Free days out for kids in the Cotswolds

Kids playing at Minster Lovell in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds boasts some of the most quintessentially English landscapes with picturesque villages, rolling hills, and outstanding countryside scenery. This outdoor paradise, riddled with charm and beauty, makes a great destination for UK family holidays and it’s always good to remember that it offers a wealth of free attractions and activities for kids of all ages to enjoy. There are some fantastic places to picnic in the Cotswolds, parks and play areas to enjoy, nature sites to explore and plenty of free museums for some educational fun; it is the perfect UK destination for any budget.

We have created a list of our favourite free days out in the Cotswolds to successfully keep the whole family entertained, so if you’re planning a holiday in the Cotswolds you can relax knowing you have a full week planned that definitely won’t break the bank.

Visit a museum

The Jet Age Museum in Gloucester is a treasure trove of aircraft-related amusement, where children are encouraged to clamber into the cockpits of several planes, including a Vulcan bomber, experiencing what it would have been like to fly these magnificent aircraft. Kids will love hearing the real-life stories from the knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides who are quite often retired pilots. Located next to a working airport, this museum provides an excellent contrast between modern flight and that of a bygone age.

The Gloucester Life Museum is a free of charge museum in the Cotswolds dedicated to social history, unravelling the mysteries of the region’s local past. Set in a timber framed Tudor building, the exhibits take families on a journey through a reconstructed Victorian classroom and its original pin factory. With hands-on activities, demonstrations and role play sessions, kids will really get a taste of life in the olden days. There’s even a cottage garden with friendly animals to meet, along with entertaining outside games.

The Tetbury Police Museum is held in the town’s original police station and is the perfect place to take young budding police officers who want to get an inside look. From checking out the police cells, discovering a courtroom dating back to the 1940s, exciting crime scene workshops and getting hands-on with helmets, handcuffs and uniforms, kids will really feel the part.

The Oxfordshire Museum, located in the historic town of Woodstock, houses an interesting collection of local social history exhibits and offers some fun interactive displays for kids. The new dinosaur gallery is sure to be a hit, with a range of dinosaur-themed activities including a dinosaur puppet theatre, magnetic dinosaur jigsaw, dressing up equipment and an enjoyable dinosaur DVD. With gardens to explore, a shop for souvenirs and a café, there’s plenty to keep kids entertained.

Birdwatching and more at Cotswold Water Park

Visit the wonderful wetland of 150 interconnecting lakes at the Cotswold Water Park and enjoy a plethora of activities both on land and in the water. Covering more than 40 square miles, the park boasts excellent birdwatching sites, with over 20,000 wintering water birds, 21,000 wintering gulls and vast numbers of breeding warblers, nightingales, little ringed plover and many more; be sure to pack your binoculars!

Awash with photographic opportunities, there are scenic walking and cycling trails to explore, where if you’re lucky you might spot otters, water voles, bats and beavers. Those in need of some adrenaline can have a go at sailing, windsurfing, cable-skiing, banana boating, climbing and archery; there is pretty much every outdoor pursuit you could imagine for the whole family. This popular attraction in the Cotswolds is definitely a day well spent in the outdoors.

Enjoy a family picnic

If the sun is shining make the most of it, there are so many wonderful places to enjoy a picnic in the Cotswolds.

Delight in spellbinding panoramic views of the Severn Valley at Coaley Peak. This picture-perfect picnic site, close to Stroud, is a great place to enjoy lunch either, on one of the picnic tables or sitting on a blanket in the wild flower meadow. There are 12 acres of reclaimed farmland to enjoy, perfect for flying a kite, and it’s also situated next to a Woodland Trust beech wood, Frocester Hill, ideal for a post-lunch stroll. If you take the ‘Cotswold Way’ footpath, which runs through the grounds, you will pass Nympsfield Long Barrow, a fascinating Neolithic burial site.

The wide grassy banks of the River Windrush in Bourton-on-the-Water are a lovely place to indulge in a family picnic. Sit on the village green while the youngsters splash about in the shallow river and treat everyone to a tasty ice cream.

Enjoy a picnic with a spectacular view at Cleve Common, the highest point in the Cotswolds. There are plenty of picturesque footpaths here to walk off your lunch afterwards.

With large swathes of open grassland and rolling hills to admire, the Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons are ideal for a family picnic. Take an afternoon walk through a sea of yellow cowslips and delicate purple orchids, or discover hidden treasure in the woodlands of the lower slopes.

Situated along the banks of the River Windrush are the romantic ruins of Minster Lovell Hall. The crumbling walls of this large 15th century Oxfordshire manor house provide an interesting backdrop to a picnic - kids will be fascinated.

Hit the park

When it’s time to burn off some energy, there’s simply nowhere a child would rather go than a park full of play areas and activities, and there are plenty of parks in the Cotswolds which are completely free.

The Kilkenny Lane Country Park has 21 hectares of open space with a play area where kids can fly down a zip wire, bounce on trampolines, swing in hammocks and venture into a willow maze. Children will love seeing the aviaries full of birds and having a go on the pitch and putt golf course at the historic Pittville Park in Cheltenham, scaling a climbing wall at the Broadway Activity Park, or building a den and creating some wild art at Woodchester Park near Stonehouse.

Gloucester Cathedral

Follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter and discover the magic of Gloucester Cathedral, which young fans might recognise as the corridors of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With a rolling programme of fun family events and the mesmerising Whispering Gallery to explore, this is certainly a great free attraction for kids in the Cotswolds.

You could even combine your visit with a walk to Gloucester Docks and admire the narrow boats and historic tall ships, looping back through Gloucester Park with its fun play area.

For young nature lovers

Get closer to nature at one of the many wonderful nature trails in the Cotswolds. One of our favourites is the trail around Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, which covers 600 acres of the Upper Thames floodplain and is of national importance. As the reserve is a rich wetland, you’re bound to spot plenty of wading birds in the water as well as a wide variety of some of the most interesting bird species in England. Vistas of captivating plants, including green-winged orchids, and colourful butterflies can be enjoyed, and it is even dog friendly, providing they are on a short lead.

Another favourite nature trail that kids will enjoy is located at the Foxhole Nature Reserve, particularly beautiful in the springtime when it is covered in an endless horizon of pretty bluebells. This tranquil sloping woodland takes you down to the River Evenlode, offering enchanting fauna and colour all year round. Look out for badger sets, over 200 species of fabulous fungi and an incredible population of elegant butterflies. The circular 1.75-mile Wildlife Walk route resembles something out of a magical fairy tale and is clearly signposted.

If you’ve been inspired to spend your next getaway with the family in the beauty of the Cotswolds, take a look at our collection of holiday cottages in the Cotswolds to find your perfect place to stay.

Posted by Kate Atkin on 6th October 2017