The Cotswolds is a place that’s riddled with charm and beauty. And although it’s pricey to set up home here, the views come for free. The nature, the sunsets, the country trails, it’s all here in the beautiful Cotswolds. This is the kind of outdoor paradise where you can spend as little or as much as you like, making it the perfect UK destination for any budget. Whilst our region is home to Michelin star restaurants and award winning hangouts, it’s also motherland of the Great British Pub with affordable gastro pub menus and delicious home cooked meals to fill your boots all year round. And if the morning nature walks and afternoons relaxing by our private lake isn’t enough to fill your schedule, go further and explore for you’ll soon fall in love with the quaint villages surrounding our estate, our beautiful market town of Cirencester and the thatched cottages or old mansions dotted all around this stunning holiday region. No matter what your interests are, there’s something you can do for free wherever you go during your holiday in the Cotswolds. Here are 15 of the best free things to do during your stay…
1. Walk the Thames Path
This little gem is just around the corner from our estate and you can either start your walk from Log House Holidays or you can drive up to Kemble and begin your tracks there. Follow the most famous English river right from its source in the Cotswold Hills, all the way until it reaches the sea. The entire distance spans over 180 miles and along the way you’ll get to explore pretty meadows and some of the quaintest villages. The whole path would take you quite a few days to accomplish (with many a pit stop in between of course) but most of our guests will walk small stretches of it and end their journey in a nice village pub for a well-deserved pint or two.
2. Birdwatching and otter spotting
Birdwatching is one of the best free activities that you can do in the Cotswold Water Park. Our lake is a part of this vast and spectacular water park and your cabin offers a pair of binoculars so you can watch wildlife from the comfort of your own lakeside veranda. Our latest addition is a new family of otters and if you look out at sunrise or sunset, you might be able to spot them splashing around in the water. There are over 20,000 wintering waterbirds, 21,000 wintering gulls and large numbers of Nightingales, Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern as well as a vast number of breeding warblers. So be sure to take those binoculars out and about with you to enjoy the amazing nature spotting opportunities.
3. Antique shopping in Burford
One of the best things about the Cotswolds is all the fantastic independent shops and boutiques which exist in the local market towns and villages. So if you’re looking for unique gifts and one-of-a-kind finds that you can’t pick up elsewhere, you’re in the right place. Known as the “gateway to the Cotswolds”, the small town of Burford is the perfect little place for antique hunting. If you’re a true vintage veteran or a serious antiques collector, you’ll have a great day out here. Even if come back empty-handed, the architecture is a sight to behold and there are lots of lovely pubs and cafes to keep you well fed and watered.
4. Rowing Boat & Picnic
On our private lake, not only is every log cabin thoughtfully located around the estate in their own secret spot but each cabin also has its own private pier and rowing boat too! There are so many wonderful free things to do in the Cotswolds but some of our guests don’t like to leave our beautiful reserve at all because our lake offers so many activities, including rowing, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking and even swimming when the weather’s hot enough. Make the most of your own private lake views from your decking, pack a little picnic and venture out into the waters with your own Irish loch rowing boat.
5. Cornbury Park Walk
The Cotswolds is home to many parks and Cornbury Park is one our favourites. If you want to take a leisurely walk with the ease of even grounds and easy terrain (great if you’ve got kids), take a little stroll through this 1,700 acre estate. You’ll be guaranteed amazing views and a stress-free day and we promise proper walking boots and hiking gear are not required! Owned by Lord and Lady Rotherwick, the grounds and manor make a great day out and the nearby town of Charlbury is a fantastic place to enjoy a quiet pub lunch once you’re done. It’s about an hour away by car and you’ll be rewarded with a scenic drive over. We are a perfect base for any walking holiday in the Cotswolds.
6. Gloucester Folk Museum
Less than 40 minutes away is Gloucester Folk Museum, a free of charge attraction that is great for children and adults alike! It’s one of the oldest established museums dedicated to social history and it unravels the mysteries of the region’s local past. If you want to add a little culture to your holiday but you want to stick to a tight budget, the Gloucester Folk Museum comes highly recommended. Set in a timber framed building from the Tudor times, this museum offers different levels and takes you on a journey with its reconstructed Victorian classroom and its original pin factory so you can really get a taste of life in the old days! There are also regular exhibitions, events and workshops as well as a cottage garden with live animals and fun games for the kids.
7. Tetbury Police Museum
Another interesting museum is the Tetbury Police Museum, which is just 20 minutes away from our holiday site and again, it’s free of charge for all ages and concessions. Held in the town’s original police station, this museum is one of the main attractions in Tetbury and you’ll even get to look inside the police cells, which were the first and original cells back in the day! A great place to take the kids if you want to educate them about the area’s local constabulary and even more exciting for young budding police officers who want to get an inside look. The first floor courtroom dates back to the 1940s and there are many police relics that the whole family can get hands-on such as helmets, handcuffs and uniforms.
8. Day Out at Chipping Campden
If you’re looking for something that will suit the whole family, a day out in one of the many market towns nearby is a great way to spend your afternoon. One of the most beautiful places to take a tour of is Chipping Campden, a small market town with an “olde worlde” feel so you can imagine that you’ve travelled back in time. This stunning town is one of the most charming and unspoilt communities of the Cotswolds and tourists flock to the high streets all throughout the year to see the attractive honey coloured stone buildings and the wonderful collection of Elizabethan, Georgian, Jacobean and Victorian architecture. It’s often described as “the most perfect high street in England” and there are many shops, cafes and restaurants to keep you fully fuelled and entertained for the entire day.
9. Shopping in Cheltenham
For those who love to shop, Cheltenham is not to be missed. The Promenade offers luxury shopping with everything from LK Bennett, Hobbs and Russell & Bromley; The Brewery is the perfect mix of retail and restaurants with something to suit every budget; Cheltenham High Street has both Regent Arcade and Beechwood Shopping Centre; and The Suffolks is charming little spot tucked away behind Montpellier Terrace and is the best place for antiques. There’s also Montpellier Quarter if you love boutiques and beautiful jewellery, and even if you’re just here to window shop, this beautiful regency spa town will offer a great day out just mooching around at your own leisure.
10. Picnic at Coaley Peak
This is the ultimate picnic spot in the Cotswolds and it offers the most spellbinding views of the Severn Valley. Located close to Stroud, this postcard-perfect location is a great place to enjoy lunch with a panoramic vistas. There are 12 acres of reclaimed farmland which is now a meadow of wild flowers and it is also next to a Woodland Trust beech wood and the National Trust’s Frocester Hill. Take the ‘Cotswold Way’ footpath and you will get to pass through Nympsfield Long Barrow, which is a Neolithic burial site. It’s just 35 minutes away by car and to get there, simply enter GL11 5AU into your SatNav.
11. Attend a Summer Regatta
Regatta events take place along the Thames every single year and whilst members rock up in their finest suits and dresses and have access to exclusive enclosures filled with champagne bars and top restaurant pop-ups, the event itself is actually free to watch for the public. You have the option of paying for a public enclosure badge (which will act as your ticket) or you can join the hundreds of locals and tourists watching from the riverbank, completely free of charge. Be prepared to bring some cash for food and drink and also for a day parking ticket if you intend to stick around the whole day’s races. The waterside town of Henley-on-Thames is famous for its regattas and annual rowing events include Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Town and Visitors Regatta, Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Veterans Regatta.
12. Bishop’s Palace in Wells
If it’s architecture you’re after, head to Bishop’s Palace in Wells where you can spend a good few hours exploring the grounds of Mount House. This is perfect if you want some free sightseeing and this incredible chapel is an ideal subject for budding photographers too! Whether you’re into your photography or not though, be sure to bring a camera so you can capture all the beautiful and intricate elements of this stunning structure. Bishop’s Palace and the accompanying Bishop’s House can be found next to Wells Cathedral and this exciting trio of historical gems will prove popular for families, groups or couples.
13. Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve
For those who dream of wistful landscapes and a place to sit, relax and reflect, this charming nature reserve is a must. It’s a great place to go for a scenic walk and you can also take your dogs too if you have them on a short lead. It’s the largest nature reserve in the area, covering over 600 acres of the Upper Thames floodplain. The reserve, being a rich wetland, is home to some of the most interesting bird species in England and you’ll be sure to spot plenty of wading birds in the water. Owned by English Nature and having been managed by BBOWT (the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust) since 1999, this carefully protected area really is one of a kind. There’s only 1,500 hectares of this type of floodplain meadow throughout the UK and Chimney Meadows makes up 250 hectares of that.
14. Foxholes Nature Reserve
What a sight you’ll behold at Foxholes, an endless horizon of pretty bluebells! Visit in the springtime and you’ll catch these beautifully pigmented flowers in full bloom. This sloping woodland takes you down to the River Evenlode and offers interesting fauna all year round but it’s particularly well-known for its bluebells, badgers, fabulous fungi and its population of butterflies. It’s clearly signposted with the circular Wildlife Walk route and it really does resemble something out of a fairytale…
15. Visit Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water is a charming little village and civil parish which lies on a wide flat vale by the River Windrush. It makes a great family day out if you want to explore the beautiful park or take a walking tour. And it’s even better for a late afternoon / early evening pub crawl if you’ve got a budget for food and drink. This is home to some of the region’s finest pubs where locals and tourists mingle in quaint settings and beautifully manicured gardens. Some of our favourite pubs include Duke of Wellington, The Mousetrap Inn, Kingsbridge Pub, Old Manse Hotel, Old New Inn Cafe & Bar, Wheatsheaf Inn and the Hare and Hounds.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of free things to do in the Cotswolds. For more ideas on fun days out or free activities in the Cotswold area, be sure to check out our Cotswold Guide.