Summer is lovely in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, but families have a lot more than good looks to get excited about. Here’s why we think you should be thinking countryside adventures with kids this August.
A staycation is still proving one of the most popular choices for getaways this summer. In fact, 2023 stats from the Office of National Statistics and Visit Britain show that, 73% of British adults are more likely to opt to holiday at home rather than venture abroad.
Enter Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, a thriving region within easy reach of many major cities, which has so much on offer for families, every day will be an adventure! So forget the coast and crowded beaches, and discover some of the top things to do in the gorgeous English countryside this summer, and quite a few of them won’t cost you a penny.
Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds fills summer with fun and games
What are holidays for if not fun, and there’s heaps of that this summer in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds.
Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford is a must-see, with giraffe, rhinos, lemurs, lions and much more. If you’re brave enough, there’s also the UK’s only crocodile zoo at Brize Norton which promises plenty of snappy memories!
When the weather plays ball, the Chipping Norton lido is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. Think about visiting Rectory Farm before you go, to pick your own fresh fruit for a pool-side picnic. Alternatively, there’s more wet and wild thrills to be had at Hardwick Parks Watersports Centre near Witney. Set between two lakes, you’ll find everything here from paddleboarding to kayaking and it’s the place to try ringos: a great introduction to water sports for kids.
Wet weather doesn’t stop play in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds
On days when the sun doesn’t come out to play, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you just as busy.
Blow off some steam at the Bounce Park inflatable theme park in Didcot. Or slip and slide at one of the many play barns around the area, such as Snakes and Ladders in Abingdon or Sprouts Play Barn in Frilford.
Kids who love arts and crafts will be spoiled for choice too, with opportunities to bake, make, paint and create all over Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. Check out Mrs Bun the Baker for cooking and baking classes, or Amy Surman for jewellery making workshops. The Pottery Place and Unique Creations are just two of the paint-your-own pottery studios in the area. And Lisa Jayne Art Studio in Middle Aston is the place for summer long creative workshops, and not just for kids.
Summer is a great time to learn something new
Summer holidays might be a break from school, but that doesn’t mean kids stop should stop learning. Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds is packed with opportunities to dive into fun educational experiences. Pendon Museum in Abingdon, where the world of the 1920s and ‘30s has been beautifully recreated in miniature, makes a great start. If kids love the little cars and buses, they’ll love the full sized ones at the Oxford Bus Museum and the Aston Martin Heritage Trust.
For a more comprehensive look at Oxfordshire in days gone by, the historic town of Woodstock is home to the Oxfordshire museum, where families can get a glimpse into the area’s past: it all starts with dinosaurs, moves on through to the Anglo-Saxons and ends up Victorian. Or, for an engaging look at the War years, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum is just a short walk away, and lets kids experience life in the trenches first hand.
Come fossil hunting, hiking, biking and exploring, for free
Not all holiday adventures need to be expensive, and building in some free activities can help you stretch your budget even further. Thanks to the wealth of amenities and beautiful countryside in the Oxfordshire region, there’s plenty to do with kids of all ages that won’t break the bank.
Free things to do all over Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds
- Walking is the greatest habit to pick up early, and its endless natural beauty and unspoiled places to wander makes Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds an ideal place to start. There’s everything from sedate strolls to challenging hikes, as well as plenty of walks even younger children will be up for – especially if you work a treasure hunt or bug spotting into them.
- Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds also has lots of excellent play parks, many of which come with fun and free extras. Head to Aston and Cote Play Area for ziplines; Shipton-under-Wychwood Recreation Ground comes with an impressive adventure course; and Ladygrove Park in Didcot features a skate park and a colourful playpark for toddlers.
- Try the Farigndon Hill Cycle Park, a free-to-use purpose-built track where kids can get used to the rules of the road. And once kids they’ve mastered basic skills, there are cycle paths all over the area to safely put them to the test.
- Thrill-seeking young riders with a bit more experience, will love the Barrow Hills BMX track in Abingdon, as well as the Hailey BMX Pump Track in Witney.
- If you think the Jurassic Coast is the only place to fossil hunt in the UK, you’re in for a treat. Oxfordshire was underwater during the age of the dinosaurs, and today you’ll find fossil rich cliffs at Dry Sandford Pit nature reserve near Abingdon, as well as other places around the region.
- Oxfordshire is home to many ancient buildings and historical ruins. The kids will have a blast running about around Abingdon’s Abbey Buildings or exploring the long barrow at Wayland’s Smithy, just a stone’s throw from Uffington White Horse.
How to get here and where to stay
Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds is a fabulous destination year round, but summer is a particularly good time to visit with kids. You’ll find plenty going on from truck festivals and music events to beer festivals and foodie events, so check out what’s on and time your visit to take in some of the action.
If you want to spin out the holiday feeling, you also have plenty of accommodation choices, to suit every budget. Some of the UK’s most luxurious family hotels are at home in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, alongside charming B&Bs and good value self-catering options.
Of course, there are plenty of campsites too. Although if kids love a few nights under canvas, but you’re not so keen on the construction and car-load of equipment side of things, try glamping instead: this is the part of the world to discover the quaintness of shepherd’s huts, repurposed as cosy family holiday homes.
Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds couldn’t be easier to reach. It’s around two hours by car from London, and an hour and a half from Birmingham and less than three hours from Manchester. Will you be making the most of the fun on your doorstep this summer?