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Bourton on the Water is one of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages. The slow-flowing River Windrush runs through the centre of the village and is crossed over by low footbridges. It is one village looks like something out of a storybook.
Due to this scenic appeal, this charming little village, is often referred to as the “Venice of the Cotswolds” and known for its picturesque bridges that can be sometimes overrun with locals and tourist alike. It might be small in size, but the list of things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water is long.
Whether you’re spending one day in the Cotswolds, or one week, you don’t want to pass up a chance to visit Bourton on the Water.
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Where is Bourton on the Water?
Bourton-on-the-Water is located in the county of Gloucestershire, in South West England. It’s in the heart of the rural Cotswolds (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and is one of the prettiest villages in England. Some other small towns and villages that border it include Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, Clapton-on-the-Hill, and Cold Aston. Bourton on the Water to Cheltenham (the closest major town) is only 14 miles away.
The Best Time To Visit Bourton-on-the-Water England
Bourton on the Water is busiest during the summer holidays in between late June to August and midday on weekend. Spring and autumn are also good times to visit Bourton at Water to see the colourful flowers.
Things To Do In Bourton on the Water Cotswolds
Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most popular villages in the Cotswolds and is one of the best day trips to do from London. It offers a wealth of things to do. Of course, you’ll find the typical small shops, local eateries, and buzzing tea rooms the Cotswolds is known for.
There are also some unique attractions you won’t find anywhere else. You can read about all of the best Bourton-on-the-Water attractions below.
1. Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection
The Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection displays the motoring history of the 20th century. It’s a treasure trove of all things automotive and includes a collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and other motor memorabilia.
The Cotswold Motoring Museumalso has toy collection that contains rare toys, like pedal cars, toy cars, aeroplanes, model kits, and more. It’s the home of Brum from the British children’s television series. See where the show was filmed from 1991 to 2002 and learn more about the small car’s big adventures.
The Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection offers a nostalgic glimpse into life on the road in the century past. It’s fun for all ages.
2. Bourton on the Water Model Village
One of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water is visiting the model village. The Model Village is a one-ninth scale replica of the Cotswolds Bourton on the Water. The mini village was built from 1936 to 1940 and is a perfect recreation of the actual village. Each structure features incredible detail.
The walls and roofs in the model village were sourced from the Cotswolds own quarried limestone and made with the local Cotswold stone.
The Model Village also contains its own version of the River Windrush. See the shop fronts, buildings, and scenery of the model village all laid out right in front of your eyes. You’ll feel like a giant as you walk around the small structures. It’s safe to say you’ll also get some pretty cool pictures during your visit. Visiting the Model Village was one of my favourite places to visit in Burton on the water.
3. Have A Picnic by the River Windrush
If you visit Bourton On The Water during summer and on bank holidays one of the best things to do in Bourton On The Water Cotswolds is to have a relaxing picnic along the River Windrush with stone bridges shaded by overhanging trees. You’ll even see many kids playing in the river to cool down when the temperature raises during the summer holidays.
The River Windrush runs through the center of tiny village under five stone bridges next to the high street. With the oldest bridge being Mill Bridge which is next to the Motor Museum built in 1654.
4. Birdland Park & Gardens
Birdland Park and Gardens is a wildlife park that’s been welcoming guests since 1957. It’s been at its current location since 1989. It occupies about 6 acres of woodland and even incorporates part of the River Windrush.
About 500 birds live within the 150 open aviaries, including pink-backed pelicans, cassowary, golden parakeet, Marabou stork, and more. It also contains the only king penguins in the UK.
The Birdland Park and Gardens is a lovely setting for outdoor activity. Wander around admiring the different types of birds and enjoy being in nature. You can easily spend a few hours in the Park and Gardens. There’s a picnic area, plenty of benches for resting and relaxing, and a play park for kids.
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5. The Dragonfly Maze
The Dragonfly Maze is a fun yew hedge maze with a twist. The purpose of the maze is to look for 14 numbered clues as you walk through the 0.5 miles of pathways. They will lead you to the middle of the maze where the Golden Dragonfly is hidden in a roundhouse.
Once you’ve reached the dragonfly you’ve completed the puzzle. However, this can only be done with all of the correct answers to the clues you collect. It generally takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. This attraction offers wholesome entertainment all ages can enjoy.
6. Greystones Farm Nature Reserve
Greystones Farm Nature Reserve is an expansive outdoor area that offers a break from the busyness of the village centre. It’s located just a short walk from the high street and offers some fun and unique outdoor Bourton On The Waterattractions.
Grab a Wildlife Walk map when you arrive and follow one of the many trails through the picturesque wildflower meadows, the River Eye, and lake filled with wildlife.. Spend some time at an organic farm or visit the exciting interactive Discovery Barn.
See fascinating archaeological finds discovered in the area, like Iron Age ramparts and a replica Iron Age roundhouse. If you get hungry, pop into Greystones Courtyard Cafe for lunch or afternoon tea. This site will keep you entertained for hours, and best of all, it’s free to visit if you are looking for free things to do in Bourton On The Water England.
7. St Lawrence’s Church
St Lawrence’s Church is an old Anglican church just a short walk from the High Street. The earliest evidence of a religious building being on the site goes back to the 8th century when a wooden structure was put up. Since then, many different buildings have occupied it.
Much of what is seen today was built in 1784, with further additions being made in the 1870s with the construction of the nave. It’s a beautiful old church that’s been well preserved throughout the years. It’s full of history and offers a quiet place to relax and reflect away from the crowded village centre.
8. The Cotswold Brewing Company
The Cotswold Brewing Company is a microbrewery that specialises in lager and local ales. Their drinks are high-quality and full of flavour. They’re open to the public for tours. Book a slot and discover the history of this beloved brewing company. All tours also include a tasting.
You’ll learn all about the beer-making process and see the behind-the-scenes steps used to create their tasty lager. This is an attraction all beer-drinkers will thoroughly enjoy and is a fun thing to do in Bourton On The Water Cotswolds.
9. Have Afternoon Tea in Bourton on the Water Cotswolds England
Bourton on the Water is the perfect village to enjoy the English tradition of afternoon high tea. There are several local eateries that offer this ritual, but Bakery on the Water is definitely one of the most popular. This small, family-run artisan bakery makes scones throughout the day for their afternoon tea and classic cream tea, so expect everything to be super fresh.
They also offer all of your classic cafe fares, like pastries, sandwiches, bread, and incredible coffee. The courtyard at the back of the bakery is next to the river. Enjoy your afternoon tea or a meal while listening to the water pass by.
Alternatively, you can order one of their picnic baskets to go and enjoy your meal on the grassy lawn right next to the River Windrush.
Where to Stay in Bourton on the Water United Kingdom
Now that we’ve covered what to do in the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, it’s time to discuss the best places to stay in Bourton-on-the-Water some with free parking. Booking the right accommodation will add so much more value to your trip. Here are four options that are highly recommended and will provide the perfect base for your vacation.
🏨 The Lamb Inn
This quaint inn dates back to the 18th century. It offers upscale rooms and a country-style restaurant with a cosy pub. The rooms and suites include homey amenities, like a tea/coffee maker, free WiFi, a TV, and an ensuite bathroom. After a busy day exploring the area, head to the restaurant for a local meal, then end the evening with a tasty pint of ale in the pub.
🏨 The Lansdowne Guest House
The Lansdowne Guest House is a lovely family-owned B&B. It offers a range of accommodation options, from single room units to a townhouse. All come with a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities, and light refreshments. A full English breakfast, as well as a continental breakfast, are offered each morning. The guest house is also within easy walking distance to the town centre where you’ll find many charming cafes and restaurants in Bourton on the Water.
🏨 Chester House Hotel
The Chester House Hotel is a modern country-style house with traditional furnishings. All of the rooms feature a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities, and an ensuite bathroom. The on-site restaurant specialises in Italian cuisine for lunch and dinner. In the morning, a complimentary full English breakfast is served.
There is also a bar that’s open all day that offers a nice range of drinks, including craft ales and spirits. Lastly, the hotel’s garden terrace provides a tranquil atmosphere for relaxing or planning the day’s activities.
🏨 The Mousetrap Inn
The Mousetrap Inn is an 18th century family-run stone inn. It’s as charming as they come and is centrally located close to the village’s top attractions in Bourton On The Water UK. The rooms are simple in design and include all of your basic comforts and conveniences. This includes a TV with streaming services, tea/coffee making facilities, and an ensuite bathroom. A complimentary cooked breakfast is served each morning. There is also a traditional, highly-rated pub and restaurant where you can order other meals and drinks.
Best Places To Eat In Bourton on the Water
Enjoying food is half the fun when you’re visiting a new place. Plus, it’s a great way to explore the local culture. Here are a few eateries that come highly rated in Bourton-on-the-Water.
🍽️ The Rose Tree Restaurant
The Rose Tree Restaurant offers traditional British cuisine in a scenic location right next to the river bank. Enjoy a meal and a drink on their spacious outdoor patio. The menu caters to all diets, from carnivore to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
🍽️ The Chip Shed Bourton on the Water
The Chip Shed is the best restaurant in the Cotswolds for authentic British fish and chips. The food is super fresh and you can order it as a takeaway, or dine in. The menu features everything from your classic cod fillet with chips and mushy peas to homemade pie and beef burgers.
If you order a takeaway, find a comfy spot on the grass right next to the river and enjoy your meal.
🍽️ The Croft Restaurant
The Croft Restaurant is open from breakfast until dinner. They’re right next to the river, so you can enjoy water views from the comfort of your seat. The atmosphere is family-friendly and their menu caters to all tastes. They mainly offer British cuisine, but they also have creative dishes like vegan Vietnamese noodle bowls and homemade vegetarian burgers.
🍽️ Smiths Bar & Restaurant
If you want something more contemporary, head to Smith’s Bar and Restaurant. They specialise in gourmet burgers and cocktails. They even have the Beyond Burger for vegans and vegetarians. The atmosphere is very lively, especially at night, which is why it’s recommended to book a table in advance.
Best Pubs in Bourton on the Water To Visit
Seeing as Bourton-on-the-Water is a classic English village, you can expect to see some cosy pubs. Here are the best places to nip into for a drink.
Kingsbridge is a stone-built pub that lies right next to the River Windrush. The scenic location coupled with the authentic country pub ambience makes it a great place to enjoy a few drinks. They have plenty of options, from cask ales to ciders, wine, spirits, and soft drinks. They also offer a menu full of traditional pub meals, like fish and chips, burgers, and homemade pies. This pub is the total package.
🍻 The Duke of Wellington
The Duke of Wellington is both a small guesthouse and a stone pub. It overlooks the River Windrush and has indoor and outdoor seating with a beer garden. They offer a variety of real ales and a classic pub menu.
They play all of the important live games on their large flat-screen TV. If you’re a sports fan this is the place to be. Regular event nights are also scheduled, like a Sunday Carvery, Steak Night, and Burger Night.
🍻 Old Manse Hotel
Old Manse Hotel is a friendly pub and country inn that dates back to 1748. It sits next to the River Windrush and offers outdoor seating on the terrace with beautiful views of the water. Pop in and enjoy a glass of real ale or fine wine. Pair it with a tasty pub classic, like sausages and mash or hand-battered Atlantic cod and chips. Their menu also caters to vegans and vegetarians, so there’s something for everyone.
Things to Do Near Bourton-on-the-Water
If you’re looking for things to do near Bourton-on-the-Water, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The surrounding area offers even more opportunities for fun and adventure.
🌳Take a Scenic Walk in Cotswolds England
Discover more of the unspoiled beauty this area of England is known for on a scenic Cotswolds walk. There are countless trails in the area that are suitable for all skill levels.
The Cotswold Way is one of the most popular footpaths in the area. It‘s a 102-mile long route that begins at the village of Chipping Campden and leads all the way to the city of Bath. Of course, you can turn around anytime and make the walk as short as you’d like.
The Cleeve Hill Ring Walk is a six-mile path that takes you through some of the area’s most stunning scenery. Journey across open hilltops, through woodlands, and next to streams while taking in unsurpassed views along the way.
One of the most popular walking trials is the Bourton to the Slaughters walk, which is around a 5.4-mile circular walk to the villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, and along the River Windrush.
Broadway and The Tower is a four-mile moderate walk. It leads you from the high street of Broadway all the way to the iconic Broadway Tower. This historic folly offers one of the best viewpoints in the Cotswolds. Along the route, you’ll be enchanted by stunning views.
🌳Swing by Stow-on-the-Wold
There are lots of exciting things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold. This quaint town is just an 8-minute drive (4 miles) from Bourton-on-the-Water. It sits about 800 feet above sea level making it the highest town in the Cotswolds.
Market Square is the heart of the town in Stow-on-the-Wold. It’s full of antique shops, art galleries, and tea rooms. It also contains The Cotswold Cheese Company. If you’re a fan of artisan cheese, this local gem is a must-visit.
St Edward’s Church is one of the most unique attractions in Bourton On The Water Cotswolds. This historic place of worship contains some parts that date all the way back to the 11th century. It’s said that the church was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien when writing The Lord of the Rings. The main entrance is framed by two ancient yew trees, making it look like something out of a fairytale.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to The Porch House. This pub claims to be the oldest in Britain. It has a history that can be traced back to 947 AD. It’s quite popular and tends to stay busy so it’s a good idea to book a table in advance.
Stratford-upon-Avon is 45 minutes (25 miles) from Bourton-on-the-Water. This medieval market town was the birthplace of the great English playwright William Shakespeare. Sites and attractions connected to his life are still scattered throughout the town.
Visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, a 16th-century half-timbered house that was both Shakespear’s birthplace and childhood home. It has been turned into a small museum and offers excellent insight into the poet’s life.
You can also visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the former home of Shakespeare’s wife. Then carry on to Hall’s Croft, the former home of his daughter. Of course, no trip would be complete without seeing a show at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. A trip to this town will definitely make you feel like you’ve been transported back to 16th-century England.
How to Get to Bourton-on-the-Water
Getting to this small village is easy. If you’re travelling to the Cotswolds from London, it’s about a two-hour (90-mile) drive to reach Bourton-on-the-Water. You’ll take the M40 and A40 highways most of the way. The train also runs to Bourton-on-the-Water, however, it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to get there from London. You can check tickets and timetables here.
There are also plenty of exciting Cotswolds tours from London. This is one of the easiest ways to discover the region. Plus, you won’t have to worry about planning every little detail of your day. It’s all taken care of for you.
Where to Park in Bourton-on-the-Water England
If you’re driving to Bourton-on-the-Water, you’ll have a few options for parking your car. There are several pay-and-display parking lots that are reasonably priced. The ones on Rissington Road (Rissington Road Car Park)and Station Road are within easy walking distance to the village centre.
There are also a visitor centre and a few free car parks, but keep in mind that they fill up fast and you’re only allowed to park there for about 1.5 to 2 hours max. If you’re staying overnight in accommodation close to the village or visitor centre, make sure to check if private parking is included with your hotel.
What to do in Bourton-on-the-Water England | Final Thoughts
Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the UK’s most charming villages. It offers a whole host of fun activities and best attractions in Bouton-on-the-Water for all ages will enjoy. It’s perfect for a day trip from London, but you could easily spend a few days discovering everything it has to offer.
Have a picnic by the River Windrush, enjoy a meal at a cosy eatery, explore the local museums and outdoor attractions. It’s the perfect destination for a low-key, quintessentially British getaway.