Bourton on the Water - the best of both worlds

  • Bourton on the Water
  • Bourton on the Water

The quintessential Cotswold village - an attraction for both visitors and locals alike

Bourton on the Water is the most popular village in the Cotswolds for holidays without a doubt, with visitors arriving throughout the year.

It’s a perfect place for school vacations and short, romantic breaks alike, where many bed and breakfasts, holiday cottages and family hotels cater for a range of pockets.

This is a friendly place where the prevailing mood is laissez-faire with a tiny dash of seaside – there are a host of places to visit and things to do, inside and out, a place of good old-fashioned fun.

A number of great family attractions are all conveniently situated in the middle of the village, dotted along from one end of the High Street to the other, however the shallow river Windrush provides plenty of pleasure without spending money.

Here visitors simply pick a shady spot or catch the sun on the banks, relaxing and watching the children paddling in jelly shoes, or feeding a clamour of fat, friendly ducks. In high summer, the local football team comes for a kick-about in the water, with other occasional diversions taking place all season, whether racing homemade sailing crafts or taking bets on the progress of a host of yellow bathtime ducks as they bob cheerfully down-stream.

Downstream towards the delightful Dragonfly Maze, where one can happily amble for an hour or two and so too, neighbouring Birdland, where the penguins, cockatoos and flamingos will keep everyone amused for an afternoon.

For more retrospective delights, the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Model Village are fascinating and quaint – and tucked away at the back of the well-stocked toy shop is the Model Railway, where a number of train-sets are laid out, providing a great place to hide from a downpour.

This is a deliberately traditional village - not much has changed in the centre for years although newer homes have gradually proliferated at its edges. One can do all the usual, touristy things - stop off at a myriad stone-fronted tea shops or potter at one’s leisure in a clutter of bijou gift shops - but the village is not just kiss-me-quick and fish and chips.

The beautiful Dial House Hotel is renowned for fine dining; go to L’Anatra at the Chester House Hotel for authentic Italian pizzas, fish dishes and risottos. Make towards Sherborne Street for Bakery On the Water – then, armed with a couple of fresh artisan baguettes, a selection of goodies and a bottle or two from the lovely folks at Cotswold Brewing Company you have the perfect ingredients for an impromptu picnic on the lesser known haunts, south of the river.

Indeed for many residents it is not the High Street but the secret, quiet places that are the real delight – just a few minutes walk away from the bustle of the centre, the scene is bucolic and peaceful. Those who know the real Bourton on the Water prefer to paddle in the river beyond Sherborne Street – equally, they would advise an evening stroll along the leafy backwaters of Cemetry Lane and out over the flat fields into the setting sun towards Wyck Rissington or a brisk early morning dog walk touring the glittering lakes at the top of Rissington Road.

On a cloudless sunny day, it is a simple pleasure to cross over the Fosseway and head for Lower Slaughter or pick up the long trail of the Cotswold Way, for this is a village situated in the midst of the most beautiful and serene countryside, where one can quite easily get away from the madding crowds.

And it is not just a holiday destination – indeed, a steady stream of city dwellers are now taking advantage of boom-time property prices in London, exchanging their squeezed-in, noisy Victorian terraces for spacious country homes. At half the price for a family home here in the Cotswolds, one might still jump on a train and be back in Paddington in under two hours but the area provides a superlative state education and a wonderful village life.

A trend for academic excellence begins in local primary schools – Lower Swell, Cold Aston, Rissington, Bledington to name a few – then, secondary age children are bussed in from miles around to the Cotswold School in Bourton on the Water, rated Outstanding and renowned for its friendly, positive, high-achieving work ethic.