7 best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water with kids

by Jan

With its beautiful bridges over the River Windrush and honey colour buildings, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds.  It’s extremely popular with visitors and this is not without reason.  Not only is Bourton-on-the Water extremely pretty, but it also has a lot of family attractions.  Read on to discover the best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water with kids.

Explore Bourton-on-the-Water village

Two boys sitting at Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

Bourton-on-the-Water is picture-postcard pretty and visitors young and old will love a visit.  The village straddles the gorgeous River Windrush and is known for the iconic low-arched bridges which span the water.  The water is shallow, so you can see the riverbed or even paddle!

We loved watching the ducks glide down in one direction and then battle against the current to get back up the river.

You’ll find lots of quaint shops and tea houses in Bourton, as well as the many family attractions.

Bourton-on-Water is an extremely popular tourist destination, so it’s better to go first thing in the day or avoid the summer months.

Bourton-on-the-Water treasure trail

Another way to explore Bourton-on-the-Water with kids is to follow a treasure trail.  The self-guided murder mystery trail will take you around the village centre and to some of the most famous historical attractions.

The treasure trail takes about two hours but provides the family with directions and clues to solve around the village without the kids losing interest.  Some of the clues are quite challenging, so you need to be alert and use your best problem-solving skills!

We’ve already tried the treasure trails in Wimbledon Village and Odiham and find them a great incentive to get kids exploring new places.

The Bourton-on-Water treasure trail never ventures far from the High Street.  This gives you the chance to visit any of the attractions if you need a break.  The trail is 1.6 miles and takes about 2 hours to complete.

Bourton-on-the-Water model village

Model Village, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

After exploring Bourton-on-the-Water head for the Model Village where you can revisit the gorgeous Cotswold village in miniature.  The model village is a one-ninth scale exact replica of the real Bourton-on-the-Water.  It’s the only Grade-II listed model village in England and one of the most famous attractions in Bourton-on-the Water.

You’ll find the mini village behind the Old New Inn.  It was built in 1937 by the landlord and a group of volunteers, using traditional Cotswold stone.  It took five years to build, which isn’t so surprising when you see the attention to detail in the buildings.

Model Village at Bourton On the Water, Cotswolds, UK

Bourton’s model village depicts all the shops and buildings just as they were in the 1930s. You’ll see the bakery, the garage and even the Motor Museum.  Running through the centre of the model village is a duplicate of the River Windrush with cute mini bonsai trees and tiny low arched bridges.

If you’re visiting with children, they’ll love bending down to peer through the tiny windows.  However, the highlight of the model village is always the tiny model village in the model village.

This miniature village is only small, so doesn’t take too long to visit.  Allow about 20 minutes.

Click here for current admission prices.

Bourton Model Railway Exhibition

Model Railway at Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, UK

With over 40 model trains running round the tracks, the Bourton Model Railway Exhibition is the perfect attraction for kids who love transport.  The miniature railway tracks run through 500 feet of replica town and countryside.  It even passes by a working funfair.

As if this wasn’t enough, the shop has a collection of some of the most popular Lego sets and model kits.

Birdland & Jurassic Journey

One of the best family-friendly attractions in Bourton on the Water is 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.

Penguins at Birdland, Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, UK

One of the first enclosures at Birdland is Penguin Shore, where you’ll find a collection of Humboldt and King Penguins.  They were looking a little confused when we were there, as their pool was empty for cleaning.

Whilst in Birdland, take yourself on a mini tour of Africa, where you’ll see fantastic birdlife from the African continent.  “Out of Africa” has a variety of exotic birds from lovebirds and weavers to flamingos and ostriches.

Birdland, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

Jurassic Journey at Birdland

At the far end of Birdland, you’ll discover the wildlife park is not only home to hundreds of birds, but to 30 life-size dinosaurs too.  Jurassic Journey is a dinosaur experience, taking you back millions of years to the time of dinosaurs.

Follow the woodland on a pre-historic journey through a time when dinosaurs existed.  Keep your eyes peeled for the 30 enormous dinosaurs in the swamp and up in the trees.  There’s a Jurassic Journey puzzle to solve and the kids can win a badge at the end.

Younger children will love Jurassic Journey and can even look for fossils in the Dino Dig section.  One section of the Jurassic Journey trail passes Swampland, a boggy area excavated to encourage wading birds and small waterfowl.  There’s also a bird feeding area in the woods.

Dinosaur Swamp at Birdland, Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, UK

Birdland is a relatively small wildlife park, so ideal for younger children to walk round.  One of the advantages is that they can get up close and personal with the birds.  If they have any energy left, there’s a small obstacle playground by the café.

Allow between 1 and 2 hours for your visit.  For full details of admission prices and opening times click here.

Dragonfly Maze

Dragonfly Maze at Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, UK

One of the more unusual things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water with kids is a visit to the Dragonfly Maze, which is next door to Birdland.

The Dragonfly Maze is a maze with a difference.  Although it looks like a traditional yew tree maze, it is far from traditional.  Unlike other mazes that just follow a path to the centre, you have clues and a puzzle to solve.

Only when you have successfully solved 14 clues can you discover the Golden Dragonfly hidden in the middle.  This problem-solving takes the challenge of the maze to a new level, which is fun for adults and children alike.

The inspiration for the maze came from the story book “Masquerade”, which gives clues to the secret whereabouts of a golden hare. The author and artist, Kit Williams, was asked to design the centrepiece for the Golden Dragonfly.

The Dragonfly Maze is at the lower end of Bourton-on-the-Water next to Birdland.  Allow about 30 minutes for your visit.

The Dragonfly Maze is only open in the summer between April and October.  It is open from 10am to 4pm.

Click here for current admission prices.

Bourton Motoring Museum & Toy Collection

Motoring Museum, Bourton on the Water, Cotswold, UK

If your kids like transport, they will love the Cotswold Motoring Museum, one of the most popular family attractions in Bourton-on-the-Water.  Located within a 17th-century watermill, it’s also one of the best things to do when it’s raining in Bourton.

The Cotswold Motoring Museum has a collection of motoring memorabilia throughout the ages.  Discover 7 galleries of 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.

Have an ice-cream by the River Windrush

Ducks at Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, UK

One of the absolute best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water is to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  There’s a good choice of places to eat, including cosy tea shops, pubs, and the famous Bourton Bakery.  Of course, for the kids the highlight of any day out is an ice cream.

Sit by the river and watch the ducks, or even have a paddle.

Getting to Bourton-on-the-Water

Bouton-on-the-Water is in the northern Cotswolds, just south of the Slaughters and Stow-on-the-Wold.  The easiest way to get there is by car.  The nearest major road is the M5.  From here you can take the A417 and A436 to Bourton.

If you are coming by public transport, the nearest train station is Moreton-in-Marsh.  This is about 8 miles away, so you’ll have to take a taxi or local bus.

Parking in Bourton-on-the-Water

There is free parking on part of the High Street but you will be lucky to get a space. We parked at the large Coach and Car park pay and display on station road.  Alternatively you can park in the Rissington road pay and display which is closer to Birdland and the Dragonfly Maze and then a 4m walk into the village.

Have you been to Bourton-on-the-Water?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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