"A very pretty place......." Top 5 Page for this destination Bourton on the Water by leics

Bourton on the Water Travel Guide: 69 reviews and 216 photos

Bourton-on-the-Water is indeed a very pretty Cotswolds village, and unsurprisingly popular not only with UK visitors but also with visitors from abroad......coach tours included.

They call it 'The Venice of the Cotswolds', indeed!

It was not quite so popular when I was a very small girl in the 1950s. I vaguely remember visiting my grandmother's cousins, who lived there (not a frequent visit, because actually getting there by car took several hours in those days).

It was not then a place which catered for thousands of visitors, nor was it a place in which buying a house required a very substantial income. It was just a small working Cotswolds village, rather damp (the river Windrush runs through it), full of old cottages and narrow winding streets. But even then there were attractions....the beautifully-crafted model village, created from the local honey-coloured limestone and opened in 1937, was a real 'draw' for visitors and in 1957 'Birdland' opened, full of birds from all countries......

...and so, gradually, Bourton's old houses, its winding streets and, above all, its lovely riverside setting became a 'must-visit' place. Little independent craft shops opened, and tea-rooms, and exclusive restaurants.....and so it has continued to develop.

But unlike many such places, Bourton still has a 'normal' everyday life as a bustling large village. People do live there, and shop there in ordinary shops.......it even has a small industrial estate nearby. So it is not a place preserved in aspic (like Laycock, for example). It is a real working community.

The river Windrush here is beautifully clear, and really quite shallow most of the year.....ideal for children to splash about in! And there are, of course, lots of ducks to feed. Five footbridges cross it in the village centre, the oldest dating from 1664, and you can still see (although not use) the proper ford.

And alongside the river are many lovely houses and buildings, dating mostly from the 1700s and the 1800s although some (like 'The Dial House', now a hotel) are earlier. Many are now shops of one sort or another (gifts, antiques, sheepskin, designer clothes.....) but even so you can still imagine a little of what life was like when Bourton was a typical (and rather wealthy) Cotswolds agricultural village.

So...what to do in Bourton?

Well, you must of course wander along the riverside and enjoy the beautifully clear water. Especially in autumn, when the glowing foliage of the many trees adds to the scene.

And you must just wander the streets enjoying the architecture. The local stone really is 'honey-coloured' when the sun shines on it.

The model village is worth seeing as a perfect example of superb craftsmanship. I've not been to Birdland since I was a very little girl, but if birds appeal then no doubt it is worth a visit. Or there's a rather good little Motor Museum.....and the equally good maze and rebus, designed by Kit Williams.

For me, this time, it was just interesting to look at the architecture and explore the ancient church of St Lawrence. But in the past I've been on some excellent walks from Bourton....the walk to 'The Slaughters' (Upper and Lower, tow tiny but very beautiful hamlets nearby) is especially lovely.

Tourist-oriented it may be, to some extent, but out of season Bourton is still a beautiful little village and an ideal base if you are exploring the Cotswolds on foot or by car.

So, as far as I'm concerned, it's well worth a visit.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Very pretty with a lot of hidden history
  • Cons:Can be packed with visitors
  • In a nutshell:Lovely village but often much, much too busy
  • Last visit to Bourton on the Water: Oct 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
  • Add to Trip Planner (?)
  • Report Abuse

Reviews (4)

Comments (5)

  • King_Golo's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2014 at 2:21 AM

    Thanks for sharing your tips - but I can only half agree to what you wrote. Bourton may be a rather calm village off-season, but in high season it's incredibly full and not really enjoyable anymore. Other places such as Lower Slaughter or Upper Slaughter see much fewer visitors and are similarly picturesque. Still, the place is a good start for some Cotswolds exploring.

    • King_Golo's Profile Photo
      Nov 15, 2014 at 2:33 AM

      Oh, sorry, I must have missed this bit. There were some "normal" people, but I had the impression that 99.9% were tourists. Lower Slaughter does get busy, but whenever I was in Upper Slaughter it was calm and nearly tourist-free.

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Nov 15, 2014 at 2:40 AM

      Bourton has around 3500 inhabitants though, as in many such places, locals aren't anywhere near as visible as visiting throngs. :-)

  • swissfondue's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2013 at 3:23 AM

    Hi, just found your Bourton page and pics. Last August I spent a lovely day there. I was based near Heathrow so took an early bus from there to Cheltenham and there another bus to Bourton. It was a Saturday so inevitably was very busy but it was a lovely summers day and the village was filled with families. I walked to the Slaughters and even had some lunch in the tearoom you reviewed. Fancy that. Your page brought back some nice memories. Cheers Heidi.

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Mar 10, 2013 at 3:32 AM

      Crikey...coincidence, eh? :-) Bourton is indeed lovely but its loveliness has meant it's been over-full of visitors for decades. It was the same when I was a very small girl but now far more people have cars, so it's far worse.

  • Myfanwe's Profile Photo
    Oct 8, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Lovely page on Bourton, we hope to pay a visit early next year for my Birthday. Best wishes, Vicki

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Oct 8, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      Thank you! Visited loads of times when I was a kid (had rellies there) but thought I'd do a proper 'tourist' visit. There's some v good walking nearby too: try the walk to the Slaughters and back. :-)

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Aug 7, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    I enjoyed reading about Bourton, it brought back memories. When I was there I stayed the night and so was able to see the village after the tour buses had gone.

  • bugulma's Profile Photo
    Nov 8, 2010 at 3:21 AM

    houses' roofes are very interesting. I wonder whether it is comfortable to be in the upper floor while it is raining...


“'Take clothes you can layer....' :-)”

Online Now


Top 1,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 0 0 4 5
Forum Rank:
0 0 0 0 1

Badges & Stats in Bourton on the Water

  • 4 Reviews
  • 17 Photos
  • 4 Forum posts
  • 1,033PageViews

Have you been to Bourton on the Water?

  Share Your Travels  

Latest Activity in Bourton on the Water

Travel Interests

See All Travel Interests (8)