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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 2021 in the Cotswolds.
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 16 June–5 August in 2021. But there are also the confetti fields at the Real Flower Petal Confetti Co in Worcestershire (open 25 June–4 July) and the wildflower fields at Cotswold Farm Park (open 3 July–31 August).
2. Take a walk on the Cotswold Way
The 102-mile 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 which 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 take public transport or a taxi back to your starting point.
3. Follow the Kingfisher Trail
New for 2021, the Kingfisher Trail is a public arts trail, with 21 kingfisher sculptures decorated by talented local artists spread across the Cotswolds. Two different trails are inspired by the area’s rivers – the Severn Trail through the west from Chipping Campden to Wickwar and the Thames Trail through the east from Moreton-in-Marsh to Royal Wootton Bassett.
There’s an app to download to help you find the sculptures, which could be anywhere from castles to cafés – with the 21st kingfisher moving to a different location every fortnight and a bonus 22nd golden kingfisher at Iford Manor Gardens – and the trail’s in place until October half-term.
4. Admire an arboretum
With hundreds of tree and plant species from around the world, an arboretum is a great place to admire some colourful blooms during the summer months. We’re lucky enough to have two arboretums in the Cotswolds – Batsford and Westonbirt. And as well as their natural displays, both have special family-friendly events on during the summer holidays.
Batsford Arboretum near Moreton-in-Marsh is hosting the Big Batsford Hedgehog Hunt (22 July to 5 September), where kids can win a prize if they find the hedgehogs hidden around the arboretum. And the National Arboretum near Tetbury has a Gruffalo Spotters trail using a special app, and an outdoor comedy and music performance by the Grimm Sisters on 7 August.
5. 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 Hot Fuzz (31 July) and Top Gun (1 August) at Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham and The Greatest Showman (12 August) and E.T. (9 September) at Cowley Manor. There’ll also be a big screen in Cheltenham’s Imperial Gardens from 23 July until the end of August, showing films, sporting events and Proms concerts.
Film screenings are also being held at Sudeley Castle (28–30 July) and in Blenheim Palace gardens (12–15 August). And Lost Cinema are showing The Greatest Showman (30 July) and Top Gun (10 September) with the backdrop of historic Berkeley Castle, as well as shows at St Michaels Park in Cirencester, Buscot Park in Faringdon and Westonbirt House near Tetbury.
6. 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 lies just south of Cirencester, set among 40 square miles of lakes in the Cotswold Water Park. As well as building sandcastles on the beach, you can paddle or take a dip in the freshwater lake, with a special lagoon for kids. There are also watersports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, and the AquaVenture inflatable waterpark.
7. 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.
8. 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, with 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.
9. Unwind at the C-Side Spa
Part of the luxurious Cowley Manor Hotel near Cheltenham, the C-Side Spa is a relaxing oasis perfect for unwinding with a swim and a massage. The spa has two pools, including a 15-metre outdoor pool that’s lined with sunbeds and has an outdoor bar in summer. There’s also an indoor pool, sauna and steam room if the weather’s not so good, and four treatment rooms.
10. Paddle in the river at Bourton-on-the-Water
Cool off with a paddle in the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water. This shallow river runs right through the centre of the village, and is crossed over by numerous small bridges. The water is refreshingly cool on a hot day, though Bourton is a very popular spot so you’re likely to find more space the further you move away from the centre of the village.
Festivals and events
11. Giffords Circus
Giffords Circus is a much-loved magical village green circus which moves around the UK each summer. Each show has a different theme, this year’s is the Celtic-inspired The Hooley, which transports visitors to a world of fairies, trolls, leprechauns, wild horses and Celtic music and dancing – as well as featuring Giffords favourites like Tweedy the Clown.
This summer there are shows in the Cotswolds in Barrington (5–16 August), Minchinhampton Common (19–31 August) and Stratton Meadows in Cirencester (9–13 September). You can also add on a three-course feast after the show at their Circus Sauce supper club.
12. Glamping at Cotswold Farm Park
The Cotswold Farm Park is one of the region’s most popular family attractions, and this summer they are opening a new glamping experience called Strawberry’s Field (named after one of the resident cows). From 9 July to 31 August a village of 16 ‘festival-themed’ luxury bell tents is being set up at the park, each sleeping up to five people, with real beds and UBS power banks.
13. Midsummer Lights at Painswick Rococo Gardens
Experience Painswick Rococo Gardens after dark this summer in the Cotswolds, as they’re lit up by night for the new Midsummer Lights event, which takes place from 23–29 July. As well as colourful lights illuminating the gardens there will be treetop aerialists, fire dancers and roaming actors to entertain you as you explore, before enjoying a picnic in the grounds.
14. Cheltenham Balloon Fiesta
Cheltenham Balloon Fiesta is back for 2021, with colourful hot air balloons filling the skies above Cheltenham Racecourse from 23–25 July. The event starts with fireworks and illuminated balloons on Friday night before the Big Balloon Fiesta on Saturday and a family fun day (without balloons) on Sunday. As well as balloons there’s also a funfair, circus workshops and live entertainment.
15. The Big Feastival
The Big Feastival – celebrating music and food – also returns from 27–29 August at former Blur star Alex James’ Farm near Kingham. Camping and weekend tickets are sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Friday, when you can see musicians like Sigala, Ella Eyre, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Morcheeba. There are also cooking demos and kid-friendly activities.
16. Moreton-in-Marsh Show
The traditional Moreton-in-Marsh agricultural show takes place on 4 September this year at the town’s showground. Describing itself as a ‘day of farming, food and family fun’, it’s one of the UK’s biggest agricultural shows. There are displays of livestock, horse shows, produce, crafts and baking in the Home and Garden marquee and lots of shopping opportunities.
17. Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace
For a glamorous day out this summer in the Cotswolds, head to Blenheim Palace for the Salon Privé Classic & Supercar event on 5 September. This garden party meets luxury car show is where motoring fans can see a mixture of classic cars and motorbikes along with the newest supercars, all laid out on the palace’s South Lawn, with food, drinks and live entertainment.
History and heritage
18. Ride the Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway
Take a ride on board a stream train on the Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway this summer. This volunteer-run heritage railway travels between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway, running through stunning Cotswold scenery. You can get a Day Rover ticket which lets you travel on the line all day and stop off at Cheltenham, Winchcombe, Toddington or Broadway.
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 special family-friendly events running between 19 July and 1 September. Every Monday in August you can try out archery on the bowling green and watch archery displays. And on Wednesdays castle jester Monty will be showing off his best tricks and stunts.
20. 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 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
21. 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. The family-run vineyard produces white, rosé and sparkling wines, and you can learn how it’s made and try some on a tour and tasting. As well as regular tours they also offer a Wednesday ‘tour and lunch’ with a locally sourced picnic lunch plus occasional events like afternoon tea and Friday Fizz & Chips.
22. 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. Some of our favourite hilltop picnic spots include Leckhampton Hill and Crickley Hill Country Park south of Cheltenham. Or head to the highest point in the Cotswolds at Cleeve Hill. You’ll also find great views of the region from Painswick and Harefield Beacons, the Broadway Tower, Selsey Common and the Tyndale Monument.
23. Dine on afternoon tea at Whatley Manor
Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa is an 18th-century manor set in 12 acres of pretty gardens. Their quintessentially English afternoon tea is one of the best around, but the setting on the terrace on a summer afternoon makes it even more special. Enjoy delicious savouries, sandwiches, scones, cakes and other sweet treats, accompanied by tea (or a glass of bubbly).
24. Visit the Cotswold Show and Food Festival
Another event returning for 2021 is the Cotswold Show and Food Festival, taking place on 14–15 August in the grounds of Cirencester Park. The show combines country pursuits, family activities, music performances and the best food and drink from local producers, with everything from a horse whisperer and sheepdog display to go-carting and harvest demonstrations.
25. Raise a glass at Charlbury Beer Festival
Finally, the last of of our highlights of the Cotswolds in summer is the Charlbury Beer Festival on 4 September. This is the 23rd annual beer festival, which features around 50 real ales as well as ciders, perries and wines, all accompanied by food stalls, live music, performances and talks, children’s entertainment and the 10th World Aunt Sally Singles Championships.