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Home | Guidebooks | Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames

A visitor’s guide to Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames

Lechlade on Thames, Bolthole Retreats

About Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames

The two popular Gloucestershire towns of Fairford and Lechlade-on-Thames sit on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds and are just under five miles apart. They share a watery geography, with Lechlade sitting on the River Thames and Fairford on the River Coln, a tributary of the Thames that joins England’s great river just outside Lechlade.  The Coln’s peaceful setting is a walking and fly-fishing haven, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide, while the Thames’ wider course is a port for boats of all kinds including canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, barges and motorboats.

Fairford is perhaps best known for the annual Fairford International Air Tattoo – billed as the world’s greatest airshow – attracting aircraft from over 25 nations from around the world, and thousands of spectators. But, as you’ll discover, there’s much more on offer than just that.

The area is surrounded by beautiful, rolling Cotswold scenery, providing plenty of opportunities and places to explore on foot, by bike or by car. Lechlade has easy access to the Thames Path National Trail, with circular walks from it, and both towns are ideally located to explore the Cotswold Water Park, with all its water activities, cycle paths and walks.

Fairford and Lechlade are within easy reach of Bath, Oxford, Cirencester, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon and are both a 2.5-hour drive from central London.

  1. Fairford International Air Tattoo
  2. Cotswold Water Park & Beach
  3. Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
  4. Crocodiles of the World
  5. Kelmscott Manor
  6. Boat, canoe, kayak or paddle board trip on the River Thames
  7. Thames Path National Trail
  8. Bampton village – Downtown Abbey’s church
  9. National Trust Buscot & Coleshill Estates and Badbury
  10. Faringdon Folly
  1. Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum
  2. Filkins Woollen Weavers Mill
  3. Aston Pottery
  4. St Mary’s Church, Fairford
  5. Lechlade on Thames Antique emporium
  6. Swindon & Cricklade Steam Railway
  7. Designer Outlet Swindon
  8. Carterton Soft Play & Trampoline Park
  9. Blenheim Palace
  10. Corninium Museum, Cirencester
  11. Cotswold Driving Experiences

Aston Pottery & Gardens
26-minutes from Fairford – 19-minutes from Lechlade

This is a widely acclaimed, working pottery in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside where pottery is designed, manufactured and decorated on-site. There’s a lovely shop where you can purchase the pottery, a café, and beautiful gardens that you can tour.

Blenheim Palace
45-minutes from Fairford – 37-minutes from Lechlade

As well as being a beautiful destination simply to explore the grounds and magnificent building, Blenheim Palace also hosts a selection of great events throughout the year. There are a range of tours, including an Upstairs tour, Downstairs tour, and The Miniature Train tour, where you can ride between the Palace and the Walled Garden on the narrow-gauge railway. The great thing is, you can make your visit to Blenheim Palace as interactive, active, long, or short as you want.

Cogges Manor Farm Museum
35-minutes from Fairford – 27-minutes from Lechlade

Cogges Manor Farm Museum is a unique working museum of Victorian rural life in Oxfordshire, set in a historic Manor House and Cotswold stone farm buildings. Fans of Downton Abbey might recognise Cogges Manor Farm – it was Yew Tree Farm, home to the Drewe family in series four and five, where Lady Edith’s child is raised.

Corinium Museum
17-minutes from Fairford – 26-minutes from Lechlade

Cirencester – the Capital of the Cotswolds – is home to the Corinium Museum which houses a huge variety of artefacts from the town’s Roman roots, brought to life in the Roman Amphitheatre just a short walk from the town centre. This English Heritage site is one of the best-preserved of its kind in the UK, built in the early 2nd Century for a capacity of over 8,000 spectators. The museum takes you on a “journey through time, charting the development of the Cotswolds from its prehistoric landscape to the modern day”.

Cotswold Woollen Weavers Mill
15-minutes from Fairford – 7-minutes from Lechlade

The Cotswolds was one of the great centres of the UK’s historic wool trade. The wealth that came from it can still be seen across the region in some of the great mansion houses, churches, and miles of stone walling. Want to see wool being woven? You can visit Cotswold Woollen Weavers in Filkins, which is home to a textile museum, design studio, and shop dedicated to traditionally woven cloth. There’s also a café, picnic area, sculpture gallery and rug warehouse.

The Barn Theatre
14-minutes from Fairford – 23-minutes from Lechlade

The fabulous Barn Theatre, located on the outskirts of Cirencester, offers a huge variety of shows from music to drama. Performances include The Mozart Question, Driving Miss Daisy, The Girl on the Train and Million Dollar Quartet. Alongside the theatre is the Teatro restaurant where you can enjoy a pre-show meal and drink.

Cornbury Music Festival
July

When this Music Festival first came about, it was held at Cornbury Park Estate, hence its name, but as it grew the organisers had to find a new venue – Great Tew Park, 7.5 miles from Charlbury. In their words, the festival is “a homespun melting pot where music-lovers share pies and a glass of champagne with superstars, toffs, rockers, crooners, Morris dancers, farmers, urbanites, fashionistas, gourmet chefs”.

Fairford Christmas Market
December

The Christmas market is in Market Place, usually on the first Friday in December, with stalls selling festive foods and drink, gifts and goodies. Entertainment is provided by the Salvation Army Band and local choirs, with fairground rides and Father Christmas.

Fairford International Air Tattoo
July

Every July, the skies above Fairford come alive with the world-renowned Air Tattoo that takes place at RAF Fairford. Arguably one of the greatest air shows in the world, Fairford International Air Tattoo welcomes over 300 aircraft from 30 nations around the world, with a thrilling programme of flying air displays taking place over the course of the event. An absolute must-visit for flying fans and adrenaline-junkies, with plenty on offer to keep others entertained too. 

Lechlade Annual Vintage Rally & Country Show
April-May

A gathering of classic cars, motorcycles, collections, miniature steam engines, tractors, classic caravans, and model boats and craft. For children there’s a fun fair, and a Blue Cross dog show, plus car boot sales, stalls, and refreshments.

Lechlade Music Festival
May

A multi-award-winning family-friendly festival on the banks of the River Thames that runs for three days and three nights, with music, dance, workshops, arts and crafts, plus kids play area, craft stalls, body painting, and a great choice of food and drinks.

The Big Feastival
August

This fabulous three-day festival brings together Michelin star chefs, award-winning food producers with street food, supper clubs and unique pop-ups, plus fabulous family activities and some of the biggest music artists in the UK. Set on Alex James’ farm near Chipping Norton in the heart of the Cotswolds, enjoy the best food and music against a memorable backdrop. 

The Cotswold Show & Food Festival
July

Taking place in the heart of Cirencester Park over two days, with hundreds of attractions, including horse shows, BMX displays, falconry, polo demonstrations, go-karting, tree climbing, trampolines, inflatables, a dog show and dog activities, and, of course, the Food Festival with live cooking demonstrations and 40 producers selling their wares. It’s a fabulous day out for all ages.

things to do in the cotswolds this summer

Boating, canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding in Lechlade-on-Thames
4-minutes from Lechlade centre – 12-minutes from Fairford

Lechlade-on-Thames is an idyllic spot to launch into the River Thames in just about any form of watercraft. Head to Cotswold Boat Hire to hire a motorised boat (of all sizes) or head to Cotswold Canoe Hire for canoe, kayak or paddle board hire.

Carterton Soft Play & Trampoline Park
21-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

Discover the main jump area, with an airbag dive tower, reactive pod, foam pit and battle beam. With tunnels, slides, obstacles and a skyglide track – as well as a special area, just for babies and toddlers – there’s something for everyone.

Cotswold Country Park & Beach
17-minutes from Fairford – 25-minutes from Lechlade

The Cotswold Country Park & Beach has a great soft-sand beach with a swimming lagoon, paddling lagoon and water sport activities, including the super-fun inflatable AquaVenture. There are BBQ facilities at the park and a café.

Crocodiles of the World
20-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

Dedicated to the conservation of these much-maligned creatures, you’ll be able to see 17 of the 24 species currently found in the world including fresh and saltwater crocodiles, caiman, and alligators. For those who want to get even closer, there are wild keeper experiences for children and grownups alike.

National Trust Buscot & Coleshill Estates and Badbury
20-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

The area is blessed with three National Trust properties – the Buscot and Coleshill Estates, and Badbury – all with lots of space to run around and let off some steam, take a tranquil walk, do some forest bathing, have a picnic, enjoy the views, fly a kite, and learn about the local history (Coleshill was where the British Government trained WWII’s British Resistance aka spies). In fact, whatever you and your family enjoy doing together in the great outdoors, you can do here.

Swindon & Cricklade Steam Railway
21-minutes from Fairford – 23-minutes from Lechlade

Travel back in time along the Swindon to Cricklade railway line in a carriage driven by a steam engine. After the journey, visit the railway museum and have a bite to eat at the Whistle Stop Café or bring your own food and eat in the picnic area.

7a Coffee Shop in Fairford
London Street, Fairford

Perfect for: morning coffee, snacks, afternoon tea

A family-owned coffee shop that serves not just coffee, but also hot chocolate, smoothies, frappes, milkshakes, cakes and their famous brownies.

Colosseo Restaurant in Fairford
London Street, Fairford

Perfect for: lunch, dinner

A classic Italian restaurant with an extensive menu, and a dedicated bar where you can enjoy drinks right next to the open fireplace.

Fairford Fish Bar in Fairford
Market Place, Fairford
Perfect for:  lunch, tea, dinner

A local and much-loved fish and chip takeaway that serves with a smile and offers a lot of variety.

Khushi in Lechlade
Burford Street, Lechlade
Perfect for: dinner, takeaway

Bangladeshi fine dining, that provides specific themed dinners on days of the week. You need to bring your own alcohol, though.

Lynwood & Co in Fairford
High Street, Fairford

Perfect for: hot drinks, breakfast, lunch

An independent café bringing Australian coffee culture to the Cotswolds. They work exclusively with local and independent producers.

Magic Beans Café in Fairford
Whelford Road, Fairford
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, cakes and drinks

An independent café on the outskirts of Fairford with an attached soft play area for little ones (Hocus Pocus Play).

Sourdough Revolution in Lechlade
High Street, Lechlade
Perfect for: baked goods, picnics, snacks, lunch

This award-winning bakery sells freshly made sourdough bread, pizza, sandwiches and drinks. They pride themselves on simple ingredients to create incredible baked goods.

The Bull Hotel in Fairford
Market Place, Fairford
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, dinner

A Grade II listed Cotswold coaching inn with a traditional pub bar, open fires and lots of character and private dining spaces, plus a vaulted barn that’s ideal for wedding receptions.

The Coffee Post in Fairford
Market Place, Fairford

Perfect for: breakfast, morning coffee and cake, lunch, takeaway

An independent coffee shop serving hand-baked cakes and sweet treats as well as sandwiches, toasties and paninis.

The New Inn Hotel in Lechlade
Market Place, Lechlade

Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, dinner

A 17th century coaching inn with a traditional bar and restaurant, serving all fresh, locally sourced produce. Their Sunday lunches are incredibly popular.

The Railway Inn in Fairford
London Road, Fairford

Perfect for: lunch and bar snacks, dinner

A family-run 250-year-old pub and restaurant serving traditional cask ales, locally sourced food menu, with a log fire and sun terrace. Dog and child friendly.

The Riverside in Lechlade
Park End Wharf, Lechlade

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner

Located right on the banks of the River Thames, the Riverside is a fabulous place to sit in the garden and watch the river world go by on a sunny day. Or you can enjoy the covered area or head inside to the restaurant.  

The Swan Inn in Lechlade
Burford Street, Lechlade

Perfect for lunch, bar snacks, dinner

A traditional 16th century pub with a bar and small restaurant area. They are dog lovers, so you’re welcome to bring your four-legged friends, too.

The Trout Inn in Lechlade
St John’s Bridge, Lechlade

Perfect for bar snacks, lunch, dinner, takeaway

Located by St John’s Lock, the first lock on the River Thames, this historic riverside pub has outside seating for the summer months and a cosy bar with a roaring fire for the winter.

Vera’s Kitchen in Lechlade
Burford Street, Lechlade
Perfect for breakfast, lunch, tea, smoothies, snacks

A licensed eatery that serves delicious, freshly prepared juices, smoothies, cakes, meals and much more. Private catering is also available.

Cotswold Boat Hire
4-minutes from Lechlade – 12-minutes from Fairford

Hire a boat for a few hours, half a day or the full day and cruise along the Thames at your own speed. Cotswold Boat Hire operates from Brandy Island at Buscock Lock near Lechlade and hires out everything from a small electric rowboat to a wide beam day cruiser.

Cotswold Canoe Hire
3-minutes from centre of Lechlade – 9-minutes from Fairford

The Thames at Lechlade is an idyllic spot to canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board (SUP) from. Guests can organise trips and hire equipment from Cotswold Canoe Hire based at Park End Wharf, Lechlade.

Cotswold Driving Experiences
11-minutes from Fairford – 19-minutes from Lechlade

Located in the heart of the Cotswold Water Park, Cotswold Driving Experiences provides the chance to experience rally driving and 4×4 off-road driving in the safety of a controlled but exciting environment.

Cotswold Off Road, Bolthole Retreats

Cotswold Water Park & Beach
11-minutes from Fairford – 20-minutes from Lechlade

If walking and cycling is what you love to do, the Cotswold Water Park’s network of paths and cycle routes will delight you. Wind your way around 180 lakes, passing water meadows, towpaths, the Thames & Severn Canal, woodland, picnic areas, picturesque villages, the flagship Cotswold Water Park Nature Reserve, the Cleveland Lakes Nature Reserve, and the lush green meadows alongside the River Thames – to name just a few highlights. If you don’t have room for your own bikes, you can hire them at the Gateway Centre.

If you enjoy open water swimming, head to one of four swimming lakes: Lake 32 Outdoor Centre, Cotswold Country Park & Beach, Cotswold Water Park Hire (Lake 86) or 4 Lakes.

Fly Fishing on the River Coln
Centre of Fairford – 9-minutes from Lechlade

Fairford sits on the River Coln, which feeds into the upper reaches of the Thames, and has a healthy stock of grayling and river trout.

Whelford Pool & Nature Reserve
5-minutes from Fairford – 6-minutes from Lechlade

Whelford Pools sits between Fairford and Lechlade. It was once two gravel pits (as are most of the Cotswold Water Park’s lakes) but is now a freshwater wildlife haven. Visitors can enjoy walking and bird watching. Dogs are permitted but should remain on lead to avoid harming ground-nesting birds.

All About Flowers in Lechlade
Burford Street, Lechlade

A floral design shop with a difference, All About Flowers has been a Chelsea Flower Show Finalist and RHS Hampton Court Flower Show medal winner. You can buy arrangements, baskets, wreaths, or take part in a floral design workshops.

Andrew Butler Butcher in Fairford
Market Place, Fairford

This local butcher sells a wide range of cuts of meat, with their sausages and pies firm favourites.

Cotswold Christmas Shop in Lechlade
High Street, Lechlade

This is the shop where it’s Christmas every day of the year. You can buy everything from typical British collections to festive products from all around the world.

Cutler & Bayliss in Lechlade
Oak Street, Lechlade

A family butchers and greengrocers selling locally reared free-range meat and poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables, plus cheeses, yoghurt, milk, pies, salmon and snacks from the delicatessen.

Fairford Market in Fairford
Market Place, Fairford

The weekly Fairford Market takes places on Market Square, with vendors selling baked goods, cheese, gifts, crafts, fruit and vegetables and more.

Hillier Garden Centre
Fairford Road, 3-minutes from Lechlade

This well-established garden centre is on the edge of Lechlade and sells a wide range of garden plants, with a restaurant on site. There are also partner companies including Cotton Traders, Pavers and Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Jubilee Hall Antiques in Lechlade
Oak Street, Lechlade

An antiques centre showcasing collections from 14 dealers across a showroom of 3,000 sq. feet with British and European collections of furniture, paintings, ceramics, silver and more.

The Cat’s Pyjamas in Lechlade
High Street, Lechlade

If you enjoy looking through antiques and vintage collectables, you’ll love this shop. Dive in and delve through the stacked shelves and find something unique.

The Coln Gallery in Fairford
High Street, Fairford

This stylish but welcoming gallery sells artists materials and unique gifts as well as exhibiting some beautiful artwork from well-known artists to those up-and-coming.

The Health Box in Lechlade
High Street, Lechlade

A health food shop selling organic loose wholefoods, refills, freshly baked goods and remedies. They also offer nutritional advice and therapy rooms.

Tollhouse Gifts & Gallery in Lechlade
High Street, Lechlade

A traditional gift shop selling paintings by local artists, sculptures and unique gifts and cards.

Arlington Row, Bibury
14-minutes from Fairford – 21-minutes from Lechlade

Bibury is a charming Cotswold village, mostly known for Arlington Row which is owned by the National Trust. It is one of England’s most photographed sites. Be sure to arrive early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Bampton village
22-minutes from Fairford – 16-minutes from Lechlade

A large village with an impressive church, also the filming location of Downton Abbey village. It has several traditional pubs, a bistro, coffee shops and an interesting garden centre.

Buscot Lock
13-minutes from Fairford – 5-minutes from Lechlade

Buscot Lock is an idyllic place to head to for a walk and picnic. It is the smallest of the 45 locks along the River Thames and is largely unchanged since the day it was built in 1790. Today, the National Trust manages the weir pool, which was created when the lock was built, and the adjacent land which provides a lovely picnic site where you can watch the boats go by and maybe even spot otters, kingfishers, and kites.

Faringdon Folly and Woodland
19-minutes from Fairford – 11-minutes from Lechlade

The last major folly to be built in England, the 100ft Faringdon Folly sits on top of Folly Hill surrounded by four acres of mixed woodland with walking and sculpture trails to explore. The breath-taking view from the top extends over five counties.

St Mary’s Church, Fairford
Centre of Fairford – 9-minutes from Lechlade

The origin of this impressive church at the heart of Fairford is 1,000 years old, while the church you see today dates back to 1497. The significance of St Mary’s lies in its stained windows, which are the only complete set of late medieval glass in a parish church in the UK, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The church is open daily and has visitor guidebooks and audio guides. A private tour can be booked in advance.

Arlington Row, Bibury

The countryside around Fairford and Lechlade provides stunning walks and tranquil nature reserves. The Thames Path National Trail towpath runs beside the River Thames and the Cotswold Water Park is nearby where there are several circular walks to follow.

A circular walk from Lechlade to Kelmscott following the Thames Path, approx. 6.5 miles: cross Ha’penny Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames; follow the Thames Path downstream to Kelmscott. Visit Kelmscott Manor if open. Return across the fields towards Paradise Farm then head along Mill Lane towards Lechlade Mill. Just past the Mill (hidden by trees), turn right to cross a field and follow the path that brings you to the cricket field and back into Lechlade.

For more information about walking and cycling, take a look at our Walking and Cycling Guides online. 

Meadow Spa at Thyme
8-minutes from Fairford – 4-minutes from Lechlade

The Meadow Spa at Thyme is a sheer haven of restorative calm and tranquillity. This botanical spa is a place of mindfulness and contemplation with treatments using fresh herbs and specialised, natural products. Unwind to the sound of falling water and simply feel at peace.

Purely Divine
Centre of Fairford

A town-centre beauty salon that offers a full range of relaxing and therapeutic massage treatments, reiki and reflexology.

Spa6 – the DeVere Cotswold Spa
13-minutes from Fairford – 21-minutes from Lechlade

Located within the Cotswold Water Park, this luxury spa has a wide range of treatments, a fully equipped gym, pools, sauna, a dry flotation room and ancient Rasul Therapy experience. It’s the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.

The Spa at Barnsley House
14-minutes from Fairford – 19-minutes from Lechlade

For the ultimate in luxury, look no further than Barnsley House where the beautiful spa is hidden in the gardens offering all visitors a truly memorable day of R&R. The glass-walled spa really is the ultimate in luxury retreats, boasting an outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, herbaceous sauna, and indoor-outdoor lounge relaxation areas.

The Vaulted Spa at the Kings Head Hotel, Cirencester
36-minutes from Fairford

This unique subterranean spa is in the vaults of the boutique Kings Head Hotel, just off Market Square. With four treatment rooms, a relaxation room, thermal suite with hot tub, infra-red sauna, steam room and experience shower, this is the ideal spot to unwind. Indulge with one of the spa’s pampering treatments, with everything from therapeutic massages and beautifying facials on offer.

National Trust Coleshill Estate
19-minutes from Fairford – 12-minutes from Lechlade

The small stately home at Coleshill has a wonderful walled garden, extensive parkland, and interesting grounds as well as a stunning collection of paintings, furniture and ceramics by Rembrandt, Murillo, the Pre-Raphaelites and many more. It was also the place of exile for many Basque writers who fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

National Trust Buscot
19-minutes from Fairford – 12-minutes from Lechlade

The farmed estate at Buscot spans 7,000 acres of mixed farmland and woodland criss-crossed by miles of circular walks and family trails for you to discover. Settled on one of the most tranquil and unspoilt stretches of the River Thames, Buscot is a haven for wildlife with the chance to glimpse kingfishers, otters and more.

National Trust Badbury
20-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

Badbury has beautiful woodland for all the family to explore. It’s popular for forest bathing, too. Badbury Hill has great views of the Thames floodplain to the north and the historic market town of Faringdon to the east. Explore the remains of an Iron Age hill fort from about 600BC and the great stands of beech trees and carpets of bluebells.

Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
18-minutes from Fairford – 11-minutes from Lechlade

One of the UK’s largest zoological collections and diverse gardens, the park is home to more than 260 different species of animals, many of which are endangered in the wild. It sits in 160 acres. Daily activities include penguin feeding, and the Madagascar walk through.

Crocodiles of the World
20-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

Dedicated to the conservation of these much-maligned creatures, you’ll be able to see 17 of the 24 species currently found in the world including fresh and saltwater crocodiles, caiman, and alligators. For those who want to get even closer, there are wild keeper experiences for children and grownups alike.

Kelmscott Manor
20-minutes from Fairford – 13-minutes from Lechlade

A beautiful old house that was home to William Morris offers very interesting interiors and a shop full of Arts and Crafts designs. The nearby churchyard also has William Morris’s grave.

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