Sunshine, honey-stone villages, lush gardens, trickling rivers and a cold drink in a pub beer garden – there aren’t many places better than the Cotswolds to spend your summer. And whether the weather is sunny or not there’s plenty to do in the Cotswolds in summer – from festivals and events to day trips, walking trails, film screenings and even a day on the beach. So to help you plan the next few months, here are 25 of our top things to do in summer 2023 in the Cotswolds.
25 things to do in the Cotswolds in summer
The great outdoors
1. Photograph a flower field
With their rows of colourful blooms stretching as far as the eye can see, flower fields are one of the top photo opportunities in the Cotswolds in summer. The best known are the purple-hued fields of Cotswold Lavender near Snowshill, which are open from 14 June–6 August in 2023.
2. Go on a Sudeley Castle sculpture safari
The grounds of Sudeley Castle are being used to recreate habitats in Kenya, China, Tibet, India and the Arctic for Sudeley’s Animal Ark, celebrating creatures great and small. There’s a mix of augmented reality exhibits which bring animals to life, and sculptures made using natural materials like pampas grass, bark and flowers to spread a message of peaceful coexistence with nature.
3. Take a walk on the Cotswold Way
The 102-mile (164km) route of the Cotswold Way National Trail is one of the most beautiful long-distance walking paths in the country, running between Chipping Campden and Bath past castles and country houses, churches and abbey ruins, scenic viewpoints and historic towns.
You don’t have to commit to the full distance though, as there are plenty of shorter stretches available to give you a taste of the Cotswold Way. We picked eight of our favourite circular walks along the Cotswold Way from 2.5 to 6 miles, but you can also choose a linear stretch between two towns or villages and then take public transport or a taxi back to your starting point.
4. Enjoy an outdoor film screening
Watch a film under the stars this summer at an outdoor film screening in some of the area’s most spectacular venues. The Alfresco Film Co are hosting screenings of films including Top Gun: Maverick, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing and Grease between June and September. This year’s Cotswold venues are Cowley Manor and Ellenborough Park hotels, Cirencester Park, Sandford Parks Lido and the Cotswold Country Park and Beach.
The Luna Cinema are also putting on showings of Top Gun: Maverick, Grease and Jurassic Park (4–6 August) among the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum, as well as Pretty Woman, The Greatest Showman and Top Gun: Maverick (1–3 August) at Bath Rugby Club.
5. Or an al fresco theatre performance
As well as films, there are also live theatre performances around the Cotswolds this summer. Shakespeare fans can see Romeo and Juliet at the Broadway Tower (13 June) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Painswick Rococo Garden (30 June and 1 July). Or National Trust site Newark Park is hosting Emma (5 August) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (12 August).
6. Admire the artworks at Cheltenham Paint Festival
Cheltenham Paint Festival is back for its sixth year between 28 and 30 July, when you can watch national and international street artists at work creating giant murals on walls around the town. Or if you can’t make the festival, you can see the artworks throughout the summer, with a map on the festival website showing where you can see all 60 murals on a five-mile walking route.
7. Hit the beach at the Cotswold Country Park
The Cotswolds might not have the sea, but it does have the UK’s largest inland beach. The Cotswold Country Park and Beach south of Cirencester is set among 40 square miles of lakes in the Cotswold Water Park. As well as building sandcastles on the beach, you can swim, try watersports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, or visit the AquaVenture inflatable waterpark.
8. Take a dip in a lido
Another way to enjoy an al fresco dip this summer in the Cotswolds is to head to one of the area’s outdoor swimming pools – which are heated to around 23°C in case the weather isn’t so summery. There’s been a lido in Cheltenham’s Sandford Park since 1935, with a 50-metre main pool plus a children’s pool and paddling pool. There’s also the 25-metre pool at Chipping Norton Lido, surrounded by gardens for picnicking, and Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool.
9. Try a local ice cream
For an ice cream with a view, head to Winstones Cotswold Ice Cream Parlour on the edge of Rodborough Common, just south of Stroud. This National Trust common is home to grazing cattle, butterflies and wildflowers, and has views over the Stroud Valley and Severn Estuary. There are 17 different ice cream flavours available each day, including two dairy-free options, with favourites like salted caramel, rhubarb and custard, and blackberries and cream on the menu.
10. Paddle in the river at Bourton-on-the-Water
Cool off with a paddle in the shallow River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water, which runs right through the centre of the village. The water is refreshingly cool on a hot day, though it gets busy so you’ll find more space away from the village centre. And if you visit on August Bank Holiday you can watch the annual river football match, where two teams battle for glory in a very wet game.
Festivals and events
11. Music festivals
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to music festivals in the Cotswolds this summer, from big-name events to smaller community festivals. Whether you’re packing a tent and camping for the weekend or just visiting for the day, there’s plenty of music to enjoy including:
- Wychwood Festival (2–4 June) at Cheltenham Racecourse, with circus skills, magic and yoga sessions and a beer festival alongside music from Travis, Happy Mondays and Sam Ryder.
- The non-profit Nibley Music Festival (30 June–1 July) prides itself on its friendly feel, with kids’ entertainment and music from Tom Meighan, Kosheen and the Magic Numbers.
- 2000 Trees (5–8 July) in Withington near Cheltenham has more than 130 rock and indie bands playing across five stages, comedy, a silent disco, family events and local food and drink.
- Volunteer-run festival Chalfest (21–22 July) near Stroud has Spice Girl Melanie C headlining this year, along with a Dolly Parton tribute, bars, food trucks and markets.
- Big Feastival (25–27 August) at former Blur star Alex James’ Farm near Kingham celebrates music and food, with cookery demos and performances by Sigrid, Tom Grennan and Blossoms.
12. The Cotswold Olimpick Games
The Olimpick Games is one of the Cotswolds’ quirkiest events, taking place on 2 June 2023 on Dover’s Hill, just outside Chipping Campden. The games date back to 1612 when Robert Dover had the idea for an Olympics-style sporting competition, and were revived in the 1960s. Events are a bit different to the real Olympics though, and include shin-kicking, tug ‘o war and hammer throwing. Then it all ends with fireworks and a torchlight procession into Chipping Campden.
13. Broadway Arts Festival
Art lovers flock to the village of Broadway in the Cotswolds in summer for their annual arts festival. Over 80 events are taking place from 9–18 June, including theatre shows, live music, walks, talks, tours and workshops. There’s also artBEAT on the village green during the first weekend, which showcases the work of talented artists, jewellers, sculptors, ceramicists and designers.
14. Summer Festival at Daylesford Organic
Cotswold foodie favourite Daylesford Organic Farm celebrates its 20th anniversary with a two-day Summer Festival on 17–18 June. As well as cookery presentations and a Summer Solstice Banquet, there’s lots of extra entertainment going on including craft and yoga sessions, JCB dancing diggers, vintage cars, fairground rides, sheepdog demonstrations, music and comedy shows.
15. Battle Proms at Blenheim Palace
The Battle Proms picnic concerts combine music and military history in a celebration of all things British. This year’s event at Blenheim Palace takes place on 1 July, with battle reenactments from the Napoleonic cavalry and parachute displays from the Red Devils, a music performance including a Spitfire flypast and 193 cannons, and a giant firework display over the palace.
16. The Cotswold Show
The Cotswold Show and Food Festival takes place on 1–2 July 2023 in Cirencester Park, part of the Bathurst Estate. This country fair features exciting events like motorcycle displays, Olympic dressage, falconry shows and a parachute display, alongside cookery and rural skills demonstrations, dog shows and hundreds of trade stands selling local food, drink, crafts and gifts.
17. Alfresco at the Cotswolds Distillery
Local gin and whisky producers the Cotswolds Distillery are launching a summer of entertainment this year at their distillery in Shipston-on-Stour. Alfresco at the Distillery is a new series of outdoor events taking place from 1 July and 2 September, which include a comedy festival, stargazing night, theatre, opera and music – all served up alongside their award-winning drinks.
18. The Royal International Air Tattoo
Taking place on 14–16 July at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, the Royal International Air Tattoo is the world’s largest military air show. Fast jets, giant transporters and historic aircraft from around the world take to the skies, including the Spanish Navy’s Harrier jets. On the ground you can try flight simulators, meet air crews in the RAF Experience and shop the Vintage Village.
History and heritage
19. Try archery at Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle, located just west of the Cotswolds, is an ancient fortress that’s been in the Berkeley family since the 12th century. As well as exploring the castle and gardens, there are also a series of family-friendly events from 31 July–21 August 2023, with have-a-go archery on Mondays, storytelling and Tudor dancing on Tuesdays and the Zoolab on Wednesdays.
20. Ride on a steam train
Take a ride on board a stream train on the Gloucestershire–Warwickshire Steam Railway this summer. This volunteer-run heritage railway travels through stunning Cotswold scenery between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Get a Day Rover ticket to travel on the line all day, or join in their summer special events like the Ale & Steam event (16–17 June), fish and chips on the Cheltenham Fryer (5 and 19 August), or Teddy Bear Thursdays (3, 10 and 17 August).
21. Explore a historic house and garden
The Cotswolds is full of beautiful historic properties, and summer is a great time to visit to see their gardens in full bloom. Among the region’s highlights are the Arts and Crafts-inspired Hidcote Manor Garden and Kiftsgate Court Gardens, both near Chipping Campden, Prior Park Landscape Garden near Bath, and the charming organic cottage gardens at Snowshill Manor.
For something a bit different, visit the quirky Indian-style Sezincote House and Gardens near Moreton-in-Marsh. Also nearby is Bourton House Garden which is now open for the summer months, as are the romantic, tucked-away Cerney House Gardens just north of Cirencester.
Food and drink
22. Feast your way around a food festival
Eat, drink and be merry at the Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival this summer, which takes place in Montpellier Gardens on 23–25 June. There are cooking demonstrations from chefs like Lisa Faulkner and Rosemary Shrager, wine tastings and cheese masterclasses alongside live music, street theatre, a dog show, kids’ entertainment and plenty of food and drink stalls.
23. Have a picnic with a view
Gather together some of Cotswolds’ tasty local produce and head to one of the area’s scenic viewpoints for a picnic. Cleeve Hill is the highest point in the Cotswolds at 330 metres and has panoramic views across the Severn Vale towards Wales. More of our favourite picnic spots include Leckhampton Hill and Crickley Hill Country Park near Cheltenham, Painswick and Harefield Beacons, the Broadway Tower, Selsey Common and the Tyndale Monument.
24. Taste wine at Woodchester Valley Vineyard
Woodchester Valley Vineyard near Stroud brings a taste of the South of France to the Cotswolds this summer with rows of grapes ripening in the sunshine. This award-winning vineyard produces white, rosé and sparkling wines, and you can learn how it’s made and try some on a tour and tasting. Or there are regular events like afternoon tea, dog walks and Friday fizz and chips.
25. Raise a glass at Charlbury Beer Festival
The last of our highlights of the Cotswolds in summer is the Charlbury Beer Festival on 24 June. This annual beer festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and features 60 real ales and craft beers, as well as ciders, perries and wines, all accompanied by food stalls, live music, performances and talks, children’s entertainment and the World Aunt Sally Singles Championships.
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