Bourton-on-the-Water(Last Updated On: January 18, 2019)
A visitor’s guide to Bourton-on-the-Water and its surrounding attractions…
Perhaps one of the most famous locations in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is renowned for its pretty waterside views and quaint limestone buildings. We’ve assembled a guide to help you make the most of your time in this picture-perfect village. Bourton-on-the-Water is only 4 miles from Stow-on-the-Wold and straddles the river Windrush with its series of elegant low bridges beside neat tree-shaded greens and tidy stone banks. Standing back from the river are traditional Cotswolds buildings, many of which are now tourist shops for day-trippers and visitors to enjoy. Bourton-on-the-Water has been described as the ‘Little Venice’ of the Cotswolds and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region.
Sightseeing & Activities
Bourton-on-the-Water and its surrounds have lots of attractions to keep visitors of all ages entertained. No visit to the village would be complete without a trip to the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection, home to children’s TV favourite, ‘Brum’. Or if you are feeling adventurous, test your skills in deciphering the clues to find your way out of the Dragonfly Maze. The intricately crafted Model Village is also a must see, as is the wildlife-lovers’ paradise Birdland.
Slightly further afield, Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park is another favourite with families and animal lovers, as is the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. Sudeley Castle & Gardens in nearby Winchcombe is steeped in history with a connection to Henry VIII, and also offers lot of fun for kids in its playgrounds.
Little and Big Kids
Birdland is a 9-acre site (on a former Bryant & May Poplar Tree plantation – famous for its matchstick crop!) in a natural setting of woodland, river and gardens. It is home to over 500 birds (swans, pelicans, penguins, flamingos, hornbills, cranes, storks, cassowary, pigeons, owls and many more) in more than 50 aviaries, with open enclosures, a Desert House (home to the more delicate species), and a display of fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects in the Discovery Zone. Birdland is also the home Marshmouth Nature Reserve, which has developed into a small ecosystem of the Cotswolds where over 60 species of bird have been recorded, including the kingfisher. And within Birdland is ‘Jurassic Journey’, a trail for dinosaur enthusiasts with more than 30 different dinosaurs ranging from a metre-long baby stegosaurus to a 5-metre tall brachiosaurus.
The Model Village
The Model Village is a one-ninth scale replica of the heart of the beautiful Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water, containing all the buildings from the Old Water Mill down to the Old New Inn and the ford.
Have you ever wanted to create your own fragrance? Or blend a unique perfume, just for you? The Cotswold Perfumery not only sells its own line of bespoke fragrances, but also runs one-day perfumery courses where you can learn the step by step process, taking home a 25ml bottle of your own perfume at the end of the day.
Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
Stroll around the Park and get eye-to-eye with giraffes, watch rhinos graze on the Manor House lawns, walk with lemurs, ride on the train, explore the adventure playground and meet the farm animals up close. The park also has a thriving education programme, numerous endangered species breeding programmes and several vital conservation projects in the wild.
Located in Bourton-on-the-Water, the Cotswold Motoring Museum’s collection is full of travel- and motoring-related vehicles, toys and memorabilia. There are seven galleries packed with classic cars and memorabilia from the 1920s, 1930s and 40s, vintage motorbikes, retro collections from the 50s, 60s and 70s, and the children’s TV star Brum (photo left) who was based at the museum. (Note: the museum opens for the 2019 season on 16 February.)
Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park
Sitting in the heart of the Cotswolds, Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park has a long-standing reputation for a fun-filled day out. Visitors of all ages can interact closely with the animals and learn about farming, past and present. As the home of rare breed conservation, visitors can meet over 50 flocks and herds of farm animals, including Gloucestershire Old Spot Pigs and Highland cattle. There is plenty to do all year round, whatever the weather, with an adventure playground, Farm Safari, Maze, Tractor School, Sand pits and Jumping pillows, providing entertainment for children of all ages. Adam’s Kitchen cafe/restaurant and the Farm Park shop are both open to the public, so you don’t even need to buy a ticket to the Farm Park.
Bibury Trout Farm
Budding fishermen and women can try the ‘Catch Your Own’ Fishery – an ideal opportunity to fish for your supper or get hooked on a new hobby. All equipment is provided, and the staff are always on hand if you need them. Alternatively, try Bourton Lakes off the Bourton to Rissington Road, near Rissington Bridge. Usually stocked with carp, perch, pike, roach and tench.
Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre offers tuition, tourist hacks and river rides. Telephone in advance to check availability.
Lechlade & Bushyleaze Trout Fisheries
Experienced fly fishers can practice or those wanting to learn can get tuition for fly fishing; tackle shop & equipment for hire on site.
Sudeley Castle & Gardens
Rated amongst the top attractions in the Cotswolds, the castle rooms and exhibits contain many fascinating treasures, from ancient Roman times to the present day. The castle is surrounded by a breathtaking 1,200-acre estate and ten award-winning gardens. The centrepiece is the Queens Garden, so named because four of England’s queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I – once walked upon the original Tudor Parterre. The Pheasantry at Sudeley houses a collection of 16 rare and endangered species of birds from around the world as part of Sudeley’s programme of breeding and conservation. (Note: Sudeley is open from 4 March – 31 December 2019.)
Time To Relax
Cowley Manor Spa
Cowley Manor is a secluded and tranquil venue to escape and relieve yourself from the stresses of everyday life. The award-winning spa has two swimming pools, a steam room, sauna and relaxation area. In the summertime, recline on the sun loungers by the outdoor heated pool and enjoy the bar and full waiter service on offer. There’s also a full range of treatments available using Cowley Manor’s very own nurturing Green & Spring products.
The Greenway Spa
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway for two or just some ‘me time’, head to The Greenway Spa for some preening, pampering, and polishing. The spa has a selection of treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room, samarium and alfresco hot tub – providing a little slice of quiescent heaven within the Cotswolds. After a hard day’s rejuvenation, enjoy a glass of fizz and a tasty supper at the Orchard Brassiere overlooking the spa gardens.
The 56-acre arboretum at Batsford is situated just one mile west of the historic market town of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the heart of the Cotswolds. A former home to the famous Mitford family, interest in the arboretum begins in late winter when the snowdrops, aconites and early flowering daffodils spring into life, followed by magnolias, hellebores, fritillaries and the beautiful Japanese ornamental cherries – stars of the show from late March until mid-April. The handkerchief tree is another show-stopper in May, as are the beautiful wildflower meadows which bloom in high summer.
Pittville Park & Imperial Gardens
Opened in 1825, Cheltenham’s largest ornamental park includes playgrounds, a boating lake and an aviary. Imperial Gardens, which can be found at the rear of the Town Hall, were originally planted out for the exclusive use of the subscribers to the Sherborne Spa. The spa was constructed in 1818 on the site now occupied by the Queens Hotel. Over the intervening years, the gardens have undergone many changes, with the formal style you now see being laid out just after the second world war. Each year, approximately 25,000 bedding plants are used to produce the magnificent floral displays enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year. During the summer months, Imperial Gardens becomes host to many outdoor events and festivals including the Literature, Jazz, Science and Music Festivals.
Cotswolds Walks: this area is famed for its walking. Smack bang in the middle of the glorious rolling Cotswold hills, keen walkers have plenty of choice when it comes to walks that lead straight from the village centre. A wonderful circular village walk, leading from the village’s Visitor Information Centre, is highly recommended and allows you to really appreciate Bourton-on-the-Water’s rich heritage, taking you past key sites, buildings and monuments as you stroll. For those keen to explore the surrounding villages, a circular walk following the Windrush and Gloucestershire Ways through to the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter offers a gentle pace that totals 4 miles in distance; perfect for those not looking for anything too strenuous. More hard-core ramblers should give the 9-mile circular trek from Bourton through Naunton and the Slaughters a go. Starting at Victoria Street’s Visitor Centre, this picturesque walk takes you through lush fields, chocolate-box villages and along the flowing River Windrush, with Naunton acting as a perfectly-placed pit-stop half way round to relax and refuel. Or walk a bit of the Cotswold Way which runs 100 miles from Chipping Campden via some wonderful Cotswold sites like Broadway Tower, Hailes Abbey, Sudeley Castle and Iron Age Hill Forts on Cleeve Hill above Cheltenham all the way down to Bath.
We encourage you to visit the Bolthole Retreats website where you will find links to walks with each of the properties in the Bourton-in-the-Water area. Or visit the Cotswold AONB website.
Bourton-on-the-Water Football Match
August bank holiday will see the usually tranquil River Windrush taken over by two teams of lively football players, battling it out for victory in the annual Bourton-on-the-Water Football. Transforming the tranquil grassy banks of the river, each Bank Holiday Monday, and braving the chilly waters, will be two six-a-side teams who promise the crowds plenty of entertainment and an opportunity to shout loud. With splashing all part of the fun, frontline spectators should expect to get wet!
Cheltenham Festivals is a charity running outreach programmes throughout the year, culminating with the town’s internationally acclaimed Jazz (May), Science (June), Music (July), and Literature (October) Festivals over a total of 36 days. The four festivals feature nearly 1,000 events, with 25% of their programme free to enter. Bringing in world-famous acts, performers, experts and authors year on year, the town well and truly comes to life during the Festivals. Head to the website to see if your stay coincides with one of the above but, be warned, tickets can be snapped up months in advance for the most popular events.
Cheltenham racecourse, the jewel in Jump racing’s crown, plays host to the best horse jumping action in the world from 350 spectacular acres in the lee of the beautiful Cotswold hills. Whether you’re here on a crisp bright October day or a balmy evening in May, you’ll feel that unmistakable Cheltenham magic. There are 16 days of top-class Jump racing in the Cheltenham race calendar, with hundreds of thousands of racing fans visiting every year. Spectators can enjoy a wide variety of race experiences from the relaxed meetings in October and April to the exciting November Meeting and family fun on New Year’s Day. But the real focus of the Jump season, is of course, The Festival™ presented by Magners, taking place over four days in March with the backdrop of the magnificent Cotswolds.
The Cotswold Clay Club and Shooting School
The Cotswold Clay Club and Shooting School is located in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold Countryside. It is open every day to everyone from novices, to experienced shots and also for shooting experiences.
Cotswold Cycling Club
More leisurely than competitive. Any age. Any ability. Any attire. Any bike! A cycling club with a bit of style.
Naunton Downs Golf Club
Naunton Downs Golf Club is an 18-hole, par 71 golf course, situated in a beautiful area of outstanding Cotswold countryside just a few miles from Bourton-on-the-Water. The course was designed keeping the natural features and landscape in mind, and offers a challenge to suit golfers of all ages and abilities. Naunton Downs Golf Club has thriving men’s, ladies’, senior’s and junior’s sections. All 18 holes are open with main greens in use. Trolleys and buggies are allowed. Naunton Downs is dry and playable during most of the winter period and is rarely closed.
Burford Golf Club
Burford golf course offers easy walking along sheltered tree lined fairways with few hills. At a length of 6,401 yards, the course is particularly challenging yet rewarding for golfers of all experience levels and handicaps. There are buggies and trolleys available for hire and as the course enjoys good drainage, it is playable all year round.
The Cotswold Distillery
The Cotswolds Distillery is the first-ever full-scale craft distillery within the Cotswolds’ Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). They produce a range of “Outstanding Natural Spirits”, including the first-ever Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, featuring Cotswolds-grown barley. They also produce the award-winning Cotswolds Dry Gin, featuring local lavender from Snowshill, along with a range of small-batch brandies and liqueurs. Located in the un spoilt North Cotswold village of Shipston-on-Stour, with tours and tastings every day of the week (advance booking required).
The Food Scene
Bourton-on-the-Water is jam-packed full of quaint cafés, restaurants and traditional pubs to enjoy, all within a gentle stroll of the centre. There is a remarkable range of options for a town the size of Bourton, from finer dining through gastro pubs, traditional tea rooms and pub grub, to artisan bakeries and later-opening takeaways. The Rose Tree, for example, has had a good reputation with the locals for many years, which continues with the current owners for their fresh seasonal produce; the Kingsbridge and the Old Manse both have great locations and outside space by the river and are always busy; the more recent arrival the Bakery on the Water is very popular, and the Indian and Chinese takeaways have been serving late diners for decades. There are several enticing options in the nearby villages too, as detailed below. We recommend booking tables in the restaurants in advance.
An afternoon tea lover’s dream, Bourton-on-the-Water has options galore to satisfy your sweet tooth. Smiths of Bourton is a firm favourite amongst locals and visitors alike; a quintessential Cotswolds tearoom in every sense, serving up a freshly-baked menu of sweet and savoury treats as well as traditional afternoon teas. For fans of the artisan scene, Bakery on the Water is somewhat of an under-the-radar riverside gem, offering delicious fresh pastries, brunch dishes, tasty sandwiches and baked goodies, freshly made each day using the finest of ingredients.
In the village of Upper Slaughter, you’ll find Lords of the Manor, which offers an award-winning fine dining experience that comes highly recommended as does The Slaughters Manor House, a 17th century manor house, with their award-winning restaurant in its Orangery, with an exquisite locally-inspired menu created by chef Nik Chappell. Nearby Stow-on-the-Wold also boasts its fair share of dining establishments well-worth a visit, including the laid-back Sheep on Sheep Street, with its sourdough pizza specialities and The Old Butchers, a hugely popular eatery where booking is highly recommended – some eateries take on-line reservations.
In Great Rissington you’ll find The Lamb – a 300-year-old country inn and thriving traditional village pub with its own garden to enjoy on leisurely sunny afternoons. The Plough at Cold Aston is another highly recommended country pub worth visiting.
Bakeries & Snacks
Smiths of Bourton
Victoria Street, Bourton-on-the-Water
Slightly set back from the river, you’ll find friendly staff, quirky décor and cakes to die for. If you can’t decide which cake you’d like, go for the antipasti and get three small(ish) slices of different cakes!
Bakery on the Water
A small family run artisan bakery, located in the heart of the Cotswolds in Bourton-on-the-Water, by the River Windrush. In the morning the bakery and café will be filled with the smell of delicious morning pastries, croissants and freshly brewed coffee. There is a range of sandwiches, quiche, pasties and more to satisfy the lunchtime rush. Scones are baked throughout the day for ‘Afternoon Tea’. Or, if you prefer to eat by the River Windrush, they can pack you a picnic lunch to go.
Mary’s Rest Tearoom & Café
The menu includes homemade quiches, soups, scones and cakes, a range of freshly made sandwiches, paninis, baguettes & jacket potatoes.
The Rose Tree
The Restaurant is a grade II listed cottage, where the menu is traditional British and Continental. They have a large outside sitting area facing the river, so you can sit outside in the sunshine when the water is warm too. The Rose Tree is run by husband and wife team David & Monika, who are the proud owners of the Rose Tree since June 2017. Their philosophy is to provide full-flavoured food from the freshest seasonal produce.
Lords of the Manor
An established culinary destination and a much sought-after fine dining Cotswolds restaurant, at Lords of the Manor we combine excellent service and decadent dishes to deliver a truly special dining experience. Listed in the Sunday Times’ ‘Top 100 restaurants in Britain’ and named as one of the ‘Top 20 Most Romantic Dining Rooms’ by The Times and consistently recognised by the Good Food Guide.
The menu is created using authentic ingredients, traditional cooking methods and as much locally supplied ingredients as possible. You will find Italian cooking at its best – fresh pizza dough is made daily, homemade breads and delicious pan cooked pasta and risotto dishes cooked to order. Accompanied by a full wine list and many Italian classics like garlic ciabatta, caprese salad and of course homemade Tiramisu to name just a few!
The Mousetrap Inn
The menus vary from dawn to dusk, with options from a Full English breakfast to avocado on toast, smoothies, toasted sandwiches and salads, to a full three course dinner. It specialises in British style tapas, small dishes that you can mix and match and share; and fantastic special main course dishes using premium fresh produce from the best of the local area and closest seaports.
The Slaughters Manor House
The restaurant has the light, clean lines of a contemporary Orangery complemented by crisp, white table linen and the original stonework of the Chapel’s open fireplace. Celebrating the finest produce the Cotswolds has to offer, the team of skilled chefs create tantalising menus filled with flavour, using regionally sourced and freshly foraged ingredients, perfectly matched by the sommelier’s wine selections.
The Lamb Inn, Great Rissington
Offers the best of local produce for a real taste of The Cotswolds from traditional Sunday roasts to luscious dishes of local game or fish.
The Plough Inn, Cold Aston
Nestled in the small Cotswold village of Cold Aston between Cheltenham and Bourton-on-the-Water is The Plough Inn, a true country pub. A firm favourite with the locals and run by locals, The Plough Inn offers a warm welcome, real ales, cracking wines and delicious home cooked freshly prepared food. With its old Cotswold flagstones, original beams and a roaring fire you can lose yourself in the history of this grade 2 listed 17th Century Inn whilst relaxing and creating a base to explore the North Cotswolds and beyond.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
The Wild Rabbit supports British farmers and artisan producers and their menu reflects this. The award-winning kitchen uses the finest seasonal ingredients to create dishes that celebrate traditional British cooking with a contemporary twist.
Aroma Indian Restaurant Takeaway
Bringing the finest in Indian, Tandoori and Bangladeshi cuisine to Bourton-on-the-Water. Beautifully crafted dishes, with fresh food herbs and spices, from experienced chefs and served to your table in their cosy restaurant. Or order it hot ready for your collection and takeaway.
The Kingsbridge Inn
Riverside, stone-built pub with a decked beer garden, pub grub plus weekly poker and quiz nights.
The Duke of Wellington
The Duke of Wellington is a family pub located in the centre of the village of Bourton-on-the-Water where you can enjoy a good drink while relax and enjoy the beautiful view.
999 (toll free/freephone – police, ambulance & firefighters)
Co-Operative Food – Station Rd, Bourton-on-the-Water GL54 2EP
Londis – Cotswold Court, High St, Bourton-on-the-Water GL54 2AQ
Tesco Superstore – Fosse Way, Stow-On-The-Wold GL54 1BX
Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons all deliver to Foxes Manor
Bourton-on-the-Water Private Hire – +44 1451 822190
Call Bobby Private Hire – +44 7801 255554
Limozena Taxis – +44 1451 820972