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Visiting the Broadway Tower, Cotswolds: Everything you need to know

Also known as the ‘highest little castle in the Cotswolds’, the Broadway Tower is one of the Cotswolds’ most recognisable buildings. This 65-foot-high fairytale tower sits on the top of a beacon hill at the second highest point of the Cotswolds. As well as panoramic views there are 50 acres of parkland, red deer, scenic walks and picnic spots, making it a great day out for all the family.

Over the years the tower has been an artists’ retreat, a printing press and even the site of a nuclear bunker. So discover its fascinating history, as well as how to get there, where to eat, drink and stay nearby with our complete guide to visiting the Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds.

The Broadway Tower Cotswolds
The Broadway Tower

The history of the Broadway Tower

It might look like a Saxon castle, but the Broadway Tower was built in the 18th century as a folly – an ornamental building with no real purpose. The tower was the brainchild of garden designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who had worked for the landowner George William, Sixth Earl of Coventry, on his property Croome Court in Worcestershire (now run by the National Trust).

After the Earl bought an estate of land on Beacon Hill near Broadway, his wife Barbara wondered whether she’d be able to see a beacon on top of the hill from her home 20 miles away. Capability Brown came up with the idea for a hilltop tower, but he died in 1783 before it could be built.

Recreated Georgian interiors at the Tower Museum
Inside the Tower Museum

Architect James Wyatt took over the project in 1798, designing a tower which combined Saxon and Norman elements, including turrets, gargoyles and balconies. And although the Coventrys never visited the tower, they could see a beacon lit on top of it from home as they hoped.

After the Earl died, his son passed the tower on to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1819, who owned the neighbouring Middle Hill Estate. Phillipps was an eccentric manuscript and book collector, who started up a printing press in the tower which he called the ‘Middle Hill Press’. He gave manuscripts to libraries for free, giving the tower the romantic nickname ‘lighthouse of wisdom’.

The Broadway Tower country park
Parkland around the tower

By the time Phillipps left, the tower was in poor condition and it was rented out to a series of tenants. One of them was Cormell Price, member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood along with artists William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The group and their families used the tower as a countryside holiday retreat – apparently Morris used to enjoy a bath in a tub on the roof!

The tower helped fuel Morris’ passion for historic buildings, which led to him founding The Society for The Preservation of Ancient Buildings in 1877. After that the tower was used as a farmhouse, but it ended up playing an unexpected role in defending Britain from attacks.

Views from the Broadway Tower rooftop
Views from the tower rooftop

During the Second World War, the Observer Corps tracked German aircraft from an observation post just north of the tower. And a nuclear bunker was built 15 feet underground in the 1950s to monitor the effects of radioactive fallout in case there was ever a nuclear strike. This was still in use until the end of the Cold War in 1991, and since then it’s been turned into a museum.

The tower was offered to the National Trust as a gift but they turned it down. Instead it was bought by Lord Dulverton who created the country park – before passing it on to Hans-Eugen Will who bought it as a present for his wife Renate who loved it, and their daughter now runs it.

The Broadway Tower silhouetted at sunset
Sunset at the tower

How to get to the Broadway Tower

If you’re travelling by car, the Broadway Tower is a mile southeast of Broadway village, via the A44 up Fish Hill. The address is Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7LB.

There’s plenty of car parking available at the tower, with a main car park plus an overflow car park (please don’t park on the road as it’s narrow and restricts access for emergency vehicles). The car park is pay and display and costs £3 for up to four hours or £6 for the whole day.

Shops and pubs in Broadway village in the Cotswolds
Broadway village

You can pay at the machines or buy a ticket online on the Broadway Tower website. And if you book tickets for either the tower or the grounds online in advance you get your parking included.

If you’re travelling by public transport, you first need to get to Broadway. The nearest train station is in Moreton-in-Marsh, where you can catch the Stagecoach 1/2 bus to Broadway in around 25 minutes (excluding Sundays). Or from Evesham you can take the NN Cresswell Rural 4 which takes 20 minutes (weekdays only). But note that none of these buses runs very regularly.

Broadway station on the Gloucestershire–Warwickshire steam railway line
Broadway station on the GWSR railway line

You could also take the Gloucestershire–Warwickshire steam railway from Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway (check timetables as it doesn’t run every day). We took an early train from Cheltenham and had time to walk to the tower and back before catching the train back later that day.

From Broadway village you can walk or take a taxi to the tower. The Pulhams 608 bus which connects Chipping Campden, Broadway and Cheltenham does stop at the entrance to the country park, but it only runs once a week on Thursdays. It’s around a mile (uphill) along the Cotswold Way to the tower from Broadway, or you can follow our 4.4-mile circular walk there and back.

Looking down onto Broadway from the Cotswold Way
Looking down onto Broadway from the Cotswold Way

Broadway Tower opening hours and prices

The Broadway Tower is open every day year-round, other than on 25 and 26 December and 1 January. Though it does also occasionally close if there’s really bad weather.

The Tower Museum is open from 10am–5pm between April and October, and 11am–4.30pm (10am–4.30pm on weekends) between November and March. The café normally opens an hour earlier if you want to grab a coffee first. And last entry to the museum is 15 minutes before closing.

Walks to the Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds
Walks to the Broadway Tower

You can book tickets for timed slots online in advance (which saves money on car parking) or buy them on the door if they have availability. There are a couple of different tickets available:

  • Tower Museum and Grounds Admission: This covers the Tower Museum and viewing platform, country park and walk around the deer park. It costs £14 for adults, £6 for children aged 11–16 and £3 for children aged 6–10. Parking is included if you book in advance.
  • Grounds Admission: With this ticket you can walk around the grounds and have a picnic, but not go in the tower. It costs £4 for adults or £2 for children aged 6–16, and includes parking.
The Broadway Tower and views from the top
Views up and down at the tower

If you’re going to be visiting the Broadway Tower several times, you can also get annual VIP membership for £35. With this you can visit the tower as many times as you like within a year, and you also get free car parking and discounts on anything you buy in the shop or cafés.

Tours of the nuclear bunker are only available on selected dates (normally at weekends and bank holidays from April to October). There’s an extra cost for these tours, with tickets costing £12 adults/£6 children aged 11–16 for just the bunker or £20/£10 for both the tower and bunker.

Red deer in the country park
Red deer in the country park

Dogs are welcome in the Broadway Tower country park – though they need to be kept on short leads. There are dog-friendly seating areas in the café, but you can’t take your dog into the tower.

And if you don’t want to pay to visit, you can get a good view of the Broadway Tower for free from the Cotswold Way footpath which runs along the edge of the grounds – you only need to pay for an admission ticket if you go through the gate (though entry fees do help support it).

Dog walkers at the Broadway Tower Cotswolds
Dog walkers at the tower

Things to do at the Broadway Tower

Check out the views

As the second highest point in the Cotswolds, the Broadway Tower has spectacular views. On a clear day you can see as many as 16 counties – from Powys to the west to Buckinghamshire to the east. You can walk around the tower to see it from all angles, and admire the stonework.

When you’re walking around the tower, look out for a small memorial to the crew of a military bomber which crashed here on 2 June 1943, unfortunately killing all the airmen onboard.

Views of the Cotswold Way running down to Broadway
Views of the Cotswold Way running down to Broadway

Visit the Tower Museum

Inside the Broadway Tower is a museum, which has been revamped fairly recently. It recreates three original Georgian rooms – a dining room, sitting room and gentleman’s study – over three floors to give you an idea what it would have looked like inside when it had just been built.

There’s a spiral staircase to get there, but there are only 60 steps in total and visitor numbers are limited so you don’t get too many people squashed in at a time. You’re given a guidebook which tells you the story of the tower and explains what you’re seeing, or can pick up an audio guide.

The views from the roof terrace on top of the tower are even better than at ground level, looking out to the Black Mountains and Malvern Hills (there are signs which show you what you’re looking at). And back on the ground floor there’s a small shop selling William Morris souvenirs.

Recreated Georgian interiors at the Tower Museum
Inside the Tower Museum

Tour the nuclear bunker

For something a bit different, you can take a tour of the nuclear bunker built next to the Broadway Tower in the 1950s. It was one of a network of monitoring bunkers across the UK. During the Cold War, staff spent three weeks underground at a time to watch for potential nuclear attacks.

The bunker has been restored to how it would’ve been in the 1980s. You can only visit as part of a 45-minute tour – which normally runs at weekends from April to October. You reach the bunker via a ladder, so there’s no disabled access and children under 10 aren’t permitted on the tour.

The Broadway Tower at sunset
The Broadway Tower at sunset

Spot the red deer

A herd of red deer was established at the tower by Hans-Eugen Will in the early 1980s. It’s grown since, with a stag with impressive antlers named Lancelot (after Capability Brown) and 18 hinds.

You can often see the deer in the fenced area next to the tower. And if you’re visiting in the summer, look out for calves which are born in June and July. If you want to get a closer look at the deer, you can book a special Deer Encounter. These take place on selected dates and are run by Lewis Potter, the red deer expert who has been taking care of the Broadway Tower deer since 2005.

One of the resident red deer
One of the resident red deer

Take a walk

There are over 50 acres of parkland around the tower which you can explore. The Broadway Tower Circular Walk is a fairly easy loop of just under a mile which takes you past the deer enclosure and around the tower in around 20 minutes (though it can get muddy in winter).

Or if you fancy visiting Broadway village, it’s only a mile downhill along the Cotswold Way – go through the black gate near the tower to get onto the path. And if you don’t want to come back the same way, you can follow our 4.4-mile circular walk which runs to and from the village.

And if you’re looking for a longer challenge, why not walk some of the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile long-distance walking route between Chipping Campden and Bath? Head north from the tower to Chipping Campden (7 miles) or south to Stanton (4 miles) and Winchcombe (10.5 miles).

Signposts on the Tower Circular Walk
The Tower Circular Walk

Where to eat and drink near the Broadway Tower

There are a couple of places at the tower itself where you can get something to eat and drink. The Morris and Brown café has a sunny terrace for summer and a cosy log fire inside. They sell a range of dishes for breakfast and lunch using seasonal produce, like soups, quiches, paninis and ciabattas. There’s also a small kids menu and a selection of hot, cold and alcoholic drinks.

There’s also the Tower Barn espresso bar and shop where you can have brunch, lunch or afternoon tea (though menus are limited on weekdays). The barn also has a shop selling clothes, accessories and homewares, and hosts occasional workshops in crafts like painting and candle-making.

Terrace of the Morris and Brown café
The Morris and Brown café

Plus there are a couple of shepherds’ huts called Morris & Brownie where you can pick up coffee and takeaway snacks, which are open at busy times like summer and weekends.

Further afield, there’s a great selection of places to eat and drink in Broadway village. Some of our favourites are the Broadway Deli and Market Larder for takeaway sandwiches and cakes, Russell’s Fish and Chips, Tattersall’s Brasserie and the James Martin Grill at the Lygon Arms.

The Broadway Deli
The Broadway Deli

What else to do near the Broadway Tower

Broadway village is just a mile from the tower, with golden stone buildings on the High Street and lots of interesting shops to browse. There’s also the Gordon Russell Design Museum – dedicated to the Arts and Crafts furniture designer who lived in Broadway – and exhibits on local history taking you through Broadway across the years at the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery.

You can also take a ride on the historic Gloucestershire–Warwickshire steam railway, which runs from Broadway to Winchcombe and Cheltenham. Or head a few miles south to the pretty villages of Stanton and Snowshill. Snowshill is home to the National Trust Snowshill Manor and Garden, with its quirky collection of objects, as well as the Cotswold Lavender fields in summer.

Also within easy reach of the Broadway Tower are Chipping Campden (4 miles), Father Brown filming location Blockley (4 miles), Sezincote House and Batsford Arboretum (6 miles).

Cotswold Lavender fields
Cotswold Lavender fields

Where to stay near the Broadway Tower

Rookery Farm Glamping is just five minutes’ walk from the tower and has a mix of shepherds huts and glamping pods, all of which sleep two and have en-suite bathrooms and kitchenettes.

You can also stay at May Hill House, a bed and breakfast run by the tower’s owners. This country house surrounded by pretty gardens is located between Broadway and Snowshill. There are three en-suite bedrooms, including one with a four-poster bed, and an oak-panelled lounge.

There are also lots of places to stay in Broadway, including historic coaching inn The Lygon Arms* which dates back to 1300 and also has also a luxurious spa. Russell’s* restaurant with rooms is located in the former headquarters of furniture designer Gordon Russell. Or The Olive Branch Guest House is a traditional, country style bed and breakfast furnished with antiques.

The Lygon Arms hotel in Broadway
The Lygon Arms in Broadway

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A complete guide to visiting the 18th-century fairytale hilltop folly Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds, with how to get there and things to do | Broadway Tower Cotswolds | Broadway Tower history | Walks to the Broadway Tower |Things to do at the Broadway Tower

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