The Cotswolds have celebrated the world over for their rolling hills, bucolic views, and honey-coloured cottages. Covering nearly 800 square miles across five counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire), there is so much to see and do throughout the region. But it doesn’t need to cost anything! Here we outline the best free activities to enjoy in the Cotswolds.
1. Museum of Gloucester
Entry to Gloucester’s Museum, shop, and cafe is free. Inside you can explore the city’s origins as an important Roman Settlement, and learn more about its growth during Medieval Britain. The museum is also worth visiting for its art collection. Paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Richard Wilson, and John Atkinson Grimshaw can be viewed. The museum houses many original Roman artifacts and is also home to the world-famous Birdlip Mirror – an ornamented bronze mirror from around AD 50, which was uncovered at Barrow Wake near Birdlip.
2. A Day Out at Broadway
Broadway is great for all the family. Its combination of quaint shops housed in honey-coloured stone buildings, and its large £300,000 adventure playground and wonderful walks, make it a great way to spend your afternoon. If you enjoy experiencing English heritage, you should walk up to Broadway Tower, a 18th-century folly, built by Lady Coventry, that stands 1,024 feet above sea level.
3. Have a Picnic at Coaley Peak Picnic Site
If you fancy a picnic, head to Coaley Peak, where you can enjoy your food on 12 acres of farmland, with incredible views over the Forest of Dean. Coaley Peak is located 4 miles from Stroud. The picnic site is incorporated into the Cotswold Way trail, and makes a perfect spot to explore, particularly during the summer months, when you might even spot an ice cream van!
4. Visit a Nature Reserve
Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve and Foxholes Nature Reserve are two more great free attractions to enjoy in the Cotswolds. Chimney Meadows is the largest nature reserve in the region, spanning over 600 acres of the Upper Thames floodplain, and it’s perfect for a scenic walk. Foxholes Nature Reserve is a tranquil woodland reserve that slopes towards the River Evenlode. The reserve is known for its carpets of bluebells which emerge in late spring. Other native floras found within the woods include red campion, violet, and primrose.
5. Visit Bourton-on-the-Water
A day trip to the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ will never disappoint. Bourton-on-the-water is serviced by many local shops, cafes, and attractions, but perhaps its most famous and wonderful feature is its five arched stone bridges. The bridges cross the river, which runs through the village, and were all constructed using local stone. The earliest bridge (Mill Bridge) dates from 1654, and the most recent one was constructed in 1953. You can feed the ducks and wander across the bridges as you while away an afternoon.
No matter what your interests are, there is something for everyone in the Cotswolds. Perhaps the most incredible attraction that the region has to offer is its unparalleled beauty, and those views come for free!