There are few places in England that are prettier than the Cotswolds – but while you soak up those views of honey coloured cottages, ancient stone bridges and rolling green hills, there’s a whole string of things to do in the Cotswolds with kids too.
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Scattered across several counties, mostly Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to child-friendly places to visit.
One of the easiest ways to explore is to base yourself in one spot and travel from there to some of the different villages, as well as the various family attractions in the Cotswolds.
Bourton-on-the-Water is gorgeous, with a shallow river running through the middle of the village, while Upper and Lower Slaughter, Castle Combe and Moreton-in-Marsh are some of the other most popular options – this does mean they’ll get busy in high season, so another option is to stay in a nearby city.
Cheltenham is a great choice, less than half an hour from Bourton-on-the-Water, but also consider Bath and Oxford – home to the fabulous Story Museum and Museum of Natural History, as well as having plenty for Harry Potter fans.
For more things to do in Bath with kids, check out my pick of the best
The only non-royal country house in all of England to hold the title of palace, Blenheim Palace at Woodstock in the Oxfordshire countryside, is one of the most impressive stately homes to visit.
Famous for being the birthplace and home of wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, it’s also an incredibly child-friendly day out in the Cotswolds, including a great audio tour of the grand palace itself.
In the 2,000-acre estate, you’ll find immersive family exhibitions on the palace’s history, as well as sprawling gardens that feature a children’s play area, a two-mile hedge maze, a miniature train, butterfly house and pony trail for little ones, not to mention special events throughout the year.
Visit in the run-up to Christmas, and there’s an illuminated trail to follow as well.
Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Beautiful Sudeley Castle is best known for its links to Queen Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII – the one who ‘survived’ in the rhyme. Her home and her final resting place, you can still see her tomb in the 15th century church, although Sudeley’s history goes back around 1,000 years.
It’s not only the Tudors who played a part in the castle’s history: Richard III had links to Sudeley, while Charles I’s nephew used it as a royalist base during the Civil War. There’s an exhibition to introduce you to some of the historic highlights (and lowlights!) with everything from royal love letters to a Roman stone god, plus a book of hours dating from before the Black Death.
Add in regular events and activities, the castle rooms to explore, the gardens, and the collection of pheasants, and it’s a great day out.
As a final bonus for kids, you can believe you’re inhabiting (and defending) your own castle in the adventure playground, with a fort at its heart, towers to look out from, bridges, slides, a climbing wall, and lots of hidey hole. There’s also a zip wire, obstacle course and adventure trail as an added bonus.
This fascinating historic town is actually right on the edge of the Cotswolds but it’s such a great place for families to visit, that I’ve included it as another great base to explore.
Best known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, you’ll find plenty of attractions linked to the famous playwright as you explore.
Visit the house that Shakespeare grew up in, where you’ll be greeted by tour guides in authentic Tudor dress who bring the experience alive and are great at engaging kids of all ages.
There’s also a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Stratford-upon-Avon, which links several of the town’s highlights, or you could experience a Tudor lesson in Shakespeare’s schoolroom, where the young William was educated.
Mary Arden’s farm – the home of Shakespeare’s mother – is another fun family-friendly attraction, with its many farm animals, people dressed in authentic Tudor outfits and traditional crafts and activities which kids can try for themselves, including archery and falconry.
Away from the town’s Shakespeare connection, you can see the mechanical art at the unusual MAD museum, spend some time at Stratford’s Butterfly Farm and take a relaxing boat trip along the River Avon.
One of the quirkiest sights in the whole of the Cotswolds, Broadway Tower sits on the border of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire – and on the second highest point of the Cotswolds escarpment.
Which means you get some fantastic views across the countryside from the top (up to 16 counties and 62 miles on a clear day).
The Georgian folly reopened in 2022 after a major restoration, with the rooms decorated as they might have been back in the 18th century when the Earl of Coventry had the tower built as a gift for his wife.
As well as the intricate new furnishings, there’s a great audio guide to share some of its unusual history (the tower was home to a printing press, a favourite of the Pre-Raphaelite painters and artist William Morris used to take baths on the roof, just for starters). Kids can also design their own folly and decorative wallpaper, among the interactive fun.
With 60 steps and a windy rooftop, it’s not one to try if you’re in the Cotswolds with toddlers, but a fun stop with older kids. The site is home to a nuclear bunker, with plans to open this more to the public, an easy circular walk around the tower and a four-mile hike along part of the Cotswolds Way, linking Broadway village and the tower.
Get a peek inside Broadway Tower in my short video
Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park
A fun day out in the Cotswolds for kids and adults alike, the Cotswold Farm Park is perfect to interact closely with all kinds of animals.
Oowned by Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, the farm park was opened by Adam’s father in the 1970s as the first of its kind in the world.
See newly hatched chicks and adorable baby bunnies right up to rather rambunctious goats and huge Highland cattle, and you can feed and pet most of the farmyard animals – don’t forget to buy some animal feed on the way in.
As well as the many animals, you’ll find plenty of other fun activities for kids of all ages, including an indoor play barn, outdoor play areas, farm safari, maze, giant bounce pillows plus the muddy kitchen for little ones to get their hands dirty.
Cotswolds Wildlife Park
Another of the best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids who love animals is a visit to the Cotswolds Wildlife Park.
Set within 120 acres of beautiful parkland and gardens, the large wildlife park has over 260 different animal species, including lions, zebra, giraffe, rhinos, lemurs and more.
The spacious, spread-out enclosures feel more like a walking safari park than a zoo, and allow you to get closer to the wildlife than you would elsewhere.
Kids will also be sure to love the farmyard area, where they can feed and touch the animals, the outdoor adventure playground and the mini railway.
Fairytale Farm, Chipping Norton
The Fairytale Farm is a unique farm park that mixes classic fairytales, animals and adventure play to create one of the best attractions in the Cotswolds for young children.
The park is split into six different zones, including the Enchanted Walk for a fairytale sensory experience, Alfie and Friends where you can meet the farmyard animals and Huff and Puff for fun adventure play.
The layout of the entire farm park was also designed with disabled children in mind, making it one of the most accessible and inclusive kid-friendly attractions in the Cotswolds.
Crocodiles of the World
Older children who fancy something a little more adventurous on their days out will love a visit to Crocodiles of the World. The first and only one of its kind in the UK, this Cotswolds zoo is home to 130 crocodiles and alligators from 15 global species.
The underwater viewing areas, animal encounter sessions and live feeds will let you get closer to some of the world’s most feared predators than you’ve ever been before.
The zoo is also home to several other species, including meerkats, otters, giant tortoises and even a rare Komodo dragon.
The Model Village, Bourton-on-the-Water
Who doesn’t want to feel like a giant wandering down the miniature streets of Bourton-on-the-Water’s model village.
Dating back to the 1930s, the Grade II listed model village is a one-ninth scale model of the charming Cotswolds village in which it sits. There’s even a model village within the model village!
Peer into the windows of the tiny shops and buildings to see miniature displays, including a singing choir in the church. Plus don’t miss the miniature versions of Bourton’s famous bridges over the River Windrush.
If you’re planning a day out from London to the Cotswolds, you can join a tour from London to the Cotswolds, although these are better with older children as it’s a long day exploring.
Birdland Park & Gardens, Bourton-on-the-Water
Also located in Bourton-on-the-Water, just a few minutes walk from the model village, is the exciting Birdland Park and Gardens.
The large bird life centre has over 500 birds to see, including flamingos, pelicans, penguins, cranes and storks. You can even get hands-on with some of the birds in the park’s encounters area.
Dinosaur enthusiasts will also love the Jurassic Journey exhibition, which takes a look at the direct ancestors of the park’s feathered residents. Kids will be able to discover life-size dinosaurs hidden amongst the greenery and trees, and search for prehistoric fossils along the trail.
The Dragonfly Maze, Bourton-on-the-Water
Right next door to Birdland, you’ll find Bourton’s Dragonfly Maze. Not your traditional hedge maze, this one has an exciting twist which is sure to keep little ones entertained.
Rather than finding your way out of the maze, you’ll need to track down the 14 hidden clues in order to reach the golden Dragonfly in the centre.
The maze should only take you around 20-30 minutes to complete, so makes a fun activity to add alongside the other family-friendly attractions in Bourton-on-the-Water.
Step back in time to the historic Cotswolds at the Corinium Museum, located in Cirencester – the town also bills itself as the ‘heart of the Cotswolds’. The award-winning museum is home to one of the largest collections of British-Roman artefacts.
Most of the artefacts were found in the local area in the Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum (now Cirencester), one of Roman Britain’s largest cities.
The museum’s amazing collections are fascinating for all ages, plus there are some great immersive exhibitions to engage kids along with a children’s treasure trail, play area and special interactive events.
For more Roman places in the UK to visit with kids, check out my top picks
The Cotswold Country Park and Beach
If you’re visiting the Cotswolds with kids during the warm summer months, Cotswold Country Park and Beach is unmissable.
The series of freshwater lakes are home to sandy inland beaches, a swimming lagoon, numerous watersports and the super fun aquaventure inflatable waterpark.
In the surrounding parkland, you’ll also find some lovely country walks, pedal carts, a high-ropes course and mini golf, so set aside a whole day (and you still won’t want to leave).
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, Toddington
If you’re fed up of driving around winding country lanes, explore the beautiful Cotswolds countryside on a relaxing family-friendly day out on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire steam railway.
The 28-mile round trip on the volunteer-run heritage railway travels between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway to see some of the area’s most spectacular scenery and prettiest villages.
Not only will kids love riding on a classic steam train, but the railway also has plenty of activities to keep younger ones entertained, including puzzle books, jigsaw puzzles and special seasonal events.
For more ideas of things to do in Cheltenham with kids, check out my top picks
*first published 2021, updated 2022*
PIN FOR LATER; THINGS TO DO IN THE COTSWOLDS WITH KIDS
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