Whilst many of us know and love the Cotswolds for its beautiful rolling countryside, honey coloured villages and fantastic gastro pubs, it also has more than its fair share of tourist attractions. As the country’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its quintessentially English landscape provides great opportunities for outdoor pursuits and is peppered with magnificent castles, historic stately homes, splendid gardens and farm parks for family days of fun. With something to suit all ages and so many fantastic days out to choose from, we have put together our top suggestions to help you plan your holiday in the Cotswolds.
Known as the ‘little Venice of the Cotswold’s’, Bourton-on-the-Water sits in the county of Gloucestershire. A picturesque village, Bourton-on-the-Water comprises of legions of ducks just waiting to be fed, tranquil rivers, low bridges and historic buildings that take you back to another era. The village has interesting shops to browse, plenty of places to eat and some great attractions for all ages and weathers including Birdland, Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection (Featuring TV’s four wheeled superstar ‘Brum’) and The Cotswold Perfumery providing a glimpse into the world of fragrances that are made for the likes of Elton John and Her Majesty the Queen.
For walkers (including dog owners who may wish to view dog-friendly attractions in the Cotswolds), Bourton-on-the-Water’s peaceful surroundings provide plenty of lovely long walks. Head to Greystones Farm on the edge of the village and explore Salmonsbury Meadows (SSSI). A peaceful place for a picnic by the river where you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an otter. Alternatively walk to the magical riverside village of Lower Slaughter (which was recorded in the Domesday Book and has been inhabited for over a millennium). Just a 40 minute walk from Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter is home to a watermill which is worth a visit (if only for the ice cream!). If you are feeling particularly energetic then carry on through the meadows to historic Stow-on-the-Wold which will take an additional hour but goes through scenic countryside near the Slaughter Woods. While this sounds like something out of a horror film it is actually a beautiful backdrop to the area!
Cotswolds Farm Park
Headed by a familiar face, TV’s own Adam Henson, the Cotswold’s Farm Park, which is only a short distance from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, is a fantastic place to spend a day with the whole family regardless of what the British weather decides to do.
Kids can get up close with many animals including rabbits, sheep, goats, piglets and see some rare breeds such as highland cattle and oxen. If you want to get the most out of the experience then the lambing season in spring is a good time to visit. For those with some energy to burn off, there is a 2 mile wildlife walk (dogs welcome to accompany you on the walk but not in the farm) and for horse riders, bring your horse along to explore the 12 mile course with over 60 optional jumps along the way.
Designed by Major Lawrence Johnston and just a short distance from Stratford-upon-Avon, Hidcote Manor is a series of beautiful designed gardens and provides a great natural themed day out for the family.
The spring and summer months are the best to visit the area given that the gardens will be in full bloom and the narrow walkways, hidden locations and open spaces are great for exploring and having a picnic. Indeed, you can try and spot the hummingbird moth which can be seen in the summer and woodpeckers and buzzards provide entertainment as they search for food.
Chipping Campden, one of the Cotswolds’ most photographed villages, is just a stone’s throw away and is a great attraction to combine with Hidcote Manor. Dating back to medieval days, the village is full of history, independent shops to browse and several age old pubs to take a well-earned break.
A majestic country house that is located in Oxfordshire and is surrounded by wide open gardens and parkland, Blenheim Palace is great for families and couples. Dogs are welcome in the parkland around the palace (providing they are kept on a lead) however they aren’t allowed in the gardens.
Children should find the palace especially interesting and there is an interactive tour and miniature train that goes from the Pleasure Gardens (with the world’s second largest symbolic hedge maze and an arts and crafts studio) to the palace itself.
The birthplace of Winston Churchill (who was born in one of the bedrooms), Blenheim Palace is a fantastic place to visit all year round and even though it is full of colour and bloom in the summer there is a magical feel to the area in the winter.
Hook Norton Brewery
Britain is a hotbed for local brewery’s and traditional ales and you cannot visit the Cotswolds without tasting a pint of the local brew!
The Hook Norton Brewery, which has been in operation since the mid-19th century, is great for couples who want to experience a sense of local history. Located in Hook Norton in Oxfordshire (just down the road from Chipping Norton) it conducts 2 tours of the brewery every day with one at 11am and 2pm during the week, and 10.30am and 1.30pm on Saturdays.
The brewery tour provides a fascinating insight not only into the history but also into the beer and ale making process (don’t worry there are samples at the end!).
A different day out that can be both entertaining and educational, the Hook Norton Brewery is open all year round and considering it is inside, it is perhaps a suitable choice for those damp British days.
Cotswolds Water Park
Whilst the Cotswolds couldn’t be further from the sea, it still has much to offer water lovers! Found in between Cirencester and Swindon, the Cotswold’s Water Park consist of 150 lakes spread over 40 square miles and is home to an abundance of wildlife, outdoor pursuits and activities for all the family (including dogs).
The park covers all interests and provides something for everyone to enjoy. Those who like to hit the water can go water skiing, canoeing and hire a boat; whilst those who enjoy a more peaceful day out can walk around the nature reserve and spot various local wildlife including gulls, tufted ducks, badgers and bats.
There are also some great cycling routes and for an active day out with the family the Cotswolds Water Park is one of the best places in the area.
With far too many great days out and excellent tourist attractions to mention, don’t just take our word for it, book a break in the Cotswolds and find out for yourself!