12 Best Things to do in the Cotswolds
Last Updated on March 27, 2023
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Written by Laura Harris from One More Step Travel
The Cotswolds: green, rolling hills, pretty villages, country pubs and lots of sheep. I’ve lived in the area for 23 years, first in a village near Stroud and now in the city of Gloucester.
Although I might not have appreciated it as a child who thought she couldn’t possibly live somewhere more boring, there’s an incredible amount to do here.
Some of the best things to do in the Cotswolds involve letting yourself wander and roam among this beautiful rural habitat, especially to the places not normally seen by the masses.
To that end, there’s going to be no discussion of the massive tourist destinations in the Cotswolds like Castle Combe or Blenheim Palace – today, you’ll read a local’s guide to the Cotswolds.
So get away from that organised tour which just buses you around the hotspots with dozens of other tourists. Hire a car or take public transport to explore any of the following places.
You’ll have a blast and experience the real beauty of what it’s like to live in the Cotswolds.
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Table of Contents
12 Best Things to Do in the Cotswolds
1. Visit the Stroud Farmers’ Market
Right at the start, one of the best things to do in the cotswolds is to sample the local produce. And there’s nowhere better to do it than the Stroud Farmers’ Market.
It’s one of the most popular farmers’ markets in the UK, and one of the best markets in the Cotswolds. The market runs every Saturday from 9am-2pm at Cornhill Market Place.
While away a morning as you peruse freshly baked bread, colourful fruits & veggies and plenty of arts & crafts.
2. Attend the Cheltenham Festivals
Cheltenham is well known for its four annual festivals: Jazz (April), Science (June), Music (July) and Literature (October).
If you’re lucky enough to be in the area for one of these events don’t miss out on the opportunity.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival in particular is one of the top things to do in the Cotswolds. It was the world’s first literature festival, and led the way for similar events to begin to take place.
Over the course of 10 days there will be ticketed and free events for people of all ages, celebrating the written and spoken word in prose, poetry, song and more!
📦 PACKING TIP: Don’t leave home without a solar powered battery pack so you can keep your devices connected at all times.
3. Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill
One of the quirkiest traditions in Gloucestershire… every year on the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May, a 9lb Double Gloucester cheese wheel is rolled down an incredibly steep (1:3) hill.
That’s so steep the cheese can reach 70mph!
Then, dozens of people proceed to race after the cheese, and the first one to reach the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins it.
Paramedics are on hand every year to patch up anyone who gathers injuries along the way.
If you happen to be visiting at the right time of year, and have some free time, watching this annual tradition is one of the most unique free things to do in the Cotswolds.
Despite the dangers and the absurdity, for some people, watching that wheel of cheese tumble down the hill is one of the best views in the Cotswolds!
4. Drive the B4632 from Cheltenham to Stratford
Sometimes named one of the loveliest drives in England, and it only takes just over an hour.
If you want glimpses of traditional stone villages interspersed with glorious views over the hills, this is the road trip for you.
From Cheltenham, head towards Winchcombe then continue north-east either until you reach the border of the Cotswolds at Quinton, or all the way to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Stratford is, of course, the hometown of Shakespeare, so you could spend a couple of very pleasant days there before returning back to the Cotswolds.
Driving along this picturesque road and staying overnight in Stratford is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds for couples.
5. Wander the Westonbirt Arboretum
One place I visited a lot when I was a kid which is very popular with families and dog-walkers. You’ll have some of the best best walks in the Cotswolds in this natural paradise.
In fact, on the strength of the arboretum alone, Westonbirt might just be the best place to stay in Cotswolds for walking.
Don’t miss the Arboretum if you’re visiting in autumn – the colours are spectacular.
There’s a walkway that rises 30 feet up through the trees and plenty of woodlands to explore. This is one of the great things to do in the Cotswolds!
6. Climb Up Stinchcombe Hill
Another childhood destination where my parents used to drag me on “another boring walk”. Fortunately, I know recognise this place as home to some of the best Cotswolds walks.
Walk around the edge of the golf course for wonderful views across the valleys. This vantage point gives visitors one of the best viewpoints in the Cotswolds, in my opinion.
7. Visit Purton Ships Graveyard
A 10-minute drive west from the Cotswolds is Purton Ships Graveyard on the banks of the River Severn.
Park next to the canal bridge, put walking boots on and wander through the mud to investigate.
Tens of ships intentionally banked here last century to reinforce the banks and now the landscape has grown around them.
Some are barely visible except for their shape, while others are so big you can walk through them.
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8. Climb up to the Tyndale Monument
Near the small village of North Nibley is a pleasant walk up a hill to the William Tyndale Monument.
Tyndale was born nearby and spent his life translating the Bible from Latin into English. Unfortunately, the church at the time did not appreciate this, and he was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536.
For this reason, visiting the site is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds for both religious tourists and dark tourists.
The monument was erected in Tyndale’s honour by locals in 1866. You can climb up the steep steps for even better views across the Cotswolds.
9. Head to Sudeley Castle
Sudeley Castle is in the village Winchcombe – an easy place to stop if you’re doing that road trip from Cheltenham to Stratford mentioned above.
The castle is one of the best of the Cotswolds, and has a rich history. It has Tudor links, once the home of Catherine Parr, and was used as a base in the nearby Battle of Tewkesbury.
The castle is still actually in use as a residence, so is only open to visitors on certain days, but it’s one of the best Cotswolds historical sites to visit.
10. Gloucester Cathedral
Technically outside of the Cotswolds area, but it’s the nearest city and worth a stopover if you’ve already done all of the best things to do in the Cotswolds!
The cathedral tower is visible from all around Gloucester. Several scenes from the Harry Potter films were filmed in the corridors, while up in the cloisters is a medieval library.
The earliest parts of the cathedral are almost 1000 years old – the foundations were laid in 1072. This cathedral is part of the living history of the Cotswolds.
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11. Learn at the Corinium Museum
Cirencester was once an important Roman town called Corinium with a fort, amphitheatre and several Roman villas nearby (including the one mentioned below).
There’s now a Corinium Museum with exhibitions, workshops, lectures and access to the amphitheatre ruins.
12. Chedworth Roman Villa
Another Roman site – and like many of the best things to do in the Cotswolds, this one very tucked away in the middle of nowhere.
They hold events in the summer that are very family friendly, including re-enactments from the Roman Military Research Society.
The villa is nearly 2000 years old with extensive ruins of a mosaic, bathhouse and Nymphaeum water shrine.
This site is one of the best place to visit in Cotswolds for history buffs and those interested in the Roman Empire.
Laura is a travel aficionado, history graduate and author – so it’s no wonder she loves exploring historical and literary destinations around the world. She lives in Gloucester, England with two cats and spends far too much time examining a world map deciding where to fly to next.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many of the best things to do in the Cotswolds take place in either Spring or Autumn. The periods of March to May and September to November are the best times to visit.
From walking through the English countryside to visiting ancient castles to chasing a wheel of cheese down a steep hill, the variety of things to do in the Cotswolds will blow your mind.
So if you are considering a Cotswolds organised tour, think twice! DIY it using the tips above to get a much more well-rounded view of this beautiful corner of England.
If you have any specific questions about planning a trip here, leave them down below!
Tell me which things to do in the Cotswolds would you like to do.
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