Smith & KidsStylish family travel: child-friendly hotels, family holiday tips and insider guides

Family-friendly Cotswolds: an insider’s guide

Posted by Richard MacKichan on March 4th, 2016

Cotswold Lakes

The Cotswolds: that most quintessentially English patch of rolling hills, groomed gardens, trickling streams and chocolate-box villages. If there’s a more perfect family getaway in this green and pleasant land, we’ve yet to find it. But don’t just take our word for it…

Our friends at the Lakes by Yoo loved it so much, they created their own private-home estate, in collaboration with leading architects and designers, including Kelly Hoppen, Jade Jagger and Philippe Starck – and now they’ve given us their tips for all-ages adventures in the area.



The Cotswold Wildlife Park is the place to get up close and personal with rhinos, lions, camels, giraffes, penguins, actual wolverines and more. Little ones will also love the mini-train tour, the brass-rubbing centre and the adventure playground. Feed some splashing brown and rainbow trout at the Bibury Trout Farm, where you can also try your hand at catching a few, too. Take to horseback at the Talland School of Equitation near Cirencester, or head on foot to Cecily Hill at the top of Bathurst Park for glorious views over the Roman town. If you’re staying with us in the more pleasant months, you can take a dip in any of the lakes, take out a row-boat or a canoe, or get an adrenalin rush on the woodland zip wire. We even run a summer camp for kids where they can do everything from gorge walking to raft building. Or just pack some sausages and take a walk along the River Coln to the Riverside Shack where you can get grilling in the fire pit.



Pubs are a pillar of Cotswold life, and there are plenty that are close to perfect. The Swan at Southrop has stayed true to its country-inn roots: serving produce reared on site or grown in the kitchen garden, dishing up hearty portions and pouring top-drawer ales. Seek out the New Inn in picturesque Coln St Aldwyn for a hearty Sunday roast en famille. Cowley Manor, the Five Alls at Filkins, the Village Pub in Barnsley all have crowd-pulling, child-pleasing menus, too. Our local village pub, the Keepers Arms in Quenington, won Channel 4’s Four in a Bed last year and has a welcoming atmosphere and great food. For a healthy alternative to pub fare, Cirencester’s Organic Farm Shop has an impressive range of vegetarian dishes. Families fancying some al fresco snacking should head to Highgrove Gardens for picnic spots fit for a prince.



The spas at Calcot Manor (above) and Barnsley House are perfect for parental pampering. Or try our own Orchard Spa for a serene his ‘n’ hers massage – perhaps rounded off with a sundowner on your lakefront deck (we’ll even send you your own mixologist). Get a dose of culture at Fairford Church – its stained-glass windows are world famous, and the audio guide is narrated by Joanna Lumley – or at Cirencester’s Brewery Arts which has regular exhibitions and live glass-blowing to marvel over. Nearby Japanese restaurant, Soushi, is worth a stop for some divine daily specials. Pull over opposite Bibury’s Arlington Row of ancient weaver’s cottages to snap the perfect English-countryside Instagram. If you’re a fan of William Morris, don’t miss his former home, Kelmscott Manor – now home to a wealth of Pre-Raphaelite pictures. And when you need to placate the kids, Crocodiles toy shop and the charming Octavia’s Bookshop, both in Cirencester, will elicit plenty of grins.


A huge thank you to head concierge Sam, estate manager Rebecca and sales and marketing director Giles for their personal recommendations. The Lakes by Yoo was our Best For Families partner at last year’s Smith Hotel Awards. Their built-to-order contemporary country homes offer the opportunity to create your own unique second-home space, or rent through their dedicated holiday service. With a comprehensive property-management and concierge service in place to take care of all the details, as well as a spa, kids’ club and activities that make the most of the beautiful landscape, owners can relax and enjoy every moment of their waterfront retreat.


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