Often referred to as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’, Painswick is a must-visit during your trip. As one of the finest and best-preserved Cotswold towns, Painswick has plenty to offer eager visitors.
From beautiful buildings to the outstanding countryside, we’ll be going through some of our top picks when it comes to things to do in Painswick… Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Where is Painswick in the Cotswolds? And how do you get there?
In the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, you’ll find a town called Painswick. Located deep in the countryside, it’d be best to visit Painswick by car and it’s easily accessible from the A46, between Cheltenham and Stroud. The town is close to the Stroud district and is around 3 miles away, simply enter GL6 6UZ into your SatNav and away you go.
Once you’ve arrived in Painswick, parking can be located at Stamages Lane Car Park. It’s long-stay parking which is perfect for your day of strolling around this pretty town. For those not driving, you can hop on the number 66 bus from Cheltenham, which drops you right into Painswick, outside the church.
The history of Painswick
Nearby Painswick Beacon, an old Iron Age settlement called Kimsbury Hill Fort is a place where evidence has been found. Not only did they find Iron Age items, but other evidence suggests it dates back to Roman times, as excavations discovered a nearby Roman Villa.
The little, quaint town itself developed during the Saxon era, which is when the early St Mary’s Church was built. Although, for whatever reason, the building wasn’t on record until the Domesday books recorded it in 1086. A priest was then assigned to the church.
However, back then, this was called a Wiche which means “dairy farm”. Once the Norman invasion was over, the land was then owned by the very powerful De Laci family.
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Pain Fitzjohn became Lord of the Manor later into the 13th Century, this is where the name Painswick comes from. Throughout medieval times, the town made money by weaving cloth. So, you may have noticed, or you may not have, but many of the houses and gables were built south-facing, in order to make the most of the natural light.
Due to the weaving trade, many of the houses in Painswick were built with donkey doors. This enabled the donkeys to enter the house with baskets of wool. As the town is partly known for its wool trade, some of these doors can still be seen today, mainly on Bisley Street.
Why visit the Cotswolds?
The Cotswolds is known for its preserved, pretty villages and outstanding natural beauty. It’s the perfect place for a couple’s weekend getaway or a trip with the family over the school holidays. Those that live and work in the Cotswolds take pride in maintaining the buildings and surrounding countryside so that all the beautiful parts of this place can be reformed to its former glory.
Let’s find out what there is to do in the Queen of the Cotswolds.
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Things to do in Painswick
Right then, what is there to do in this beautiful valley? Well, it seems there is rather a lot.
From historic gravestones in the picturesque churchyard, art galleries, and the famous Painswick Rococo Gardens, you’ll find no end of things to do in Painswick.
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church is definitely one of the most iconic views in Painswick, its church spire towers over all the ancient buildings here! It dates back to the Saxon era as an ancient parish church, but it wasn’t recorded until the Domesday Books of 1086 AD.
When in actual fact, the first building appeared here in 1049 AD. In the years after, parts were added to the church by the De Laci Family who gained ownership of the land after the Norman invasion.
Nowadays, the oldest part of this church is St Peter’s Chapel, which was built back in 1377. St Peter was the patron saint of the De Laci family. The amazingly tall church spire was added on in 1632. However, it, unfortunately, became a target in the Civil War. Due to this, Parliamentarians were stationed here as the church acted as a defence hold.
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Today, the church is famous for having some 300 ‘Kneelers’. These showcase some of the finest church craftsmanship in the country! They can be seen inside the church and all are different scenes from the bible and Painswick town itself.
As it’s a church, there aren’t really any specific opening hours, it welcomes visitors all year round to see it in all its glory. St Mary’s Church also has a garden with 99 Yew Trees and ledger tombs, which were created in the 18th century.
Check out the 99 Yew Trees in St Mary’s Church
When you’re looking for things to do in Painswick, you’ve simply got to see the church garden. It’s filled with 99 clipped yew trees! It may be that most yew trees in the UK have been around for centuries, since the introduction of Christianity, these specific yew trees were planted back in the 18th century.
Legend has it that the Devil would not allow the 100th tree to grow. However, here’s a little secret for you… there are over 100 yew trees here today! Scary, eh? The church actually tried to test fate and plant another tree to mark the millennium. But, not long after this, there was a storm and the tree was wiped out. Many blamed the creepy curse!
The town also holds a clipping of the yew trees each year which sees two tonnes of raw waste collected. Although yew trees are poisonous to eat, they have healing properties that help with cancer treatments!
It’s said to be one of the prettiest church gardens in the UK, you could lose yourself for hours there with plenty of yew tree pathways, ledger tombs, and benches to sit and appreciate the views.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the timber-framed lychgate and the residence which used to be the gravediggers’ hut. It’s one of the best things to do in Painswick.
Attend the Painswick Clypping Ceremony
If you’re lucky enough, or you do your research beforehand, you can end up visiting at the same time as the annual Clypping Festival & Painswick Feast. Not to be confused with the clipping of the yew trees festival… we’ll explain.
The Painswick Clypping Ceremony is an age-old tradition, typically held in September, and comes from the Old English word meaning “encircle”.
During the festival, the town parishioners all come together, circle around St Mary’s Church holding hands. They then dance and sing hymns. Puppy Dog pie is then brought out to bring the ceremony to an end. Don’t panic, no actual puppies are harmed, nor inside the pie!
If you were looking for things to do in Painswick that are a little different, this could be the one for you.
See the 19th century stocks near the Old Courthouse
If you’ve finished in the church garden and fancy seeing a little more history, make sure that you exit towards St Mary’s Street There you can see the old 19th-century stocks! It’s one of the more curious things to do in Painswick.
They’re situated just outside where the Old Courthouse once was, it’s actually quite a treasured piece of history in Painswick. Back in the days before we had a centralised justice system, the law here used to be dealt with something called Courts Leet.
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Courts Leet would handle petty crimes like theft or being drunk and disorderly as well as serious criminal acts too. If you were being a nuisance or caught committing a crime, it was normal to expect a physical punishment.
There were also punishments that may not have been physically painful, but you’d most certainly be embarrassed. One of the lesser punishments would see you locked in leg irons for a particular period of time. Your neighbours and friends in the surrounding area would very much enjoy the entertainment.
Explore the quaint Painswick streets and Heritage trail
By this point, you can probably tell that Painswick is jam-packed with historic streets to stroll down and explore. As it’s a medieval settlement, there are beautiful buttercream buildings and timber-framed thatched cottages as far as the eye can see.
It’s so easy to wander around aimlessly, just taking it all in. Painswick also has a little heritage trail that you can follow. If you exit out of St Mary’s Church, you’ll find a sign of what the church used to look like in the 19th century.
You’ll be able to find signs like this on New Street, Gloucester Street, and Bisley Street too, and they have even more old photographs. Here you can also read facts on them, the people who used to live here, and notable events that happened in the area too.
If you’re wanting things to do in Painswick that can fill your day, you can have hours of fun getting lost and following how this pretty town would have looked all those years ago.
Stop to admire the ancient houses and donkey doors
Admiring the houses here is definitely one of the best things to do in Painswick. Many of the old houses on these streets are worth noting, some of them date back to the 14th Century.
So, as we now know, the town made much of its income through wool. It’s then easy to notice that many of the houses are south-facing as weavers used to work in them and obviously needed decent lighting to do so.
If you were to take a stoll down Bisley Street, you’ll find two original donkey doors. As the name suggests, these were entrance ways made big enough for donkeys to carry baskets of wool for the weavers.
During the Civil War, King Charles I stayed in The Court House on Hale Lane. Today, this is a luxury hotel; but legend has it that the King still haunts it today.
Take a peek at the John Ashton beer collection
The Ashton beer collection is quite an unusual treasure trove to stumble upon. It has just recently opened as a museum of the Arts and Craft movement.
It was founded by some enthusiast furniture makers such as Gordon Russell and a part of John Beer’s collection is on show at Christchurch in Painswick. As well as the Ashton beer collection, you’ll find lots of other famous names in the Arts and Crafts movement showcased here, such as, William Morris, Ernes Gimson, and Baillie Scott.
Even Audrey Hepburn has a place there! Unexpected, right?
It’s a labour of love and a private museum that is well worth seeing. However, it’s somewhat difficult when it comes to opening hours as it tends to only open on weekends. So if this is one of your things to do in Painswick, planning your trip is essential to avoid you being disappointed.
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Take a break at the Painswick Pooch coffee house
If you’re looking for a great place for a pick-me-up in town, then get yourself to the Painswick Pooch Café!
You’ve probably already figured it out, but as the name suggests, it’s a dog friendly café and there is lots of room inside to relax with a tea or coffee. It’s also very pleasing on the eye as you’re completely surrounded by contemporary artwork.
We’d definitely recommend treating yourself and pairing up your hot drink with a delicious homemade cake, which are often seasonally themed. If you’re away on a little country break with your dog, this has got to be on your list.
Get lunch at the Falcon Inn – see the famous bowling green
The Falcon Inn is loved by many and is basically an attraction in its own right. Back in the 16th Century it first opened as a coaching inn.
Even though it’s been remodelled and updated a little over the years, it has always remained the chief inn of the town.
Who doesn’t love the clean scene of a bowling green? The Falcon Inn is also home to the oldest bowling green in the country and the Painswick Falcon Bowls Club still operates behind the pub today.
As well as the bowling green, the building also functions as a nice, cosy pub where you can grab some lunch or a cold beer. It doesn’t end there though, it also has a boutique hotel which has rooms that overlook the Painswick church garden.
Enjoy the tranquillity of the Quaker meeting house and garden
Sat on Vicarage street, the Quaker Meeting House is a top favourite must-visit for those looking to explore Painswick. Quakers – a religious society – regularly meet here in Painswick in the Friend’s House.
Visitors are welcome to explore their beautiful tranquil garden behind the building which has amazing views.
Spot The Casual Vacancy filming locations
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you may have heard about J. K. Rowling’s other best-selling book The Casual Vacancy.
It follows the story of a seemingly peaceful village called Pagford with cobbled streets and an ancient abbey. But there is plenty beyond this beautifully-painted picture…
It was Rowling’s first book after she finished the Harry Potter series and it was so popular it was made into a BBC mini-series. The production team decided to use the town of Painswick to film some of its scenes!
Painswick Rococo Garden
Looking for great things to do in Painswick? There’s no denying it, Painswick Rococo Garden will come up time and time again in your search.
It’s now the country’s only complete surviving rococo garden. Around the gardens, you’ll find all sorts of colourful follies, wildflowers, grottos and duck ponds. It’s the perfect place to escape for a few hours. It’s one of the best things to do in Painswick – plus, there’s a delicious tea room there for a quick pitstop.
Take a Painswick walk along the Cotswold Way
As well as Painswick Beacon there are many walks to explore, since Painswick falls on the Cotswold Way National Trail.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous (and full of energy!), the Cotswolds Way path will take you even further to the beautiful town of Chipping Campden (where the train begins/ends) and even the city of Bath.
Ready to explore Painswick?
There are so many things to do in Painswick! With the list above, you’ll be well equipped to maximise your time here and get the most out of your visit. Need a little help planning?
Our travel itinerary experts can help you plan your trip from start to finish!