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christmas in the cotswolds

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Christmas in the Cotswolds: Ultimate Guide


The most wonderful time of the year is coming. However you choose to spend Christmas, getting into the festive spirit for the Christmas season is just magical. From festive shopping to sipping mulled wine in cosy pubs, there is simply nothing better.

With plenty of Christmas events and fun for all the family, you’ve got to see the magical winter wonderland that is Christmas in the Cotswolds.

christmas in the cotswolds christmas markets festive season

Why visit the Cotswolds at Christmas?

There are pretty villages filled with twinkling lights, ice skating, cosy fires, the smell of mince pies and maybe even a little bit of snow, Christmas is the perfect time to visit the Cotswolds.

Whether you’re planning a Christmas break in the Cotswolds this year or perhaps you live locally and want to get into the festive spirit, here are 16 great things to do at Christmas in the Cotswolds in 2022. From the Santa express and carol singers to Christmas markets where you can enjoy the warm, festive atmosphere and pick up the most unique gifts from independent shops.

Christmas in the Cotswolds: The best things to do this festive season

1. Follow a sparkling Christmas light trail

Get yourself a hot chocolate or mulled wine and explore one of the many Christmas events offering a magical illuminated light trail this Christmas. There will be colourful light displays to music, these trails through the Cotswolds’ gardens are more popular than ever. So much so, there are six local trails for you to choose from this year.

Wander through illuminated trees while you help Santa and his elves decorate Westonbirt Arboretum for their Enchanted Christmas which starts on 25 November and runs until 21 December 2022. Alternatively, you could enjoy the stunning views of Blenheim Palace for the Illuminated Light Trail from 18 November 2022 to 2 January 2023. Or there is the Spectacle of Light at Sudeley Castle from 25 November to 30 December 2022.

At Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park you’ll find the Enchanted Light Trail. Now, this is an excellent event for all the family to enjoy and is running from 25 November right through to 31 December 2022. The ever-popular winter lantern festival is back for Christmas at Longleat, as well as their Enchanted Christmas Tree Show to be enjoyed from 5 November 2022 to 8 January 2023. Last but most definitely not least is the Enchanted Garden of Light, which is returning to Bath’s American Museum and Gardens for all of December.

2. Join in with some Christmas carols

Enjoy the voices of local choirs singing all the greatest Christmas carols, and maybe join in yourself to really get in the festive spirit. You can either enjoy it outside or in the picturesque setting of Cotswolds’ churches. St Peter’s Church holds a carol concert each year and you can also find a carol service performed around a Christmas tree in Northleach. Gloucester Cathedral is also holding its “Carols on the hour” concert on 17 December 2022.

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3. Wander around the Christmas markets

christmas markets cotswolds christmas in the cotswolds

Christmas markets have become something of a staple during the festive period. They’re one of those Christmas events where you can pick up little gifts to finish off your Christmas shopping or sit and enjoy the Christmas music and colourful lights with a drink.

Depending on which Christmas market you go to, you could end up making Christmas crafts, ice skating, paying a visit to Father Christmas or simply cosying up with something warm and enjoying the street entertainers. In 2022, there are a whole bunch of Christmas markets to choose from around the Cotswolds.

After a two-year hiatus, Bath Christmas market is back and better than ever. From 24 November–11 December 2022 you can mooch around over 150 craft stalls and indulge in all the festive food and drink around the Abbey.

Cheltenham Christmas market held on the Promenade is also back for another year from 8 to 24 December 2022, with plenty of food and craft markets in Cirencester and Stroud.

You’ll also find plenty of one-day festive markets around the Cotswolds, including:

  • Moreton-in-Marsh on 26 November
  • Tetbury 2 December
  • Chipping Campden 3 December
  • Winchcombe 6 December
  • Nailsworth 10 December

4. Go for a ride on a steam train

Get yourselves to Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway and go back in time to the golden age of rail travel. The route runs from Cheltenham to Broadway through the Cotswold countryside. Complete with vintage carriages pulled along by an original steam locomotive, the sounds and smells on board will transport you back to a day when train travel was much more glamorous.

This year they have a couple of Christmas events planned. The Santa Express family trip leaves Cheltenham Race course Station on selected dates between 26 November and 23 December 2022. It’ll take you to visit Santa and his helpful elves at the North Pole winter wonderland (Winchcombe).

There is also a Mince Pie Special steam train day trip between 27 December 2022–2 January 2023 for those of you that want to some of your festive season on a steam train.

5. Get out for a wintery walk

If there is one thing we all enjoy at Christmas, it has to be the food. Whether you’ve eaten too many pigs in blankets at lunch or snacked on more samples at the Christmas market than you should’ve done, a magical walk in the Cotswold countryside will always put it right.

Leckhampton Hill just south of Cheltenham has the most beautiful views from the top and includes a loop around its rare limestone grassland. Or take a long winter walk by following the 5.4-mile circular route from Bourton-on-the-Water along the Rivers Windrush and Eye to Upper and Lower Slaughter.

Or, why not follow the start of the Cotswold Way? From Chipping Campden, the 4.1-mile circular walk to the viewpoint at Dover’s Hill, where you can see as far as the Black Mountains in Wales on a clear day.

6. Take to the hills for some sledging

If you’re lucky enough to see some snow this Christmas in the Cotswolds, get yourself wrapped up warm, grab your sledge or baking tray if you need to improvise and enjoy a downhill ride.

Some of the best places for sledging in the Cotswolds include:

  • Cleeve
  • Crickley
  • Leckhampton Hills near Cheltenham
  • Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons
  • Broadway Tower
  • Cirencester Amphitheatre.

7. See the beautiful Christmas trees

Christmas trees are taken very seriously by those in Cotswolds towns and villages. However, the one you’ll find at Bourton on the water is a little… different. Their tree is actually in the middle of the River Windrush, the lights reflecting off of the water create the most beautiful setting for the Christmas period.

In Lacock, you can see Christmas trees decorated by local community groups, charities and schools on display in the cloister between 26 November and 31 December. Nothing is done by halves in the Cotswolds, especially at Christmas. You’ll even find Christmas tree festivals, at:

  • St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold from 8 to 11 December 2022
  • Cirencester Parish Church from 23 November to 11 December 2022
  • St Saviours in Tetbury from 1 December 2022 to 2 January 2023

8. Gift yourself a night or two away

So many of us spend Christmas worrying about other people. Why not enjoy it yourself and escape for a night, maybe two, and stay in one of the Cotswolds’ many gorgeous hotels. They’ll all be decorated for the festive season with trees and roaring log fires, it almost seems a crime not to.

If you’re wanting to avoid the big event of Christmas day, you can find some very luxurious Christmas packages with all the trimmings. Or if you’re on the hunt for a bargain, keep an eye out in the new year.

Go all out and treat yourself and your loved ones to a festive afternoon tea, carol singing and a Boxing Day black-tie dinner and casino night at the Lords of the Manor. Relax and enjoy breakfast in bed and a spa day at Barnsley House, or get all dressed up and head out to The Fish Hotel and celebrate New Year’s Eve in style.

9. Visit Berkeley Castle for their Christmas concert

Celebrate Christmas in the Cotswolds and head to the concert at Berkeley Castle on 12 December 2022. Start as you mean to go on with mince pies and spiced apple by the fire in the Long Drawing Room, which you’ll find to be wonderfully decorated with Christmas trees and glittering lights. Next, onto the Great Hall where the Orchestra Pro Anima string group will play classical pieces from the last 200 years.

10. Catch a Christmas film

This year, the Alfresco Film Company are bringing the outdoor cinema indoors for winter at Gloucester Brewery’s Warehouse 4 Taproom, which is a waterside bar and brewery in the city’s docks. It’ll be padded out with deckchairs and plenty of cosy blankets, hot chocolate and snacks to keep you warm during the showings of your favourite Christmas movies.

Keep an eye out for this one as the programme for 2022 is still to be announced, it’s not to be missed.

11. Indulge in a festive afternoon tea

You can’t be British and not love afternoon tea, it’s that simple. And at Christmas, for some reason, they’re just a little more joyful. Hotels and restaurants in the region definitely add the sparkle to Christmas in the Cotswolds by making their afternoon teas grander than ever.

There will be turkey and cranberry finger sandwiches, warm fruit scones, a chocolate yule log and of course, a mince pie. This can all be found at the Cowley Manor near Cheltenham and if you’re wanting a little tipple afterwards, why not head to the Lygon Arms for a mulled wine by the fire?

12. Festive fun at the panto

Christmas isn’t the same without a pantomime (oh no it isn’t… you know the drill).

With all the laughter, singing and dancing, it’s a great way to get into Christmas mode and start enjoying the festive season. This year’s panto is the classic Dick Whittington which is being shown on selected dates at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham from 25 November 2022 to 8 January 2023 and Chipping Norton Theatre from 16 November 2022 to 15 January 2023.

If that’s not quite for you then you could head to see:

  • Snow White at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury on selected dates between 26 November and 31 December 2022
  • Sleeping Beauty at the Stratford Playhouse from 16 to 30 December 2022
  • Cinderella at The Subscription Rooms in Stroud from 22 December 2022 to 2 January 2023
  • The True Adventures of Marian and Robin Hood! at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester from 21 November 2022 to 7 January 2023

13. Get the family together for a festive pub lunch

There are those who will spend Christmas in the kitchen, baking cookies, cooking turkey and all the trimmings, then falling asleep on the sofa in their apron whilst watching the Eastenders Christmas special.

But, then we have those who are the opposite of this. Stay calm, there is no need to be afraid because Christmas in the Cotswolds is the best place to be, the hotels, pubs and restaurants around put on the most delicious Christmas lunch.

Here are some just to give you an idea, but we could go on all day:

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14. Get your skates on

christmas in the cotswolds ice skating festive season

Sadly, Cheltenham’s ice rink in the Imperial Gardens won’t be returning until next year. However, you can still take to the ice this Christmas in the Cotswolds at either the Cotswold Water Park’s new undercover Gateway Ice Rink from 19 November 2022 to 3 January 2023. Or you could pay a visit to Bath on Ice in Victoria Park from 12 November 2022 to 3 January 2023. It’s not just ice skating either, both places have hot drinks and Christmas food to warm you up.

15. Meet Santa at Malvern Winter Glow

Found on the edge of the Cotswolds, Malvern Winter Glow at the Three Counties Showground is a five-in-one festive extravaganza worth travelling for. Now, that just sounds great, doesn’t it? Taking place from 25 November 2022 to 2 January 2023, you’ll have the chance to meet Santa in the Winter Village, take a magical walk along the light trail, and have fun at the ice rink. But the fun doesn’t stop there, they’ve also got fairground rides, a 120ft observation wheel and a Christmas market with a Bavarian-style bar.

16. Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light

On the outskirts of Winchcombe, the ruins of 15th-century Sudeley Castle make the most beautiful backdrop for the yearly Spectacle of Light event, with a Christmas light trail running through the castle grounds. Sudeley Castle has an impressive royal past, it even hosted Kings and Queens and was once home to Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, who is now buried in its Church.

Sudeley Castle has been holding its Spectacle of Light event since 2016, and each year the trail has a different theme. For 2022, the new exhibits will include the Wave and Field of Fire, along with a series of sparkling water features, lanterns and light beams, a flickering field of fire, colourfully lit trees and illuminated castle ruins, with the trail set to music to add to the atmosphere.

The light trail takes around 60-75 minutes to walk, and there are stalls selling festive food and drink on the castle terrace just after halfway. Prepare for it to be busy because this is such a popular Christmas event, and everyone wants to go.

Ready to get into the festive spirit?

And there we have it! Christmas in the Cotswolds really is an experience in itself, with so many Christmas events, Christmas crafts, plenty of Christmas music and not forgetting… Mulled wine!

We can’t wait to welcome you this festive season.


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