10 Christmas activities to do in the Cotswolds

10 Christmas activities to do in the Cotswolds

When it comes to idyllic festive retreats, there are few better in the UK than the Cotswolds.

Quaint cottages in archetypal English villages, toasty pubs and glorious wintry walks make the Cotswolds a real festive favourite.

And although the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed some Christmas events in the Cotswolds in 2020, there’s still plenty to enjoy this Christmas and in the future.


What to do in the Cotswolds at Christmas

Here are eight amazing things to do during Christmas in the Cotswolds…

1 The spectacle of light at Sudeley Castle

The magical, illuminated trail around the grounds of historic Sudeley Castle is a superb way to get into the festive spirit.

Although the first two nights of this year’s spectacle have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the event is planning to run throughout December.


2 Visit a Cotswolds garden centre

Garden centres remain open during the Covid-19 lockdown and there are plenty to choose from in the Cotswolds.

Most Cotswold garden centres have Christmas displays and activities throughout December, although some events may not run due to the pandemic.

Fosseway Garden Centre near Stow-on-the-Wold has a large Christmas display and plenty of decorations for you to explore, while the centre is also planning a Christmas wreath making session in December, alongside a ‘Tea with Santa’ event for the little ones.

All those events will be dependent on Covid-19 restrictions, however.

3 Go for a long winter walk

One thing the pandemic can’t stop us doing is enjoying a glorious winter walk – and when it comes to walks, the Cotswolds is one of the best places to explore in the UK.

If you’re looking for crisp wintry views across miles of green space, head for the Malvern Hills between Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

And if you really want to explore the stunning countryside of the Cotswolds, try walking some of the Cotswold Way, which starts in Chipping Campden and runs all the way to the city of Bath… more than 100 miles!

Finally, the trails of Crickley Hill are well worth a visit for sensational views towards the Black Mountain and Brecon Beacons.  

4 Grab a festive pub lunch

Again, whether or not we can enjoy a warming pub lunch following a brisk walk around the Cotswolds will depend on coronavirus restrictions in 2020.

Looking further ahead to Christmas 2021 and beyond, though, some fine village pubs with roaring fires exist right across the Cotswolds.

Among the most popular are:

  • The Ebrington Arms, Chipping Campden
  • The Lion, Winchcombe
  • The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
  • The Royal Exchange, Hartpury

5 The Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum

A great option for children and adults alike, the Enchanted Christmas is hoping to be open for visitors in December, depending on coronavirus restrictions.

A trail of light can be followed through a wintry wonderland, with fairground rides and Christmas craft activities, as well as a traditional hog roast and mulled wine.


6 Visit Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace near Oxford is a fantastic place to visit at any time of year – but at Christmas, it really comes to life.

As with most events in the Cotswolds this Christmas, the Blenheim Palace Illuminated Light trail event is hoping to go ahead in December but will be dependent on any coronavirus restrictions that remain in place.

The trail features an array of lights twinkling from treetops, while brightly lit boats cruise between fountains on the palace lake.


7 Attend a big switch-on – virtually

While most of the Cotswold Christmas light switch-ons have been cancelled due to the pandemic, Tetbury near Stroud is switching on the town’s festive illuminations virtually on December 4.

The town is hoping visitors will then be able to take a socially distanced walk around to see the stunning lights during December.


8 Take in a Cotswold Christmas market

Markets are all part of the Cotswolds Christmas experience and there are plenty to choose from, whether you’re simply browsing, or you’re aiming to buy up some unique items from the many, many stalls on offer.

Unfortunately, most of the 2020 Cotswold festive markets have been cancelled due to the pandemic – but expect them to be back even better in 2021.

Chipping Campden Market is still hoping to go ahead in December but will be dependent on coronavirus restrictions being lifted.

And while the hugely popular late-night shopping in Broadway has also been curtailed by the pandemic, the village is still well worth a visit to see the stunning festive lights.


9 Take a trip on the Santa Express

A great way to see more of the Cotswolds at Christmas is through a ride on GWSR’s ‘Santa Train’.

The heritage steam-hauled train leaves Toddington Station and arrives at Winchcombe, where Santa will be waiting to welcome children at the end of a magical walk through lights, trees and decorations.

After a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, the train will depart for its journey back to Toddington, with a good bag for the children.

GWSR is planning to run the Santa Train throughout December, but the events will be dependent on weather and possible Covid-19 restrictions.


10 Explore some of the Cotswolds’ best villages

As well as a walk through the Cotswold countryside, why not take a look at some of the area’s most charming towns and villages, including:

  • Burford
  • Chedworth
  • Fairford
  • Naunton
  • Painswick


Further reading…

If thoughts of the Cotswolds at Christmas has whetted your appetite for the area, take a look at our guides to life in Witney and Stroud.