In Bourton-on-the-Water, it’s difficult to be stressed. This charming village, known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, exudes English charm. This fairy-tale town is enthralling, with gorgeous bridges across the River Windrush and stone-roof homes going back to the 15th century. It’s no surprise that it’s been named one of England’s most beautiful villages.
Photographing its breathtaking beauty isn’t the only thing to do in this exquisite setting. Whether you want to navigate a maze, sip high tea beside a river, or witness one of the world’s first vehicles, Bourton-on-the-Water has plenty of activities for you.
You will most likely not be the only tourist in town. Tour buses unload at this tiny village, which is one of England’s best small towns, especially in the summer. If you want to avoid the crowds, go in the spring. You’ll be rewarded with better weather and fewer people.
Before you depart, be sure to check out these handy methods to get from London to the Cotswolds, which are only 84 miles northwest of London. Also, use our list of the finest things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water to organise your vacation.
A visit to the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection will be highly rewarding for car enthusiasts. The museum, which opened in 1978, was the brainchild of passionate collector Mike Cavanagh. He bought the Old Mill to showcase his extensive collection of vintage motoring signs, motorcycles, and antique automobiles.
The museum was sold to the CSMA club in 1999. (a.k.a. Boundless). They turned it into the magnificent seven-gallery pleasure zone you see today. The museum pays respect to the history of twentieth-century motoring by displaying automobiles, caravans, enamel signs, and other relics.
Explore the Blacksmith’s Workshop to gain a sense of the evolution of the craft, from making anvils to distributing motorbikes and vehicles. There’s also a weird area called Paved Paradise that features several throwbacks to the 1960s and 1970s.
The museum’s oldest vehicle is a 1911 Alldays & Onions Victoria. There’s also a 1924 Levis bike that was formerly used to play motorcycle football (soccer to North Americans).
The toy selection will appeal to children. Although youngsters are not permitted to touch the displays, there are several hands-on sections, as well as a dress-up room and a play zone conveniently located in the heart of the untouchable portion. Brilliant!
The Old Mill is located on Sherborne Street in Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham.
In this one-of-a-kind park, you can get up up and personal with birds of various sizes and colours. This nine-acre property, established in 1957 on what was previously a tree plantation, is home to around 500 birds (including rare and exotic critters) and 50 aviaries.
Visitors may observe egg-laying amphibians and reptiles in addition to flamingos, cranes, pelicans, hornbills, and falcons. Visitors may feed the penguins and work as a zookeeper for a day as part of special experiences that cost extra money.
Bring the kids to the Jurassic Journey for some fossilised fun on a wooded walk. They’ll be able to locate dinosaurs in the trees (don’t forget to look high), track down dinosaur footprints, and dig for fossils in the Dino Dig.
If you want to go even closer to the animals, visit the Encounters Area, where you may listen to Meet the Keeper sessions (daily at 12:15), get climbed on by a parrot, and slithered on by a snake.
Bourton-on-the-Water, Rissington Road
Do you know someone who has a short-person complex? Send them to The Old New Inn’s Model Village.
This miniature town of Lilliputian proportions is a fantastic replica of Bourton-on-the-Water in the 1930s. It is located in the rear yard of the inn and attracts guests from all over the world.
The Model Village has structures made of the same native Cotswold stone used to construct the town’s residences, banks, stores, and meeting rooms.
The Miniature Landscape Exhibition, which features realistic houses created by miniature specialist John Constable (not the renowned painter), is one of the unique exhibitions.
The fascinating Exhibition of Miniatures, which costs an additional £1, is beautiful. More than 100 English craftsman constructed the incredibly elaborate scenery and chamber sets.
Insider tip: Strollers will not fit along the tiny alleys of this small-scale hamlet, so plan on carrying your children.
Rissington Road, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham is the address.
Seeing England without visiting a labyrinth is like to eating a scone without clotted cream. This lush landscape is famous for its hedge-lined labyrinths, and one of the most enjoyable, family-friendly mazes is right near Bourton-on-the-Water. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes to finish.
The Dragonfly Maze, which is located next to Birdland, was built in 1997 out of yew hedges. You’ll come across 14 numbered clues as you journey through its intricate passageways. The aim, like with most English mazes, is to reach the centre before proceeding to the exit.
Each clue will bring them to the centre, where they will discover the hidden, golden dragonfly. It’s housed in a circular home, as the name suggests. Don’t worry, if you get trapped, the attractive lady in charge is more than eager to assist you in getting out.
Rissington Road, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham is the address.
Water enjoys making its guests feel lofty. The Model Railway Exhibition is another must-see tiny show, this time involving railways. The fully working display is housed in a lovely stone farmhouse that also contains the Model Railway Shop.
To find the exhibition, go to the rear of the store (if you can get your kids away from all the wonderful things). Three chambers of joy await, inviting you to let your inner kid wild. While the trains race around their tracks in one chamber, day changes to darkness.
In another chamber, guests may take command by pressing buttons to launch the trains themselves. This is a big hit with the youngsters. If you look closely, you might spy Thomas the Train.
There’s a lot to see with over 500 square feet of trains and railway. And it’s difficult not to admire the attention to detail that has gone into each scene. Mountains, streams, buildings, and a fun fair are all depicted in their entirety.
Box Bush High Street, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham is the address.
Afternoon tea, often served between 2 and 3 p.m., is a traditional English custom you won’t want to miss. Tea (of course), sammies (a.k.a. crustless finger sandwiches), and pastries vary depending on where you go. Some establishments even provide scones with jam and clotted cream. Yum!
Afternoon tea “by the water” is the finest way to enjoy it in Bourton-on-the-Water. Visitors may enjoy the beautiful scenery, people-watching, and a delectable treat while resting at a neighbourhood restaurant or café.
Green & Pleasant Tea Rooms, a family-owned restaurant on the banks of the River Windrush, is a lovely place to sit and relax with a cup of tea. Their baked goodies are all created from scratch, so you’re in for a treat. They also cater to people who have allergies. Their gluten-free and dairy-free cakes are delectable!
Another family-friendly option is Bakery on the Water. This little artisan bakery makes some of the best cream tea in town. Two handmade scones (yes! ), jam, clotted cream, and a small pot of tea are included in every purchase. Exhale while eating a pain aux raisins on the riverbank patio!
1 Sherborne Street, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, UK
This gorgeous place, one of the loveliest settlements in the Cotswolds, will make you gasp with ecstasy. Its major draw is located near the town centre.
The River Windrush twists its way beneath stone bridges and between beautiful stores, quaint cafés, and charming eateries, sandwiched between lush, brilliant greens.
On bright, sunny days, children and adults alike dangle their feet in the shallow water, some navigating their way between ducks to reach the other side. This is a great place to people-watch because it is the town’s major core.
Roll out your blanket, open your picnic basket, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the riverbank. When you’re bored, go shopping or grab a cup of tea at one of the neighbourhood tea cafes.
Greystone’s Farm Nature Reserve has 66 acres of green beauty to offer visitors. There are meadows to explore, the River Eye to appreciate, and plenty of animals to view. You could see a devil’s-bit scabious, sedge warbler, common knapweed, or pied wigtail if you look attentively. Bring binoculars for a clearer look.
Walking routes thread their way through the grounds, sending guests on a peaceful and picturesque journey through the reserve.
The two main routes, Wildlife Walk and Time-Travel Trail, are both flat, with no steep sections to contend with. Meadows Walk is closed during the autumn season to protect the environment and its inhabitants.
Relax with a hot cup of tea or coffee in the café, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday. The reserve is open every day.
Insider tip: Because there is no on-site public parking, you must park in the town and walk around 10 minutes.
Greystones Farm is located on Greystones Lane in Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham.
You might be able to smell the Cotswold Perfumery before you see it. This beautiful boutique, housed in a charming 300-year-old Grade II-listed ancient edifice, will melt your troubles away. The fragrance, which opened in 1966, was a delightful, fragrant addition to Bourton-on-the-Water.
In addition to aromatic soaps, moisturisers, and fragrances, the store also sells oils, scent-making equipment, and jewellery. Those who enjoy all things smelly may desire to enrol in a fragrance course.
The fragrance even provides luxurious lodging. On-site, there are two five-star self-catering apartments. The first overlooks the town centre, while the second overlooks the river.
Cheltenham, Bourton-on-the-Water, Victoria Street
The Mousetrap Inn serves breakfast, lunch, and supper, and they are all fantastic. Each delectable meal is made using locally sourced ingredients, and the menu varies with the seasons.
Simple fruit smoothies, miso-glazed cauliflower, and basic fish and chips with mushy peas are among the menu items.
You won’t be disappointed by the dessert. While the sticky date pudding is a traditional English dessert, the coconut and kaffir posset with mango sorbet and warm Madeleines truly strikes the point.
Do you have allergies? Don’t be concerned. There are several selections to suit various diets, including vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options. We recommend making a reservation, especially if you’re travelling during the summer or half-term.
Insider tip: If you stay in one of the inn’s 11 newly remodelled rooms, you won’t have to travel far for your lunch.
Lansdowne, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham is the address.