3 days in the Cotswolds is the perfect way to welcome spring in the UK. Glorious at any time of the year, the Cotswolds in spring has the advantage of vibrant blossoms, new-born lambs and fewer crowds.
The Cotswolds is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the South of England. It covers 5 counties and almost 800 square miles, from near Stratford-upon-Avon to near Bath.
As the Cotswolds covers such a vast area, you won’t be able to see it all in one go and will probably need to visit several times. This travel guide will show how we spent 3 days in the Cotswolds with kids, with trips to The Slaughters, Bourton-on-the-Water, the Cotswold Farm Park, Naunton and Chedworth Roman Villa.
The spectacular Cotswolds is known for its rolling limestone hills, historic trails and quintessentially English villages. As well as spectacular views, there are plenty of family-friendly attractions and things to do for all ages.
Read our itinerary for 3 days in the Cotswolds, making the most of the local hikes, wildlife and history and use it to plan your own visit to the Cotswolds.
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How to get to the Cotswolds
The easiest way to get round the Cotswolds is by car. It has excellent links to the M4, M5 and M40, providing easy access to and from London, Birmingham and the national motorway network.
You could get a train directly from London Paddington to Gloucester or to Moreton-upon-Marsh. Alternatively, you could take a bus or train to one of the big local cities, such as Bath or Bristol and then hire a car from there.
Of course, you won’t be able to see all of the Cotswolds in one go, so plan your visit carefully. Work out what you most want to see and do and pick somewhere to stay that makes this all accessible.
Day 1: The Slaughters & Bourton on the Water
We spent our 3 days in the Cotswolds in the charming village of Upper Slaughter. We booked a character cottage with an open fire place, (No 1, The Square) through holiday lettings. This cottage is right in the heart of this serene village and was perfect for our visit to the Cotswolds.
In fact, the Slaughters consist of 2 idyllic twin villages, which straddle the River Eye in Gloucestershire; Upper Slaughter & Lower Slaughter. Although rather sinister-sounding, the name of these quintessential English villages actually derives from the Old English, meaning “muddy place”.
The Slaughters have retained their classic Cotswold look and original chocolate-box village charm, as no building work has been done there for over a hundred years. However, they don’t have the hordes of tourists that some of the local villages attract, as the only attraction is themselves.
On the first day we followed The Warden’s Way walking route to the neighbouring village of Lower Slaughter.
The Warden’s Way is an easy route of just over mile and took about 20 minutes. This picturesque walk took us across a ford and 3 fields until we reached Lower Slaughter.
Lower Slaughter sits on a stream and is picture-box pretty, with its unspoilt limestone cottages and traditional Cotswold style. The main attraction is The Old Mill, a 19th Century converted mill with its original water mill.
You can stop at the Old Mill for a coffee, ice-cream or a visit to its museum. The museum is set inside the mill, which is currently being restored to its original working self.
Rather annoyingly, they wouldn’t let us buy ice-creams in the shop and eat them in the cafe when we ordered drinks. We had no option to all eat ice-cream instead. Oh well!
We continued our walk along the Warden’s Way until we arrived at Bourton-on-the-Water. It’s a fairly flat walk and mostly through fields, so ideal for families.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a very pretty, charming village and is extremely popular with tourists. The River Windrush flows through the village and is spanned by six low, 18th century stone bridges. This has earned Bourton-on-the-Water the grand title of “Venice of the Cotswolds”.
The beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water has much to offer its thriving tourist crowd, including numerous country pubs, cafes and gift shops. As well as being a tourist sight in its own right, Bourton-on-the-Water has a great choice of family-friendly attractions.
Best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water
The Model Village
Our first stop was The Model Village, which is a one-ninth scale of the actual village.
If you loved the charm of the real Bourton-on-the Water, you will adore this delightful replica. It has been built with authentic building materials, depicting Bourton in 1937.
One of the highlights for the kids was finding the tiny model of the model village!
The Dragonfly Maze
Opposite the model village is The Dragonfly Maze, a rather quirky maze made of a Yew Tree hedge.
It’s great fun, as you have to solve riddles to get to the Golden Dragonfly’s hiding place in the centre. There are 14 clues in total, which are etched in the stonework on the ground.
Birdland, The Cotswolds Motoring Museum & Model Railway Exhibition
One of the best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water is a visit to the wildlife park, Birdland.
Birdland is home to over 500 birds and has more than 140 different species, from around the world. Located at the end of Bourton-on-Water, the park is in a very natural setting on the River Windrush.
Plus, if you are travelling with younger kids, they will love the 30 life-size dinosaurs too. Jurassic Journey is a dinosaur experience, taking you back millions of years to the time of dinosaurs.
Our return to Upper Slaughter
In theory, we should have just retraced our steps along the Warden’s Way. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turning. After about a mile in the wrong direction we decided to call it a day.
We headed back to Bourton, called a taxi and made the most of the time to have an ice-cream on one of the bridges. Not a bad end to the day!
Day 2: The Cotswold Farm Park
On Day 2 of our 3-day visit to the Cotswolds, we went to The Cotswold Farm Park. It is in Guiting Power, Cheltenham, which is only 7 miles from Upper Slaughter.
The Cotswold Farm Park is an unmissable attraction in the Cotswolds. It is the home of Adam Henson, presenter of BBC’s Countryfile.
The fabulous Cotswold Farm Park opened its gates to the public in 1971. It now has over 50 breeds of animals, many of which are rare breeds. It’s a great day out for all ages.
Things to do at The Cotswold Farm Park
Visit the Animal Barn
Throughout the year, you can see different demonstrations, which follow the farming cycle. In Springtime, between February and April, you will be able to see new-born lambs and hear a talk on how they are cared for.
Rare Breeds Trail
Follow the trail through the paddocks to see rare breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and goats. You can buy food to feed them, but they were not that hungry when we went, as everyone had done the same.
The Discovery Barn offers visitors the chance to meet and pet some of the smaller animals, such as rabbits and chicks. You can also see eggs hatching in the incubators.
Take a ride on one of the farm’s tractors.
Enjoy the local nature on a circular walk around the Cotswold Farm Park. This 2-mile walk will give you stunning views of the Cotswold countryside and will lead you past a Bronze-age burial mound.
There are plenty of different zones for playing at the Cotswold Farm Park. It has bouncing pillows, a sand pit and a zip wire. There is also a maze and a woodland adventure area. Inside, children can play in the 3 themed areas of the adventure barn.
Day 3: Naunton & Chedworth Roman Villa
A circular walk to Naunton
Day 3 of our visit to the Cotswolds started with a circular walk to the nearby village of Naunton. Naunton is another pretty Cotswold village, with history dating back to the Domesday Book.
We began our walk on the Warden’s Way, taking the opposite direction from the previous hike to Bourton-on-the-Water. This route will eventually join the Windrush Way and later the Windrush River.
In Naunton, we stopped for lunch at The Black Horse Inn, which has been serving ale since the 1870s. Other historic sights to look out for are the famous 17th Century dovecote and 15th Century village church.
Chedworth Roman Villa
On our way home we stopped at Chedworth Roman Villa, which is about 27 miles south-west of Upper Slaughter.
A visit to Chedworth Roman Villa will allow you to see the remains of one of Britain’s grandest Roman villas. It’s a National Trust property, with a museum where you can learn about the Roman past in the former bath house rooms and hypocaust systems.
Visitors can also see some of the UK’s best-preserved mosaics. Children can dress up as Romans and do coin rubbings.
You can also go for a woodland walk, which has information signs about some of the local wildlife. There are benches outside if you want to stop for a picnic, or just enjoy views of the Cotswold hills.
Chedworth Roman Villa is an interesting visit and useful if you are looking to find out more about Roman history. However, it is rather expensive if you are not a National Trust member.
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