Cotswold Village: Bourton-on-the-Water


Bourton-on-the-Water - Credit: Archant

Lynn Ede fights against the obvious clichés, but finds it oh-so difficult when she visits the Cotswold chocolate box village dreams are made on

Corssing the tiny bridges is part of the Bourton experience / Credit: Lynn Ede

Corssing the tiny bridges is part of the Bourton experience / Credit: Lynn Ede - Credit: Archant

Bourton-on-the-Water, a Cotswolds destination on the Roman Fosse Way, is charm itself. Set perfectly full of golden, olden stone cottages built many centuries ago, its shops – and tourists, hundreds of them – are frequently visited and it lays claim to a long history of settlement.

Where the clear waters of the River Windrush flow through the village under small bridges dating from the 17th century are found scores of happy children who play for hours with fishing nets. Their even happier parents lay on the grass, close by, catching some own-time in the sun. Yes, this is the village dreams are made on and where you expect Postman Pat and Jess the cat to appear at any moment, it’s that idyllic.

The town of Bourton-on-the-Water has more than an element of a childhood revisited. At the Motor Museum you can take the opportunity to transport yourself back to a time when a smaller than average jolly red and yellow car spoke convincingly to you from BBCTV with the narration of Toyah Willcox. It’s where the much-loved car still lives and you can even take a ride. Brum is kept company by other classic cars, vans, bikes and their memorabilia. Ignite your interest at

Drop by nearby stunning village Lower Slaughter - you may even spot a bride / Credit: Lynn Ede

Drop by nearby stunning village Lower Slaughter - you may even spot a bride / Credit: Lynn Ede - Credit: Archant

Continuing the miniature theme, a must is the Model Village. Completed in Cotswold Stone in 1940, the 1/9th scale replica of Bourton is Grade II listed and draws visitors from all over the world. Open every day except Christmas Day, you have plenty of opportunity to aggrandize yourselves and walk tall along the tiny roads or crouch down to peer into the windows of the houses, church and shops. Children and adults alike adore the place. I meet Alister Jackson, his wife Jessica Liyanage and their baby Sebastian on holiday from Winchester.

“Bourton has a good ambience about it,” Alister tells me, “even with thousands of other people visiting it! Seems to have all necessary amenities too; the bank supermarket, and we also love Painswick, where we are staying.”

Owner Julian Atherton and his wife Vicky are very proud of the miniature construction.

“Maintenance of the place takes time, however, and is expensive. It’s a unique place and still very popular after all these years we are glad to say.”

Local info and goods at the Tourist Office with Jackie and Barbara / Credit: Lynn Ede

Local info and goods at the Tourist Office with Jackie and Barbara / Credit: Lynn Ede - Credit: Archant

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After which diminutive diversion, you’ll want to pop into the Bourton Model Railway Exhibition at Box Bush to complete the journey for the little ones and check out the toys.

However, it’s not all for children at Bourton-on-the-Water, oh no. The Cotswold Perfumery is where I am heading and inside I find many chances to test and purchase – my own particular heaven and I leave it smelling divine. To follow the scent a little more seriously, you can take courses in perfumery. There are two courses, rather pricey at first glance, being £195, £295 and a Lab Day at £125 but these are not pop-in events. One day courses, they include lunch at the village’s Dial House Hotel, coffee breaks, a bottle of cologne and one of your own concocted perfume, along with a certificate of completion. Maybe a whiff of a new career beckons. If you want an abode over the shop, there is luxury accommodation available above, outlined at

In the village, where evidence as far back as Neolithic habitation has been found, are many tea and gift shops, restaurants, hotels and pubs. You don’t have to walk more than a few steps before being enticed to eat or drink and ice creams are seen in most hands.

The Morris dancers throw shapes navigating around a tiny, bemused observer / Credit: Lynn Ede

The Morris dancers throw shapes navigating around a tiny, bemused observer / Credit: Lynn Ede - Credit: Archant

As you are pondering your next meal, you may well find yourself entertained by Morris dancers. Varying theories exist as to the activity’s derivation, from celebrating fertility to the first buds of spring. I meet the members of ‘The Travelling Morrice’, in between their complicated moves, who say the dancing style was first documented in the 15th century. It’s certainly a sight to see, with their white and multi coloured outfits flapping as they jump, skip and shout, the tourists just love the spectacle, quickly gathering into a crowd to clap and cheer at the end. This particular group puts together several tours in The Cotswolds, where originally the teams were made up of 6 men from each village.

The River Windrush is a serene spot to relax. Shallow and crystal clear at this point, the river eventually joins TheThames further down the country. It is a welcome magnet for hot, tired feet. Adults sit on the edge blissfully dangling them in and children splash through, much to the delight of the coach loads of tourists standing upon and crossing the many bridges, set here and there, with cameras poised. One of the reassuring things about the village is that everything is within a few paces. Around the river are places in which to purchase and munch and from there small streets lead to pubs and the quintessentially English cottages. Truly picture postcard stuff. Gah, I said ‘picture postcard’. I fought against it, but in Bourton, one can hardly help but do so.

Venturing a little further in the environs, there is more to do. Take a trip to Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre for a horse ride. Catch some courage to drop into the Bloody Bourton Walking Tour where details of crime, witchcraft and murder will give you the shivers. On Rissington Road, you’ll find Birdland Park and Gardens. Twitcher alert! Exotic and rare birds such as pelicans, emus, parrots, waterfowl and penguins. You can follow a nature trail there and have your picnic in the grounds any day of the year except Christmas. If art is your thing, there’s a pottery gallery at Clapton Row. You can pick up a map showing most of these and other information at the Tourist office by the river.

A short trip by car along the Fosse Way is the award-winning (including ‘Most Romantic Street in Britain’) village Lower Slaughter. This is worth a view, simply to take in one of the most beautiful examples of English villages. You will find yet more Cotswold cottages, much less tourism, places to eat and an Old Mill to explore. You might even be lucky, as I was, and spot a bride and groom after their wedding. It is the spot of choice for portraits. A finer backdrop would be hard to find. The banks by the river are superb to take a peaceful break – it’s oh so quiet - when you’ve had your fill of cuteness and just need to get horizontal, and process it all with a glass of wine and simply the sound of the babbling brook.

There are plenty of other beautiful Cotswold destinations to discover:


A Guide to Holidays in the Cotswolds

Escape to the Cotswolds