13 Best Things to do in Gloucestershire

Are you wondering what are the best things to do in Gloucestershire? Some of England’s most beautiful countryside is in the county of Gloucestershire. With so much to do in Gloucestershire, it’s easy to see why this beautiful place should be on your list of places to visit this year.

People have said that Cheltenham is the complete Regency town in Britain. It has neoclassical spas, terraces of stuccoed townhouses, and many gardens.  In the 10th century, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle talked about this old country. You will see old buildings, towns with markets, and beautiful gardens. There are also numerous things to do that are good for both lovers and families with children.

Fancy hose races? Do not worry because there is The Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is one of Britain’s most important horse races and is held at Cheltenham Racecourse. The town is also beneath the first escarpment of the Cotswolds, so you can easily reach the area’s picture-perfect villages and charming countryside.

In Gloucestershire, visitors can find out where the River Thames starts or plan their way through the old and magical Forest of Dean.

Let’s talk about the best things to experience in Gloucestershire and see the beauty of various Cotswold villages.

13 Best Things to do in Gloucestershire

1. Tewksbury Abbey

One of the best things to do in Gloucestershire and the first one you have to visit is Tewksbury Abbey. Tewkesbury is a small town with strong medieval and Tudor feels.

Tewkesbury Abbey
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Visit Tewksbury Abbey

There are a lot of attractive half-timbered houses on Barton Street, High Street, and Church Street that you may want to check out. 

One of these is the Olde Black Bear, which opened in 1308 and is the oldest pub in Gloucestershire. There are enough stories and exciting things in just a few streets to keep visitors busy for hours, and the Visitor Center has booklets that explain what you’re seeing.

The wonderful Tewkesbury Abbey with the massive Norman tower in England made it through the Dissolution of the Monasteries because the town bought it and kept many of the Norman features.

You may also check out the Mythe Bridge that crosses the Severn, devised by the famous Georgian engineer Thomas Telford.

2. Cheltenham Races

Gloucestershire is also famous for its spa, and a spa resort would not be complete without a racetrack, and Cheltenham’s is one of the most prestigious in the country.

Horse Racing British Traditions
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Enjoy the Cheltenham Festival and Races

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the well-known National Hunt jump racing events, and each year it draws tens of thousands of people. It has the second most money as a prize in UK jump racing, after the Grand National. It is one of the best things to do in Gloucestershire for horse racing lovers.

There are several Grade 1 races, so you can watch the best jump racers in the world compete at the highest level possible. Grade 1 races are the most renowned jump races of the year, and the best horses compete in them.

Cheltenham Racecourse has been a part of British horse racing for a long time, and it now shows off some of the best racehorses in the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, Frederick Cathcart thought that Cheltenham ought to be the home of steeplechasing, just like Newmarket was the home of flat racing. He made it happen by holding the first Cheltenham Festival in 1911. 

Cathcart convinced the National Hunt Committee to let the National Hunt Meeting happen yearly at Cheltenham. This led to the creation of the Cheltenham Festival.

Now, the whole steeplechase season is all about getting ready for Cheltenham. The Gold Cup is one of the most-watched races at the Cheltenham Festival. It is the most important and valuable race of the meet. It takes place on the last day. In 2019, the Cheltenham Gold Cup had a prize pool of £600,000.

Every year, many Irish people are at the Festival, giving it a unique feel. The Irish have been going to Cheltenham for hundreds of years and have won many races. Also, because the dates of the Festival are close to St. Patrick’s Day, the whole thing has a great party vibe. You should try this too! 

I wrote another article about Horse Racing in Great Britain (UK): Why British Love Horse Racing. I encourage you to read it!

3. Enjoy the countryside of Cotswold – Cotswold wildlife park

At Cotswold Farm Park, you can meet the farmer everyone loves and his furry, feathered, and scaly friends. You will learn how a real farm works while having a lot of fun.

The Farm was started by Henson’s father to safeguard rare breeds of animals. This is a legacy that is still very important to people today. Now, though, it has more fun added to it. For example, seasonal demonstrations like lambing, milking, and shearing sheep happen in Animal Barn. You can even help feed the baby with a bottle twice a day.

Take a ride on the farm safari tractor, see cute rabbits and chicks in the Discovery Barn, or get lost in the maze before jumping on a giant jumping pillow. Then, let those little ones run around in the Adventure Barn, which has ride-on JCBs and a vast indoor sandpit.

Cotswold Farm Park is right in the middle of the Cotswolds, with beautiful views and fun Farm Park activities outside the door. Roll out of your sleeping bag, take a picture of the magical misty mornings, and breathe in the fresh country air. Someone might already have the kettle going, and you might hear breakfast being made.

There’s nothing more relaxing than jogging along quiet country lanes first thing in the morning. If you’d instead take it easy, you can stretch and listen to the countryside wake up around you, with birds singing in the hedgerows and baby lambs calling out to their mothers.

After a busy day at the Farm Park or in the Cotswolds, you can relax at the campsite and watch the sun go down over the Windrush Valley. From our Campsite Lodge & Shop, you can get fresh-baked pizza, drinks, and more.

I wrote another article about the beautiful Cotswold villages, I encourage you to read it to see the beauty of the quintessentially British countryside.

4. Arlington Row

Arlington Row is in a beautiful spot tucked away in the middle of the Cotswolds. It is full of history and culture and is among the most photographed places in the Cotswolds.

Arlington Row Cotswold Villages
Best Things to do in Gloucestershire: Visit Arlington Row

In a nutshell, Arlington Row is a group of cottages that were built in the 14th century. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Arlington Row was a wool store when it was first built in 1380. The row of cottages became homes for weavers in the 17th century.

A muddy field is on the other side of the cottages (Rack Isle). After washing the wool, it was put on the Rack Isle to dry. After the wool dried, it was taken to Arlington Mill to be worked on.

Tourists love the collection of cottages along Awkward Hill. Many people think it is the place in the Cotswolds that gets the most photos. During the height of summer, more than 3,000 people visit the small street every day. But why is Arlington Row so well-known?

Well, it’s just the beauty of the place. What comes out of Bibury is its charm. Stone buildings, green landscapes, and friendly tourists make you feel far from your everyday life. Because of its picture-perfect scenery, Arlington has been used as the setting for some of the best romantic comedies of all time.

Read more: Best Places to Visit in the UK

5. Birdland

Birdland Park and Gardens opened in 1957 in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. It was one of the first places to see birds in the UK. The 9-acre site used to be a Bryant and May Poplar Tree plantation famous for making matchsticks. More than 150 trees along the River Windrush still produce a high canopy.

More than 500 birds are living in the beautiful place. There are different parts of the natural water habitat where you can see flamingos, pelicans, penguins, cranes, storks, cassowaries, and waterfowl. 

There are also more than 50 aviaries with birds like parrots, falcons, pheasants, hornbills, touracos, pigeons, ibis, and many more. The more fragile animals live in the Desert House, while fish, amphibians, and reptiles that lay eggs do so in the indoor Discovery Zone.

6. Forest of Dean

In the west of Gloucestershire, near the border with Wales, there are 11,000 hectares of ancient woodland. This is one of the last large areas of this kind of wilderness left in the country.

Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire
Best Things to do in Gloucestershire: Go hiking around the Forest of Dean

Since before the Norman Conquest, the Forest of Dean has been used as a hunting ground for the royal family. This is partly because it has been mostly untouched for so long.

What you do in this area depends on how adventurous you want to be. You could go rock climbing or on long hikes, look for signs of old mining in the forest, or visit historical places like Tintern Abbey, on the Welsh side of the River Wye.

7. Belas Knap

Belas Knap in Gloucestershire
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Visit Belas Knap

Belas Knap Long Barrow is on a hill with a gentle slope and a view of a river valley with steep sides. The name comes from the Old English words bel, a lighthouse, and Knapp, the top of a hill. It has many features typical of Cotswold-Severn long barrows, and it is often thought of as the type-site, for example, because it has chambers on both sides. The mound is in the shape of a wedge and is more than 50m long and nearly 4m high. It faces north and south.

There is a deep forecourt among two rounded horns at the north end. In the back of the forecourt is an H-shaped arrangement of stones, which may be the remains of a portal dolmen. The ditch that appears to define the sides of the mound was made during restoration work in the 1930s. The bank of dirt and stones outside the ditch is the top of the mound that the weather has worn away.

Three heavily restored chambers open into the mound from its long sides, and a fourth, roofless chamber opens from its narrow southern end. During excavations in 1863–65 and 1928–31, the bodies of about 30 people were found in the tombs.

The portal setting in the back of the forecourt, the dry-stone walling of the forecourt walls, of which the lower courses are original, the size and bulk of the mound, the small size of the chambers, and the different shapes of the chambers are all important things to look for at Belas Knap.

The two slabs on either side of the entrance to the northeast chamber have hollows in the shape of crescents on the edges that face the entrance. This may have been a porthole entrance at one time, like at Windmill Tump, Rodmarton.

8. Sudeley Castle 

Another place to visit is Sudeley Castle, just a few miles from Cheltenham in the Cotswolds. It is one of the few castles in England that is still used as a private home.

Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire
Best Things to do in Gloucestershire: Visit the Sudeley Castle
Wdejager, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When finished in 1442, the castle was taken from its Lancastrian owner by the crown and given to the future King Richard III.

Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife, spent the last few months of her life at Sudeley Castle. She died there in 1548 after having trouble giving birth. Her tomb is in St. Mary’s Church, the chapel of the castle. It had been hidden for almost 250 years before it was found again in 1788. There is an exhibit at the castle about Catherine Parr’s life. It has rare books she wrote and love letters to Thomas Seymour, her last husband.

There are also beer jugs from the time of Charles I, lacework made by Anne Boleyn, and Aubusson bed hangings made for Marie Antoinette.

9. Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Visit the Gloucester Cathedral
Geni, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Cathedral is right in the middle of the city of Gloucester. You can see the building in all its glory if you walk along College Green. Even from the outside, you can see that the Cathedral has a lot of beautiful architecture. To get everything from this beautiful honey-stone building, you might have to go around it.

The Cathedral is more than a thousand years old and has many different styles of architecture. You’ll find everything from Norman to Gothic to Perpendicular to modern architecture. Stonemasons and carvers are still working hard on the building to make it bigger and keep it in good shape.

Whether you’re there to visit or to worship, the building will blow you away. The cathedral opens every day at 8 am and stays open until Evensong. You might even get lucky and see an art show, a concert, or a service since many famous buildings are housed in Gloucester Cathedral.

The medieval fan-vaulted cloisters and the Great East Window are two essential parts of Gloucester Cathedral. Keep an eye out for the Lady Chapel. It has some of the most beautiful glasswork in the country.

10. The Cloisters

The Cloisters are my favourite part of Gloucester Cathedral. They are one of the most beautiful parts of the cathedral. It is well-known for its excellent fan vaulting, one of the earliest examples of its kind in English history. When they were first built, the Cloisters were a place for monks to live, work, and pray.

Abbot Froucester finished them in 1412 to replace an early Norman cloister. They had been built in the late 1400s. In most abbeys, the cloisters are on the south side. At Gloucester, however, they are on the north side, which makes them unique.

In the Cloisters, there is a row of twenty places where the monks would have put their study desks. There is also a place to wash clothes that used to be near a stream. During my visit, there was an art show with beautiful pieces from around the country. I especially liked this piece.

11. Cirencester

This beautiful Roman town is a great way to start exploring the Cotswolds. We have to start by talking about the beautiful Cotswold stone, a golden yellow limestone that gives every old building in Cirencester an extra touch of elegance.

Cirencester Gloucestershire
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Visit Cirencester town

The 14th-century Church of St. John the Baptist looks beautiful in the late-afternoon sun. It has a perpendicular Gothic style with parts older than the 1300s. The Corinium Museum, named after the Roman name for Cirencester, is in the middle. It has all of the beautiful things that have been found in and around the town.

There are more than 60,000 of these, and the museum shows them all very well. They include intricate mosaics, carved marble, pottery, and jewellery.

12. Gloucester Quays

Gloucester Quays
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Visit Gloucester Quays

If you fancy fashion, movies, and restaurants, you may want to visit Gloucester Quays. 

Gloucester Quays is the best designer outlet and lifestyle destination in the South West. It has 50 high street and top brand outlet stores where you can save up to 70% on stylish clothes, accessories, and modern home goods.

The Quays is home to The Gym, a state-of-the-art 10-screen Cineworld cinema, monthly food and craft markets, and not-to-be-missed outdoor events. They also have a lot of great places to shop and eat.

Gloucester Quays is a great place to spend time because it is right by the water in the heart of Gloucester docks. It is also just a short walk from the city centre and attractions like Gloucester Cathedral and the National Waterways Museum.

13. Gloucestershire Steam Railway

Gloucestershire Steam Railway
Best Things to Do in Gloucestershire: Ride the Gloucestershire Steam Railway

The Honeybourne Line was built in the 1900s by the Great Western Railway to connect Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Birmingham.

After being ignored for many years, this line finally closed in 1976. However, in 1981, work began to fix up a stretch near Cheltenham called Toddington.

The track was redone, and the stations were fixed up. In 2018, the line was extended from Cheltenham Race Course to Broadway, making it a 28-mile round trip.

You’ll ride in a historic carriage pulled by a steam locomotive through some of the most beautiful parts of the Cotswolds. You’ll pass by hamlets and villages and cross higher ground with great views of this range and the Malverns right next to it.

There is service almost every day from April to October, and there is a schedule in December.

Best Things to do in Gloucestershire pin
Best Things to do in Gloucestershire

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas and travel guides for travellers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

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