If you’re holidaying in the Cotswolds this half term, you can rest assured you certainly won’t run out of things to do – no matter what the weather throws at you! The region is a hive of attractions for families, with plenty to keep the kids off the screens and thoroughly entertained.
Here’s the lowdown on some of our favourite places to visit with kids in Gloucestershire and surrounding areas. And, because we know long journeys with children are rarely fun for anyone involved, we’ve made sure to include activities and attractions that are less than an hour’s drive from our holiday homes in Cirencester.
Arboretums and Gardens
Batsford, Moreton-in-Marsh | GL56 9AT
When the kids need to let off some steam in the fresh air, Batsford Arboretum is the perfect spot to let them loose! Located near Moreton-in-Marsh, it offers incredible views across the Evenlode Valley and is home to one of the largest private tree collections in the country.
Batsford is guaranteed to wow no matter what time of year you visit, but our favourite time to wander its 56 acres is in autumn, when the colours of the changing leaves are simply sensational. There’s also a play area for little ones and a fun children’s trail that will teach them about the natural beauty around them. Dogs are welcome too, so there’s no need for your four-legged family member to miss out!
Tetbury | GL8 8QS
Another botanical garden that’s especially magical in autumn is Westonbirt, The National Arboretum. Located in Tetbury, it’s home to 2500 different tree species, which can be seen in all their glory from the Tree Top Walkway.
Dotted around the deep dark woods are some character sculptures that children will find very familiar – The Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’s Child and other characters from Julia Donaldson’s much-loved tales! When you’ve found them all, kids of all ages can use up any remaining energy in the Natural Play Trail, where they can build a den, clamber over logs, scramble through tyre tunnels and much more!
Bourton-on-the-Water | GL54 2BN
Looking for something a bit different to do as a family? The Dragonfly Maze certainly ticks that box and is an ideal activity to incorporate into a visit to the picturesque town of Bourton-on-the-Water.
This traditional yew-hedge maze consists of around half a mile of pathways and has a fun twist: dotted throughout the maze are 14 clues that make up a rebus puzzle. Solve the puzzle to find the hidden golden dragonfly at the centre of the maze!
Cirencester | GL7 6DF
If you thought you’d have to travel to the coast to get some beach vibes, think again! The Cotswold Country Park and Beach is quite possibly the region’s most surprising attraction! With a sandy beach, a swimming lagoon, a host of water sports and lots more activities, it’s the kind of day out you can make as energetic or chilled out as you fancy.
One of the most popular attractions for kids (age 6+) and adults alike is Aquaventure: a giant inflatable water park made up of more than 40 challenging obstacles for sliding, bouncing, jumping and splashing on!
Bourton-on-the-Water | GL54 2AY
Just a five-minute walk from the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water is Birdland: home to one of the largest collections of exotic birds in the UK. Exhibits include birds of prey, rare breeds, waterfowl and an incredible ‘Out of Africa’ exhibit, where you can meet hornbills, village weavers and more.
Birdland also boasts England’s only breeding group of King Penguins and an awe-inspiring homage to the ancestors of birds: the Jurassic Journey zone, in which you will discover life-sized dinosaurs amongst the trees. It’s all set within nine acres of picturesque gardens and woodland, with a children’s play area, on-site café and plenty of picnic spots making it a full day of fun.
Nr. Burford | OX18 4JP
Set in 160 acres of parkland around a listed Victorian Manor House, Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens has been wowing families since 1970. It’s home to a hugely diverse range of animals, many of which are endangered in the wild. But what makes this place unique is the uninterrupted views it offers of the animals – the clever landscaping and carefully considered enclosures make it seem as if you’re viewing the animals in a wild setting. There’s something really special about watching the rhinos graze in front of the spectacular manor house.
The beautiful gardens are just as much of a talking point and will delight anyone with a passion for horticulture. There’s a daily schedule of keeper talks, a fantastic adventure playground and a wide choice of refreshments in the restaurant. Dogs are welcome too!
Guiting Power | GL54 5FL
The family business of Countryfile favourite Adam Henson, the Cotswold Farm Park has always been passionate about the conservation of rare breeds. As a result, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with over 50 breeds of rare and commercial farm animals.
There’s an extensive programme of seasonal events throughout the year, including a pumpkin patch in autumn, lambing in the spring and an unmissable maize maze throughout the summer. It’s well worth checking out the website to see what’s on when you’re planning to visit.
Castles and Museums
Winchcombe | GL54 5LP
Known as the ‘hidden gem of the Cotswolds’, Sudeley is a majestic 15th-century castle that was once a royal residence and is still a family home today, inhabited by Lady Ashcombe and her son, daughter and their families.
With a fascinating history that’s retold through the exhibition rooms within the building itself, Sudeley boasts ten magnificent gardens, distinctive ruins and one of the largest public collections of rare and endangered species of pheasants. The adventure playground and trail will keep younger visitors entertained, while the Castle Kitchen Pantry and Terrace Café are ideal pitstops for refuelling!
Woodstock | OX20 1UL
There’s a wealth of history and horticulture to explore at Blenheim Palace, which is over 300 years old and spans more than 2000 acres. Inside the spectacular building, you can take in such significant sights as Sir Winston Churchill’s birth room, gilded State Rooms and the Marlborough family’s private apartments. Outside, you’re free to roam the Formal Gardens, The Butterfly House or take on the challenge of the famous Marlborough Maze! Children will also love riding on the Blenheim miniature train or taking part in the Bee Trail in the charming Walled Garden.
Cheltenham | GL54 5LD
With stations from Broadway to Cheltenham Racecourse, The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a volunteer-run railway that runs heritage steam and diesel trains. Step back in time and take a round trip of 28 miles through the Malvern Hills and some of the Cotswolds’ most breathtaking scenery.
It’s well worth checking the website before you visit, as there are often special events such as themed rides (fish and chips special, anyone?) and driving experiences – a train enthusiast’s dream!
Bourton-on-the-Water | GL54 2BY
If classic cars are your thing, a visit to the Cotswold Motoring Museum is not to be missed! The impressive collection of rare cars, motorcycles and memorabilia will take you through the history of 20th-century motoring, while the nostalgic toy collection will take older visitors back to their own childhood and capture the imagination of little ones who may never have seen a toy without batteries! Set within a converted 17th-century watermill, this unique attraction has something for everyone.
Cirencester | GL7 2BX
Just down the road from Watermark, this award-winning museum explores 200,000 years of Cotswolds history, with exhibits including some of the most significant archaeological finds from the town of Cirencester – which was once the Roman Town of Corinium. Interactive exhibits bring ancient stories to life, while seasonal events – such as the popular Halloween pumpkin trail – engage and educate kids of all ages!
Gloucester | GL4 6EA
This adrenalin-filled centre boasts the longest ski slope in England and gives you access to recreational skiing runs, snowboarding lessons and tubes – large inflatable rings that spin and can be linked together to slide down the slopes! You can visit for some one-off fun, or book coaching sessions to brush up your skills.
Lydiard Park | SN5 3PA
Got a head for heights? You’ll love Jungle Parc! Located in historic parkland on the edge of Swindon, this action-packed day out features a children’s Adventurer Course with over 50 different activities suitable for little tree climbers aged four and up. For bigger kids (age 10+) and adventurous adults, the Xplorer Course includes over 50 challenging activities suspended in the tree canopy.
When you’ve come back down to earth, you can also pay a visit to Lydiard House for a stroll around the walled garden, a visit to the tearooms or a stomp through its 260 acres of parkland. Dogs are welcome!
Still searching for a half-term staycation that will keep the whole family happy? We have some last-minute availability in our luxurious lakeside lodges at Cotswold Water Park. It’s the perfect location for exploring everything the Cotswolds has to offer, or simply kicking back and making the most of some precious family time.
Contact us now and we’ll help you plan your perfect getaway.