With its beautiful bridges over the River Windrush and honey coloured 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 exceptionally pretty, but it also has plenty 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
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-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 Bourton’s 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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Have a browse in the gift shops, sit by the river and watch the world go by, or even have a paddle. What are you waiting for?
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 in the High Street, but you will be lucky to get a space. We parked at the large coach and car park on Station Road.
Alternatively, you can park in the Rissington Road pay and display carpark. This is at the Birdland and the Dragonfly Maze end of town and only a 4 minute walk into the village.
Have you been to Bourton-on-the-Water? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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