50 ways to enjoy the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 16:43 06 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:55 06 May 2016

The view of the Cotswold Hills scarp and Severn Valley © Joe Dunckley

The view of the Cotswold Hills scarp and Severn Valley © Joe Dunckley


The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers unrivalled opportunities for recreation and so to celebrate its Golden Anniversary we’ve compiled 50 top ways to enjoy yourselves out and about. Here are the first 25; see the May issue (on sale now) for 25 more

Take it easy...

1. With life in the slow lane, gliding along the Kennet & Avon Canal on a trip from the Wharf at Bradford-on-Avon, or exploring heritage and scenery on the Stroudwater Navigation on trips from Ebley Mill, www.bradfordonavon.co.uk / www.cotswoldcanals.com

2. Relaxing over a picnic in a picturesque spot like the riverside of Minster Lovell Hall. After scoffing your goodies, take a stroll around the picturesque 15th-century ruins – once home to one of England’s richest men – or along the River Windrush, www.english-heritage.org.uk

3. Hot air ballooning – once you’re up in the air wafting over early morning or evening landscapes, you get a whole new magical perspective on the patterns of life in the countryside far below, www.ballooninginthecotswolds.co.uk / https://cotswoldballoonsafaris.co.uk

4. Keeping cool as summer sun (hopefully) beats down: amid green leafy rides and glades at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, or beneath the welcoming canopies of trees at Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh, www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt / http://www.batsarb.co.uk/

5. Watching cricket at one of the Cotswolds’ scenic grounds, like Dumbleton Cricket Club’s parkland setting surrounded by trees - the epitome of summer villages at play, www.dumbletoncc.co.uk



6. Walking your way to wellbeing on gentle strolls, hilly hikes, stile-free or guided excursions. Over 20 long distance routes and 3,000 miles (4,828km) of public footpaths weave through the AONB. Find routes to suit all moods and ability at www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/walking/

7. Relax at one of the Cotswolds’ special spa retreats. (See 8 Cotswold spa retreats you need to visit).

8. Cycling amid the Cotswolds’ gentler southern slopes, or leg-pumping up the sharper escarpments of the north. A great way to sightsee, while the rhythmic spin of pedal and wheel does wonders for body and soul, www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/cycling-riding/

9. Drinking in exhilarating views, maybe from Bredon Hill where poet A E Housman waxed lyrical. From the summit you can enjoy panoramic sweeps of the escarpment, Vale of Evesham, Malverns and Severn Vale, http://visitbredonhill.co.uk

10. Lunching at an historic coaching inn after sightseeing, walking or cycling. From Stow-on-the-Wold to Burford and Tetbury, the Cotswolds boasts fantastically atmospheric – and tasty – watering holes, www.stowinfo.co.uk / www.burfordcotswolds.co.uk / www.visittetbury.co.uk


Go wild...

11. With a flutter on Rodborough Common. Look out for more than 30 varieties of butterfly, including rare species like the Duke of Burgundy and Adonis blue that come each summer to feed and breed on the wildflowers of the grassland slopes. Type ‘Rodborough Common butterfly walk’ into www.nationaltrust.org.uk

12. Spotting and dipping at Greystones Farm nature reserve, Bourton-on-the-Water. Spot kingfishers, heron, butterflies, otters and water voles along the River Eye. Come river dipping on Open Farm Sunday (Jun 5) or Big Bourton Picnic (Aug 14), www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk

13. Discovering wildflowers on Swift’s Hill where the limestone grasslands support over 130 species, including 13 different orchids such as the rare frog, bee and early purple orchids, www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk

14. In the twilight at Browne’s Folly nature reserve, Bathford, where bats can be seen through spring/summer as they emerge from their roost sites (in the mines and trees) to feed. Thirteen of the UK’s 17 species of bat, including the threatened greater horseshoe bat, hibernate in the old mines over winter, www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk

15. Enjoying a purple patch at Pasqueflower nature reserve (Barnsley Warren SSSI), Cirencester. Britain’s largest population of these purple-petalled beauties burst forth in late spring, www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk


Enjoy magic moments...

16. Smelling the roses – over 70 varieties – usually at their peak in late June in the Queens’ Garden, Sudeley Castle. Or savouring high summer scents of the double rose border at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Chipping Campden, www.sudeleycastle.co.uk / www.kiftsgate.co.uk

17. Church crawling around Cotswold wool churches, their glorious architecture a testament to the medieval heydays of the wool trade: including perpendicular-style St Peter & St Paul, Northleach, with its famed memorial brasses depicting its benefactors, sheep and woolpacks at their feet, www.northleach.org

18. Immersed in mystery at the Rollright Stones, on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, as they cast their shadows across the centuries from Neolithic/Bronze Age times. What rituals took place here? Are the stones really a king and his courtiers petrified by a witch? www.rollrightstones.co.uk

19. Playing croquet on the lawns of Chastleton House, Moreton-in-Marsh. The field rules of the game were codified here in 1866, so where better to pick up a summer mallet (Apr–Sep), www.nationaltrust.org.uk

20. Enjoying opera in a bijou converted cattle shed – it could only be the Cotswolds – at Longborough Festival Opera. Upcoming performances (Jun 9–Aug 2) include Tannhäuser and Le Nozze di Figaro, https://lfo.org.uk


Share family fun...

21. At a whip-crackin’ show from Giffords Circus. This season’s Painted Wagon Tour by the magical Cotswold-grown village green circus promises plenty of high-tumblin’ bottle-jugglin’ horse-wranglin’ banjo-pluckin’ entertainment (May 13–Sep 25), www.giffordscircus.com

22. Catching a breeze on Minchinhampton Common, kite flying together in the fresh air. Come for the Kite Festival , May 29, 10am–4pm, and you’ll find kite-making activities and tips on flying , www.nationaltrust.org.uk

23. Counting sheep, including the iconic Cotswold Lion, at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, Kineton. Home to over 50 breeds, from Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs to Gloucester cattle, it’s the place to learn about traditional and rare farm breeds, plus seasonal farming activities, www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk

24. Going vintage at the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection, Bourton-on-the-Water. Alongside historic cars and memorabilia, you can meet TV’s supercar hero Brum, and kids young and old love all the toys of yesteryear, www.cotswoldmotoringmuseum.co.uk

25. Geocaching along the Cotswold Way – stretching imaginations as well as legs on a treasure hunt. A geocache trail runs the full length of the Way from Chipping Campden to Bath, www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cotswold-way


You'll have to go out and buy the May issue of Cotswold Life for the other 25! But if you're looking for more information about the Cotswolds you can also visit...

Reasons to staycation in the Cotswolds

Best spa retreats in the Cotswolds

Pubs in the Cotswolds


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