With frosty mornings, pretty villages decked in twinkling lights, Christmas carol, cosy fires, the smell of pine and maybe even a snow flurry or two, Christmas is a great time to visit the Cotswolds. Whether you’re planning a Christmas break in the region this year or live locally and want to get into the spirit of the season, here are 25 of our top things to do at Christmas in the Cotswolds in 2022, from light trails and ice skating to Christmas markets and festive events.
25 things to do at Christmas in the Cotswolds
The great outdoors
1. Follow a sparkling Christmas light trail
Grab a hot chocolate or spiced apple and explore a magical illuminated light trail this Christmas. With sparkling light displays set to music, these trails through the Cotswolds’ gardens and outdoor spaces are more popular than ever, with six local trails to choose from this year.
Walk through illuminated trees while you help Father Christmas’ elves decorate Westonbirt Arboretum for their Enchanted Christmas (25 November–21 December 2022). Or enjoy the grand backdrops of Blenheim Palace for the Illuminated Light Trail (18 November 2022–2 January 2023) and Sudeley Castle for the Spectacle of Light (25 November–30 December 2022).
There’s the family-focused Enchanted Light Trail at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park (25 November–31 December 2022) and the winter lantern festival is back for Christmas at Longleat (5 November 2022–8 January 2023). And finally, the Enchanted Garden of Light returns to Bath’s American Museum and Gardens (1–31 December 2022) for a second year.
2. Warm up with a wintery walk
If you’re looking to work off the Christmas pud with a winter walk, here are a few of our favourites. Leckhampton Hill just south of Cheltenham has spectacular views from the top, with a 3-mile loop across its rare limestone grassland. Or you can follow a 5.4-mile circular route from Bourton-on-the-Water along the Rivers Windrush and Eye to Upper and Lower Slaughter.
From Broadway there’s a 4-mile circular walk which climbs up to the fairytale Broadway Tower and through the deer park before descending back down to the village. You can also follow the start of the Cotswold Way from Chipping Campden for the 4.1-mile circular walk to the viewpoint at Dover’s Hill, where you can see as far as the Black Mountains in Wales on a clear day.
3. Take the kids on an outdoor adventure
Get the kids outside this winter with an adventure activity trail. Several National Trust properties have winter walking trails, including Dyrham Park’s winter weddings and gifts trail, Dyrham Park’s poetry trail, Newark Park’s deer trail and the Aesop’s Fables Cheeky Creatures trail at Upton House.
4. Go sledging
If we’re lucky enough to see the snow this Christmas in the Cotswolds, wrap up warm, grab your sledges (or tea tray if you’re improvising) and speed downhill. Some of the best places for sledging in the Cotswolds include Cleeve, Crickley and Leckhampton Hills near Cheltenham, Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons, Broadway Tower and Cirencester Amphitheatre.
‘Tis the season
5. Spend a night at the panto
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a trip to the panto (oh no it wouldn’t…). With its colourful mix of singing, dancing and audience participation, the Christmas panto is a family tradition. This year the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham (25 November 2022–8 January 2023) and Chipping Norton Theatre (16 November 2022–15 January 2023) are both showing Dick Whittington.
You can also see Snow White at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury (26 November–31 December 2022), Sleeping Beauty at the Stratford Playhouse (16–30 December 2022), Cinderella at The Subscription Rooms in Stroud (22 December 2022–2 January 2023) and The True Adventures of Marian and Robin Hood! at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester (21 November 2022–7 January 2023).
6. Get your skates on
Unfortunately Cheltenham’s ice rink in Imperial Gardens won’t be back until next winter. But you can take a spin on the ice this Christmas in the Cotswolds at either the Cotswold Water Park’s new undercover Gateway Ice Rink (19 November 2022–3 January 2023) or Bath on Ice in Victoria Park (12 November 2022–3 January 2023). Both have food and drink stalls to warm up at too.
7. Admire decorated Christmas trees
Many of the Cotswolds’ towns and villages go all out for Christmas with beautifully decorated trees. But there’s something a bit unusual about Bourton-on-the-Water’s. The tree is set in the middle of the River Windrush, with lights reflecting in the water and ducks swimming by.
In Lacock, you can see trees decorated by local community groups, charities and schools on display in the cloister (26 November–31 December). And there are Christmas tree festivals at St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold (8–11 December 2022), Cirencester Parish Church (23 November–11 December 2022) and St Saviours in Tetbury (1 December 2022–2 January 2023).
8. Sing along to Christmas carols
Listen to local choirs singing Christmas classics – or join in yourself – either outdoors or in the Cotswolds’ beautiful churches. Carol concerts take place in the Market Place in Northleach (19 December) and at weekends in the Dyrham Park estate church. And there are carol concerts on 22 and 23 December at Gloucester Cathedral and ‘Carols on the hour’ on 17 December.
9. Make your own Christmas wreath
Decorate your front door with a beautiful handmade Christmas wreath this year, with tuition from expert florists. Wreath-making classes are available on various dates through November and December at Newark Park, Ellenborough Park near Cheltenham, Burleigh Court Hotel near Stroud, The Slaughters Manor House and Daylesford Organic farm shop near Kingham.
10. Treat yourself to a night away
Why not escape for a night or two to one of the Cotswolds’ historic hotels? Many of them are beautifully done up for Christmas with lavishly decorated trees and roaring log fires. If you want to get away for the big day, there are some high-end Christmas packages available with all the trimmings (or if Santa’s not that generous, look out for bargain deals after New Year).
Go for broke at New Year break with a casino night, black tie dinner and live music at the Lords of the Manor* in Upper Slaughter. Celebrate Christmas in gourmet style at the Manor House Hotel* in Castle Combe, or relax with spa treatments and breakfast in bed at Barnsley House.*
Festivals and events
11. A Traditional Blenheim Christmas
Grand UNESCO World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace goes all out for Christmas with its Traditional Blenheim Christmas event from 18 November 2022–2 January 2023. This year’s theme is ‘The Kingdom of the Snow Queen’, and the ornate palace interiors are transformed into a Land of Snowflakes with frost-covered trees and shimmering crystals. You can also add on afternoon tea in the Orangery and visit the illuminated light trail and Christmas craft market.
12. Malvern Winter Glow
Located just outside the Cotswolds, Malvern Winter Glow at the Three Counties Showground is a five-in-one festive extravaganza worth travelling for. It takes place from 25 November 2022–2 January 2023, with the chance to meet Santa in the Winter Village, a light trail, ice rink, 120-foot observation wheel, fairground rides and a Christmas market with Bavarian-style bar.
13. Royal Marines Christmas Spectacular
The world-famous Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines comes to Cheltenham Town Hall on 1 December 2022 as part of their Christmas tour around the UK. On the programme is a mix of seasonal music, military marches, big band hits and popular showstoppers, featuring the precision skills of the Corps of Drums as well as the band’s talented singers and musicians.
14. Christmas Concert at Berkeley Castle
Celebrate Christmas in the Cotswolds with a concert at Berkeley Castle on 11 December 2022. The evening starts with mince pies and mulled wine by the fire in the Long Drawing Room, which is decorated with Christmas trees and glittering lights, then moves into the Great Hall where the Orchestra Pro Anima string group will play classical pieces from the last 200 years.
15. Festive film screenings in Cheltenham
The Alfresco Film Company is bringing the outdoor cinema indoors for its pop-up Christmas at the Movies series. St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Cheltenham’s Montpellier district will be decorated with fir trees and fairy lights for showings of festive favourite films Elf and The Holiday (both Friday 16 December) – bring your own popcorn and hot chocolate.
16. New Year’s Day Racing at Cheltenham
The New Year’s Day race meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse is an annual ritual for racing fans, who shake off the New Year’s Eve cobwebs with a flutter and a pint or two in the Guinness Village. As well as a full day of racing action on the track there’s also extra entertainment on the day, including live music and face-painting and bouncy castles in the Family Fun Zone.
17. Visit the Christmas markets
Christmas markets have become an festive tradition, with Christmas music and stalls draped with colourful lights selling artisan gifts and crafts, tree decorations, local food and drink – not to mention all the tasty treats like mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and spiced biscuits.
After a two-year absence, Bath Christmas market is back from 24 November–11 December 2022, with over 150 stall selling crafts and festive food and drink in the streets around the Abbey. Cheltenham Christmas market on the Promenade also returns from 8–23 December 2022.
There are several food and craft markets in Cirencester and Stroud, and one-off festive markets including in Moreton-in-Marsh (26 November), Tetbury (2 December), Chipping Campden (3 December), Winchcombe (6 December) and Chipping Norton (11 December).
18. Go late-night shopping
Soak up the festive atmosphere and pick up some unique gifts from the Cotswolds’ independent shops at a late-night shopping event. Broadway is hosting theirs on 25 November and 2 December 2022, with beautifully decorated streets and mulled wine and mince pies while you browse. And nights are also being held in Malmesbury (2 December) and Winchcombe (6 December) .
19. Celebrate Christmas all year at a Christmas shop
Tinsel and tree decorations aren’t just for Christmas, you can buy them all through the year at one of the Cotswolds’ Christmas shops. The Cotswold Christmas Shop in Lechlade sells lovely carved wooden nutcrackers and tree decorations, glass baubles and tree toppers. And the Victorian Christmas Shop in Bourton-on-the-Water specialises in traditional ornaments.
History and heritage
20. Take a ride on a steam train
A ride on board the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a journey back in time to the golden age of rail travel. This volunteer-run rail route runs from Cheltenham to Broadway through the Cotswold Hills, with vintage carriages hauled by an original steam locomotive – the sounds and smells on board transport you to the days when train travel was a lot more glamorous.
This year they have a couple of festive events planned. The Santa Express family trip departs from Cheltenham Racecourse Station on selected dates from 26 November–23 December 2022 and visits Santa and his elves at his North Pole winter wonderland (aka Winchcombe). Or you can take a Mince Pie Special steam train day trip between 27 December 2022–2 January 2023.
21. Have a vintage Christmas at Holst Victorian House
Take a trip back in time to Christmas past at Holst Victorian House in Cheltenham. This museum recreates life in the Victorian era at the birthplace of composer Gustav Holst. This winter there is a series of festive events, including a Victorian Christmas Day (10 December 2022), a children’s crafts drop-in day (20 December) and a candlelit tour and carols (21 December).
22. Experience a country house Christmas
You can also see how Christmas was celebrated through the ages at historic houses around the Cotswolds. Discover how the Fox-Talbot family would’ve spent Christmas in the Great Hall at Lacock Abbey. Celebrate a 17th-century Christmas wedding at Dyrham Park. Or experience a nostalgic 1960s-style Christmas at Chastleton House (26 November–11 December 2022).
Food and drink
23. Indulge in a festive afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is an English institution, and it gets a little extra sparkle this Christmas in the Cotswolds with festive afternoon teas at the region’s hotels and restaurants. You can enjoy seasonal delights like turkey and cranberry sandwiches, spiced scones and mince pies at Ellenborough Park, Lords of the Manor, the Slaughters Manor House, The Lygon Arms and Lucknam Park.
24. Create a Cotswolds Christmas hamper
The Cotswolds is bursting with fantastic artisan food and drink suppliers, and a Cotswolds Christmas hamper makes a great gift – whether that’s for yourself or someone else. Stock up on local favourites from the Cotswold Cheese Company, Cotswold Gold oils, Tubby Tom’s sauces, Costello and Hellerstein chocolates and charcuterie from Saltpig and The Cotswold Curer.
25. Drink a local toast
Toast the festive season or welcome in 2023 on New Year’ Eve with a glass of local bubbly from one of the Cotswolds’ vineyards. There’s a selection of white and rosé sparkling wines available, including Poulton Hill Estate’s Bulari White and Rosé, Woodchester Valley Vineyard’s Cotswold Classic, and the award-winning Classic Cuvee from Three Choirs Vineyards.
There’s also the Cheltenham Christmas Wine Festival, which takes place at Pittville Pump Room on 25 November 2022. There are over 150 still and sparkling wines available to taste, so it’s a good opportunity to fill up your cellars for Christmas ready for the festivities to start.
Save for later
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