Bourton on the Water is a charming village in the Cotswolds, located in the heart of England. With traditional stone buildings, quaint cottages and picturesque countryside, it’s not hard to see why Bourton on the Water is one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in the Cotswolds. 

The River Windrush flows gently through the centre of Bourton on the Water, providing a pretty focal point for the village, alongside the green. Although the village is small, there are an abundance of shops, cafes and attractions to keep all ages entertained, making Bourton on the Water a great day out for the whole family. 

Let’s see some of the best things to see and do in Bourton on the Water in one day.

Related read: Places to Visit in England Other Than London

A day in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds

Start your day in Bourton on the Water with a morning of activities. There are many different activities to choose from to start your day, whether you are visiting with children, as a couple or group of friends.

Here are some of the best attractions to visit in Bourton on the Water for you to choose from.

Visit Bourton on the Water’s famous Birdland Park – perfect for kids and families

Start your day in Bourton on the Water with a visit to Birdland Park & Gardens, located next to Rissington car park. The park is home to over 500 species of bird and is one of the best places to visit in Bourton on the Water. Amongst the 500 species at the park are flamingos, pelicans and even King Penguins! 

As well as the acres of beautiful parkland to walk around, there are many attractions and experiences at Birdland Park, including the chance to feed the penguins. For kids, there’s a ‘Jurassic encounters’ attraction, discovery zone, outdoor obstacle course and play area, making it a great option for families visiting Bourton on the Water. 

Tickets are £11.95 for adults and £8.95 for children between 3-15 years old. It is advisable to book online to save queuing on the day.

Take on the Dragonfly Maze! – a great activity for friends and families

Located next to Birdland Park, the Dragonfly Maze is a great activity if you are short on time. The hedge maze will only take about 20-30 minutes but it’s great fun for the whole family!

The maze is open 10am – 3pm daily and tickets are £4.50 for adults and £3.50 for children between 4-14 years old.

Feel like a giant at the Bourton on the Water Model Village – fun for the whole family

Tucked away behind The Old New Inn, next to Rissington Road car park is a tiny village. The Model village is an accurate representation of Bourton on the Water as it stood when it was first built in the 1930’s, but at 1/9th of the size! The houses in the model village have been skillfully built by local craftsmen using local Cotswolds Stone, whilst the gardens and surroundings have been lovingly pruned and landscaped. The model village is a great place to start your visit to Bourton on the Water.

Entry is £4.50 for adults and £3.50 for children between 3-13 years old. 

Visit the Cotswolds Motoring Museum – great for big kids

The Cotswolds Motoring Museum and Toy collection is one of Bourton on the Water’s most well known, and well-loved attractions. The museum houses various collections of vintage cars, vehicles and memorabilia, perfect for big kids and vintage car enthusiasts! The museum’s Toy Collection will also send you on a trip down memory lane with toys and games from your childhood.

The museum is open every day and tickets can be bought at the door. The cost is £7 for adults and £5 for children between 5-16 years old. 

The Bourton on the Water Model Village - photo by magda v on unsplash
The Bourton on the Water Model Village – photo by magda v on unsplash

Where to have lunch in Bourton on the Water?

After a morning full of activities, it’s time for lunch and you have lots of options to choose from! Bourton on the Water has a great range of places to eat, to fit all budgets.

  • The Rose Tree restaurant is a popular choice if you want something more upscale. It is slightly more expensive but has a lovely atmosphere and is perfect for a special occasion.
  • The Croft and Kingsbridge pubs which face the river are both great options if you want a pub lunch, or for something lighter, the Bourton Riverside cafe does great reasonably priced sandwiches.
  • Another popular tearoom is the Chestnut Tree on the high street. If the tea rooms along the green and high street are busy, there’s another three great options on Moore Street which tend to be a little less busy.  

Visiting Bourton on the Water on a budget? Don’t worry, you can pick up something to take away from The Cornish Bakery or the Chip Shed, located next to each other on the high street. Or, on a dry day, one of the best things to do for lunch is to bring a picnic and pick a spot on the village green, alongside the River Windrush.

It is worth noting that many of the cafes, tea rooms and restaurants do get very busy around lunchtime, especially on weekends in the summer months and in the holidays. Therefore, if you have a specific place you want to dine for lunch, try and reserve a table beforehand. 

Bourton on the Water - photo by debbiemg on pxhere
Bourton on the Water – photo by debbiemg on pxhere

Enjoy a more relaxed afternoon in Bourton on the Water

After a busy morning, spend the rest of your day in Bourton on the Water at a more relaxed pace. Take a walk alongside the River Windrush, or into the surrounding Cotswolds Countryside, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll around the village, visiting the shops and boutiques.

Enjoy the walking trails in Bourton on the Water

The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty and there are many walking trails in and around Bourton on the Water, with beautiful countryside and village views. 

For a pleasant short walk, which requires no map, walk towards the War Memorial and Cotswold Motor Museum in the centre of the village and follow the River Windrush along the Windrush Way. You can walk a short distance along the riverside path until you’ve had enough, and then turn around and come back the same way. 

If you’re feeling energetic, you can follow this 10 mile walk from Bourton on the Water, walking to the picturesque villages of Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter and Naunton, stopping at The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter on the way. 

For more information on the walking trails from Bourton on the Water and in the wider Cotswolds region, and to purchase a route map, go to the Bourton on the Water visitors centre in person, or online

Enjoy a paddle in the River Windrush

If all that walking sounds a bit too much like hard work, then simply enjoy a little stroll alongside the river in the centre of the village. The River Windrush is only 10 inches deep as it flows gently through Bourton on the Water, so it’s a great place to paddle your feet, or for children to play, especially on a hot summer’s day. 

Go shopping

There are lots of great little boutiques and independent shops in the village, making Bourton on the Water a great place to shop for something unique. You can walk around the village in a loop, stopping at various shops along the way. Start along the high street, then cross the river and continue down Victoria street, before crossing back over the river and back to the high street. 

Lining the high street are several cute gift shops, selling handmade crafts, candles, homeware and jewellery. Also on the high street is the Victorian Christmas shop, where you can purchase beautiful hand painted Christmas decorations and baubles all year round. 

If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you stop at Sweet Memory candy shop, or Bourton’s Little Sweet shop, to stock up on old fashioned candies and sweets to take home with you. 

Treat yourself to an ice cream

The day is coming to an end and you’ve done a lot of walking, so it’s time to treat yourself! There are two great ice cream shops in the village, both located alongside the river: Bourtanicals Marsfield Farm Ice Cream and Cotswolds Ice Cream

If it’s too cold outside, swap the ice cream for a cream tea or coffee and cake in one of the cosy tea rooms instead. 

Lower Slaughter
Walking along the River Windrush through Lower Slaughter

How to get to Bourton on the Water

The best way to travel to Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds is by car. 

  • Parking: There are two large pay and display car parks located in the village at Station Road (GL54 2EN) and Rissington Road (GL54 2BN). The machines at both of these car parks only accept cards, however you can use the PayByPhone app at Rissington Road. Both of these car parks are just a few minutes walk away from the main centre of the village, however they do get extremely busy, especially on bank holidays and on weekends in the summer months. If you ride a motorbike, you can park free of charge at Rissington Road car park. Note that motorhomes and caravans can only park at the Station Road car park and you can only enter and exit the village from Station Road. 
  • Public transport: The best way to reach Bourton on the Water using public transport is to travel by bus or train to Cheltenham Spa, then from Cheltenham, you can catch the 801 bus to Bourton on the Water. The bus journey takes approximately 20 minutes. (Note that the train station and bus station in Cheltenham are a 20 minute walk away from each other)

Local amenities

Aside from the numerous shops, tea rooms and cafes in Bourton on the Water, you will need to know some practical information regarding key amenities in the village. So, what facilities can you find in Bourton on the Water?

The Bourton on the Water visitor centre

The Bourton on the Water visitor centre is the place to visit to pick up maps of the local area and walking trails as well as information on local attractions. The visitor centre is situated on Victoria Street, behind Victoria Village Hall. It is only open at selected times and days, depending on the time of year:

  • Between April – October, the visitor centre is open 10:00 – 17:00, Monday to Saturday. (In the peak season of May – September, it is also open on Sundays 10:00 – 14:00).
  • Between November – March the visitor centre is only open Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 16:0

Convenience Shop

There is a small Londis convenience shop on the high street in the centre of the village, which is perfect for picking up some snacks or a bottle of water for your day out. If you need a larger store for picnic supplies, there’s a Coop supermarket on Station Road, which is next to the Station Road car park and just a 6 minute walk from the high street in the centre of the village. 

Public toilets

There are toilets located in Rissington car park, and also by the church, at the other end of the high street. The toilets are 30p per entry and you can pay with cash or by contactless card. 

When is the best time to visit Bourton on the Water?

Bourton on the Water is one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds and therefore it is popular year-round. However, it is particularly busy on the weekends during the summer months and in the summer holidays. Parking can be tricky during this time and many cafes and restaurants have long waiting times at lunch. 

The best time to visit Bourton on the Water is outside of the summer holidays and during mid-week. Whilst the warmer summer months draw in most of the visitors, it is also a great place to visit in the autumn and winter, as the village tends to be less crowded during the cooler months. It is also a great place to shop for Christmas presents! If you are wanting to go for Sunday lunch in Bourton on the Water, however, make sure you book ahead. Sunday lunch in the Cotswolds is incredibly popular anytime time of the year! 

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  • Curious Goose

    I'm Helen, a British travel-addict with a curious streak, who loves to explore, hike and visit new places.  I’ve always loved travelling and at the age of 20 I moved to the USA for a year’s work placement, which ignited my passion even more. Since then, my desire to travel to new places has grown.