Top things to do in the Cotswolds

By Emma

As a family we love the Cotswolds; it is a great place to spend time with children with so much variety in terms of places to visit and activities to enjoy. Having just got back from a weekend in Tetbury we have put tougher some of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds. Can you spot which ones are Mum and Dad’s suggestions and which ones are the boys?!! From wild woodlands and country parks to beautiful villages and roman ruins, here are our top things to do in the Cotswolds.

1. Westonbirt Arboretum

One of our top places to visit in the Cotswolds, Westonbirt Arboretum is fantastic with children. Home to over 2,500 species from all over the globe, it is huge with wonderful pathways to explore, a tree top bridge to enjoy, endless opportunities for climbing, hiding and playing, and a great cafe and shop. There is often a family friendly trail for added adventure, and we really enjoyed the current Zog trail. There are play areas which the children love, and so many large spaces for picnics and games. We also love their special events such as their Christmas light trails. Such a beautiful place to spend time together, and it wears those little ones out!

2. Cotswold Farm Park

Cotswold Farm Park is brilliant! We have visited a few times and have always had a really enjoyable full day there (even on a day when it literally poured it down!!) It is great throughout the seasons and the whole place has been designed really thoughtfully. The boys love it and there are lots of things to do during the day, from animal barns and wildlife walks to outdoor play parks and mud kitchens! They are so passionate about what they do and they do a great job of sharing information about farming through the year in a really family-friendly way. The Park also offers special events and we loved the summer sunflowers last summer.

3. Broadway and Broadway Tower

Broadway is a lovely destination as it allows you to combine the Cotswold charm of a beautiful village, with a fantastic walk, and great views at the tower, just outside of Broadway itself.

On our recent visit, we headed to Broadway for a wander and some coffee (plus there is a great traditional sweet shop which is a must for the children!) and then on to the Broadway Tower for a walk and some fresh air and views. There are other Cotswold villages nearby so it makes for part of a great day out. You can park at the tower itself, where there is parking, toilets and a cafe, or you can park in roads nearby and do a longer walk up to the tower.

4. Chedworth Roman Villa – National Trust

Chedworth Roman Villa, nestled in a cotswold valley takes a bit of getting to down some narrow roads, but it is definitely worth it. Here you will find the remains of one of the grandest Roman villas in Britain, including in-situ mosaics, two bath-houses and water shrine. It is an active archaeological site, with new discoveries being made, which makes it such a fascinating place to explore. My son thought that was very cool! There is also a really nice shop and cafe.

5. Hidecote – National Trust

Hidecote is a beautiful place for an outdoor adventure. Nestles in the north cotswolds, Hidecote’s world famous gardens are inspired by arts and crafts, taking visitors on a journey through formal garden ‘rooms’ to more natural areas linked to the surrounding countryside. There are a variety of family friendly events at Hidcote, from themed trails and family story time to tai-chi in the garden and family crafts.

6. Cirencester

The historic Roman town of Cirencester is always high on our list when visiting the Cotswolds, and is a lovely place to stay with a number of beautiful small hotels. There are great shops and restaurants here and lovely green spaces to enjoy with children, including a great play park and Cirencester Park, part of the Bathurst Estate. There are lots of additional family friendly activities to enjoy in Cirencester, including an open air swimming pool and the Corinium Museum, charting the history of the Roman town of ‘Corinium’, now Cirencester.

7. Tetbury

Tetbury is a really beautiful Cotswold town, an area of outstanding natural beauty, the 2nd largest town in the Cotswolds and the home of King Charles III. The independent shops, unique antiques centres and delicious eateries make it a lovely place to spend time just wandering, and we always head to Tetbury to stay as it makes a great base for exploring other parts of the Cotswolds, including the nearby Westonbirt. There is a wonderful market on the weekends, and a great play park for the children at the far end of the town.

We stayed at the stunning Surveyors House, a beautiful townhouse in Tetbury. If you are looking for somewhere unique to stay with real attention to detail, and an amazing central location I could not recommend it enough. There are curiosities to enjoy throughout the house, and the beautiful sitting room window overlooks the centre of Tetbury and the iconic Market House.

8. Stow on the Wold

Another beautiful spot to visit on a tour of the Cotswolds, Stow on the Wold has a large and impressive Market Square, testifying to the town’s former importance. It is surrounded by town houses, independent shops, antique centres, cosy cafes and inns all built in the mellow local stone. The square has been the focus of town life over many centuries, with the medieval market stocks at one end, the ancient market cross at the other and the impressive St Edwards Hall standing in the centre. 

It has a long history and had a special importance in the English Civil War – the Battle of Stow on the Wold, fought at nearby Donnington in 1646, saw the defeat of the last royalist field army. St Edward’s Church, was used as a prison for the defeated Royalist troops, as it was the only lockable building in the town.

Stow on the Wold is a lovely place to stop for lunch with food pubs and cafes to enjoy.

9. All the “B”s – Bibury, Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water

Bibury is a really charming Cotswold village, a short drive from Cirencester. It is so picturesque and a lovely place to have a walk and take some photos. A wander along Arlington Row, in particular, is stunning. You could not imagine a more picture perfect Cotswold view.

Burford is one of our favourite Cotswold towns to explore. With its medieval bridge, old stone houses and attractive Tudor and Georgian frontages, Burford is justifiably called one of the most picturesque towns in England. Often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’, the town was originally a fortified Anglo-Saxon ford which later grew to be an important regional crossroads and wealthy wool town. It is full of lovely shops, inns and cafes and a great place to explore with children.

Bourton on the Water is a ‘must do’ in the Cotswolds. Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, the village offers a wealth of attractions and shops, restaurants, cafes and tea rooms. Or simply the space for you to enjoy some time relaxing by the sparkling waters of the River Windrush, spanned by its five arched bridges. It is a great place to spend time as a family, perfect for picnics, lazy days by the water, she shopping or enjoying attractions such as the Model Village or the Motoring Museum.

Depending on the seasons, and the day of the week, Bourton-on-the-Water presents many different faces. There are times when the village is as bustling as any seaside resort, usually holidays and sunny weekends. In the winter it is a beautiful place for a brisk walk and a coffee.

10. Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is centrally located and makes for a great place to stay in the Cotswolds. It is absolutely beautiful, lined with buildings all made of iconic cotswold stone. The main street is full of lovely independent shops and cafes, making it a great place for lunch or afternoon tea. The town is set amongst beautiful Cotswold scenery and has wonderful walks including the 104 mile Cotswold Way, which starts in the town and follows the escarpment down to Bath.

A planned town of the late 12th century, its original layout can still be traced along the High Street following the line of an important trading route.  The impressive Market Hall still stands and the children love exploring here; it is unique.

On nearby Dover’s Hill, Captain Robert Dover founded the Cotswold Olimpicks in the 17th century and they are still celebrated every year attracting people from around the world, a bizarre mix of sports, games and village festivities.

About the author

Hi I'm Emma, mum to two boys, ex-teacher, now on a new career path running my own business. I have always loved to travel and as a big history nerd, love a good city break. We try to travel and spend as much time outdoors as we can with our two little ones, and are passionate about exploring new places with them. Living in Devon provides lots of opportunity to explore, and we are keen to share tips and experiences of travel, days out and good eats. We are a bit obsessed with photography too so will probably have a few of those to share along the way...

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