15 Things to Do in Bourton on the Water that You Can’t Miss (2024)

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Looking for the best things to do in Bourton on the Water? I’ve got you covered.

After spending a week or so exploring the Cotswolds area, one of our favorites was the quaint village proudly dubbed the “Venice of the Cotswolds.”

Bourton on the Water is a uniquely named village with a beautiful history and a number of things to do!

Most people only spend a couple of days in the Cotswolds and end up splitting up their time between multiple villages.

To help you narrow down your options and have the best experience in Bourton on the Water, I’ve put together this list of things to do in the village.

From visiting the Dragonfly Maze to having afternoon tea in quaint cafes, here’s your one-stop shop to this fabulous village in the Cotswolds.

sign in bourton on the water
Bourton on the Water is one of the best places to visit in The Cotswolds

History of Bourton on the Water

Bourton on the Water holds a long, interesting history that dates from 4,000 B.C., during the Neolithic era! Evidence shows that Bourton on the Water has been inhabited throughout the Neolithic Period, the Bronze Age, and Roman Period.

The word Bourton comes from Burgh, a Saxon word that translates to “a fort” or “camp,” while Ton stands for “village” or “settlement”. 

That roughly translates to “the village beside the camp,” and it is named so because of its history.

In the 11th century, a Christian Church was established, and it has continued to grow from here on out. Today, you can find buildings that have originated from the 17th century, making it feel like you’ve gone back in time.

landmark in bourton on the water
Bourton on the Water, The Cotswolds

✨The 1 Thing We Never Leave Home Without…

Travel Insurance

Coming from someone who has been traveling the world for the last 8 years AND has been in the hospital 2x, travel insurance is something everyone NEEDS to get. Get a quote below!

Best Things to Do in Bourton on the Water

1. Enjoy Nature at Greystones Farm Nature Reserve

If you’re looking for a sweet escape from crowded tourist attractions, you may want to consider heading to the Greystones Farm Nature Reserve. This is a hidden gem you can easily walk to from the center of Bourton on the Water that requires no entrance fees.

Located on an operating organic farm, the Greystones Farm Nature Reserve is a fantastic place to view birds and wildlife with trails like the Wildlife Walk or Time-Travel Trail. You can also access views of Cotswolds’ smallest rivers, the Eye and Dikler, where you can spot water voles and otters.

Besides the wildlife and nature, you can also get a touch of history by visiting Salmonsbury Camp. This was an important meeting point during the Neolithic and Iron Ages.

When you need energy from all the walking, head to the café on-site to quench your thirst and enjoy a snack.

Psst...Want in on a Secret? 🤫


We've scoured the internet for the best ALL-AROUND travel shoe and Tropicfeel wins by far. We've taken ours through rivers, jungles, and cities and they're still alive and kickin'. Check them out below.

2. Walk Down Memory Lane at Cotswold Motoring Museum

Are you a huge vehicle buff and want to go down memory lane? Then you’re going to love the Cotswold Motoring Museum, another hidden gem that features the history of motoring from the 20th century!

Don’t let the small entrance fool you, because it starts to become an even bigger world with each step you take. Embark on an amazing journey as you get to see the cars, caravans, motorcycles, and even more collections of motoring curiosities.

Whether you’re going solo or with your family, it’s definitely worth the visit, with the entrance fee costing £6.50 per adult. We recommend allotting at least two hours here because you’re going to want to see everything!

motor museum
The Motor Museum is one of the best things to do in Bourton on the Water

3. Walk Around the Five Stone Bridges

Bourton on the Water’s Five Stone Bridges are one of the major reasons why people travel to the village! In fact, this is why Bourton on the Water is dubbed the “Venice of Cotswolds,” thanks to the five low footbridges crossing the River Windrush.

Wear your walking shoes and take all the time in the world as you walk around bridges like the Mill Bridge built in 1654, the High Bridge that was built in 1756, the Paynes Bridge built in 1776, the New Bridge in 1911, and the Coronation Footbridge built in 1953. You’re walking along a TON of history!

Once you’re done, you can go around the many shops, restaurants, and pubs that the village has to offer.

4. Visit Upper Slaughter

I have to admit, we found Bourton on the Water a little bit too busy for our liking when we went (it was a beautiful sunny day!). Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful, but if you’re looking for a slice of peace and quiet, head over to Upper Slaughter.

The villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are only a few kilometers from Bourton on the Water and are made up of a small footpath and beautiful countryside houses.

This place is meant to be one of the most beautiful places in the Cotswolds so make sure you don’t miss it.

upper slaughter with ceo
Upper Slaughter, The Cotswolds

5. Check Out The Model Village

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours, another thing to do while in Bourton on the Water is to check out the fun model village at the Old New Inn.

You’ll get to explore what Bourton on the Water was like in the past, particularly in the 1930s. The entire place is built at 1/9th of the actual scale, allowing you to easily walk around the area in 20 minutes or so.

You’ll be amazed at the intricate details and craftsmanship in each house, making you feel as if you were living in the early 20th century. History buffs are going to want to head here for a taste of the olden days, costing only £5 per person.

6. Have Some Afternoon Tea

When my husband told me we were visiting the Cotswolds, the first thing that jumped to mind was having afternoon tea!

After all, there is nothing more British than having a cup of tea and some jam and scones. Luckily, there is no shortage of beautiful places in Bourton on the Water for this countryside treat.

A few places to check out are Smalltalk Tearooms, Bourton Riverside Café, and The Slaughters Manor House for a slightly more upscale experience.

afternoon tea in the cotswolds
Afternoon tea in The Cotswolds

7. Roam Around The Dragonfly Maze

Puzzle lovers unite as you enter The Dragonfly Maze, a gorgeous maze with 14 different clues to help guide you to the golden dragonfly at the center. It makes a great game and a fun way to spend time with the family.

Think of this as a traditional hedge maze that makes you feel like royalty… This time with a cool twist!

If you’ve already tried the maze before, you won’t get bored. There is a bonus puzzle you can ask the staff about for double the fun.

With tickets costing about £4.50 per adult and £3.50 per child, it’s worth spending a few hours surrounded by greens and putting your mind and feet to the test.

8. Have a Picnic

If you don’t fancy a pub meal, we also saw a ton of people sitting by the water and having picnics. There are a lot of small bakeries selling meat pies and other baked treats which you can easily take away and eat by the river on a warm, sunny day.

It’s one of the best outdoor activities to do in the UK if you’re experiencing rare hot weather!

picnic by river
River Windrush in Bourton on the Water

9. Visit the Cotswold Perfumery

Here’s something interesting that not everyone really talks about. Sure, learning about perfumery may not sound like how you’d spend your vacation, but wait until you head over to Cotswold Perfumery, which has specialized in creating fine fragrances for over 50 years.

The perfumery is based in a Grade II listed building that’s been around for over 300 years, making it all the more worth the visit just for history’s sake!

The family-operated business had humble beginnings, stemming from a hobby with a passion for quality scents. Today, it has become a lovely attraction and destination where you can purchase fine perfumes for yourself or loved ones, smelling like luxury!

10. Stroll Along the River Windrush

As mentioned, there were A LOT of people hanging around in Bourton on the Water when we visited. Everywhere you went, people were lounging around, enjoying the sunshine.

Despite this, hands down, one of our favorite things to do in Bourton on the Water is to walk along the riverside, enjoying the views of sweeping willows and stone bridges. The place is BEAUTIFUL, especially on a sunny and bright day like when we went.

11. Have a Pub Lunch

Similar to enjoying afternoon tea, there is something about sitting in a British pub, enjoying a pint (or two!) In Bourton on the Water, two popular pubs that we recommend visiting are Kingsbridge and The Old Manse

The fish and chips in Kingsbridge are delicious but if you’re looking for a traditional chip shop, the Chip Shed in Bourton on the Water is also rated top-notch.

pub meal of fish and chips
Fish and chips

12. Tour of the Cotswolds from Moreton-in-Marsh

If you have limited time, and want to see the best of the Cotswolds, I suggest joining a tour that begins in Moreton in Marsh, allowing you to explore Bourton on the Water, Stow on the World, and Chipping Camden. 

The tour gives you ample free time to explore, along with commentary and tips for places to eat or see through the day as you explore the villages. Find the tour here!

13. Visit Nearby Villages

Remember, Bourton on the Water isn’t the only breathtaking village out there! When you’re staying in the area and have some free time to kill, why not try to head over to its nearby villages, which are usually only half an hour away?

Villages like Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Cirencester, Broadway, and the like also offer their own charm and history that you’ll never find elsewhere.

From glorious gardens to scenic shopping, The Cotswolds has more to offer, and Bourton on the Water is just one of many.

While you can drive to nearby villages on your own, those coming from London can make a day out of it and join a whole-day tour that involves exploring Bourton on the Water, as well as Burford and Bibury!

Book a tour to visit the nearby villages here.

If you have more time, you may even want to explore other nearby destinations. With so many things to do in Bath and it’s proximity to The Cotswolds, it’s a worthy contender to consider!

villages in cotswold
Exploring The Cotswolds

14. Have Lunch in the Cotswolds from London

Another popular tour to take if you don’t have much time is this day trip including a 2-course lunch.

Throughout this tour, you will get enough time to stroll around gorgeous towns and villages such as Burford, Bibury, and Stow-in-the-Wold; including a midway lunch break to enjoy a traditional English lunch at an old Cotswolds hotel restaurant.

15. Go Window Shopping

For those of you who love shopping, Bourton on the Water has a wide range of boutique stores that sell everything from clothes to knick-knacks. Even if you’re not a shopper, strolling around and window shopping is a fun activity to do while exploring the town.

Unfortunately, a few of the best tourist attractions to visit did not make the list because of their closure in recent years.

Attractions like The Old Mill Museum closed down permanently in 2023, along with a few restaurants and accommodations.

window shopping
Shops in Bourton on the Water

Where to Eat in Bourton on the Water

Food is life and I low-key obsessively research where to eat for every destination that I visit. For all the foodies out there, we’ve got you covered with the top five places to eat:

1. The Rose Tree Restaurant

The Rose Tree Restaurant is one for locals and tourists alike who want a taste of traditional British cuisine with fantastic alcoholic drinks to pair it with.

With home-cooked style meals, a cozy ambiance, and friendly staff, you’ll feel right at home. Make sure you try the lamb shank and have toffee pudding for dessert, which are some of their bestsellers!

2. The Croft Restaurant

The Croft Restaurant is located right next to the River Windrush, giving you an amazing view of the waters you can’t find elsewhere.

All their dishes are freshly prepared and made with local produce, so you are sure of getting a warm, delicious meal no matter the time of day.

Whether you’re hankering for a traditional English breakfast or want brunch with your friends, the Croft Restaurant can provide a hearty meal. There are vegan options available.

3. L’anatra

Just the name alone has us feeling like we’re heading to a fancy restaurant! L’anatra is an Italian restaurant where you can enjoy authentic dishes for lunch or dinner.

You can find a wide variety of Italian food ranging from stone-baked pizzas to delicious pasta, steak, and fish, with gluten and dairy-free options available.

The homey ambiance and warm atmosphere will make you want to come back for more of their spaghetti and other dishes!

4. Smiths of Bourton

Such a simple name and menu but their burgers are far more than simple. In fact, their burgers are more than enough to satisfy your tummy and soul.

Sourcing their meat from Jesse Smith’s and their buns from Mark’s Cotswold Bakery, the Smiths restaurant is a fairly new family-owned boutique burger joint with the mission to share their passion for burgers.

Not only can you enjoy their delicious burgers and fries, but their quenching cocktails as well! Perfect for families and groups of friends, you’ll always leave with a satisfied stomach here at Smiths.

5. Bourton Riverside Café

Digital nomads working on projects, friends catching up, or families who want to enjoy a cup of coffee will have a nice time at Bourton Riverside Café.

This cafe is centrally located and overlooks the River Windrush, bridges, and village green, giving you a picturesque view that sets the mood.

While they have a small menu, their energizing coffee and selection of pastries and cakes make up for it. It’s a lovely place to enjoy snacks, an energy boost, or dessert!

where to eat Bourton on the Water

The Dial House is also one of the best restaurants in Bourton on the Water

Where to Stay in Bourton on the Water

Planning on staying at Bourton on the Water for a few days to do as many of the activities mentioned above? Here are awesome accommodation options so you can sleep peacefully after a full day out:

1. The Lansdowne Guest House

The Lansdowne Guest House is located in the heart of The Cotswolds, making it the ultimate base for travelers to explore Bourton on the Water and its nearby villages.

It’s only a 5-minute walk to the city center, offering comfy rooms, a delicious breakfast, and everything else you need in a hotel room for long-term stays.

You can even enjoy a multitude of activities within the area, such as horse riding, cycling, and golfing. From its warm service to the soft beds and yummy eats, this accommodation is almost hard to beat!

2. The Mousetrap Inn

For a more “authentic” experience in the Bourton on the Water, try The Mousetrap Inn, a 19th-century inn with traditional architecture that has withstood the test of time. But don’t let looks deceive you, because the charm and character also lie inside, with a modern yet homey look.

You can find rooms made for any type of traveler or group, whether you’re a family, group of friends, couple, or going solo. The friendly staff will always be ready to accommodate and treat you like one of their own.

3. The Old New Inn

Small, quaint, and charming… There’s a reason why The Old New Inn is always so popular among those who visit Bourton on the Water!

This is a simple inn decorated with a rustic charm that will give you the complete experience of staying in the village of Bourton on the Water. But not to worry, the rooms are newly refurbished with modern features for everyone’s comfort.

Since they only have nine rooms of various sizes, they tend to sell out quickly, so make sure you book in advance. Also, you can get a discount at their in-house restaurant, so you can enjoy a feast without having to walk too far!

4. The Dial House

If you’re a fan of history and nature, you can get the best of both worlds at The Dial House. The boutique hotel is filled with a rich and historic charm with gardens surrounding the area.

Thanks to the perfect balance of modern features and old-style architecture, travelers, especially couples, love to spend their vacation at The Dial House. The delicious food also makes it hard not to love this place!

It’s also easy to roam around the village from this hotel, as it’s a few minutes away from attractions like The Model Village, Bourton Model Railway, Cotswold Perfumery, Cotswold Motoring Museum, and more!

5. Chestnut Bed and Breakfast

It’s almost hard to believe that the Chestnut Bed and Breakfast is housed in a 300-year-old listed building, though the architecture says it all. Inside, you can find each room having its own unique character, with different designs and a lot of colors made for your Instagram pictures.

The quirky designs alone are enough to make you want to check in, as well as the yummy free breakfast and lovely staff. Located in the center of Bourton on the Water, you can easily begin exploring the area the moment you wake up!

How to Get to Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton on the Water is a village located in the rural part of Gloucestershire in The Cotswolds, within the heart of England. It straddles the River Windrush and is about 15 miles east of Cheltenham in the United Kingdom.

It’s also about 30 minutes away from Moreton-in-Marsh, 15 minutes away from Stow-on-the-Wold, and a mere 5 minutes from Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, making the village a great destination to stay for exploring.

If you’re wondering how to get to Bourton on the Water, you can do so via bus from Cheltenham. If you’re heading to the village from London, take the train to Cheltenham, then the bus.

Unfortunately, the Cotswolds is just one of those places that is 100% easier to explore with a car as it allows you to nip into all the little villages. While public transport is doable, it isn’t recommended.

I recommend checking out Discover Cars for the best price comparison!

Walking around Bourton on the Water

Red telephone boxes in England

Wrapping It Up

Bourton on the Water is usually voted one of the prettiest villages in Britain and for many amazing reasons.

The laid-back vibe of this quintessential English countryside town makes it a must-visit.

With this ultimate guide of things to do, as well as where to eat and stay, at Bourton on the Water, you can now form a fun itinerary made for you and your loved ones.

Let us know what you think of this lovely little village and if it surpassed your expectations as it did ours. Happy travels!

Looking for more adventures around Europe? Check out a few of our other articles:

Inspired? Pin It!

Things to Do in Bourton on the Water | Explore and experience the beautiful history of Bourton on the Water. #BourtonOnTheWaterAdventures #travelUK
Share This!

Leave a Comment