Bourton on the Water is a picturesque village located in the heart of the Cotswolds, one of England’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are lots of wonderful things to do in Bourton on the Water from walking along the beautiful river to visiting farm parks, shops, and rustic pubs.
This charming village, often referred to as “Venice of the Cotswolds” is known for its quaint cottages and stone bridges over the River Windrush. It’s one of my absolute favorite places in the Cotswolds and looks as though it could be straight out of a novel set in England of old.
There are lots of wonderful restaurants and pubs in the village and it’s the perfect location if you’re looking for an authentic, rural, English village. This is somewhere I go back to whenever I’m in the area, and with so many Bourton on the Water attractions, you won’t be bored for a moment.
Best Things To Do in Bourton on the Water
Below, you’ll find some of the best places to visit in Bourton on the Water from fun attractions such as the model village and toy museum to river walks, nature reserves, a craft beer brewery, and much more besides.
1. Walk Along the River Windrush
One of the first places to visit in Bourton on the Water should be the picture-perfect River Windrush that winds its way through the village. There are five stone bridges over the river dating between 1645 and 1911 and you can crisscross as you please whilst you explore.
There are a few different circular walks you can take that vary in length. One of the best is this three-mile route (5.1 km) that takes in the village and surrounding countryside. The hike can be completed in a little over one hour, but it’s also the perfect place to stop and take in the peace and serenity.
I love getting out into nature, so for me, this short hike is one of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water. It also passes a few local pubs including The Kingsbridge Inn, which is another of my favorite pastimes. As the water is so shallow, it’s also a great place for a paddle during the summer months.
2. Visit the Model Village
I used to love visiting model villages as a kid and the one here is not to be missed (no matter how old you are). The entire village has been recreated at a scale of 1/9 using the same Cotswold stone as the lifesize houses, walls, and bridges. This is one of the best places to see in Bourton on the Water for the whole family.
Keep an eye out for landmarks such as St Lawrence’s Church, the War Memorial, the Old New Inn, and even a recreation of the model village in miniature. Tickets cost £4.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. The Model Village is open every day from 10 am to 3:45 pm in winter and from 10 am to 6 pm in summer.
Address: Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2AF. Click here for directions.
3. Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum
The Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum boasts seven separate galleries filled with vintage cars, a history of motoring, a large toy collection, and the original Brum car that’s popular with kids and adults across the world. This is one of the best places to see in Bourton on the Water and has been voted the number 1 attraction in the village.
Tickets cost £7.50 for adults and £5.25 for children (under 5’s go free), or you can purchase a family ticket for just £19.95 for four people. The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day and there’s no need to book in advance.
Address: The Old Mill, Sherborne Street, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2BY. Click here for directions.
4. Greystones Nature Reserve
The area around Greystones Farm Nature Reserve has been used to cultivate crops and produce food for over 6,000 years. In addition to some beautiful nature, it’s home to some interesting archaeological features. You’ll find a range of habitats from wildflower meadows to river banks as you walk around.
Wildlife you can expect to find here includes bats, owls, and other birdlife as well as otters, water voles, freshwater shrimp, and fish. This is one of the top attractions in Bourton on the Water for nature lovers like myself as there are plenty of hiking trails throughout the reserve. There isn’t a fee for entry.
Address: Greystones Lane, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2EN. Click here for directions.
5. Visit Hawkstone Brewery
It’s no secret that I enjoy a good ale (craft beer) and even tiny Bourton has its own brewery in the village. Hawkstone Brewery makes beers and ciders (one of the west country’s most famous exports) using local hops, grains, and apples and uses sustainable methods to produce some of the best tipples around.
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s a bar located at the brewery (The Hawkstone Arms) which is open from 11 am to 6 pm Monday to Thursday, from 12 pm to 8 pm Friday and Saturday, and from 12 pm to 6 pm on Sunday. Patrons can also find independent food trucks at the brewery over weekends.
If you love beer (or cider), visiting the brewery is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Bourton on the Water and it’s certainly somewhere I love to visit when I’m passing by.
Address: College Farm, Stow Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL54 2HN. Click here for directions.
6. See the Old Mill Viewpoint
You’ll want to snap lots of pictures of Bourton to wow your friends back home (and on Instagram), and one of the most photogenic spots is the Beautiful Old Mill Viewpoint. Here, you’ll see the placid waters of the mill pond next to The Old Mill that’s surrounded by lush greenery.
The Old Mill Viewpoint is just one of many places around the village that would pass as being picked straight from a postcard and is one of the top things to see in Bourton on the Water.
Address: Bourton on the Water, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL54 2AR. Click here for directions.
7. Go up in a Hot Air Balloon
If, unlike me, you’re not afraid of heights, then the most unique and likely memorable way to see Bourton and the surrounding Cotswolds countryside is to take a hot air balloon ride. Virgin Balloon Flights offer champagne flights over the Cotswolds with launch sites in Bourton on the Water, Stroud, and other towns in the region.
This is one of the top things to do in Bourton on the Water for couples as there aren’t many experiences more romantic than gently floating over this picturesque village. If you take an early morning or evening flight you can even witness an incredible sunset over the Cotswolds.
Prices start from £129 per person and this once-in-a-lifetime experience lasts between three and four hours. Tickets are exchangeable and can be booked online up to 18 months in advance. Visit the website for more info and to book your flight today.
8. Have a Bite at the Mouse Trap Inn
The Mousetrap Inn is arguably the best pub/restaurant in Bourton and popping into this gorgeous 19th Century Inn is something not to be passed on. Having a few bites to eat and a couple of drinks here is one of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water at night when locals and visitors descend on this perfect public house.
This is my favorite place to eat in the village and the menu specializes in contemporary European cooking with locally sourced produce. From braised ox cheek to see bass, white bean cassoulet, and of course that British classic beer-battered fish and chips, there’s something to suit every taste.
Prices are reasonable given the location and main dishes range from £17 to £28.
Address: Lansdowne, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2AR. Click here for directions.
9. Have Fun at the Cotswold Clubhouse
If you have youngsters with you, then a trip to Cotswold Clubhouse is a must. This gymnastics and trampoline club also has a soft play area for smaller kids. It’s a great option for winter or if the weather turns for the worse and offers activities for those of all ages (I’m not too old to have a go on the trampolines, to be honest).
This Cotswold activity center is open from 9:30 am to 1:35 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (closed Thursday) and 9:30 am to 11:30 am and again from 12 pm to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday. There’s an onsite cafe serving a range of hot and cold drinks and snacks for once an appetite has been worked up!
Address: Unit 20B, Bourton Industrial Park, Bourton on the Water, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL54 2HQ. Click here for directions.
10. Visit the Cotswold Perfumery
The Cotswold Perfumery has been creating high-end, niche fragrances since 1966 and their perfumes are exported all over the world from Europe to the USA and everywhere in between. The headquarters are housed in a gorgeous 300-year-old, Grade II listed building in the heart of Bourton.
It’s a great place to visit if you’re keen to take home a unique souvenir (and guys, if you want to please the lady in your life this is one of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water for couples). The perfumery also has two luxury apartments in the village offering five-star, self-catering accommodation.
Address: Victoria Street, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2BU. Click here for directions.
11. Hire a Bicycle
One of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water for families is to hire bicycles and explore the sleepy village and surrounding countryside on two wheels. Hartwells Cotswold Cycle Hire is based in Bourton and they have a wide range of bikes, tandems, baby trailers, and more.
Hire prices start from just £18 per day. Cycling is one of my favorite hobbies and in this region, with its gentle hills and stunning countryside, there’s nowhere finer for a cycle ride (be sure to pack a picnic). See the website for a full price list and further details.
Address: High Street, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2AJ. Click here for directions.
12. Take Riding Lessons at Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre
Having grown up around horses, horse riding is something I’m very fond of (the last time I had a go was in Mongolia a few years ago; a little different to this location). The Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre are as passionate about these fine creatures as I am and take in many rescue animals.
The center offers a wide range of excursions and lessons (ages 7 and upwards) from beginner rides to longer hacks with qualified instructors. Prices start at £30 for a 30-minute ride, and the journeys are a great way to explore the beautiful Cotswold surroundings. Click here to book online.
Like cycling, this is one of the best things to do around Bourton on the Water for lovers of the outdoors and those who want to escape into the pristine nature surrounding the village.
Address: College Farm, Stow Road, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2HN. Click here for directions.
13. Visit Upper Slaughter
The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are less than 3 miles from Bourton and well worth exploring. Hike along the footpaths and winding lanes, or hire a bike and discover another quintessential English village in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The two villages are separated by a small stream and Upper Slaughter lies on a slope above the lower village. Just like Bourton, a small river (the River Eye) passes through and is shallow enough for paddling, fun, and frolicking (in the warmer months of course, unless you have a four-legged friend with you).
Along with Bourton, the Slaughters are considered two of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. Upper Slaughter is one of the top places to visit near Bourton on the Water if you want to explore more of the beautiful Cotswolds.
Address: Upper Slaughter, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Click here for directions.
14. Get Lost in the Dragonfly Maze
The Dragonfly Maze is a traditional Yew hedge maze with over half a mile of pathways to get lost in. Hunt for the golden dragonfly using 14 clues hidden around the maze (inspired by the book Masquerade, whose author Kit Williams buried a golden hare somewhere in England).
The centerpiece of the Maze in Bourton was actually designed and created by Williams so fans of the book, families, and those looking for something quirky to do will love trying to solve the clues and escape the maze. Tickets cost £4.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. Open daily from 10 am to 3:30 pm.
Address: Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2BN. Click here for directions.
15. Take a Cotswolds Walking Tour
This walking tour is an excellent way to experience Bourton, Stow on the Wold, Broadway and Burford, and other gorgeous locations around the Cotswolds. You’ll get to explore sleepy villages and rolling countryside while learning about the history of the area from an experienced guide.
While most Cotswold tours are spent driving from place to place, this tour is different in that it focuses a lot more on walking. The eight-hour experience costs £65 per person and includes transport from Stratford-upon-Avon (the former home of Shakespear) or Moreton in Marsh. Click here to book.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Bourton on the Water
Below, you’ll find some itineraries to help get the most out of your stay. With so much to do in Bourton on the water, no matter how long you plan to spend in the village, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
1 Day in Bourton on the Water Itinerary
With just one day in Bourton on the Water, a walk along its famous river is a must. You can take an easy one-mile amble around the village, or opt for the three-mile circular route which takes just over an hour. Stop for lunch at one of the riverside pubs or restaurants – The Croft is a great option.
After lunch, take in one of the local tourist attractions in Bourton on the Water like the Model village or motoring museum. In the evening, head to the Mouse Trap Inn which is one of the best restaurants in the village and favored by locals and visitors alike.
2-3 Days in Bourton on the Water Itinerary
If you have a few days to spend in Bourton, follow the above itinerary for your first day and spend an additional day exploring the village further. Get lost in the small lanes and byways, see ancient churches, cross historic bridges, and be sure to stop for a cup of English tea along the way.
With a third day to spend, pay a visit to Greystones Farm Nature Reserve. Explore ancient meadows, rivers, and woodland in some of the most spectacular settings in England. This is one of the best free things to do in Bourton on the Water and the finest way to get some fresh air.
1 Week in Bourton on the Water Itinerary
If you plan on spending a week in Bourton, explore the village and River Windrush as above, and add in some day trips for your remaining days. Visit Stow on the Wold, Upper Slaughter, and see Shakespeaer’s home at Stratford upon Avon. You can also check out the bar at Hawkstone Brewery which I highly recommend.
Where to Stay in Bourton on the Water
These are a few of the best places to stay in Bourton on the Water for tourists:
The Lansdowne Guest House – Best for First-Time Visitors
The charming Lansdown Guest House is located in the heart of Bourton and offers free parking, rooms with en-suite bathrooms, complimentary toiletries, tea and coffee-making facilities, and a full English breakfast (or other alternatives). Click here to book.
The Lamb Inn – Best for Couples
The gorgeous Lamb Inn is a country-style pub in the center of Bourton with luxurious rooms, an onsite bar and restaurant, and free parking. Rooms are lavishly decorated and feature exposed brickwork and wooden beams, making this a really romantic place to stay. Click here to find out more.
Elvington Cottage – Best for Families
The four-bedroom Elvington Cottage is the perfect place for families or groups of friends. There’s a fully fitted kitchen, three bathrooms, a living room with flatscreen TV, a garden with a terrace, and free onsite parking. This really is a great find in Bourton and has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Click here to book now.
Best Restaurants in Bourton on the Water
Below is a selection of excellent restaurants and pubs in the village. For such a small place, there is no shortage of top-class eateries and you certainly won’t go hungry during your visit.
The Mousetrap Inn: The Mousetrap Inn is a 19th Century inn on the banks of the Windrush is one of the best places to eat (and drink) in Bourton. Expect modern European dishes and pub classics (the fish and chips are a must-try). Click here for directions.
The Rose Tree Restaurant: The Rose Restaurant is a cozy restaurant with a large outdoor patio overlooks the River Windrush. This is one of my favorite places for a meal in Bourton thanks to the stunning al-fresco views. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team who pride themselves on using the freshest, seasonal ingredients. Click here for directions.
Smiths of Bourton: Sometimes you just can’t beat a burger, and even in the picturesque village of Bourton you’ll be able to satisfy that craving at Smiths of Bourbon. With a range of burgers (including plant-based), sides, and some killer cocktails, this is an excellent place for a bite and some drinks. Click here for directions.
The Riverside Café: The Riverside Café is a charming little cafe right on the water’s edge overlooks the stone bridges and is an excellent option for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea in sublime surroundings. You can grab an assortment of freshly made sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes, and hot and cold drinks. Click here for directions.
The Slaughter Manor House Restaurant: If you’re looking for a fine dining experience near Bourton, then head to the Slaughter Manor House. Using only the freshest local ingredients from around the Cotswolds, this is somewhere to get seated for a romantic evening or special occasion. Click here for directions.
Getting to Bourton on the Water
Driving or taking a tour is the best way to get to Bourton as public transport around the Cotswolds is somewhat limited. If driving, the village is just off the A429. The nearest major town is Cheltenham, 15 miles (24 km) to the west.
There are lots of tours from London that include Bourton in their itinerary and these are a great way to visit. All the main places for sightseeing in Bourton on the Water are within walking distance and strolling around the village is the best way to take it in at a leisurely pace.
Cycling is another great way to get around and will enable you to go a little further afield. For the adventurous souls, you can even see the village by hot air balloon.
Things To Do in Bourton on the Water: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Bourton on the Water:
Bourton on the Water is known for being one of the most picture-perfect villages in the Cotswolds (and the UK in fact). With the River Windrush running through the center of the village and ancient stone bridges, cottages, and rolling countryside, it encapsulates an England that time almost forgot.
Spring to fall is the best time to visit Bourton on the Water to be able to enjoy the surrounding countryside. Summertime and school holidays can get busy so the shoulder seasons are best.
Bourton on the Water is definitely worth visiting. It’s one of the most beautiful villages in the country.
Bourton makes a great day trip and spending two or three days there will enable you to see all the top attractions. If you want to explore the wider Cotswolds and use Bourton as a base, then a week is a good length of time to stay.
Bourton on the Water is a very safe place for visitors and the Cotswolds are one of the safest places in the country with low levels of rural crime and violent crime almost unheard of.
Walking along the river, having a paddle, enjoying the many fine pubs and restaurants, and exploring the nearby nature like Greystones Farm are some of the most popular things to do in Bourton.
Lansdowne and the High Street are the most famous streets in Bourton on the Water and they follow the River Windrush through the village.
An afternoon cream tea is one of the must-try snacks in Bourton. For those that like craft beer and cider, the local Hakwstone brews are a must-try. Try them at the brewery bay – it’s one of my favorites!
Now you know what to see and do in Bourton on the Water, one of the most gorgeous villages in the whole of the UK. From walking along the river and crossing the famous stone bridges to seeing a miniature version of the area, exploring nearby countryside, and visiting some of the local pubs, there are so many things to see in the beautiful village of Bourton on the Water.