Forty Great Cotswold Places to Visit this Summer

  • Broadway Tower
  • Anne Hathaway's House
  • GWSR

Want to make some special Summer memories? Here’s a selection of our favourite destinations

1 Gloucester Cathedral

There’s plenty to admire about this magnificent work of architecture - from its breathtaking vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows to its 225ft tall tower; not forgetting, of course, the cloisters that served as the backdrop to Harry Potter’s cinematic adventures. Over one thousand years of history, art and worship is concentrated at Gloucester Cathedral. Visit the website for an impressive digital tour, which offers a taste of the real experience.

2 Hailes Abbey

Once a site of pilgrimage that claimed to host a phial of Christ’s own blood (later suspected by Henry VIII’s investigators to be the ‘blood of a duck’), Hailes Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its remains make a pleasant destination for an afternoon trip, however. You can even get there by steam train with the recent opening of the Hailes platform.

3 The Wilson, Cheltenham

Those who haven’t visited Cheltenham’s own museum/art gallery in a few years might be surprised by the stunning rehaul it received in 2013. Named after the Cheltenham-born explorer Edward Adrian Wilson (who perished with Scott during the doomed 1911 expedition to the Antarctic) the Museum remains a treasure trove of curiosities. Its Arts and Crafts Movement collection is very good.

4 The Rollright Stones

This Neolithic stone circle is the Cotswolds’ own answer to Stonehenge - and the source of just as much superstitious folklore. Do the stones really come alive at night, and roll down to the river to drink? Or are they in fact the tragic remains of a cursed king and his loyal knights, all turned to stone by a mischievous witch? It’s no wonder these mythical monuments have inspired such wonder - they’ve stood through 5,000 years of history, after all.

5 The Butterfly Farm, Stratford-upon-Avon

If you’ve never experienced Stratford-upon-Avon’s Butterfly Farm before, you’re in for a unique and exotic experience. Proceed through sealed greenhouses, admiring the gorgeous free-flying butterflies and birds. Insect-lovers will also doubtless get a big kick out of the Minibeast Metropolis.

6 Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Of all the historic places in the UK, this surely must be considered one of the most significant - the home where William Shakespeare, arguably the world’s greatest literary figure, was born. Find out more about the Bard’s family life from costumed guides and discover more about his inspirations from the Famous Beyond Words exhibition.

Of course, Shakespeare wasn’t just born in Stratford, he was buried there too - in the beautiful Holy Trinity Church (only a short walk from the centre of town).

7 Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Since we’re on the subject of Shakespeare, there are a few other places we should mention. This 500 year old cottage was the site of Shakespeare’s courtship of his wife Anne, and you can see plenty of period furniture (including the Hathaway Bed) right here. The sumptuous gardens are not to be missed.

8 The Royal Shakespeare Company

In no place do the Bard’s immortal words feel so vital as in The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Dedicated to bringing the world fresh imaginings of Shakespeare’s plays, the RSC also celebrates the work of other notable playwrights with a variety of new and interesting productions every year. Check the website for performance times.

9 The Fashion Museum, Bath

This fascinating collection focuses on fashionable wear from the 18th Century onward. Marvel at the bold, beautiful (and sometimes implausible) garments and the artistry of those who produced them. There’s even a dressing up area, where kids and adults can try their hands at modelling corsets and bonnets.

10 Batsford Arboretum

Batsford Arboretum is a historic assemblage of beautiful plants from around the world, and a great destination no matter the season. In Summer you'll find clouds of forget-me-knots, buttercups, foxgloves and orchids in the wild flower areas, while rare trees - such as the Maidenhead Tree and Dawn Redwood - really come to life.

11 Cotswold Falconry Centre

The Cotswold Falconry Centre is situated right next to the Arboretum, but the Falconry Centre shouldn’t be scheduled in as an afterthought - it’s full of charismatic birds that are truly fascinating to meet - from vultures and owls to eagles, kites, buzzards and harriers. Don’t miss the flying demonstrations - check the times online before you visit.

12 Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park

As one of the Cotswolds’ more ‘venerable’ attractions, the Cotswold Farm Park has been both delighting and educating visitors for generations now. It’s grown a lot since it was opened by Joe Henson in 1971, and Joe’s son - Countryfile presenter Adam Henson - continues to add new attractions and works tirelessly to preserve and promote rare breeds.

13 Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park and you’ll see the most exotic animals imaginable - tigers, rhinos, giraffes, lions, lemurs, penguins, tapirs and more. Children and adults can also get hands-on with a variety of Keeper Experiences (visit the website for more details).

14 Snowshill Manor

Snowshill was the home/personal treasure trove of a true British eccentric - the wildly imaginative Charles Wade. Wade’s jaw-dropping collection of curios is sorted into a sequence of themed rooms. Visitors will discover samurai suits, boats, bicycles, obscure instruments, toys and countless more marvels. Nothing is labelled (it would detract from the charm), but dedicated guides are on hand to answer any question you could possibly have.

15 Kiftsgate Court Gardens

Kiftsgate is a vision of loveliness resulting from the visionary creativity of three generations of women gardeners. Full of special architectural flourishes (such as a half-moon pool and wooden summer house) and beautiful plant life, Kiftsgate is a living testament to the singular ability of exceptional gardens to delight and amaze. This year it was even the subject of a special commemorative exhibition at London’s Garden Museum.

16 Sudeley Castle

Royal history merges with the gorgeous Cotswold landscape in the magnificent Sudeley Castle, which, as visitors and historians alike know, is the resting place of Henry VIII’s final queen, Katherine Parr.

Sudeley’s sprawling, picturesque estate - incorporating a church, ten gardens, ruined banquet hall, an adventure playground, special exhibitions and more - is worth a day’s visit. Don’t overlook Sudeley’s lively programme of events, which has been known to include jousting tournaments, classic car rallies, festivals and plays.

17 Blenheim Palace

Like Sudeley, Blenheim is simply a must-visit for history lovers, for it was at this monumental (in all senses of the word) home that Sir Winston Churchill was born. And it must be said that the eventful saga of Blenheim’s dukes (and indeed the tales of its troubled creation) are no less fascinating than the childhood of Britain’s wartime hero.

But for sheer architectural clout, few places impress like Blenheim, which truly deserves the designation of ‘palace’. We promise that Blenheim’s vast lawns, waterfall, interesting exhibitions and treasure-stuffed interiors will leave a lasting mark on the memory.

18 The Cotswold Way

A famous trail measuring just over 100 miles long, the Cotswold Way meanders all the way from Chipping Campden to Bath, weaving through iconic villages (such as Stanway and Broadway), splendid countryside and sites of historical interest as it goes (Sudeley Castle, the Tyndle Monument and Broadway Tower, for example).

Only seasoned walkers will want to try the full length, but there’s no reason why shorter segments can’t be attempted over the course of a sunny afternoon. Awesome views of the Black Mountains, the Forest of Dean and even Gloucester Cathedral are available from various points in the walk. (Try gazing out from the top of Broadway Tower - it’s a spectacle to remember).

19 Chastleton House

Chastleton House is a Jacobean manor that’s been left largely untouched for 400 years - thanks, in no small part, to the declining fortunes of its former inhabitants. Their loss was our gain, as Chastleton House is as close to the definition of ‘time capsule’ as stately homes can get. It’s really no exaggeration to say that to wander around Chastleton’s rooms is to lose oneself in a vanished era.

20 Hook Norton Brewery

The family-owned Hook Norton Brewery is as fantastically whimsical to the eye as buildings can get, outside of fantasy movies. Technically speaking, it’s a Victorian Tower Brewery - and probably the best surviving example of one, to boot, but it’s still very much a functional operation, supplying over 36 pubs with plenty of delectable drink. The on-site museum and brewery tours will make your visit one to remember… even if you partake of a little too much Hooky!

21 Stanway House and Fountain

Stanway House is another striking example of a Jacobean manor house - it’s only open to visitors during specific months, days and times, so do check the website - but the real marvel is in the garden: a single jet fountain that can launch its plume of water up to an astonishing 300 feet (which actually makes it the tallest fountain in Britain, and the second-tallest gravity fountain in the world).

22 The Cotswold Motoring Museum, Bourton-on-the-Water

The Cotswold Motoring Museum promises a ‘fascinating journey through 20th Century motoring’ and, as we’re now teetering on the cusp of a world filled with self-driven electric cars, what better time to visit? View a range of classic vehicles and related paraphernalia at this lovingly-presented collection. Children, young and old, will also enjoy visiting the home of Brum, that cheeky star of classic British children’s telly.

23 Birdland & Jurassic Journey, Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton’s Birdland is a time-honoured destination for a family day out and, like the Farm Park and the Cotswold Zoo and Gardens, it’s continued to grow and develop. Not only does it host a stunning variety of bird life - including penguins, owls and flamingos - but its Jurassic Journey (filled with life-sized dino replicas) is sure to thrill dino-mad youngsters.

24 Gloucester Docks

There’s lots to do in the Gloucester Docks area, from marvelling at the ships to visiting the National Waterways Museum and the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum. A relaxed day of wandering around the water’s edge can be a pleasant antidote to a few days of bustle.

25 Cleeve Hill

Take a stroll up Cleeve Hill and you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Pittville area, including the world-famous Cheltenham Racecourse. The Cotswold Way can be joined here and a few historic sites can be found in the area, including the site of an old fort. Cleeve Hill can be a very nice spot for flying kites, walking the dogs and just admiring the local landscape. (It is, after all, the highest point in Gloucestershire.)

26 Broadway Tower

Talking of high places, Broadway Tower is a must-visit for appreciating the beauty of the Cotswolds (and beyond). This striking folly almost looks like something from a fairy tale; it certainly inspired the famed English designer William Morris, who used to vacation inside it. Recently re-opened is a nuclear monitoring bunker once manned by the Royal Observer Corps - inside, you’ll get a peek at what might have happened ‘had the Cold War turned hot.’

27 Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote has a justifiable reputation as one of the country’s best gardens. Designed as a series of interlinking ‘outdoor rooms’, it boasts wildflower areas and pools, alongside the curated delights that bear the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement style. A must-see for anyone even faintly interested in garden design.

28 The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

You won’t regret riding on this volunteer-operated heritage railway, which fully preserves and celebrates the magic of steam travel. With a day travel card you can hop on and off at a number of Cotswold destinations including Cheltenham, Broadway, Winchcombe and Hailes. For timetables and special events, please refer to the website.

29 The Holst Birthplace Museum

One of Cheltenham’s little gems, the Holst Birthplace Museum celebrates the life of the famous composer (best known for The Planets) and maintains all sort of charming period fixtures, offering both a glimpse at the childhood of a genius and a look at a bygone age. This volunteer-run museum is not always open, so do check the website ahead of your visit.

30 Belas Knap Burial Mound

There’s plenty of fantastic historical stuff to see in the Cotswolds, but this particular destination - a Neolithic long barrow - is positively prehistoric. Walk up the hill to this burial mound (which once housed 38 skeletons) and soak in the scenery - no wonder our ancestors chose such an awe-inspiring place to lay their dead to rest. A visit to Belas Knap won’t last long, so do work it in as part of a day of other activities (ideally in nearby Winchcombe)

31 Chedworth Roman Villa

Take a trip to the past at Chedworth Roman Villa, where you can learn how the Roman Britons lived. Here you’ll find  the remains of ‘one of the grandest Roman villas in Britain’ - and the historic curiosities to see include splendid mosaic artworks, a natural spring nymphaeum and what’s left of a flushing toilet. Visit for more information.

32 Corinium Museum

More treasures are to be discovered at the Corinium Museum, where you’ll be guided through the bustling Roman town of Corinium - known today as Cirencester. There are more mosaics here than anywhere else in the country, bar London; but with Anglo-Saxon and Medieval artefacts also on display, it’s the perfect destination for the budding archaeologist in the family. With events and guided tours also on offer, you won’t soon forget this timeless local museum.

33 The Pitt Rivers Museum

This atmospheric collection of anthropological and archaeological artefacts must be seen to be believed. Containing ‘over 600,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from almost every country in the world and from all periods of human existence, the displays – showing over 55,000 artefacts – are organised by type, rather than geographical region or time period.’ To visit the Pitt Rivers Museum is to be submerged in hundreds of different cultures all at once.

34 The Gordon Russell Design Museum

This small museum won’t take long to explore, but it contains an inspiring collection of crafts and homeware. Gordon Russell believed that good design was beneficial to the spirit and, looking at the works on display here, it’s hard to disagree. The gift shop is stocked with things to make your own home beautiful.

35 Court Barn Museum

A charming museum dedicated to the creative pioneers of the Arts and Crafts Movement - and those who came after them. C.R. Ashbee’s colony of craftsmen inhabited Chipping Campden for only a short while, but they manufactured many delightful things in that time. Inside this museum you’ll find fascinating works from remarkably skillful makers. Some are better remembered than others, but all are equally deserving of your attention.

36 Cotswold Lavender

Come and see the fields of purple lavender from mid-June - it’s an iconic Cotswold spectacle. There’s a shop and tearoom to peruse too. Cotswold Lavender manufacture a wide range of products, from oils and skincare to gifts and chocolates. Do check the website for visiting times and for more information.

37 The Regal Cinema, Evesham

Summer holidays can be exhausting, and sometimes there’s nothing you want to do more than relax in front of a film for a couple of hours - even if it’s just to keep the kids busy for a while. But if you’ve only ever had the multiplex experience, you’ll be charmed by Evesham’s Grade II Listed Art Deco independent cinema, which was lovingly restored several years ago by the Wiper family.

38 The Ashmolean Museum

One of the UK’s very best museums, the Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s own museum of art and archaeology. While full of treasures and timeless collections, it regularly showcases fascinating special exhibitions - catch the latest, ‘Last Supper in Pompeii’, from 25 July 2019 to 12 January 2020.

From the website: ‘Everything from the exquisite mosaics in the villas of the wealthy to the remains found in kitchen drains reveals what the people of Pompeii loved to eat and drink. The Ashmolean’s 2019 summer exhibition will tell the story of this ancient Roman town’s love affair with food.’

39 Longborough Opera Festival

What started as the barn-based passion-project of Martin and Lizzie Graham swiftly blossomed into a world-class festival of opera, attracting premier performers and opera fans from around the globe to the Cotswold village of Longborough every summer. Head to the website for bookings and to find out more about this year’s productions.

40 Giffords Circus

Giffords Circus needs very little introduction - every summer its touring red wagons bring awe-inspiring fun around the Cotswolds. In the years since its inception, Giffords has become internationally regarded as one of the most visionary, ambitious (and yet intimate) circuses around. This year’s show, Xanadu, is bringing peace and love to a field or village green near you. For more information on this year’s production, and to book tickets, visit the website.