Home Destinations 12 Best Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water in The Cotswolds [The Ultimate Guide]

12 Best Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water in The Cotswolds [The Ultimate Guide]

by Michele
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Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds
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Bourton-on-the-Water is frequently voted one of the prettiest villages in Britain. With its long winding river through town shaded by overhanging trees, this little village couldn’t be more delightful. Here are the best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water, plus tips on where to stay.

Bourton-on-the-Water is as picturesque as it sounds. This riverside village is flanked by long wide lush greens lined with Jacobean and Georgian facades made from honey coloured Cotswold stone. Five low, arched stone bridges built between 1654 and 1953 cross the River Windrush which flows through this charming village, nicknamed “The Venice of the Cotswolds” – it’s not difficult to see why.

Bourton-on-the-Water is located just 30 minutes from Moreton-in-Marsh, 15 minutes from Stow-on-the-Wold, and 5 minutes from Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter, making it the perfect place to base yourself when visiting the Cotswolds.

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - House and stone bridge

From where to stay to where to eat, here are the best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds.

1. Feel like a giant at The Model Village

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village and Michele Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Visit The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village - Street of shops Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Model Village - ChurchExplore Bourton-on-the-Water like a giant at The Model Village where you can see a one-ninth scale replica of this beautiful Cotswold village. Built from 1936 to 1940, this mini village is a perfect reproduction of Bourton-on-the-Water at the time right down to its shop fronts, gardens, trees, and even a tiny version of the River Windrush.

It was constructed by builders rather than model makers which is why the building features incredible details right down to source locally quarried limestone to construct the walls and the roofs made from miniature Cotswold stone slates. No matter your age (or height), a visit to The Model Village is a must.

  • Opening times: Open daily (except Christmas Day)
    • Summer  10am – 6pm (Last admission 5.45pm)
    • Winter – 10am – 4pm (Last admission 3.45pm)
  • Address: Located behind the The Old New Inn, Rissington Rd, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, GL54, UK, United Kingdom
  • For more details, visit the official The Model Village website here

2. Get lost in The Dragonfly Maze

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - The Dragonfly MazeFind yourself lost at The Dragonfly Maze, a classic garden maze with a twist. Along your journey are 14 hidden clues that solve the riddle to reach the centre of the maze where you’ll finally discover the hidden Golden Dragonfly.

3. Explore the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Mini cooper hedgeThings to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Toy cars Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Toy cars on display Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Brum Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Creen vintage car Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Work shed Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection - Yellow Mini Cooper Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy CollectionTake a journey through time as you explore the extensive collection of vintage cars and motoring exhibits at the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection

Also here are historic toys, including the most famous little vintage car of all, Brum! Growing up in Australia, I used to watch The Adventures of Brum, a British children’s television series about the adventures of this small, sentient vintage car. You can imagine my surprise and delight to discover that the car featured in the show is located here at the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection! I’ll be honest, I came here especially just to see him!

4. See the Penguins and Flamingos at Birdland Park and Gardens

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Two flamingos Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Penguins Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Pelican Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Flamingos Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Flamingos in waterThings to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Birdland Park and Gardens - Grey HeronLocated directly across from The Dragonfly Maze is the 9 acre Birdland Park and Gardens home to over 500 birds. Flamingos, pelicans, penguins, cranes, storks, cassowary, and waterfowl can all be seen here in this natural water habitat.

There are also over 50 aviaries featuring parrots, falcons, pheasants, hornbills, touracos, pigeons, ibis and many more.  A range of unique experiences are on offer too, including feeding the penguins and being a keeper for a day. After you visit, pop into the Flamingo Point Café which sources local ingredients or you can pack your own lunch and take advantage of its many picnic areas

5. Have cream tea at Bakery on the Water

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bakery on the Water Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bakery on the Water Cream teaThings to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bakery on the water window display Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bakery on the Water scones Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cream tea Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cream tea at Bakery on the Water From pasties to buns, pick up some of the best baked goods in town at Bakery on the Water. This small family run artisan bakery also has a café and a riverside garden where you can sit and enjoy breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. Scones are baked constantly throughout the day and served still warm from the oven.

6. Dine at L’Anatra Italian Restaurant

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Eat at L'Anatra Italian restaurantIf you’ve had enough of British cuisine, for a purely Italian menu head to L’Anatra (literally, ‘The Duck’). This lovely little Italian restaurant sources local ingredients to make its stone based pizza dough, pasta, risotto, and desserts. Their homemade Tiramisú (literally, ‘pick me up’) is wonderfully decadent and not to be missed!

  • Address: Victoria St, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2BS
  • Opening times: L’anatra Italian kitchen  serves lunch from midday until 3pm and dinner from 5pm everyday
  • For more details and to book your table, visit the official L’Anatra website here

7. Indulge your senses at Cotswold Perfumery

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Visit the Cotswold Perfumery Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Perfumes at The Cotswold PerfumeryDon’t let the exterior of this beautiful Grade II listed, 300-year-old building fool you – this isn’t another souvenir shop. The Cotswold Perfumery creates a range of unique English fragrances that it sells direct to the public from this shop. They even produce bespoke fragrances for companies in the niche perfume market that are sold all over the world under different names.

They also run one-day perfumery courses which cover how to create and blend a fragrance. Included is a guided tour of the perfume garden, laboratory, and compounding room.

  • Address: Victoria St, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2BU
  • Opening times: Monday to Saturday – 10am to 5pm; Sundays and bank holidays – 10.30am to 5pm
  • For more details and to book your own one-day perfumery course experience, visit the official Cotswold Perfumery website here

8. Step back in time at the Bourton Model Railway Exhibition and Shop

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bourton Model Railway ExhibitionEscape into a world of miniature replicas of trains from days gone by at the Model Railway Exhibition. Covering over 500 feet of track are over 40 British and Continental trains running automatically on three main displays.

If you fancy building your very own locomotive world, pick up one of their model kits and accessories in the Bourton Model Railway Shop located next door.

  • Exhibition Opening times: 
    • June – August – Open daily including Sundays, 11.00am – 5.00pm
    • September – May (Excluding January) – Open Weekends (Sat & Sun) 11.00am – 5.00pm
    • January Limited Opening – Please website before visiting
  • Admission: Adult – £3.00; Child – £2.50
  • Address: Box Bush, High St, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham GL54 2AN
  • For more details visit the official Bourton Model Railway Exhibition website here

9. Enjoy a Picnic and a stroll along the River Windrush

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Walking across the stone bridge Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Bridge over the River WindrushThings to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Walk along the River Windrush Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Village sign Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Motor Museum Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Beautiful building on the River Windrush Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Baker on the Water and weeping willowjpg Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Baker on the Water and bridgeWhether you pick up an afternoon treat at the Bakery on the Water or bring a packed lunch, a great way to enjoy the views of Bourton-on-the-Water is by sitting on the green lawn along the River Windrush with loved ones. After a lazy lunch, take time to wander along the waterside path and admire all the pretty buildings and cottages lining the river.

10. Bourton on the Water Farmers’ & Producers’ Market

If you time your visit right, visit the farmer’s market for high quality local produce sold direct from local farmers and producers. The market is held on the fourth Sunday of each month and located in the Royal British Legion Car Park from 9am – 12:30pm

11. Try the Cotswolds Dry Gin at Cotswolds Distillery Shop

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Cotswolds Distillery ShopTry the award-winning Cotswolds Dry Gin and Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky in this cosy shop – the first off-site shop opened by the famous local distillery.

Browse the range of ‘distillery exclusive’ spirits and liqueurs not found elsewhere and find the perfect distillery gifts, including glassware and accessories. The friendly staff are always more than happy to offer a taster or two!

12. Visit St Lawrence’s Church

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Visit St Lawrence's ChurchJust behind the High Street is the beautiful church of St. Lawrence. Evidence shows there’s been a church on this site as far back at 709 AD when a wooden church was built on land donated by the local king.

During your visit, take some time to wander around the churchyard and spot the Cotswold bale tombs, carved to resemble bales of wool. Bale tombs are a special variation on the typical chest tomb, found in the Cotswolds and the Windrush Valley in particular. Most date from circa 1660-1700 and are found in the ‘wool-Gothic’ churches.


Want to see more of the Cotswolds? Join one of these top-rated tours.


Don’t miss my Cotswolds travel guide for more tips


Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is a great place to base yourself when visiting the Cotswolds. There are loads of charming villages close by that all be reached in as little as 15-30 minutes. These include Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter  Below are my top recommendations for accommodation in Bourton-on-the-Water. 

Luxury – The Landsdowne

For a luxurious stay in Bourton-on-the-Water, stay at The Landsdowne. This lovely boutique award winning guest house has 14 individually designed rooms including a superior Cottage with a private garden. Located just 200 metres from the centre of town, the stylishly decorated bedrooms all feature superb high quality en-suite facilities, free internet access, and tea and coffee making facilities. If you stay in one of the  Superior rooms, you’ll even get your own in-room NESPRESSO machines. There is plenty of free parking on site too, making it a perfect choice if you’re travelling around by car. Each morning they serve an award winning English breakfast as well as a selection of pastries, fresh fruit and cereals and muesli. So you’ll be well fuelled for the rest of your day. Check availability and book your stay here

Mid-Budget – The Mousetrap Inn

Located right on the High Street, The Mousetrap Inn is a traditional Cotswold Inn built in the early 19th century that combines a relaxed, homely atmosphere in its 11 individually decorated rooms. There is a bustling bar and restaurant serving an extensive breakfast menu. All rooms have en suite bathrooms with showers, a HD smart TV, tea and coffee making facilities, hair dryer, complimentary toiletries, free WiFi, fresh towels daily and an iron and ironing board on request. Some rooms are quieter than others and can be booked accordingly. Check availability and book your stay here

Budget – Old Manse Hotel by Greene King Inns

Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds - Where to Stay - The Old Manse Hotel The Old Manse Hotel offers home-from-home comfort in this Cotswold-stone country inn that dates from 1748. Brimming with character and charm, there is a lovely terrace with views of the gentle River Windrush. The Old Manse Hotel has 15 comfy en-suite bedrooms, each with a work desk, tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer, TV, cosy beds, fluffy towels and crisp linen to ensure a good night’s sleep. Some rooms boast wonderful period features and views of the river. Check availability and book your stay here.

For more places to stay in Bourton-on-the-Water, you can check the latest prices here.

Airbnb

For an alternative accommodation option, I would recommend renting out an apartment or room through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are popping up all over the the area so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices. Airbnb has numerous convenient options to choose from. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link. If not, compare prices and book your stay hereFor more inspiration, visit my guide to the most unique cottages on Airbnb.

Here’s a handy map to see all available stays.

 

 


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12 Best Things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water - The Cotswolds


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2 comments

Agnetha October 19, 2020 - 20:37

I went to Bourton on the Water on a school trip in 1969. We visited the Model Village and Birdland and our teacher bought everyone an ice cream. Best trip I ever had.

Reply
Michele October 22, 2020 - 17:37

What an awesome school trip! That’s so cool to think that both places are still around to entertain future generations 🙂 Thanks for sharing Agnetha 🙂

Reply

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