Bourton on the Water

  • Bourton on the Water
  • Bourton on the Water

Perhaps the most iconic of all Cotswold villages, there’s much more to Bourton than its riverside shops and distinctive stone bridges.

Bourton on the Water attracts visitors from around the world, and for good reason. So named for the River Windrush that passes directly through the village, Bourton possesses a wealth of unique charms, including its distinctive stone bridges, Cotswold stone cottages and other idiosyncratic attractions (including a model village, bird reserve and maze trail).

Bourton is far from just a tourist honeypot, however - it possesses a thriving local community and one of the best secondaries in the United Kingdom (the Cotswold School academy, named as the best comprehensive in the country by The Sunday Times in 2015-16). For all its modern developments, Bourton remains a traditional Cotswold village - much unchanged at its centre even as newer homes have gradually appeared at its edges.

Travel links

One of Bourton’s strengths is its excellent position - the spa town of Cheltenham is only a half-hour drive along the A436. Travel south along the A429 and you’ll join the A40, with Cheltenham to the west and Oxford 40 minutes to the east.

Head northward up the A429 and you’ll soon reach Stow on the Wold and Moreton in Marsh, two historic Cotswold market towns with their own attractions (go northwest after Tredington and you’ll reach Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare and home of the Royal Shakespeare Company). Northleach and Cirencester are reached via southward travel along the A429. Bourton itself is served via a number of bus routes, with regular buses to Cheltenham and other North Cotswold destinations.

Things to do

Famously, Bourton has a number of attractions - from Birdland (hosting penguins and flamingos amongst other rare species) to the Model Village (a one-ninth scale replica of the village), Model Railway and the Dragonfly Maze (designed by Kit Williams, artist and author of Masquerade) - making it perfect for families and visitors. There are a number of hotels, tea shops, restaurants and pubs in the village, many focused around enchanting new visitors to the village.

Locals know that there’s more to Bourton than the High Street. 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.

Located just on the outskirts of Bourton is the tranquil sanctuary of Greystones Farm nature reserve. Boasting an archaeological walk, with a Neolithic age monument and visible ramparts, it is also home to a multitude of wildlife including heron, butterflies, otter and the much threatened water vole.

Bourton’s Christmas celebrations are a sight to behold. Every year a large tree is raised in the River Windrush and festooned with colourful lights, becoming one of the iconic sights of the Cotswold winter season (its fayre is also one of the best). Bourton also holds an annual summer game of football in the River Windrush itself, all to raise money for charity (those watching at the front of the riverbank are apt to get splashed).

The village is close to a number of interesting places. Horse racing fans will find it easy to get to Cheltenham for The Festival every year (or just for a trip to the cinema), while culture lovers are well-served by Cheltenham’s many festivals (Literature, Science, Jazz and Music) which draw many celebrities and guest-speakers to the area, year after year. Nearby Stratford upon Avon, Chippings Norton and Campden, Cirencester and Stow on the Wold are all worth regular visits.


Bourton has its own leisure centre, gym, GP surgery, football club, pharmacy, Co-op superstore and High Street shops.


Bourton is served by a very popular primary school, Bourton on the Water Primary Academy, located on School Hill and aims for its pupils to be happy, motivated and inspired learners.

With a catchment area across the North Cotswolds, the Outstanding-rated Cotswold School academy has a well deserved reputation, with many families moving into the area in order to send their children to this secondary school.

Don't Miss

Football in the River

Held every August Bank Holiday Monday, this is an end-of-summer experience not to miss! Local lads make a splash when they make the River Windrush their pitch, trying not to punt the ducks as they go.

Late Night Christmas Shopping

On the first Friday in December, head to Bourton to see the lights and spend a few pounds on treats and gifts. Soak up the traditional fayre atmosphere and take a riverside stroll – admiring the tree stood in the centre of the River Windrush.