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Family friendly Cotswold National Trust places to visit

Posted: Wed, 1st Sep 2021
Newark Park

Family activity days out at Cotswold National Trust properties

The Cotswolds is bursting with National Trust properties, with many of them perfect for a family activity day out. From Hidcote and Upton House in the north to Dyrham Park and Lacock in the south, and a huge choice in between, you’re likely to want to visit more than one during your stay, making it well-worth becoming a National Trust member while you’re here.

To help you decide where to go, we’ve chosen 12 Cotswold National Trust places that have lots of outdoor space and offer a combination of family-friendly games, trails and events throughout the year, with some providing spotter sheets for your little ones to complete while exploring the property and gardens. In addition, if you’re on a mission to complete the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4, you have brought your children to the right area of the UK. Here are 12 ‘things’ they’ll be able to do at a Cotswold National Trust property:

  1. Roll down a really big hill – Newark Park
  2. Get to know a tree – Upton House and Gardens
  3. Fly a kite – Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons
  4. Eat a picnic in the wild – Charlecote Park
  5. Climb a huge hill – Dover’s Hill
  6. Play pooh sticks – Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate
  7. Join nature’s band – listen to all the sounds of bugs and birds – Crickley Hill
  8. Watch a sunset – Dyrham Park
  9. Go cloud watching (and make up a story) – Chedworth Roman villa
  10. Discover what’s in a pond – Hidcote
  11. Go stargazing – Woodchester Park
  12. Hunt for fossils and bones – Lacock

To make it even easier to choose where to go, we’ve matched the 12 National Trust properties with self-catering accommodation. Whichever National Trust location you choose, you can be sure that it will be a central part of family activity days out in the Cotswolds, helping you make memories that you’ll treasure forever.

Newark Park

Newark Park is at the southern edge of the Cotswold escarpment, looking down into the Ozleworth Valley and on to the Mendips beyond. It has a fabulous nature-based adventure playground surrounded by trees and with a fabulous view for parents to enjoy. The estate also has family-friendly, self-guided walks and is known for its seasonal showcase of carpets of snowdrops, aconites, daffodils, autumn cyclamen and wild garlic.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Newark Park: Bellhouse, Walkley Wood, New Church Cottage, Hayloft at Walnut Farm, Matara Lodge, Kingscote Park House

Upton House and Gardens

Upton House & Gardens, Lord and Lady Bearsted’s 1930’s country retreat, was also home to their three children who loved to explore the grounds. The landscape designer Kitty Lloyd-Jones advised on designs and planting and was one of the first professional female garden designers. Take your little ones out on the Upton’s Woodland Walk, a two-mile circular walk (with a shorter there-and-back version for really tiny legs). It’s a haven for wildlife with bat boxes to spy, bug houses to build, plenty of lovely trees to meet and logs to climb under and over.  

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Upton House & Gardens: Suncroft, Old Manse

Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons

Let’s go fly a kite… up where the air is clear! These beautiful common lands, which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest due to their wide range of rare insects and plants, have some of the best, far-reaching views in the whole of the Cotswolds, as well as being ideal for flying a kite. At certain times of the year, the Commons are home to gorgeous, woolly cattle who roam freely and sometimes lie on the roads forcing the passing cars to wait their turn.

Café on site: no (nearby pub The Old Lodge serves food and drinks)

Cotswold holiday cottages near the Commons: Hyde Tyning, Walkley Wood, Court Cottage, Bellhouse

Charlecote Park

In the summertime, take a stroll through the parkland then head down to the river for a waterside picnic, spotting the 200 herd of deer and rare-breed Jacob sheep grazing while you and your little ones do the same. Throughout the rest of the year, there are deer-related activities that will enthral children, but remember – never approach the deer, they are wild animals.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Charlecote Park: The Granary, Combine Shed, Owl’s End, Cider House

Dover’s Hill

The Hill is famous for being the site of the Cotswold Olympick Games where locals have battled it out since 1622 at traditional events, including shin kicking and sword fighting. But if you’re not there for the games it’s still a fabulous place to head to with children as they can climb to 230 metres above sea level, burn off steam and wonder at the fantastic view. Wow your little ones with tales of Romans growing vines on the slopes below.

Café on site: no (best to visit nearby Chipping Campden for a selection)

Cotswold holiday cottages near Dover’s Hill: Hill View Rise, Ledge View, Milliner’s Barn, Barndown, Sundial Cottage, Field House Cottage

Lodge Park and Sherborne Park Estate

Take your children to run around England’s only surviving 17th century grandstand and head off on a family-friendly, 2.5 mile walk through the countryside passing woodland sculptures, an icehouse, lots of wildlife and birds including woodpeckers and chiff chats, a war memorial and a fascinating quarry. To keep the little legs going, pop into the village of Sherborne village tearoom for a drink and snack and then play pooh sticks on Sherborne Brook.

Café on site: no (nearby Sherbourne Village tearoom)

Cotswold holiday cottages near Lodge Park and Sherborne Park: Hawthorn Cottage, Appletree Cottage, Forsythia, South Winds

Crickley Hill

Crickley Hill is a great spot for young wildlife explorers who are also into ancient history. It’s on a spur of the Cotswold escarpment, overlooking the Severn Vale, with magnificent views towards Robinswood Hill and May Hill, and the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain beyond. There’s evidence of human activity on the hill going back to 4,000 BC. The parkland is jointly managed by the National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and boasts a wide variety of habitats and plants. The limestone grassland is extremely rich in plants, which in turn support a large variety of insects, especially butterflies.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Crickley Hill: Amber Cottage, Jasmine Cottage, The Granary at Hunt Court

Dyrham Park, near Bath

The sumptuous 17th century Dyrham Park House is set in a beautiful, ancient 270-acre park where children can truly run wild. Head off on the family-friendly ‘Journey of Discovery Trail’ – a two-mile long walk with waypoints that reveal clues of the history of the landscape and little ones can spot carved wooden animals along the route. Finish the walk at Old Lodge, where there’s an enclosed picnic area and play equipment.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Dyrham: Middle Barn, Bull Pen, The Leat at Wynyard Mill, Candlemaker’s Cottage

Chedworth Roman Villa

Chedworth is noted as one of the “grandest Roman villas in Britain” and has a truly stunning mosaic – where children can discover all about the incredible Romans who lived there. Set in the beautiful Coln Valley, with picnic benches and summer deckchairs set to look across fantastic views of the Cotswold countryside and a café that’s open to all, even just a walk in the area is delightful.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Chedworth: The Old Post Office, Hawthorn Cottage, Meadow View and Meadow View II

Woodchester Park

Woodchester Park is a truly magical, hidden valley with historic lakes, ruins and parkland. The children’s activity trail – complete with a zip line – is ideal for children from three to ten years. Within the park is Woodchester House, an unfinished Grade I listed, Victorian Gothic Revival mansion, designed by Benjamin Bucknall. On Open Days you can admire the fascinating inner detail and might get to see the bats. Just a short hike from the park is Thistledown Café, serving some of the best food in the area.

Café on site: no (nearby Thistledown Café)

Cotswold holiday cottages near Woodchester Park: Bellhouse, Walkley Wood, New Church Cottage, Hayloft at Walnut Farm

Hidcote Manor Garden

A visit to the gardens at Hidcote are a great way to introduce children to planting and flowers, with its series of ‘outdoor rooms’ – each with its own character intertwined with narrow pathways, beautiful views and plants bursting to life at every turn. Young explorers can play quoits or croquet on the Great Lawn, tennis with period wooden racquets, watch the diving beetles in the pool and discover trails with seasonal activities.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Hidcote: Maple House, Rowan House, Poplar House, Singer House

Lacock

The village of Lacock is the birthplace of photography, but more exciting for children it’s the site of the Harry Potter film set – as well as Wolf Hall, Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. And look out for the Abbey in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. As well as the film connection, Lacock is the birthplace of modern photography as William Henry Fox Talbot lived there and greatly contributed to the development of modern photography. There are lots of family-friendly walks around Lacock too, and there’s a café to satisfy hungry explorers.

Café on site: yes

Cotswold holiday cottages near Lacock: Middle Barn, Bull Pen, Candlemaker’s Cottage

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