Bourton-on-the-Water is a village in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Also known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds,” Bourton on Water is one of the prettiest villages in England, rivalling bucolic Bibury for that title.
Also incorrectly referred to as Burton Cotswolds, Burton under Water or even Bourbon on water, many regard this beautiful village as the best place in the Cotswolds.
Built from the local golden coloured stone, the houses and cottages make a picture perfect, charming village and a very popular tourist attraction. Many of the houses are three hundred years old and some are from the Elizabethan era, four hundred years ago.
The River Windrush gently flows through the village with neat stone banks and tree shaded greens. There are also several elegant 18th century low stone bridges that cross the water and connect the many Cotswold homes. These five stone bridges provide the access from one side of the river to the other. During the summer locals and guests alike sit along the river in the village centre and children paddle and cool off in its shallow waters.
There’s even an annual football match that takes place in the river.
The origins of the village date back to 709AD with the building of a wooden church.
It was rebuilt in stone in 1110 and has a 12th century crypt. A chancel was built in 1328, and the church is still in use today.
Along with its natural beauty, picturesque Bourton-on-the-Water offers several interesting and fun entertainments for visitors including
- Birdland Park and Gardens
- the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection
- Cotswold Perfumery
- Walking tours
- a Model Village
- a model railway exhibition (no photos allowed!)
- St Lawrence’s Church
- and many other interesting attractions
Birdland Park and Gardens is a zoo full of birds that includes penguins as well as a large variety of exotic birds. Established in 1957, it is a natural setting that is home for over 500 birds.
Storks, cranes, pelicans, flamingos, cassowary and the many varieties of waterfowl that live on the several wetland areas are just a few of the attractions here.
There are also over 50 aviaries of falcons, parrots, hornbills, turacos, toucans, ibis, pheasants and more.
The Motoring Museum
The Motoring Museum and Toy Collection takes visitors on an imaginary road trip through the 20th century. It’s easy to see the progression of technology over the century of the engineers and mechanics who loved the auto-mobile and motorcycle.
There are seven galleries with vintage vehicles, classic cars and memorabilia that come alive with the sounds and smells of the earliest cars to the extravagant vehicles of the present entertainment industry. Everyone loves Brum of TV fame, and they can visit him in the museum, have their photo taken with him and even get a special ride.
For over 30 years the Cotswolds Perfumery, which is based in an 18th century traditional stone building, has been blending fragrances. Visitors are greeted by a charming room with a crackling fire, oak beams and ancient floors, but the idyllic scene is just the beginning of this hugely successful company that makes some of the most famous perfume brands in the world.
Another attraction that is truly worth seeing is the scale model replica of the village that was built by a few local craftsmen in the early 1930s.
It is Bourton-on-the-Water in 1/9th the size and has been painstakingly built with the same building materials – the local golden Cotswold stone, as the full size village. It includes a miniature River Windrush, a working water mill and replicas of five of the famous low stone bridges.
The miniature Bourton on the Water is Grade II listed and it’s amazing wandering around, feeling like a giant, whilst also spotting many of the famous sites of the full size village.
Bourton on the Water is an extremely popular location in the summer months, with visitors to the Cotswolds flocking here to experience the charm and magic of the high street, the buildings, the river and everything else that Bourton has to offer.
There are guided walking tours that give visitors a close look at the villages and landscapes in the area including Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden and Broadway. Walking tours often include transportation to and from the beginning of the walk and can encompass visits to Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of Shakespeare), Blenheim Palace (the ancestral home of Winston Churchill) and Oxford University. All meals are provided including vegetarian options with a picnic lunch.
Getting to Bourton on the Water
You can use this map below for Bourton on the Water directions:
Bourton on the Water is just off the A429 south of Stow on the Wold. Although it’s often referred to as Bourton on the Water, Cheltenham they are actually over 15 miles apart.
The nearest railway station is in Kingham, approximately 10 miles away. Other nearby stations are in Moreton-in-Marsh and just outside Shipton-under-Wychwood.
From Cirencester to Bourton on the Water is a little over 15 miles and an approximately 25 minute drive (very much depending on traffic of course).
Bourton on the water to Oxford is a little further at a distance of 34 miles and around an hour’s drive, also dependent on traffic.
Bourton on the Water is an excellent place for a relaxing holiday or weekend getaway. The natural and man-made beauty remove the stress of everyday life and the hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes join in the inviting atmosphere welcoming visitors and locals alike.
Accommodation in Bourton on the Water
As you might expect for such a popular destination, there are a number of places to stay in the village.
These include, but are not limited to
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Bourton-on-the-Water is a popular destination all year round. Parking can be difficult to find, especially close to the centre of the village. During the summer months, additional, temporary car parks are often created on the outskirts of the village.
Some parking is free and time limited, other car parks charge a fee.
There are public conveniences in a couple of locations in Bourton on the Water. One is on the high street on the corner of Rectory Lane at the Church Rooms.
The other is at Rissington Road Car Park, (currently closed for renovations), near Birdland Park. Toilets in both locations charge 30p for entry but contactless payment is available.