We are lucky enough to live in the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of the UK. This area is full of rolling hills, stately homes and gardens, honey-coloured houses and charming towns; definitely worth a visit if you are interested in visiting quintessential English countryside. There are also plenty of things to keep kids interested, as well as parents.
Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water is a village close to us and makes for a good day trip. It is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds but unfortunately there is no opportunity for punting here. Pretty little stone footbridges cross the River Windrush which flows through the town centre, giving it its nickname and a distinctive look amongst other towns in the vicinity.
Spend a couple of hours wandering through the streets, past beautiful old houses with immaculate front gardens and browse for gifts in the local shops (the Cub’s favourite is the gem shop – so many sparkly things to touch!). Have lunch in one of the many cafes by the river or bring a picnic and sit on the lawns or benches, but watch out for the determined ducks or you may lose your lunch. We ate in a pizza restaurant just off the main street and had an ice cream on the grass later, despite the cold June day.
There are more attractions in Bourton other than the idyllic town centre. There is a Motoring and Toy Museum, a Model Village, and the Model Railway Exhibition. The Cotswold Perfumery also operates tours and perfume courses. All come recommended but we chose to visit Birdland and the Dragonfly Maze. I managed to keep the existence of the local brewery secret from the husband, otherwise I think we’d have been forced to go there.
Birdland was bigger than I expected and has a good variety of the familiar and the exotic. At not quite 3, the Cub is a little young to fully appreciate the birds, but she did stop to look at the owls and penguins. The husband and I were pleased to see that the birds had plenty of room and the flamingoes and pelicans, among others, were out in the open. There are some lovely gardens to wander around, and a playground if the kids are still feeling energetic.
What really got the Cub’s attention was the Jurassic Journey, where you can find dinosaurs hiding along a woodland trail. She loved looking for their footprints, listening to their roars and trying to count them. She also enjoyed uncovering some fossils at the end of the trail. There are activities and information for older children, but ours are far too small for this.
The Dragonfly Maze
After tearing about Birdland for an hour or so, we moved on to the Dragonfly Maze just next door. Upon entry, you are given a pencil and paper as there is a puzzle to be solved. Clues must be collected to discover the dragonfly’s hiding place at the end of the maze, but we had a more pressing concern as the Cub shot off and out of sight.
She loved the maze and the husband and I were entertained solving the riddle; this makes it more interesting than just finding the maze’s centre. Exhausted after chasing after a determined toddler for several hours, we bundled the kids back into the car and headed home, enjoying the silence of two sleeping little ones.
Know before you go
There is plenty left over in Bourton for return visits, or a couple of days at least if you’re staying locally. Hotels and guesthouses are plentiful, and there is also a campsite.
A car is essential if you are visiting the Cotswolds. I wouldn’t trust the reliability of local bus services and taxis are horrendously expensive.
And finally, a word of warning about Bourton: it gets very crowded – think Oxford Street on Saturday crowded – in the summer holidays so do try to avoid this time if you can.