Cirencester(Last Updated On: January 23, 2019)
A visitor’s guide to Cirencester and its surrounding attractions…
Commonly referred to as ‘The Capital of The Cotswolds’, Cirencester holds a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest market towns in this corner of the UK. With a heritage dating back to the Roman Empire, when it was the second largest settlement in Britain, its rich history is still evident throughout the town’s beautiful buildings and landmarks, making it a must-visit for history buffs and those in search of a slice of authentic Cotswold life.
In the heart of the town sits Market Square, first mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, and very much still a bustling destination for shoppers of all kinds, from artisan lovers to local trinket seekers. Every Friday and Monday, it homes a Charter Market, whilst a Farmers’ Market comes to town every 2ndand 4th Saturday of the month; both well worth a visit. The town’s Corn Hall also boasts a regular programme of events which include a Home Fashion and Garden Bazaar (from Monday to Thursday), an Antiques and Collectables market (on Fridays) and the Original Craftsman’s Market (1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month); as well as a Cotswold Craft Market (every 2nd and 4th Saturday).
As well as its fantastic variety of markets, Cirencester’s thriving retail scene boasts an excellent selection of shops spread throughout its winding honey-coloured streets, from larger high-street favourites to smaller independents. Foodies are well-catered for here, too, with many award-winning restaurants, excellent cafés and traditional pubs to choose from, no matter what the time of day (see below for suggestions).
Sightseeing & Activities
Cirencester is chock-full of landmarks and attractions to explore; a real treasure-trove of discovery thanks to its rich heritage and fascinating history. Located just off the town’s Market Square is the Parish Church of St. John Baptist, one of the finest remaining wool churches in all of the Cotswolds, dating back to around 1490. Boasting beautiful architectural features, keep an eye out for the Church’s silver-gilt cup, once belonging to Anne Boleyn herself, and enjoy one of its expert-led guided tours. History-lovers will also enjoy the Corinium Museum on Park Street, home to a huge variety of artefacts from the town’s Roman roots, brought to life in the Roman Amphitheatre just a short walk from the town centre. This English Heritage site is one of the best-preserved of its kind in the UK, built in the early 2nd Century for a capacity of over 8,000 spectators. For crafty types, New Brewery Arts is just the place; a converted Victorian brewery homing a contemporary art studio, craft shop, on-site studios and excellent café, located on Cricklade Street in the town’s centre.
For Kids… little and big
An adventure paradise for all ages to enjoy, Cotswold Water Park is an extensive wetland area covering 150 lakes set across the countryside of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and West Oxfordshire. Visitors can take part in a host of outdoor activities such as sailing, rowing, horse riding, shooting and even playing on a purpose-built beach or simply cycle and walk in the Park.
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.
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.
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 mocarre delicate species), and a display of fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects in the Discovery Zone. Birdland is also the home of 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.
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.)
From birdwatchers to families there is plenty to discover all year round. Enjoy amazing wildlife up-close. With experiences to suit all ages offering access to a huge variety of wildlife, it is no surprise that this fabulous centre is an award-winning day out!
Time To Relax…
This unique subterranean spa can be found in the vaults of the boutique Kings Head Hotel, just off the town’s main Market Square. With four treatment rooms, a relaxation room and thermal suite complete with hot tub, infra-red sauna, steam room and experience shower, this is the ideal spot to unwind away from the hubbub of the town centre. Indulge with one of the spa’s pampering treatments, with everything from therapeutic massages and beautifying facials on offer. Booking essential.
For the ultimate in luxury, look no further than Barnsley House – an iconic hotel tucked away in the picturesque Cotswold village of Barnsley – where a dedicated spa hidden in the gardens offers all visitors a truly memorable day of R&R. The glass-walled spa really is the ultimate in luxury retreats, boasting an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, herbaceous sauna and indoor/outdoor lounge relaxation areas.
Parks & Nature
This historic 3,000-acre estate owned by the Bathurst Family boasts a beautiful 19th Century parkland designed by Alexander Pope, which the general public are free to enjoy at their leisure. Accessible via entrance gates on Cecily Hill, little ones will love stretching their legs here, whilst older visitors will enjoy taking in the stunning landscapes. Dogs are welcome, too, just take care to stick to the designated walking areas.
This spectacular 600-acre arboretum offers nature lovers of all ages a memorable day-out destination whatever the weather. Filled with over 15,000 trees from around the world, visitors can keep eyes peeled for specific species using the Arboretum’s Tree Spotter’s Guide, wander amidst the treetops on the award-winning STIHL Treetop Walkway (photo) or head off on one of the guided walks. Visitors in Autumn are in for a particular treat, as the trees put on an incredible leaf-changing display which carpets the area in red and golden hues.
Abbey House Grounds
Found just off Market Place in the centre of Cirencester is the former site of St. Mary’s Abbey, demolished in 1539, where only a Norman Arch and artificial lake remains. Now a lovely spot to enjoy on a sunny day, we recommend heading here with a picnic in tow, or simply when you need a breath of fresh air after a busy day exploring the town.
St. Michael’s Park
Another outdoor gem in the town’s centre, St. Michael’s Park boasts a children’s play area, tennis courts, mini golf, boules, table tennis, cricket nets and crazy golf… More than enough to keep little ones entertained!
Built in 1869, swim in the town’s open-air, 28-metre natural spring water pool heated to an average 27°C (80°F). Open May to September. (See the website for exact dates.). Sunbathing patio and children’s paddling pool.
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.)
Cirencester enjoys a vibrant cultural scene, with events on throughout the year. Visit Cirencester Info for details about what’s on during your visit.
Every July, the skies above Fairford come alive with the world-renowned Air Tattoo; arguably one of the greatest airshows in the world. Drawing in over 185,000 people every year, The Air Tattoo welcomes over 300 aircraft from 30 nations around the world, with a thrilling programme of flying air displays taking place over the course of the event. An absolute must-visit for flying fans and adrenaline-junkies, with plenty on offer to keep others entertained, too.
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. Read more about the area in our Cheltenham Guidebook.
In addition to having the walks of the Cotswold Way on its doorstep, there are many self-guided walks to enjoy in and around Cirencester. For history buffs, try The Whereat Trail, an easy-to-follow route from the Corinium Museum to the Roman Amphitheatre with interesting historical facts dotted along the way. For those after a slightly longer route, the field and woodland walk from Cecily Hill to Peddington Polo Ground is a great choice. Covering 4 miles in total, this circular walk starts from the top of Cecily Hill, taking you through parkland and across the River Churn before heading through rolling fields and woodland to Peddington Polo Ground. Another great option is the Riverside Walk from West Market Place in the town centre; a gentle 2.5-mile stroll along the riverbank, taking in the Abbey Grounds, Roman Wall and an early 16th-Century mill house.
Useful Walking Links:
For Bigger Kids
A year-round, 18-hole course with a rich 125-year history, offering a fantastic day on the course for members and visitors alike. Designed by James Braid, this mature course boasts spectacular views towards Cirencester and the Marlborough Downs and is suitable for all grades of golfer. There’s also a driving range and short-game practice area, with buggy hire available.
Arguably one of the best shooting grounds on UK shores, Ian Coley Shooting School boasts 24 different shooting stands with a minimum of two traps each, three high towers (up to 120ft), Down-the-Line and much more. Perfect for shoot enthusiasts or beginners wanting to test their talents, the range of covered stands set within mature woodland mean that you’ll have fun whatever the weather. The ground is available for individual practice with self-timer release clay traps, or tuition (in groups or individually) with one of the team’s fully-qualified coaches. Booking essential.
Sibling Distillery is a fast-growing brand with a brilliant backstory, created by four siblings who took on the family micro-brewery business and created their very own Cheltenham-based gin. Well worth a visit to get to know more about the story behind this tasty gin, distillery tours are available including behind-the-scenes tours of the distillery itself, tasting sessions and talks on all things gin. Don’t forget to stock up on a bottle of Sibling from the on-site shop before you leave. Booking essential.
Cotswold Gliding Club at Aston Down Airfield in Gloucestershire is one of the most progressive gliding clubs in the UK with its large airfield and excellent training fleet.
It really is one of the premier places to learn to fly. We have continuously invested in both our ground and airborne fleet to provide the most reliable and efficient way of getting you in the air. Our large team of instructors gives the greatest possible availability to pilots learning to fly and all instruction is provided free of charge to members.
The Food Scene
Cirencester and its surrounding villages have a fantastic range of eateries to suit all budgets, tastes, ages and fancies, no matter what the time of day.
Cafés & Snacks
He Says She Waffles: Black Jack St, Cirencester
Holding the coveted title of the Cotswolds’ first dedicated waffle house, He Says She Waffles is every bit as good as its name. The smell of freshly-baked waffles entices you from the moment you step through the front door, with toppings to suit every occasion – from the healthy to the decadent. A great pit-stop for an indulgent breakfast, elevenses or snack no matter what the time of day, with shakes, soft drinks and hot drinks available, too.
Jesse Smith Farm Shop & Coffee House: 19 Love Lane, Cirencester GL7 1YG
This fantastic artisan farm shop and deli boasts its own coffee house, where incredible fresh feasts are served up daily. Head there to grab anything from a steaming cup of coffee to homemade cakes, freshly-made pastries, tasty sandwiches or heartier dishes, all made on-site using produce sold in the shop.
Keith’s Coffee Shop: 2 Black Jack Street, Cirencester
The place to head if you’re hankering for a truly decent cuppa, Keith’s is a small but perfectly formed treasure trove dedicated to all-things coffee, featuring a fantastic selection from all around the world. Grab a steaming cup and fresh slice of cake to start your day off right.
Lunch & Dinner
The Bathurst Arms: North Cerney, Cirencester GL7 7BZ
A distinctive pink pub set in the pretty village of North Cerney along the River Churn, The Bathurst Arms is a great place to head when only a traditional English pub will do. Head there for a tasty tipple no matter what the time of day or enjoy a bite to eat courtesy of the gastropub-style menu. Dog-friendly, it’s also got a great beer garden alongside the river.
Made by Bob: 26 Market Place, Cirencester
One of the highest-regarded eating establishments in all of Cirencester is undoubtedly Made by Bob, a multi award-winning restaurant, bar and deli in the town’s centre, serving up incredible breakfasts and lunches daily. Well worth a visit during your stay. Made by Bob also offers a catering service – perfect for a special meal at a Bolthole Retreats holiday rental.
The Fleece at Cirencester: Market Place, Cirencester
Set in one of the most iconic buildings in Market Place, The Fleece is a fantastic all-day dining destination in the heart of the town. Head there for anything from brunch to a late-night bite, choosing from a moreish menu of flatbreads, gastropub classics, grilled meats and burgers. Dogs are welcome to come along, too.
Lakeside Brasserie: Spring Lakes, South Cerney, GL7 5TH
The Lakeside Brasserie is perfect for those in search of a meal with a view, serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner perched on the edge of the lake at Cotswold Water Park. Relaxed and fun, you can even enjoy some watersports whilst you’re there – observing or taking the plunge yourself!
The Wild Duck Inn: Ewen, Nr Cirencester GL7 6BY
A member of the renowned Lucky Onion group of hotels and restaurants, The Wild Duck at Ewen boasts an enviable reputation for its refined take on classic pub grub. Head there for a memorable feast for lunch, dinner or just for a picturesque drink, finding out why Tatler named it as one of its ‘Best of British’.
The Bell at Sapperton: Sapperton, GL7 6LE
Tucked away in the sleepy village of Sapperton is this fantastic hidden gem of pub, serving up the very finest in fresh, quality dishes with a modern twist. Families, dogs and diners are welcome at all times, with a great beer garden to enjoy in the summer months.
The Village Pub: Barnsley GL7 5EF
Sister pub to the luxurious Barnsley House Hotel & Spa, The Village Pub is perfect for a memorable feast, offering a refined take on traditional pub classics in a beautiful Cotswold stone setting. Booking here is recommended as it can fill up fast.
Toro Lounge: 4 Cricklade Street, Cirencester
Food, drinks, cocktails and music in a great laid-back setting.
Takeaways & Late Dining
Indian Rasoi: 14 Dollar Street, Cirencester
An elegant take on classic Indian cuisine, Indian Rasoi is a great option for those hankering for a curry during their stay. The restaurant itself is laid-back but smart, with a takeaway menu also available.
Seafare Fish & Chips: 12 Chesterton Lane, Cirencester (T: 01285 658590)
A traditional fish and chips takeaway with excellent quality fish and regular gluten-free nights.
The Friar Tuck: 64 Dyer Street, Cirencester | 01285 654263
999 (toll free/freephone – police, ambulance & firefighters)
- Tesco Extra: Kings Meadow, Cricklade Rd, Cirencester GL7 1NP
- Waitrose: Sheep St, Cirencester GL7 1SZ
- Lidl Cirencester: Love Ln, Cirencester GL7 1YG
- ALDI: Cricklade Rd, Cirencester GL7 1NP
- M&S Simply Food: 42 Dyer St, Cirencester GL7 2PF
- Tesco Metro: 4 Farrell Cl, Cirencester GL7 1HW
- A2B Taxis – 01285 655651
- Cirencester Taxi – 07400 288866
- Siren Cars Cirencester – 01285 652388
- T4 Taxis – 01285 641590