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Christmas in the Cotswolds: 14 Festive Things to Do at Christmas [2021]

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Christmas in the Cotswolds is something seriously special.

The festive season is when the Cotswolds come into their own, with cosy pubs and wintery walks galore.

There’s plenty to do, whether you’re after traditional Christmas activities or something different.

In fact, you’ll see the area in a whole new light once Christmas trees and wreaths festoon the peaceful villages.

Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time, you’re bound to find something new and magical to explore.

And we’ve got the perfect Christmas in the Cotswolds guide to help!

This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Kate Andrews.

1. Go on a wintery walk

field-in-chipping-campden-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

Grab your wellies and your woollies and head out to make the most of the glorious Cotswolds countryside.

The Cotswolds Way is a 102 mile route from Chipping Campden to Bath, offering the best views of breathtaking countryside.

Get up early to catch the rolling hills dusted in a thick white frost and shrouded in a magical silver morning mist.

But don’t worry, we’re not expecting you to walk 102 miles!

There’s plenty of shorter routes to explore along the Cotswolds Way, which runs through the most beautiful villages in the area.

One of the best-known routes is a beautiful, well-trodden walk from Painswick through Slad Valley, made famous from the book Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.

The route is comfortingly a circular five-mile route.

But there are some steeper parts so make sure you wear shoes with good grip, especially if there’s frost or ice on the ground.

However, any hills will be worth the effort for beautiful views over the valley.

Along the route you’ll also come across the wonderful independent pub, The Woolpack Inn.

Stop here for a warm drink and to defrost yourself by the fire.

Afterwards, carry on your way to enjoy some of the finest winter views the Cotswolds has to offer.

2. Have a festive pub lunch or dinner

the-frogmill-cheltenham-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

The Cotswolds has an abundance of charming country pubs, making the perfect setting for an indulgent Christmas lunch.

With roaring log fires and real stone floors, The Frogmill is a cosy country inn just outside Cheltenham.

Tucked away in a valley and a thicket of trees, fairy lights line the path down to the sprawling higgledy-piggledy pub.

There’s a firepit with seating and blankets outside for a winter tipple.

Rest here before digging into a seasonal spread of their two or three course set festive menu.

Or for a more casual twist on a Christmas meal, the wonderful Slaughters Country Inn is offering a Christmas Dinner In a Bap all throughout December.

Yes, this is genius: the bap is filled with all your Christmas dinner favourites with a side of chips for only £16.

This is like the perfect seasonal filler after a chilly country winter walk around the charming Slaughters villages.

Accompany with a warming glass of mulled wine or cider (plus complimentary mince pie) for the perfect season’s feasting.

3. Do a wreath making workshop

daylesford-organic-farm-shop-wreath-making

Daylesford Organic Farm Shop is known for miles around for its sophisticated interpretation of modern Cotswolds living and the cult following of Soho Farmhouse clientele it has amassed. 

For some real seasonal sophistication, try their Wreath Making workshops, on during November and December.

You’ll explore their organic Cutting Garden to forage your own natural foliage in the most bougie way possible.

After gathering your blooms, you’ll head into the beautiful workrooms to make your wreaths and garlands, guided by an expert florist.

However, at £135 per person, this is probably the most expensive bundle of twigs you’ll make.

(Only in the Cotswolds, ey?)

For a more budget-friendly option, Ellenborough Park offers a £75 Wreath Making Masterclass.

It includes a full festive afternoon tea and mulled wine to help get those creative juices flowing.

The setting is just as impressive as Daylesford, too, although it shows off the more traditional side of the Cotswolds.

Now a five-star hotel, this 15th century country estate has beautiful architecture and extensive gardens to explore.

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As they’re famed for their culinary excellence, the festive afternoon tea will no-doubt be worth every penny.

4. Go late night Christmas shopping

broadway-deli-lit-up-in-christmas-lights-at-night

Broadway, known as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’, feels magic even when it’s not Christmas.

But the village somehow becomes even more special during its wintery transformation.

Decked with fairy-lights atop the honey-stoned cottages, it certainly looks the part!

This is the ultimate traditional Late Night Christmas Shopping evening in a quaint English village.

There’s Christmas stalls for shopping and crafts, and delicious street food to keep up your energy when browsing the shops.

On the 23rd and 3rd December, shops and eateries in the village open late with welcoming cheer and festive atmosphere after dark until 8:30 pm.

There’s a local band playing Christmas music and street entertainers to make the spirited seasonal shopping even more memorable.

Moreover, many shops offer free mince pies or mulled wine to add some Christmas cheer to the shopping.

If that doesn’t convince you to visit, nothing will!

5. Enjoy a Christmas market

cheltenham-christmas-market-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

Address: The Promenade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1PJ

Phone number: 01242 387492

Would it be Christmas in the Cotswolds without a Christmas market?

Cup of mulled wine in hand and pink on your cheeks, spend an afternoon exploring local crafts and produce at Cheltenham Christmas Market.

As one of the biggest towns in the Cotswolds, Cheltenham’s regency-style town centre offers the perfect backdrop to its 40-stall Christmas market.

This year’s will be the biggest Christmas market Cheltenham has seen, running from the grand, tree-lined regency Promenade up to the impressive Imperial Gardens.

Opening on 20th November and free to enter, this is a great opportunity to pick up some unique gifts or Christmas decorations.

And most importantly, the market offers a great array of food stalls to choose from.

There will be an extensive offering of cheeses and chutneys, macaroons and sweets, and exotic smoked meats for the adventurous among us.

Oh and of course, an iconic giant bratwurst from a traditional Schwenker grill to make you feel like you’re visiting an authentic German Christmas market!

6. Go ice skating in the gardens

white-ice-skates-on-ice-rink-in-winter

Conveniently placed at the end of Cheltenham’s Christmas Markets, the Imperial Gardens transform into a winter wonderland during the festive season.

Interestingly, there used to be an actual Winter Garden and historic ice-rink at the site.

It was demolished in 1940, but the modern ice-rink pays homage to the history of the spot.

As you skate, you’ll be able to see the lights of the Christmas markets, making for a wonderful seasonal scene.

This all-weather ice-rink means come snow or shine, you’ll be able to glide around (or stumble around trying to clutch on to the side!) whatever the weather.

7. Partake in Christmas crafts at Sudeley Castle

exterior-of-sudeley-castle-on-cloudy-day

Address: Sudeley Castle & Gardens GL54 5LP

Phone number: 01242 604244

For the first time, Sudeley Castle will be hosting a series of Christmas craft events throughout winter.

There’s a huge range of options each week over November and December, so something’s bound to take your fancy.

From seasonal hand lettering to festive marbling, these workshops are a fantastic way to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into some Christmas creativity.

Kill two birds with one stone with the bauble decorating or cracker making workshops.

That way you can tick some Christmas admin off your to-do list at the same time!

The workshops run on selected dates from 10 am – 11:30 am, leaving enough time to get those creative juices flowing.

Pre-booking is essential, and tickets include all craft materials for £45-50 per ticket.

Sudeley Castle itself is a spectacle, a private castle embedded in Tudor history and royal connections throughout history.

And with amazing views of the Cotswolds surrounding you, you’ll be sure to feel inspiration in the breathtaking setting.

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8. Carols by candlelight at Gloucester Cathedral

gloucester-cathedral-carols-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

Address: 12 College Grn, Gloucester GL1 2LX

Phone number: 01452 528095

Thanks to its majestic beauty, Gloucester Cathedral is one of the best-known cathedrals in the UK.

You may recognise its impressive hallways from Harry Potter films, with their delicate archways and sandy-coloured stone.

Come winter, the cathedral becomes even more magical.

Advent candlelight casts shadows up to the high ceilings, and seasonal foliage decks the halls (quite literally).

There’s no better location to get your yearly fix of belting out Christmas carols during the Saturday services in September.

You’ll be sure to have the classics on the agenda (Away In a Manger, anyone?) so get ready to sing your lungs out!

9. Attend a Christmas concert in the castle

berkeley-castle-lit-up-at-night

Address: Berkeley GL13 9PJ

Phone number: 01453 810303

Winter is the perfect time to make the most of the Cotswold’s abundance of historic (and aesthetic) castles.

Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire, dates back to the 12th century, and is an impressively preserved fairy-tale castle, with warm pink stone.

Lit up with lights in winter, you’ll be pushed to find somewhere that feels more magical.

Each year, guests can visit Berkeley Castle to see their popular orchestral Christmas concert.

For £42 per person, you’ll be able to see an enchanting live orchestra hosted in the impressive and atmosphere Great Hall.

The concert is preceded by an impressive reception in the Long Drawing Room.

Think wine and mince pies in front of a roaring log fire and traditional Christmas tree.

It’s basically a Downton Abbey Christmas episode come to life.

10. See the prettiest villages dusted in snow

broadway-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

Cotswolds is famous for its picture-perfect villages dotted through rolling valleys.

If we’re lucky enough to have any snow this year, there are some amazing spots to get the best Christmassy village views.

If you’re after a snow-dusted panorama, visit Broadway Tower.

It’s a long walk up the hill (well, hill is an understatement…).

But once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with the most magnificent view over the idyllic Cotswold countryside.

If it’s one of those unbeatable clear blue-sky winter’s days, you can see up to thirteen counties from the second highest point in the Cotswolds.

Similarly, Castle Combe is known for its beauty year-round.

But there’s something overwhelmingly magical about the perfectly preserved honeyed village covered in a blanket of glistening snow.

If you wake up to white, make sure you get to the village early as it can be busy with tourists at the best of times.

But your early start will earn you peaceful views of the stone bridge over Bybrook river, hopefully decorated with snow.

The fairy-tale scene of Arlington Row in the village of Bibury is a frequent feature on Instagram but seeing it in the snow renews its charm.

The tiny yellow-stone cottages adorn their doors with Christmas wreaths, which makes for a timeless seasonal view come the snow.

11. Take a magical ride on a steam rain

gloucestershire-warwickshire-steam-railway-gwsr-santa-express

Address: The Railway Station, Cheltenham GL54 5DT

Phone number: 01242 621405

There’s nothing like tradition at Christmas.

Luckily, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is all over tradition.

With a trip on an old-fashioned locomotive steam train, you can step back in time to get a feel for the timeless magic of Christmas.

For those with children, The Santa Express is a magical experience like no other.

Its popularity is proven by the fact it sells out every year, so book early!

You’ll travel by steam train through the winding Cotswolds countryside from Teddington to Winchcombe, where you’ll get to meet Santa and his elves.

Once you arrive, you’ll disembark the train to a magical winter wonderland of twinkling lights.

Here you can meet Father Christmas for presents and mince pies before catching the train back.

However, if the prospect of excitable children feels more bah humbug than Christmas magic to you, the railway also operates some special seasonal services in the indistinguishable time between Christmas and New Year’s.

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Perfect for a more peaceful train ride through the tranquil Cotswold countryside.

12. Relax at a festive spa day

the-lygon-arms-pool-in-spa

Address: High St, Broadway WR12 7DU

Phone number: 01386 852255

Winter can sometimes feel like it goes a million miles an hour, with shopping and drinks galore.

Give yourself a festive pamper day to get you ready and relaxed in time for the next Christmas party.

Set in the idyllic town of Broadway, The Lygon Arms offers a thoughtful Spa Day package to revive you from all the merriment.

The historic hotel has a Spa’rkle package to soak away the stresses of the season.

For £135-145 per person (depending on the day you visit), you’ll get a welcome glass of fizz on arrival, and a choice of 2 x 25 minute treatments.

You’ll have the options of an express facial, file and polish (hands and feet), or a back, neck and shoulder massage.

All of this alongside full use of the luxurious spa facilities, including the relaxation room (a god-send during the busiest time of the year!).

You’ll leave the spa with a sparkle in your step, feeling ready to throw yourself back into the celebrations.

13. Attend Lacock Christmas Tree Festival

bauble-on-christmas-tree-at-lacock-christmas-tree-festival

Address: Lacock, Chippenham SN15 2LG

Phone number: 01249 730459

One of the best-loved traditions in the Cotswolds, Lacock is adorned by Christmas trees through December.

The local community, including schools and charities, decorate each tree, and the eclectic mix holds real seasonal charm.

You can even vote for your favourite online!

After checking out the trees, follow the wintery walking trail, lined with willow reindeer for an added seasonal twist.

Lacock village always makes for a beautiful walk, but seeing all the wreaths certainly makes it worth another visit.

Inside the abbey itself, the Great Hall is festooned with glittering decorations, to bring to life the history of the house.

Similarly, the giant Christmas tree towering over the ancient fireplace is an unmissable traditional festive scene.

14. Have a Blenheim Christmas

blenheim-palace-illuminated-christmas-lights-trail-christmas-in-the-cotswolds

Address: Blenheim Park, Woodstock OX20 1PP

Phone number: 01993 810530

Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site and one of the finest – and largest – historic country houses in England, let alone the Cotswolds.

Famed for being the birthplace and home of Winston Churchill, the baroque beauty certainly lives up to its grand reputation.

It’s great to visit all-year-round but winter is really when the palace comes into its own.

In the expansive grounds, Blenheim Palace hosts its annual Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail.

Its glittering light trail winds through the gardens, with over a million lights to bring the meaning of ‘merry and bright’ to life.

There’s no expense spared in the spectacular light shows over the lake, illuminated trees, and breathtaking tunnels of light.

The fire garden is particularly impressive, with flickering flames reflecting off decorative ponds.

The route takes about an hour and a half to explore and enjoy, which you can follow up with a hot chocolate or winter warmer.

Your Illuminated Trail ticket will also allow you late-night access to the Palace’s Christmas Market.

It holds 70 craft traders in boutique wooden chalets in the Great Court.

You can pick up some independent local gifts to smash through your Christmas shopping.

 

So, there you have it: the best way to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds!

If you haven’t already gathered by now, the Cotswolds is one of the most magical places to spend Christmas in the UK.

And with so many festive things to do there, you certainly won’t be short of things to do during the festive period.

If this post has done anything, I hope it’s persuaded you to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds.

I promise you won’t regret it!

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