities and facilities on offer at Westonbirt Arboretum that makes it popular for visitors of all ages and backgrounds, including children’s trails and a playground, educational workshops, a treetop walkway, running and walking routes and annual events. There is also a restaurant on-site and a visitors centre, along with picnic facilities and a shop.

Berkeley Castle

The Cotswolds are known for their old-fashioned architecture, and Berkeley Castle is one of the best examples of an ancient building that has stood the test of time and is still a particularly impressive tourist attraction. Originally built in the late 12th century, generations of the Berkley family have been living in the castle ever since and adding to its structure, so it is now a great example of a range of different architectural styles as well as having a varied and fascinating history.

Berkeley Castle is part of a 6,000-acre estate, but most visitors come to see the interior of the castle or to enjoy the extensive gardens around the outside. You can view many different parts of the building and learn about the history that has been preserved there, as well as exploring the gardens and visiting the Butterfly House, walled garden and huge lily pond.

Events and activities are organised at Berkeley Castle all year round, including art exhibitions and installations, live theatre and music performances, family activities, historic displays and educational tours. If you’re wondering where to visit in the Cotswolds with children, this is one of the best places to come.

Chipping Campden

Many towns and villages in the Cotswolds are characterised by their quiet and peaceful atmosphere, but Chipping Campden is one of the most popular places in the area that promises a livelier experience. You’ll still find gorgeous golden stone houses, historic buildings along the high street and wonderful countryside surrounding the town, but there are also plenty of local events organised throughout the year, busy tourist attractions and great hotels and pubs.

Moreton-in-Marsh and Broadway are two popular villages near Chipping Campden, so it’s a good location to visit if you’re trying to see quite a few different places in the Cotswolds during your stay. Notable sights in the town include St James Church with its impressive 120ft tower, as well as the Court Barn Museum and Old Silk Mill which both offer insight into the location’s history as one of Europe’s most famous medieval wool towns.

Chastleton House

Chastleton House and Garden is a National Trust property in the Cotswolds near the small, market town of Moreton In Marsh. Constructed between 1607 and 1612, it’s considered one of the best-preserved examples of a Jacobean country house that has been tended to over the years so that the historic atmosphere has been undisturbed as much as possible.

Facilities at the property are not as extensive as some other National Trust attractions, but it’s still a wonderful place to visit for an afternoon to appreciate the impressive restoration efforts that were made in the 1990s to make the house suitable for visitors. The gardens of Chastleton House are also very impressive, designed in a traditional Jacobean layout and home to a popular croquet lawn that is open for visitors to enjoy when the weather is dry.

Gloucestershire Steam Railway

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway actually goes through many different places in the Cotswolds, but is a top attraction that is well worth a visit when you’re staying in the area. The heritage railway line runs along the border of the Cotswolds in a 28-mile round-trip route that is a wonderful way to enjoy the scenery and support a volunteer-run business.

The historic train carriages are pulled either by steam or diesel engines around this line, offering the chance to enjoy a pleasant journey in old-fashioned train cars as you travel from Cheltenham to Laverton. It’s great for a family day out, whether you’re planning on riding the whole line or just catching a train between two different stops.

Painswick Beacon

If you’re after one of the best places in Cotswolds for walking, Painswick Beacon comes highly recommended. The town of Painswick is one of the area’s most popular destinations because of its beautiful scenery and architecture, and there is an excellent walking trail that starts and ends there, climbing up Painswick Hill along the Cotswold Way National Trail.

Painswick Beacon itself is a wild common in the Cotswolds countryside, best known for being the site of an Iron Age hill fort. Views from the hill encompass the Cotswold Hills and the Severn Vale, and you can then walk down Painswick Valley, connecting with a part of the Wysis Way walking trail, before returning to Painswick or carrying on to Coopers Hill.

Summary

There’s something for everyone to enjoy when visiting the Cotswolds, whether you’re a fan of history, horticulture, architecture or outstanding food and drink. When it comes to the best places to visit in Cotswolds, you can just spend your time exploring the different towns and villages around the area, or you can enjoy the range of different tourist attractions that include many historic buildings, impressive gardens and heritage sites. It’s a beautiful part of the country all year round, and there’s always something going on for visitors to enjoy, whatever the weather.


If you’re planning a visit to this popular part of England, check out our range of self-catering properties in the Cotswolds.

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