With honeyed cottages and thatched roofs decorating the rolling landscape, Christmas in the Cotswolds paints a rather festive picture. From Christmas markets that turn cobbled streets into bustling celebrations of arts, crafts, and mulled wine to magical light displays that cast palaces and gardens in a seasonal glow, the Cotswolds turns into a true winter wonderland in the lead-up to Christmas.
Spend your days browsing stalls piled high with goodies, leading the little ones through glittering trails of lanterns and wonder, and dining on the very best seasonal fare. Oh yes, from frosted walks ending in a warming country pub to Michelin starred celebrations, the Cotswolds has you well covered when it comes to fabulously festive eateries.
Excited to experience Christmas in the Cotswolds? Here’s our complete guide to this most magical of seasons so you can craft your festive to-do list and check it twice!
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The cinnamon-sweet scent of mulled wine drifting through the streets, twinkling Christmas lights overhead, stalls laden with all you need for a holly, jolly Christmas; Christmas markets in the Cotswolds are the perfect place to spark your Christmas spirit and indulge in a spot of seasonal shopping.
Bath Christmas Market
Thursday the 23rd of November to Sunday the 10th of December
Turning the beautiful city centre of Bath into a kaleidoscope of colour and frivolity, Bath Christmas Market is one of the biggest in the Cotswolds, drawing eager shoppers from all around. Stalls sit beneath the impressive cathedral and promise an endless array of gifts to browse, while a series of chalets provide a cosy spot to pause and pore over your haul. For those wanting to sprinkle in a bit of adventure, Bath on Ice is back for another year of festive fun, with the open-air ice skating rink opening between the 17th of November and the 3rd of January.
Chipping Campden Christmas Market
Saturday the 2nd and Sunday the 3rd of December
With a name that derives from the old English word for market, and a beloved monthly market that showcases local crafts and foodie delights throughout the year, it will be of little surprise that the picturesque town of Chipping Campden knows how to put on a rather special festive weekend. Not only do the cobbled streets fill up with seasonal stalls selling all the usual Christmas favourites, but the giant Christmas tree enjoys its big switch-on ceremony on the Saturday. From Father Christmas to carollers, this beautiful market town should be high on your to-do list this Christmas.
Moreton-in-Marsh Christmas Market
Saturday the 25th of November
Another of the Cotswolds’ Christmas markets to tie in with a Christmas lights switch-on, Moreton-in-Marsh becomes a true winter wonderland on Saturday the 25th of November. Over 80 stalls pop up for the day, offering a dazzling array of gifts, decorations, and foodie favourites, from mince pies to steaming hot chocolates. Swapping his red sleigh for a local fire engine, Father Christmas makes a wonderfully dramatic entrance to the market before settling down in his grotto to meet everyone in person.
Blenheim Palace Christmas Market
Friday the 17th of November to Sunday the 17th of December
From the magical Christmas light trail to a walkable retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Blenheim Palace puts on a royal array of Christmas events every year. Among the biggest in the palace’s line-up is the famous Christmas market, which turns the Great Court into a yuletide festival for an entire month. Stalls bedecked with decorations and gifts aplenty assure every Christmas shopping list can be ticked off, while a selection of foodie stalls promise a seasonal snack for all.
Christmas in the Cotswolds is full of magical events to light up little faces, from wonderfully traditional pantos and festive train rides to Christmas crafts!
Whether you fancy trying your hand at creating your own wrapping paper or a beautifully eco-friendly wreath, New Brewery Arts in Cirencester has a workshop for every occasion, especially at Christmas. They also host a variety of sessions for children, including reindeer, polar bear, and penguin sculptures, ideal for getting the little ones excited for Christmas. At the Lechlade Craft Barn, a series of seasonal workshops offer even more opportunities to flex your creative fingers, from Christmas tree decorations and wicker reindeer to Christmas calligraphy – perfect for a handmade gift or unique addition to your home.
Turning any evening in the lead-up to Christmas into a raucous affair, you just can’t beat a panto for some festive cheer. This year, the Cotswolds is hosting a larger-than-life mix of performances, including Mother Goose in Cheltenham, sea shanty favourite Treasure Island in Cirencester, and Cinderella in Chipping Norton. You can also enjoy seasonal favourite A Christmas Carol at Bacon Theatre in Cheltenham, a timeless tale that spirits you away to Victorian London for an evening of yuletide hope. Bacon Theatre really is getting into the Christmas spirit with a magical line-up of festive shows, including phenomenal live renditions of all your favourite Christmas film soundtracks.
From singing penguins to bacon baps and mulled wine, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway puts on quite the show at Christmas with their annual Santa Express extravaganza. Boarding from Cheltenham, you’ll be whisked off through the Cotswold countryside to the North Pole, where a wonderland of Christmas trees and twinkling lights await – not to mention Santa himself! Help yourselves to the railway’s famous mince pies, or feast on a burger when you reach the North Pole (known locally as Winchcombe Station).
Combining a jaw-dropping setting with soul-stirring music, Gloucester Cathedral is putting on a series of Christmas experience evenings throughout December. The beautiful cathedral is bedecked with festive finery, while additional tours give you a behind-the-scenes look at the cathedral’s historic library or tower - plus the Monk’s Kitchen will be providing mince pies and mulled wine for a truly festive addition to your visit.
When it comes to fabulously festive swims, the Cotswolds might not be your first thought, but this land-locked beauty has a few tricks up its sleeve! The infamous Bluetits are holding their annual Bluetit Winter Dipper in Cirencester at Lake 32 on Friday the 25th of November, where everyone is encouraged to take to the refreshing waters for an adrenaline-boosting swim. You’ll find community spirit by the bucket-load here, making it a wonderful event to boost festive cheer.
On Saturday the 2nd of December, South Cerney Outdoor Lake is hosting the brrr-illiant Polar Plunge. Whether you're opting for wetsuits or good old swimming costumes, it’s a ticketed event with all fundraising proceeds going to the Royal United Hospitals Bath. What better reason to enter the water on a fresh, December day!
With the area’s beautiful gardens, historic castles (and palaces), and endlessly enchanting villages and towns donning ever more spectacular displays of Christmas lights, the Cotswolds wraps itself in a luminous blanket throughout the festive season.
Friday the 1st of December
Famously one the most Christmassy villages in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is synonymous with the festive season thanks to the giant Christmas tree that sprouts from the very river itself. The merry and bright switch-on event takes place on the first Friday of December this year at around 4.30pm, with the village’s lovely restaurants and shops joining in the festivities too as fairy lights drape the village in glittering lights.
Spectacle of Light, Sudeley Castle
Thursday the 24th of November to Saturday the 30th of December
Coming back bigger and brighter for its eighth year, Sudeley Castle’s Spectacle of Light promises a spectacular mix of lasers, lights, and all things jaw-dropping as the grounds enjoy a yuletide makeover throughout December. This year, the exhibition welcomes a new cast of characters to the display, as all your favourite members of the Wizard of Oz join in the celebrations. Winter warmers are available throughout the evenings, from mulled wine and hot chocolate to fresh doughnuts, and the gift shop is on-hand for any last-minute Christmas shopping.
Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum
Various dates between Friday the 24th of November and Saturday the 23rd of December
Fir trees might be your go-to when it comes to Christmas, but Westonbirt Arboretum shows us that every tree can be turned into a festival of lights with its annual Enchanted Christmas display. Glittering trails lead you through the incredible assortment of trees, with a series of installations and mesmerising sounds turning the already beautiful horticultural collection into a winter wonderland.
Enchanted Garden by Night, Painswick Rococo Garden
Various dates between Thursday the 7th of December and Saturday the 6th of January
Enjoying its first foray into the magical world of illuminated displays, the Painswick Rococo Garden will be turning up the lights on selected dates throughout the holiday season to show off their charming wicker animals and mythical creatures under the light of the stars, from dancing fairies to friendly dragons. Not only are these evenings a great choice for families due to their relaxed nature, but dogs are welcome too! Hot chocolates and mulled wine are on hand throughout the evenings to warm chilly fingers, while the shop offers an array of local gifts.
Where would we be without a hearty selection of tasty treats throughout the festive period. From toothsome Sunday roasts that get the taste buds tingling for the big day to festive feasts that add a seasonal twist to your meal, the Cotswolds beckons for a fabulously foodie stay.
Cooking at home from home
With rolling farmland and a whole host of welcoming farm shops at your fingertips, cooking up a culinary Christmas storm is wonderfully easy in the Cotswolds – you’ll even find a selection of vineyards ready to fill your glasses with homegrown wines! Filling the table with holiday favourites, Huffkins’ Christmas family hamper is a homemade celebration of all things festive, from fresh Stollen slices to luxury cherry and almond fruit cake. Firm favourite Daylesford Organic is a one-stop-shop for all things Christmas, whether you’re looking for stocking fillers, fresh mince pies, or a whole turkey with organic cranberry sauce.
Eating out for Christmas
With a button-popping array of cosy country pubs and beautiful restaurants ready to fill the corners with delicious dishes, you’ll be toasting ‘seasons feastings’ in no time when staying in the Cotswolds. For a truly traditional experience, The Slaughters Country Inn residing in one of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages waits to ply you with all manner of festive foods, from Christmas dinner in a bap to an indulgent festive afternoon tea complete with cream teas, seasonal preserves, and an aromatic cup of mulled wine.
For lunch on the big day, head to The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold for a rustic and oh-so-characterful celebration. Boasting a fabulous selection of corners to choose from, whether you want a flickering fire in the cosy snug or the beautifully rustic dining room (with two fires for good festive measure). The menu promises a selection of yuletide favourites, including spiced plum and chicken liver pâté, roast turkey with all the trimmings, and rich Christmas pudding with red currants and crème anglaise.
There are many wonderful things to do and places to visit in the Cotswolds at Christmas, but one of our favourites has to be pulling on our cosiest pair of walking boots and hitting the well-worn paths that wind their way through the glorious countryside. With a giddy mix of circular walks, there-and-back-again treks, and woodland wanders, there are endless opportunities to explore this incredible Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on foot. For a walk with an impressive viewpoint, turn your feet towards Broadway Tower, which promises a jolly 4-mile wander that boasts spectacular scenes from the top of the historic tower (you can see up to 13 counties on a clear day).
Stretching 102 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath, the Cotswold Way is one of the area’s most beloved walks and covers some stunning scenes, from Neolithic burial barrows to dancing rivers and undulating hills. Of course, you don’t need to try and fit the entire walk into one visit. One of the many joys of this beloved walk is that it enjoys plenty of waymarkers, giving you an easy-to-follow route wherever you decide to pick up the trail. Our advice, choose a beautiful stretch near your cottage, pack up your bag with mince pies and a flask of mulled wine, and enjoy a trundle through the ancient countryside the Cotswolds is famed for – it’s the best way to soak up the frost-kissed scenes at Christmas.