With its rolling hills, quaint thatched cottages, smart cities and abundance of history, the Cotswolds is often regarded as typically English by tourists. Covering six counties, it stretches from Oxford in the east to Gloucester in the west and Stratford Upon Avon in the north to Bath in the south.b It’s easy to reach from the north, Midlands, south and Wales too, making it the ideal location for a family day out or holiday.
With so much to do and see, it can be hard to know where to start. So here are our ten favourite places to visit with children…
1. Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, Cheltenham
The Countryfile farmer took over this delightful park from his father in 1999 and has become one of the nation’s favourite nature experts. There’s plenty to do, come rain or shine, with animal and adventure barns, a farm safari, wildlife walk, maze and rare breeds trail. Look out for special events and seasonal highlights too, like getting a close up glimpse of lambing season during spring, learning how to hand-milk cows and shearing the sheep. Open February to December, family ticket (two adults and two children or one adult and three children) £44, under-twos free, toddler tickets £8.50.
2. Corinium Museum, Cirencester
This award-winning attraction is home to one of the largest collections of British-Roman artefacts, from coins to mosaics. But what could be dry and dull is brought to life for kids with treasure hunts, a play area and creative workshops. The exhibits are all brilliantly displayed and explained too, making it the perfect place to inspire your child’s interest in history. Open all day Monday-Saturday and on Sunday afternoons, entry £5.40 for adults, £2.60 for children, free for under-fives.
3. Cotswolds Water Park, South Cerney
This beautiful 40 square acre site is home to 150 lakes and thousands of birds and other wildlife. It makes it a particularly picturesque spot for a little fresh air as a family. There’s tons to do too, from walking trails and birdspotting to watersports and paintballing. There’s even a beach in the summer and rides on inflatable – just like being abroad! Open year round, various charges apply for different activities.
4. The Model Village, Bourton-on-the-Water
There’s a delightfully old-fashioned charm to this quirky one-ninth replica of the village in which it stands. It was the brainchild of a pub landlord and took five years to build, opening in 1937. Eighty years on, it is a Grade II listed attraction remains forever in the thirties, with no cars added to the streets, while the miniature River Windrush and bonsai trees give it a quite realistic feel. Little ones will love feeling like real life giants as they explore the streets – and don’t forget to listen to the congregation singing in the church. Open year round, entry is £3.60 for adults, £2.80 for children, under-threes free.
5. Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
This 18th century home to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough is a World Heritage Site that has been at the heart of British history for hundreds of years and was the birthplace of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. Children will be in awe of the guilded State Rooms and amazing antiques collections, while the 2,000 acres of parkland and formal gardens (designed by no less than Capability Brown) are the perfect place to let off steam. There are dozens of seasonal and special events throughout the year too, from Easter egg hunts and jousting tournaments to family cycling days and food festivals. Open year round, family ticket £62.50 (2 adults, 2 children), under-fives free.
6. Fairytale Farm, Chipping Norton
This sensory wonderland makes for a magical family day and is completely accessibly for wheelchair users, without any need to pre-book. There are six distinct areas, such as Huff and Puff for adventure play and a chance to meet the animals in Alfie and Friends. Fresh for 2018 is the Wilderness Walk, where you stroll through a range of different habitats and explore seasonal senses along the way. There’s also new interactive dancing water fountains and a vegetable patch to dig. Open February to December, entry is £6.50 for adults, £6.25 for children, under-twos free.
7. The Bird and Deer Park, Prinknash
Once branded the biggest pets corner in England, this peaceful spot is designed to allow visitors to get up close with the feathered and furry residents. Your child will be able to feed the fallow deer and fish, groom the donkeys and see reindeers like never before. There are spots to picnics and a number of charming follies to explore too. Open year round, entry is £8.60 for adults, £7.60 for children, under-ones free.
8. Cattle Country Adventure Farm Park, Berkley
You’ll never hear cries of “I’m bored” at this park which has everything under one roof, so to speak. If the sun’s shining, you can try your hand at miniature golf, explore the wooden adventure castle, bounce on the jumping pillows and wallow in the splash poor. But there’s plenty to do if the British weather strikes, such as the beach barn and animal experience centre. There are two toddler play areas too. Open full-time April-September and during school holidays, weekends only the rest of the year. Entry is £9.99 for adults, £10.99 for children aged 4-17, £6.99 for toddlers, free for under-twos.
9. Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, Toddington
This volunteer-operated heritage railway covers some 26 miles of spectacular Cotswold countryside, with six stations on the route. There are at least two different trains running per day, meaning you can experience both a classic steam train and a 1960s diesel locomotive. Children will love eating a picnic lunch at the carriage tables and there are free quiz sheets to keep them entertained. The railway runs on selected dates from March to October and on weekends in December. Family All Day Rover ticket (two adults and three children) from £42, under-fives free.
10. Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection, Bourton-on-the-Water
Pint-sized petrolheads will adore this astonishing collection of vintage vehicles going back 90 years. Set in a converted water mill, the seven galleries are jam-packed with classic cars, caravans and motorbikes plus nostalgic memorabilia that will appeal to every generation (and leave you pondering how they got them all in there). There’s a lovely little play area too, where you have the chance to take a ride on TV’s Brum. Open from February to December, family ticket (two adults, two children) £18, under-fours free.
>> Find out what else is going on in the Cotswolds at cotswolds.com