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With its gentle landscapes, picturesque villages and antique store-laden market towns, the Cotswolds are an ideal romantic weekend getaway. The adult palate is well catered to, from character pubs and fine dining establishments to luxury spas. But don’t be fooled: hidden in these rolling hills are plenty of activities that will keep both parents and children delighted.
Two obvious choices for a family outing are Birdland Park & Gardens in Bourton-on-the-Water, and the Cotswold Water Park just south of Cirencester. The region is also awash with National Trust properties: Lodge Park, Hidcote Gardens, and Snowshill Manor are three favourites that sometimes offer special family-themed days. Then there are the seasonal, one-off events with cross-generation appeal, including Gifford Circus, the Cotswold Show in Cirencester, and good old village fêtes. But one of the pleasures of visiting the Cotswolds is feeling like you’ve gone back in time to a simpler era; each of the activities below was hand-picked for its unique ability to evoke the experience of rural life.
Our guide to the good life
Cotswold Farm Park
Regular viewers of Country File will already be familiar with Adam Henson and his Gloucestershire farm. In addition to being a working farm, the park is home to rare breed farm animals like Gloucester Old Spot pigs. Children get the chance to interact with smaller animals and learn about activities like hatchery and milking. View Cheltenham rentals
Bibury Trout Farm
It’s hard to think of a more scenic spot for fishing than the fifteen acres in the Coln Valley that make up the Bibury Trout Farm. The Catch Your Own fishery is open weekends from March through to October, but the farm itself is open year-round with opportunities to feed the trout and see them graded before they are moved to stock rivers and ponds. There’s also a play area, grounds to wander around, and, in case your fishing is less than successful, a shop where you can pick up a supply of fresh and smoked trout.
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The Cotswolds’ Roman lineage is on full display at the Chedworth Roman Villa, hidden deep in a valley beside the Chedworth Woods. You’ll find fragments of splendid mosaics and astounding feats of engineering amongst the villa’s ruins, but, to really bring the experience to life, choose a day when the villa puts on one of its live gladiatorial demonstrations. In case of rain, a visit to the Corinium Museum in the nearby market town of Cirencester is a good alternative.
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Gloucestershire - Warwickshire Railway
This volunteer-run steam railway courses for twenty-five miles between Laverton and Cheltenham, taking you through some of the Cotswolds’ most stunning scenery. It’s a worthy activity on its own, especially if you pause at Toddington Station to enjoy the children’s play area and Flag and Whistle Tea Room. You can also use it as a creative way to get to Cheltenham Racecourse, which, in addition to horse racing, hosts events from car boot sales to concerts. Check the railway’s online calendar for special events, which have previously included Thomas the Tank Engine, Halloween and Christmas-themed outings.
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Hit the footpaths
Easily the most rewarding and economical activity in the Cotswolds is a walk along one of the many public footpaths. Equip yourself with an Ordnance Survey map and venture out on your own or, if you’re with small kids, you may enjoy some of the shorter walks around the Sherborne Estate, all of which start at Ewe Pen Barn. The estate overlooks a scene of particular bucolic bliss above the Sherborne Brook. Nearby, in Great Barrington, is the Fox Inn, which has a pleasant outdoor area that’s ideal for kids.
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