Stretching across six counties, the Cotswolds is wonderfully rural with rolling hills, thatched stone cottages and churches in medieval villages and stately homes made with honey-coloured limestone. With the notable cities of Oxford, Bath, Gloucester, Cirencester and Cheltenham dotted along its length, the Cotswolds is how many people imagine England to be… picture perfect.
CLC World has picked 10 of the best things to do in the Cotswolds this weekend and throughout the year.
Investigate Sudeley Castle’s royal heritage
The Queens Garden at Sudeley Castle, one of 10 to delight in, is so named as no fewer than four of England’s Tudor queens once walked there. The ill-fated Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey – queen of only 9 days, Anne’s daughter Elizabeth I and Henry VIII’s 6th wife, Katherine Parr were those queens. Katherine still resides there as the only queen to be buried in a private English castle.
Explore the charming villages
The Cotswold villages of Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water and the rather squeamishly named Upper and Lower Slaughter are the chocolate box pretty villages you’d expect. Burford’s hilly high street is lined with pubs and quirky shops, while you half expect a gondola to glide along one of Bourton’s waterways, which are criss-crossed with little bridges. And let’s not forget Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘The most beautiful village in England’.
Take giant steps in a model village
There’s more to Bourton-on-the-Water than country pubs and waterways, there’s also a 1930s model village. A one-ninth scale replica of the heart of the village, you’ll feel like a giant as you tower above the miniature stone houses, tiny River Windrush and little gardens. Made from the same Cotswold stone as the village, nothing has changed since it opened in 1937. Kids will love peering into the cottages’ windows and gardens.
Snowshill Manor was home to the eccentric architect and artist Charles Paget Wade who created a collection of the weird and wonderful in this traditional Cotswold country house. The terraced hillside garden is strictly organic, and filled with quiet courts and curious features. It’s fun for adults and children alike.
The capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is often overlooked in favour of Cheltenham and Gloucester, but as the most important town after London in Roman Britain, to do so would be to miss out. There’s a Roman amphitheatre on the outskirts and several remains from Roman, Norman and Saxon times at the award-winning Corinium Museum. An attractive town with the St John the Baptist church, Cirencester is a must when visiting the Cotswolds.
Cotswold Farm Park
One of the best things to do with kids in the Cotswolds is to visit Adam Henson’s (he of Countryfile fame) Cotswold Farm Park. Whatever the weather, there’s plenty to do with animal and adventure barns, a wildlife walk, maze, farm safari, and rare breeds trail. Keep an eye out for seasonal highlights like lambing season during spring, learning how to hand-milk cows and shearing the sheep.
Clearwell Caves, Gloucestershire
Looking for unusual things to do in the Cotswolds? Look no further and head underground at Clearwell Caves. Underneath the mysterious Royal Forest of Dean, there’s a natural cave system that has been mined for more than 4,500 years. Explore beneath the surface and discover some of the earliest and last ochre mines in the British Isles, and you can purchase an ochre sample to take away.
Blenheim Palace, Oxford
The birthplace of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace sits in 2,000 acres of gorgeous grounds (designed by Capability Brown) on the outskirts of Oxford. This 18th century home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough is a World Heritage Site and understandably so when its history, amazing antiques collections and the gilded State Rooms are considered. You can even take to the water and row across the palace’s lake.
Cheltenham has a wonderful mix of traditional and modern culture and is also the most complete Regency town in the UK. You won’t be stuck for something to do with the attractions ranging from museums to parks, theatres to heritage centres. Let’s not forget the racing season either, the highlight of which is The Cheltenham Festival which runs over 4 days in the spring.
Cotswold Water Park
If you’re staying at CLC World’s Club Resort ‘De Vere Cotswold Water Park’, then this is literally on your doorstep. A 40 square acre site, the Cotswold Water Park is home to 152 lakes and thousands of birds and other wildlife. It is picturesque and there’s loads to do whether you’re staying as a couple or with the family. Walk the trails, birdwatch, take to the water for some paddle boarding or other sports and in the summer head to the beach!