Visited on both our Cotswold Explorer and Cotswold Taster tours, Bourton-on-the-Water is recognised as one of the most picturesque small towns in the Cotswolds.
Bourton straddles the Windrush, as this stage a modest river, perhaps only a few feet wider than a stream, but sufficient to demand that the town’s growth has been punctuated by a succession of low bridges. Build largely from the area’s famous yellow limestone, these bridges, each with its individual character and style, have earned Bourton its epithet of The Venice of the Cotswolds.
Languid willows, alder and ash drape their branches over the water as fish dart across the stony bed of the river. Picturesque country gardens, fronting grand houses, quaint cottages, small shops and tea rooms, add character and charm to Bourton, making it an essential stopping point for visitors. There are also several worthy attractions, including a miniature “model village” dating from the 1930s (and still beautifully maintained), a motor museum, the Birdland Park & Gardens, and a model railway. There is also a small antiques centre, several pubs and restaurants, a perfumery, a brewery and most of the essential services.
During the summer the Windrush becomes the venue for an ancient game of water football, with two teams of enthusiastic players trying to score goals by kicking a standard football from one end of the town to the other … and everyone gets very wet.
Away from the river, Bourton reveals a quieter, more sedate aspect, with elegant Cotswold stone houses bordering narrow streets, many with the characteristic projecting mullions and stone-gabled windows so typical of the Cotswolds.