8 Things To Do In Gloucestershire



Looking for things to do in Gloucestershire? You won’t have to look hard: with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Forest of Dean and the eastern part of the Wye Valley AONB within its borders, the county is a popular destination for outdoor activities, whether land- or water-based.

Add a sprinkling of Roman-era remains, centuries-old cathedrals and some solid English eccentricity in the shape of the cheese-rolling event at Cooper’s Hill (not to mention a couple of wineries), and you’ll be wondering how you can possibly fit it all in during your camping holiday in this green part of England. 

Relaxing is overrated, anyway, right? Read on for eight things to do in Gloucestershire.

Walking along the Cotswold Way (Robert Bye on Unsplash)

In and around Gloucester

Gloucester Cathedral

Medieval cathedral with a royal tomb and Harry Potter links 

The city of Gloucester has been an important player on the British stage ever since it was founded as a Roman fort in AD 48, through Norman times, the reign of Elizabeth I and the Industrial Revolution.

Its main attraction is the cathedral, started in the 11th century but completed only in the late 1400s, and as such displaying a range of architectural styles, from Romanesque to Gothic. Admire the fine stained glass of the Great East Window from the Whispering Gallery, then check out the tomb of King Edward II, with an alabaster effigy protected by an ornate stone canopy. 

Do you get the feeling you’ve been in Gloucester Cathedral before? It’s less a case of déjà vu and more a case of ‘seen on screen’. This is especially true of the Cloister, whose striking fan vaults have made appearances in several Harry Potter movies, as well as historical dramas like Wolf Hall.

Gloucester Cathedral (Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash)

Cooper’s Hill

Cheese-rolling hill part of a nature reserve

A local nature reserve, Cooper’s Hill has walking trails winding amid ancient beech woodlands dotted with wildflowers and rare orchids. 

However, what has put this area on the radar of daredevils around the world, from Japan to Canada, is the long-standing cheese-rolling competition that takes place on the last Monday in May. 

The impossibly steep slope looking towards the village of Brockworth is the setting for this event, which sees intrepid men and women hurtle, tumble and bounce down the hill in pursuit of a large wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. 

While you wait for next year’s event, check out a few videos online. Have you got what it takes to join the cheese chasers? Or do you like your knees ungrazed and your limbs intact? 

Look for accommodation in the Gloucester area.

Around the Cotswolds

Cotswolds AONB

Hiking trails, market towns and a family-friendly museum 

A green hilly landscape divided into a patchwork quilt by hundreds of miles of stone walls, the Cotswolds is fully deserving of its AONB status. 

Work up an appetite on the 3,000 miles of trails that criss-cross the region, including the long-distance Cotswold Way, before heading to lively market towns where you can get your hands on local delicacies and cheeses without having to throw yourself down a hill. 

Check out the riverside stone cottages in the village of Bibury, or stroll through the peaceful Arts and Crafts gardens at Hidcote. If it’s a family day you’re after, the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection at Bourton-on-the-Water has classic Jaguars and Fords, plus vintage toys like pedal cars, rocking horses and Scalextric sets.

Are you in need of hiking inspiration? Read about walking in Gloucestershire here.

Bibury, a pretty stone village in the Cotswolds (Magda V on Unsplash)

Chedworth Roman Villa

Roman villa with well-preserved mosaics

Almost 2,000 years before celebrities like the Beckhams settled down in the Cotswolds, the area was already a firm favourite with Roman aristocrats, as proved by the remains of this 2nd-century villa managed by the National Trust.

Suspended walkways overlook the bathhouse and dining room, the latter with well-preserved floor mosaics representing the four seasons, while a museum displays jewellery, coins and other artefacts unearthed at the site. 

Other ancient ruins in Gloucestershire include Great Witcombe Roman Villa, also with a bathhouse (those Romans clearly liked their Cotswolds views with a side order of steam), and the vast earthwork remains of the 2nd-century Cirencester Amphitheatre. Both are run by English Heritage and are free to visit.

Book a campsite in the Cotswolds.

Forest of Dean

For a family day packed with outdoor activities

A former royal hunting ground, the Forest of Dean is now a hub of outdoor activities suitable for the entire family. 

The trails at Cannop Cycle Centre range from a surfaced, kid-friendly path to extreme tracks with rocky stretches and big drops requiring jumping ability. While you’re at Cannop, check out the nearby Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. One of the highlights is a colourful stained-glass window suspended among the trees.

Mallards Pike has Gruffalo-based orienteering for younger kids and a challenging Go Ape Treetop Challenge course with zipwires and cargo nets, as well as picnic areas and lakeside walks. 

If you’re interested in water activities, whether kayaking or paddleboarding, head to the River Wye, which flows gently in the western reaches of the county, where the Forest of Dean blends into the Wye Valley AONB. 

Then, for something quite unusual, take in the spectacle of the Severn Bore tidal wave – and the very experienced surfers riding it – at Minsterworth. Check dates and times online.

Search for campsite accommodation in the Forest of Dean.

In and around Cheltenham


Regency-era architecture and a heritage railway

The elegant spa town of Cheltenham is known for its Regency-era architecture, which includes gems like the Pittville Pump Room. This colonnaded building sits in Pittville Park, where you can recharge your batteries with a lakeside picnic while the kids tire themselves out in the well-equipped play area.

After that, it’s on to Cheltenham Racecourse. If it’s a race day – and you feel Lady Luck is on your side – stop in for a trackside flutter. 

Otherwise, climb aboard a vintage carriage on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway for a 28-mile round trip through the Cotswolds, past small stations with 1950s cafés and locomotive yards, and over the Stanway Viaduct.

Cheltenham’s Pittville Park, with the Pittville Pump Room in the background (Richard Bell on Unsplash)

Sudeley Castle

Multiple gardens, a royal tomb and a children’s playground

Dating from the mid-1400s, Sudeley Castle is the final resting place of Catherine Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII. Her ornate tomb is in St. Mary’s Church, surrounded by a garden filled with white flowers. 

There are nine other gardens on the grounds, each with a distinctive focus, whether it be roses, intricate box-hedge designs, medicinal plants or romantic ruins from the Civil War era (1642–51). 

As a reward for the kids being patient while you explore the castle’s elegant interiors and exhibitions, let them loose in the fort-inspired adventure playground, where they can climb, slide and ambush each other to their heart’s content.

Book your accommodation near Cheltenham. If fortresses fire up your (and your kids’) imagination, click here for more Gloucestershire castles to visit during your holiday.

Three Choirs Vineyard

Vineyards, wine tastings and cellar-door purchases

Ah, the sight of rolling hills covered with vines… Is it Champagne? Is it Bordeaux? No, it’s Newent, where the Three Choirs Vineyard has 75 acres of land planted with grapes such as Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc.

Learn about the growing and winemaking processes on a guided tour of the vineyard and the state-of-the-art winery, then sample the wares before buying your favourites at the cellar-door shop. There’s also a cosy brasserie where you can pair the wines with tapas-style bites. 

Another winery, Woodchester Valley, runs dog-friendly vineyard tours with tastings, plus weekly Fizz and Chips evenings, at its winemaking facility near Stroud. 

If this talk of tapas and chips is making your mouth water, check out this list of the best restaurants in Gloucestershire.

Staying in Newent? Book your accommodation here.

If you fancy extending your holiday beyond the borders of Gloucestershire, our Central England Camping Guide has all the information you need to find the right accommodation for you and your family.