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Spanning five counties and 800 square miles, there’s always something new to explore in the Cotswolds. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’re guaranteed scenic views, great walks and picturesque villages.
Just a couple of hours’ drive from London and less than 90 minutes from Birmingham, the Cotswolds is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway with the kids, a family staycation or a day trip to remember. With so much to see and do, we’ve turned to the Mumsnet’s forums to help you narrow down your search for fun family activities in the Cotswolds.
Editor's picks: Where to stay in the Cotswolds
Spa, creche and kid-friendly activities
in a Jacobean manor house
Roll-top baths and four acres of grounds
at this lush country retreat
Family rooms for up to six at this classy B&B
near Cheltenham Racecourse
1. Sudeley Castle
Best for history buffs | Read Sudeley Castle reviews
"There’s a willow maze, wooden fort, adventure playground with zip wire, assault course, dressing up area and family friendly events all year round" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Ricekrispie22
With its epic adventure playground and thousand-year history, Sudeley Castle makes for a brilliant day out, with something to interest every member of the family. The home of Katherine Parr - Henry VIII’s last and surviving wife - the castle has 10 beautiful gardens to wander around, child-friendly historical exhibitions and naturally, a great cafe. Book ahead for archaeological activities and a sculpture safari around the castle grounds. Family tickets are £48 for two adults and two children, and under-3s go free.
Nearest train station: Cheltenham Spa (10 miles)
2. Cotswold Water Park
Best for water fun | Read Cotswold Water Park reviews
"The Cotswold Water Park would also be great if you’re going when the weather's a bit warmer" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Ohhelpicantthinkofaname
Featuring 180 lakes across 40 square miles, there’s a huge variety of activities at Cotswold Waterpark. Highlights include a sandy beach, boat hire and paddle boarding, with every watersport under the sun available, as well as land-based activities like archery and cycling. There are hotels, self-catering accommodation and camping available within the waterpark, with live music and a craft beer taproom to keep the grown-ups entertained in the evening.
Nearest train station: Kemble (4 miles)
Best for classic Cotswolds sights | Read Bourton-on-the-Water reviews
"My children loved Bourton-on-the-Water - just everything about it. The river running through was almost enough for them!" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Mischance
Mumsnetters’ favourite Cotswolds village, Bourton-on-the-Water, is a lovely place to simply wander around and take in the sleepy atmosphere. Voted one of the prettiest villages in England, there’s a gentle river with bridges to play pooh sticks on, plus streets and streets of the honey-coloured Cotswold stone houses of your dreams. In terms of things to do, there’s a quaint miniature model village, the Dragonfly Maze, Cotswold Motoring Museum and penguins and flamingos at Birdland.
Nearest train station: Moreton-in-Marsh (8.5 miles)
4. Cotswold Wildlife Park
Best for animal lovers | Read Cotswold Wildlife Park reviews
"Cotswold Wildlife Park is like a fab zoo, has a great playground" - recommended by Mumsnet user, NC561376
If your kids are animal mad, a trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park is just the ticket. Don’t miss the giraffe walkway, penguin feeding times and the zoo’s latest additions - a litter of rare (and very cute) pallas kittens. There’s also a brilliant adventure playground, a narrow-gauge railway, a hands-on farmyard, a restaurant and kiosks to keep you well-fuelled as you explore the park. Dogs are allowed within most of the park, as long as they’re kept on a lead. It’s worth mentioning the park isn’t accessible by public transport, so you’ll need to pre-book a taxi for the last leg if you’re travelling on foot, by bus or train.
Nearest train station: Charlbury (11 miles)
5. Lacock Village
Best for Harry Potter fans | Read Lacock Village reviews
"Lacock is worth a visit if, especially if they are Harry Potter fans" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Teakind
One of the smallest villages in England and almost entirely owned by the National Trust, Lacock has been used as a filming location for more period dramas than you can shake a stick at. Lacock Abbey provides the interior of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, so it’s a must-see for Potterheads. There’s also a museum dedicated to Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the photo negative, a National Trust cafe and a traditional bakery on the high street.
Nearest train station: Chippenham (4 miles)
6. Cotswold Farm Park
Best for outdoor fun | Read Cotswold Farm Park reviews
"The Cotswold Farm Park is brilliant for that age - play areas, and animals, some of which you can feed. But not for your rainy days" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Ellmau
Countryfile’s Adam Henson runs this lovely family-oriented farm near Cheltenham, and it makes a fantastic day out for kids of all ages. Hands-on seasonal activities are available year-round, from potato digging to bottle-feeding lambs. There’s plenty to do indoors if it rains, with an animal barn and indoor play area. As well as seeing the animals, kids can get out in the fresh air and enjoy a tractor ride, rare breeds trail, mud kitchen and adventure playground - don’t forget to pack wellies!
Nearest train station: Moreton-in-Marsh (10 miles)
7. Westonbirt Arboretum
Best for nature fans | Read Westonbirt Arboretum reviews
"We went to Westonbirt Arboretum this week - really good day out, very dog friendly and kid friendly. Well worth the money" - recommended by Mumsnet user, BrilloPaddy
Home to 2,500 species of tree, Westonbirt is a must for nature-loving families. Tree-climbing is actively encouraged and dogs are more than welcome at the 600-acre estate, plus there’s a tree-top adventure walk that’s not to be missed. Parking is free and entry fees to the arboretum vary throughout the year, with prices highest during October and November as the trees put on their autumn colours. Under 5s go free and there are discounts available for those arriving by bus or bicycle.
Nearest train station: Kemble (11 miles); Stroud (12 miles, with direct bus links)
8. Broadway Village
Best for kids of all ages | Read Broadway reviews
"Broadway is pretty and has a brilliant playground and you can walk up the hill to Broadway tower" - recommended by Mumsnet user, rosesandsalvia
For a chilled day out, Broadway is a quintessentially Cotswolds village, filled with laid-back things to do. There’s a fab playground, heritage railway, museum and Broadway Tower, which is set in a stunning deer park. On a less picturesque note, don’t miss a fascinating tour of the village’s cold war nuclear bunker, followed by tea and cake at Morris & Brown Cafe.
Nearest train station: Moreton-in-Marsh (10 miles)
9. Gloucester-Warwickshire Steam Railway
Best for train fans | Read Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway reviews
"Steam train runs from Cheltenham racecourse through a couple of villages and all the way to Broadway. Good fun, nice scenery and dogs are allowed" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MissyB1
Train fanatics will go mad for the Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway, a volunteer-run heritage railway with a 28-mile round trip, with steam and diesel trains taking passengers six days per week (it's closed most Fridays). The timetable is quite complex, with different routes running on different days - which all adds to the fun of planning your journey round the picturesque villages and countryside of the Cotswolds. Under 5’s go free and family day tickets are £60 for two adults and up to three children. Dogs are welcome and require their own ticket, priced at £3.
Nearest train station: Cheltenham Spa (2 miles)
10. All Things Wild
Best for dinosaur fans | Read All Things Wild reviews
"All Things Wild is a bit rough around the edges BUT is excellent value and there is so much to do there for the £40 entrance fee. It is also excellent if you have dinosaur fans in tow" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Mrscog
If you’re looking for everything young kids want under one roof, All Things Wild is for you. There are dinosaurs, animals, a soft play area, diggers, an old helicopter, tractor-drawn train rides and much more besides. Ticket prices start from £6 at off-peak times, and it’s best to book online as they’re more expensive on the door. Under 3’s go free and there are a number of special experience days available for over 8’s.
Nearest train station: Evesham (8 miles)
What’s the best Cotswold town to stay in?
The Cotswolds covers a huge area, so it’s a good idea to be strategic and plan ahead. If you know where you want to visit, pick a place to stay nearby or within easy reach.
Cirencester and Cheltenham are just outside of the AONB and central, with plenty to do locally and facilities for families. For a more rural place to stay, Bourton-on-the-Water is a Mumsnetters’ favourite spot for the most beautiful country walks and views in the Cotswolds. At the southern tip of the Cotswolds is Bath, another great option.
What’s the best family-friendly hotel in the Cotswolds?
Woolley Grange is aimed squarely at families, and that’s what makes it the best family-friendly hotel in the Cotswolds. They’ve thought of everything, which really takes the stress out of family getaways and lets the whole family relax and enjoy their stay.
What’s the best family-friendly attraction in the Cotswolds?
Sudeley Castle is Mumsnetters’ favourite family-friendly attraction in the Cotswolds. It’s extremely kid-friendly, with hands-on history and a brilliant playground for little ones to let off steam.
How we chose our recommendations
Because we know that there's nothing like a real recommendation, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out what family attractions in the Cotswolds were being recommended.
We then did some online research, looking at what things to do in the Cotswolds had won accolades or had been featured in 'best choice' lists, and what customer reviews said about them. Having collated all that information, we then narrowed our list down to the best family-friendly things to do in the Cotswolds at the moment.
Why you should trust us
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