What comes to mind when you think of the Cotswolds? I would assume that quaint villages, sprawling countryside walks, picturesque teahouses, and historical landmarks are among your thoughts. I’d be surprised if anyone suggested adrenaline-packed activities! However, the Cotswolds has so much more to offer than relaxing country walks, good pub food, and history. In fact, there are loads of adventure-filled activities to be done in the Cotswolds which are perfect for all the family. So, if like me, you want to find unique things to do when travelling, this is the ultimate “Top 10 Things to do in Cotswolds” list!
What's in this post:
1. Explore the Cotswolds on horse back
Horse riding in the Cotswolds is an experience like no other. Take a leisurely stroll down single country roads, across sun-dappled fields, and through lush valleys. It’s the perfect way to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the British countryside without having to do the hard work! With its rolling hills and wide-open spaces, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable horseback ride with endless possibilities for exploration. From experienced riders to complete beginners alike, horse riding is one the most unique ways to explore the Cotswolds. And in my opinion one of the best things to do here too! But as a rider, I would say that!
The best place to go horse riding in the Cotswolds is Jill Carenza’s, near Broadway. They cater to all levels of experience and are set in one of the most picture-perfect locations. The ride starts with a gentle stroll through the timeless village of Stanton. As you wind your way through the narrow streets taking in the old Cotswold stone and thatched-roofed homes, you will be forgiven if you suddenly find yourself transported back in time!
Once through the village, you will head up onto the hill. Experienced riders can canter up the green hillside, or maybe even stretch the horses out further with a run up at the all-weather gallops! However, if you are new to riding, you will enjoy a gentle plod up Shenberrow hill, ready to take on the breathtaking views. On a fine day, you will see 16 counties from the summit, as well as the Malvern Hills and the Black Mountains. It truly is a view to remember!
Broadway Tower also offers the same view, and although you can’t ride a horse up there, you can hike up from Broadway or drive and park there if you are not feeling energetic.
Operating Hours: Daily 9 am to 5 pm, although they often work out of hours to ensure they can cater to all visitors
How to book: Please call 01386 584250
Address: Washpool Equestrian Centre, Stanton, Broadway WR12 7NE
2. Step outside of your comfort zone and go paragliding
If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled outdoor experience, then you should consider paragliding. It’s a unique way to get an aerial view of the region’s stunning rolling hills and lush green fields as you rise up on the wind currents. It might seem courageous from the ground, but once you’re paragliding above it all, the feeling is incredibly free and liberating!
I haven’t had the chance to paraglide in the Cotswolds yet, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in Andalucia and LOVED it! I can’t wait to try it in the Cotswolds, where the views will be even more stunning.
You can go paragliding with Ash, from Cotswold paragliding, in Stroud, Dursley, and Cheltenham. Although not strictly in the Cotswolds, Ash flies from Great Malvern too! Where you will get to fly from will be dictated by the winds on the day.
You can choose from two different experiences. A taster, top-to-bottom flight that only lasts a few minutes, or a full-length flight with a guaranteed 10 minutes of fly time (although it will likely be longer). My recommendation? Go for the full flight. Whether you end up there for 10 or 20 minutes, I guarantee that time will fly by (excuse the pun!).
Honestly, having been paragliding elsewhere, I promise you that flying with Ash and his team is going to be one of the best things you can do when in the Cotswolds, and you will get a truly unique perspective on the area too!
Operating Hours: March to September, 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset. September to March weekends only.
How to book? Please visit their website and buy a flight voucher. Once you have booked the voucher, you need to contact them via WhatsApp to get it booked.
3. Go on a once in a lifetime hot Air Balloon Ride
Another unique and unforgettable experience in the Cotswolds is exploring the beautiful villages from high above. Again, I haven’t had the chance to do this in the Cotswolds yet, but I did experience it while on safari in Tanzania. It remains one of the most memorable moments of my trip!
Once the warmer summer months set in, it is normal to see a balloon or two enjoying the golden hour across the rolling Cotswold countryside. With small towns and villages dotted throughout the area, I can only imagine how special it must be to see the church spires looming over the wildflower meadows as you glide across the sky.
Virgin Balloon Flights are the best option here in the Cotswolds
. The experience lasts between 3 and 4 hours and includes roughly an hour of flight time and a glass of bubbly upon landing! Or, if like me, you don’t drink alcohol, then there is a soft drink alternative available too. This must be one of the most unique things to do in the Cotswolds!
How to book? Visit their website.
Best things to do at Cotswolds Water Park
The Cotswolds Water Park is an adventurer’s dream! With 180 lakes spanning over 40 square miles, there is something for everyone here. I’ve noted below some of the activities most likely to get the adrenaline pumping in the Cotswolds Water Park.
4. Try your hands at Water Skiing
Water skiing is awesome! It offers an unbeatable combination of speed and freedom as you carve through the waves at incredible speeds. The trickier manoeuvres that come with water skiing add an extra level of excitement, allowing even experienced athletes to continue challenging themselves and pushing their boundaries. If you are entirely new to water skiing though, fear not; Lakeside Ski & Wake School offers tuition for all abilities. In fact, they specialise in helping beginners grasp the ropes. However, if you have done it before and know how to handle yourself, they have a brilliant slalom course for you to enjoy. One of the most energetic things to do in the Cotswolds! It’s a good workout!
How to book? Visit their website.
Address: The Watermark Club, SPRING LAKE, Station Rd, South Cerney, Cirencester GL7 5TH
5. Take on the Total Wipeout Challenge at Aquaventure!
This is SO MUCH FUN! Have you ever watched Total Wipeout and wondered whether you could take on the course? Well, this might not be the same course, but it is the same concept! An inflatable waterpark in the centre of the lake ready to challenge you! It is a great activity to do with friends and family and is suitable for kids that are 110 cm or taller.
What are you waiting for?! It’s time to challenge yourself! Can you think of a better thing to do on a hot summer’s day when in the Cotswolds?! I can’t!
Book your slot here.
Address: Spratsgate Ln, Shorncote, Cirencester GL7 6DF
6. Go rally driving!
In a water park, you ask? Yes! Right in the heart of the Cotswold Water Park, you will find Cotswolds Driving Experiences, which offers both off-roading and rally driving. The rally experience is perfect for families, as kids over 10 can try their hand at it too! They can even cater to disabled drivers with hand-controlled cars.
The rally course is set over a slippery gravel course making it ideal for drivers to learn how to power slide. Who wants to go in a straight line when you can get there sideways? Certainly a unique way to enjoy the Cotswolds, but if you ask any petrolhead, I’m sure they will tell you it is the best thing to do while here!
Please book directly on their website.
Address: Cirencester Rd, Down Ampney, Cirencester GL7 5QF
7. My favourite thing to do in the Cotswolds? Walk the Cotswolds Way
I’ve always been an advocate for exploring the Cotswolds on foot, and there is no better way to do it than by taking on the 102-mile Cotswold Way footpath. A friend and I ran it back in 2020. It was then that I truly fell in love with this area! Of course, you don’t have to run it. You can walk it too. But whatever speed you choose, it is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the Cotswolds. And it is free!
Depending on whether you run or walk it, it will likely take you between 4 and 7 days unless you plan on tackling it as an ultramarathon and aim to complete it in under 24 hours! If you are reading this though, I’m assuming you are looking for an adventure more so than a challenge.
The route starts in Chipping Campden and follows the ridgeline all the way to Bath. There is a surprising amount of ascent and descent on this route, but the views are worth it (even if I complained every time we went uphill!). Without a doubt completing the Cotswold Way has been my favourite thing to do in the Cotswolds thus far.
You can read about my experience in my “Running the Cotswolds Way” post. However,
8. Get your harness on and go Rock Climbing
It’s unlikely that the Cotswolds conjures up images of rocky crags and impressive rockfaces. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy first-class climbing in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Just a couple of miles north of Northleach, and within easy reach of Bourton on the Water, you will find Far Peak, the Cotswolds only climbing wall! They offer indoor and outdoor climbing and cater to all abilities and ages.
They have a 15-metre-tall tower outside with 4 auto belays and over 70 different routes to choose from. The indoor wall is 8 metres high with 12 lines to choose from and a plethora of different routes.
If you are new to climbing, they offer tuition for beginners, including taster sessions and courses. Kids as young as 3 can have a go at climbing, making it an ideal outing for the entire family.
But if you are looking for something truly unique, then why not have a go at their caving experience? Designed for kids between the ages of 5 and 14, it will help keep them entertained for 30 minutes.
You can book directly on their website.
Address: Far Peak Business Park, The Hayloft, Northleach GL54 3JL
9. Is this the most unique things to do in the Cotswolds? Wild Food Foraging
This is possibly the most unique thing to do in the Cotswolds, or at least on this list. But what better way to connect with nature than learning how to forage from it?
Foraging for wild food is an enriching experience that has been enjoyed by humans all around the world since ancient times. It can take some time and effort to become a skilled forager, but once you know what you’re looking for, it can be easy to find an abundance of edible choices in unexpected places. Not only does foraging allow you to uncover new sources of nourishment, but it also creates a sustainable connection with nature.
Each month Burleigh Court Hotel, in Minchinhampton, offers a foraging course to help people identify edible plants and herbs, which are then used to create a delicious meal. Depending on the time of year, you can expect to collect wild garlic, roses, nettles, and purple thyme, amongst other goodies. Once all the ingredients have been gathered, the head chef will prepare a delicious lunch for you to enjoy.
Please check out their website for the next available date.
10. Most fun things to do in the Cotswolds? Dog sledding!!
I recently wrote about my husky sledding experience in Kiruna, Sweden, but did you know you can also go husky sledding here in the UK? In fact, only a couple of miles outside of the Cotswolds AONB area you will find ArticQuest, the only place in the UK where you can truly learn to be a musher!
A truly unique experience and one of the most fun things to do in the Cotswolds if you are a dog lover! Of course, there will be no snow. Instead, you will ride along on a 3 wheeled buggy. The experience lasts roughly two hours and is suitable for all levels of musher experience! You will start off on shorter runs with some slower dogs before progressing on to longer runs with some of the faster huskies.
When not playing with huskies, you can sit by the fire and enjoy a warm drink as you listen to musher stories.
Although you can run the huskies all year round, during hot weather, the experience may be cancelled for the welfare of the dogs.
Do check out their website for more details, and be sure to read their welfare page!
Will you be adding the Cotswolds to your adventure bucket list?
Hopefully this blog has shown you that there is so much more to the Cotswolds than stately homes, historic high streets, and scenic drives. The Cotswolds has so much to offer the adventurous soul, which, when coupled with its beauty, history, and delicious food, undoubtedly makes it one of the best destinations in the UK for your next break.
And if you are looking for a unique stay, then why not consider camping in the Cotswolds?