Our best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids

by Jan

With its picture-pretty villages, rolling hills, and historic landmarks, the Cotswolds is a perfect destination for a short break or day trip from London.  However, it’s not just about honey-coloured cottages and you’ll find plenty of things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.

Whether it’s wildlife parks, nature walks or following in the footsteps of Romans, the Cotswolds has plenty of family attractions and fun things to do with children.

We hope you enjoy our choice of our best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.

Historic houses and gardens in the Cotswolds

Batsford Arboretum

Batsford Arboretum, Cotswold, UK

Batsford Arboretum is a large woodland garden just outside Moreton-in-Marsh in the heart of the Cotswolds.  Spread over 56 acres, this arboretum provides a beautiful outdoor space, with plenty of areas for kids to explore.

As you’d expect, Batsford Arboretum has an extensive tree collection.  This includes rare trees from around the world, including mighty redwoods, Norwegian spruces, and stunning red Japanese acers.  In spring you’ll see magnificent displays of flower from the cherry blossoms and pink magnolias.

The gardens are more informal than some others in the Cotswolds and this really appealed to the kids.  You’ll get a map to follow but can take your own route.  Allow some time to explore the Hermit’s Cave, step under the waterfall, and observe the swamp garden.

Batsford Chinese Lion, Batsford Arboretum, Cotswold, UK

In the gardens you’ll find a lot of Japanese influence from when Batsford Arboretum was created in 1886.  Look out for a series of pretty, red bridges crossing the stream, a stone Buddha statue, and an oriental rest house.

After your walk, there is a playground with a big sand pit by the café.  We also stopped at the paddock by the car park for a stroke of the very friendly donkey.

Allow at least two hours for your visit to the Batsford Arboretum, as it is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Soldier Windmill, Snowshill, Cotswolds, UK

Snowshill Manor was the home of eccentric Charles Wade.  He bought the 16th Century manor to house his eclectic collection of possessions. Today the manor house and its gardens are owned by the National Trust and open to the public.

We were unable to visit inside, because of covid restrictions, but the gardens are a great family attraction on their own.  Wade created a series of small, themed gardens, which reflect his unconventional personality.

There is plenty to interest children, including the dovecote, a small model village and fish pond with newts.

For full details of admission prices and opening times click here.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Gardens, Cotswold, UK

Hidcote Manor Gardens is a famous landscaped garden in the north of the Cotswolds, near Chipping Campden.  The garden was designed by Lawrence Johnstone, after his mother bought the estate in 1907.

Today, Hidcote Manor Gardens is under the stewardship of the National Trust and admission is free for members.  It is one of the most influential Arts and Crafts garden in Britain and is famous for its rare plants and shrubs.

The gardens at Hidcote are very symmetrical and show impeccable design and planning.  You’ll find a series of “garden rooms”, each with their own character, separated by creative use of hedges, walls, and borders.

Kids will enjoy following the trails between the different gardens and discovering what’s round the next corner.  The wilderness is a great spot for a picnic with views stretching over the Vale of Evesham.  If you’re there in spring, you may spot lambs.

Animal attractions in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds Wildlife Park & Gardens

One of our favourite animal attractions in the Cotswolds is the Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford.

The Cotswolds Wildlife Park is in 160 acres of landscaped gardens in the grounds of a gothic Victorian house.  This provides plenty of outdoor space to see and enjoy the animals.  The park has a strong focus on conservation and has helped with breeding programmes for several endangered species.

With over 260 species of animals, your biggest problem will be deciding what to visit first.  From giant rhinos roaming their paddocks to cold-blooded creatures in the reptile house, there really is something for everyone.

Two giant tortoise at the Cotswold Wildlife Park

One of the highlights of the Cotswold Wildlife Park is how near you can get to the animals.  You can see lemurs close-up on a journey through the Madagascan Walkthrough or look giraffes in the eye on the giraffe walkway.

If you are visiting with younger children, head to the children’s farmyard where they can get in the enclosure to pet the pygmy goats.  Other attractions at the park include an adventure playground and a miniature train which runs round the perimeter of the park.

In addition to the amazing collection of animals, the Cotswold Wildlife Park has landscaped gardens, lush lawns, and picnic areas.  In the Walled Gardens, you’ll find a collection of exotic plants and flowers.  Look out for the tropical house, with sloths and bats inside.

The Cotswolds Wildlife Park is a full day out, so allow lots of time for your visit.  For full details of the prices and opening times click here.

The Cotswolds Farm Park

Another of the best animal attractions in the Cotswolds is the Cotswolds Farm Park in Guiting Power, near Cheltenham.

This is the perfect family attraction for seeing all your favourite farm animals, including a variety of rare breeds.  You may even recognise some of the animals from the BBC series Countryfile, where owner Adam Henson has a regular slot.

Small boy feeding baby lamb with bottle at the Cotswold Farm Park Animal Barn

A short trail round the paddocks will take you to some of the farm’s traditional British breeds of pigs and goats.  You’ll even be able to feed them.  If you want a longer walk, follow the two-mile woodland trail around the estate to see some of the local wildlife in its natural habitat.

Although the farm is a fantastic all-year attraction, spring is the best time to visit if you want to see birthing lambs.  The farm has an enormous indoor barn, where you’ll see the newborns.  There is also a petting barn, where you can stroke some small animals, like rabbits.

As well as the animals, one of highlights of the Cotswold Farm Park is the fantastic choice of outdoor play equipment.  Kids will love the mini maze, climbing frames, swings, and sandpit.  However, our favourite was the bouncy sand pillows.

For full details of admission prices and opening times click here.

Birdland

Birdland, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

One of the best family-friendly attractions in Bourton on the Water is the wildlife park, Birdland.  With over 500 birds, you can see a selection of different birds from around the world.  Look out for flamingos, pelicans, and a collection of King Penguins.

It’s a small wildlife park, so ideal for younger children to walk round.  They’ll love Jurassic Journey, a trail leading through a pre-historic world of life-size dinosaurs. If they have any energy left, there’s a small playground too.

For full details of admission prices and opening times click here.

The Cotswold Falconry Centre (at Batsford)

Another family attraction near Moreton in Marsh is the Cotswold Falconry Century, which is adjacent to Batsford Arboretum.  The wildlife centre is home to about 150 birds of prey.  You can see the birds in action throughout the day in free-flying demonstrations and trainer talks.

You will get a discount if you visit both attractions.  For more details on the prices click here.

Family walks in the Cotswolds

With so much stunning countryside, the Cotswolds is perfect for a family walk.  Even kids who don’t like walking will love all the animals you’ll see.  On just one walk, we spotted pheasants, lambs, deer, horses and cows!  And what makes it even better is that walking is one of the best free things to do in the Cotswolds!

Dover's Hill

Dovers Hill, Chimping Campden, Cotswold, UK

Dover’s Hill is the first landmark on the long-distance National Trail, the Cotswolds Way.  The trail takes you from the charming market town of Chipping Campden up a steep hill to the viewpoint.  From here you’ll have great views over the Vale of Evesham.  It’s a great spot for a picnic, or for rolling down the other side of the hill!

Historically, Dover’s Hill has hosted the historic Olympik Games, which have been running for over four hundred years.  Traditional games at this event include shin kicking, tug o’war and relay races with wheelbarrows and dustbins!

From the top you can retrace your steps to Chipping Campden or follow a circular trail over the hill through the beautiful Lynches Wood.  We were there in April, when the woodland floor had a picturesque blanket of bluebells.

Click here for a map and details of the circular walk.

Broadway Tower

Sunset at Broadway Tower, Broadway, Cotswold, UK

One of the best family walks in the Cotswolds is from Broadway village to the iconic Broadway Tower. Built in 1798, the tower is actually a folly, built for Lady Coventry.  This is the second highest point in the Cotswolds with views stretching over the Cotswold countryside and as far as Wales.

There are several ways to get to Broadway Tower.  Firstly, you could walk directly from the village of Broadway following the national trail, the Cotswolds Way.  This route is about 1 mile.  Alternatively you could do a longer circular walk of 4 miles.  We took the longer route, which had some tough climbs, but lots of wildlife.

If you don’t fancy a climb, there is a National Trust car park by the Tower.  When covid-restrictions are not in place, you can climb to the top of the tower.  You’ll also find a lovely café here, which is currently open for outside eating.

Whilst at the tower, look out for the Broadway Tower nuclear bunker and herd of red deer by the café.

On your return down the hill, you’ll reach a playground just before you turn into the High Street.  Click here for a map and details of the circular walk.

The Slaughters

The Mill at Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, UK

One of the easiest family-friendly walks in the Cotswolds is between Upper and Lower Slaughter.  Despite their name, the Slaughters are two of the prettiest chocolate-box villages in the Cotswolds.  The sinister sounding name derives from the Old English meaning “muddy place”.

We always start in Upper Slaughter and follow the Warden’s Way trail to Lower Slaughter.  It’s an easy route through meadows and takes about 20 minutes.  Lower Slaughter has traditional honey-coloured cottages and sits by a stream.  It’s unbelievably unspoilt.

However, there is a café, The Old Mill, which is a 19th Century converted mill.  You can still see the original water mill and go in the museum.  Another option is to take a picnic and watch the ducks on the stream.

On the trail of Romans

Chedworth Roman Villa

Chedworth Roman Villa near Cheltenham is one of the largest Roman villas ever found in Britain.  The original villa dates to the 4th century AD.  However, it was long forgotten and only rediscovered by Victorian archaeologists about 150 years ago.  Since then, it has been part of a long excavation programme.

Today, Chedworth Roman Villa is owned by the National Trust.  Inside the conservation building a glass walkway leads over the hypocaust system (early underfloor heating). You can also see one of Britain’s earliest mosaics.  There are activities for children such as coin rubbing and dressing up Roman style.

Outside you can see more ancient ruins of the Roman villa and imagine how life would have been for its inhabitants.  They even have evidence of an early flushing toilet! Another smaller museum has a collection of original Roman artefacts.

The Romans chose the site for the villa wisely as the area is in the heart of beautiful Cotswold countryside.  Children will also love the nature trail on the short woodland walk in the grounds of the villa.

Click here for details of prices and opening times.

The Roman Baths in Bath

The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset, England

The historic city of Bath is in the most southernly area of the Cotswolds.  It was named after the thermal baths, established there by Romans hundreds of years ago.  Today the Roman Baths is one of the most visited tourist attractions in England.  It is also a World Heritage Site.

The Roman Baths was built on the site of unique thermal springs, which provide the spa with natural hot water.  Today it is one of the most family friendly attractions in the Cotswolds.  An audio tour, narrated by author Michael Rosen, will guide you round the museum and all its exhibits.  Everything is clearly labelled and it’s easy to imagine how the Romans would have enjoyed this fantastic facility.

You’ll find plenty of other family-friendly attractions in Bath.  There’s a good choice of museums and lots of green outside spaces and parks.

Click here for ideas of things to do in Bath with kids.

Corinium Museum

Another museum in the Cotswolds where children can enjoy discovering how the Romans lived is at the Corinium Museum.  Located in the heart of Cirencester, the Corinium Museum is home to a collection of artefacts from the Roman Town of Corinium.

This is great museum for revisiting Roman Britain.  However, the museum doesn’t just focus on Romans and has objects throughout history.  Kids can see a Roman town house, mosaics and tools dating to Prehistoric times.

The Cotswold Water Park

Two boys setting off across Cotswold Water Park Lake

The Cotswold Water Park is an immense lake system to the south of Cirencester.  It has more than 170 lakes in an area of 40 square miles, giving the area a very different landscape to other areas of the Cotswolds.

With so many lakes, it is the perfect destination if you want to try some water activities in the Cotswolds.  They offer water sports for all different age groups.  We tried canoeing and paddle boarding, but they have other water activities, including a giant inflatable water park.

To the north of the Cotswold Water Park is a country park, with its own beach and adventure playground. If kids don’t like the water, there’s a selection of other things to do at the Cotswolds Water Park.  It’s extremely scenic, so you can hike or cycle.  The focus of the water park is wildlife conservation, and the area is abundant in wildlife and waterfowl.

There is a good choice of accommodation if you want to stay at the Cotswold Water Park.  The Lower Mill Estate is a nature reserve with eco-friendly residences overlooking the lakes.  Alternatively, there are hotels, campsites, and other self-catering options.

Click here for more information on a stay at the Cotswold Water Park.

Family attractions in Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton on the Water, known as “Venice of the Cotswolds”, is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds.  Tourists flock to see this picturesque village, famed for its low arched bridges spanning the River Windrush.

However, I have given Bourton on the Water its own special mention for its multitude of family attractions.  The village is only small, but it has a wildlife park, motoring museum, maze, and model village.

The Model Village

Model Village, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

One of the must-see attractions in Bourton-on-the-Water is the Model Village.  This miniature village is a 1/9th scale replica of the actual Bourton on the Water, built in the same Cotswold stone.  Located by the Old New Inn in the centre of Bourton, the model village was built over several years.  It includes tiny versions of the low arched bridges crossing the Windrush River, and all the shops and cafés in the town.

It’s better to visit the village first so that the kids can look for buildings and places they recognise.  Of course, the icing on the cake is finding the tiny model village in the Model Village.

The Dragonfly Maze

The Dragonfly Maze is a traditional yew tree maze at the lower end of Bourton-on-the-Water next to Birdland.  However, there is nothing traditional about it.  Rather than just running to the middle, you must solve 14 clues to help you discover the Golden Dragonfly.

It’s a lot of fun for children and adults alike.

Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection

Motoring Museum, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

The Cotswold Motoring Museum has a collection of motoring memorabilia throughout the ages.  Discover classic cars, vintage bicycles, and a variety of other transport related items.  The celebrity car at the museum is Brum, from the children’s TV series.

In addition to all the vehicles, you’ll find an assortment of toys from bygone days.  Take a trip down memory lane to see some of your family favourite toys from your childhood.

Click here for details of prices and opening hours.

Other family attractions in Cotswolds

Bibury and the Bibury Trout Farm

Bibury houses, Bibury, Cotswolds, UK

Bibury was described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”.  Today it is still the most photographed, thanks to its row of 14th Century weavers’ cottages, Arlington Row.

After a quick visit to Arlington Row, you can follow the footpath across Rack Isle, a National Trust Wildfowl Reserve.  It’s only a short trail, but we saw a pheasant and a nesting swan.

Across the reserve from Arlington Row is Bibury Trout Farm, the oldest trout farm in England.  Children can feed the trout, watch them jumping out of the water or even try their hand at fishing.

For full details of admission prices and opening times click here.

Blenheim Palace

Bleinheim Palace is the birthplace of wartime leader, Winston Churchill.  This grandiose stately home was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 and is now a popular family attraction. Bleinheim Palace is in Woodstock in 2,000 acres on the edge of the Cotswolds.

You’ll find lots of things to interest kids at Bleinheim Palace. As well as the formal gardens, there are pleasure gardens for kids and an adventure playground.  A miniature train runs round the ground, so even little children can get a tour of the estate.

In addition to the normal attractions, they offer an annual programme, with special activities for kids.  This year they are hosting a jousting tournament, a visiting circus and a dog show.

St Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-Wold

St Edwards Church Door, Stow on the Wold, Cotswold, UK

A church door is an unlikely tourist attraction for children, but the  north door at St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold is quite an exception.

This 13th century door is flanked by two ancient yew trees, giving it a fantastical look.  Local legends says that the door inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Doors of Durin.  Whether or not it did, it’s a great sight for anyone with a good imagination!

Sudeley Castle & Gardens

Sudeley Castle  is near to the medieval market town of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.  Originally a manor house in the 11th Century, Sudeley Castle had a turbulent history spanning 1000 years.  It has many royal connections and is now the only private castle in England with a queen buried in its grounds.

Unfortunately we couldn’t buy tickets for the castle, but I wanted to include it as it looks such a great family day out.  Plus the playground looks fantastic.

A map of places to visit in the Cotswolds with kids

Here is a map of our places to visit in the Cotswolds with kids.

Save the map to use when you are there by clicking on the star to the right of the title.

You can later find the map by going to your Google Maps app and selecting the saved icon.

Where are your best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids?   We’d love to read your comments below:-

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