For the first time ever we did an October half term holiday. I spent ages trying to find this holiday, I knew we wanted something warm and cosy in the country – the opposite of a seaside holiday. To stay in a cottage with a warm fire. At the same time, it was kind of based on our Sandbanks holiday, which centred around a heritage railway and something different to do everyday. So with this break, I chose the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway and based our holiday around that, with a cottage in the cutesy town of Winchcombe. It would be only a two and a half hours drive from Slough, according to Google Maps.
We originally booked a Monday to Thursday break, but extended it to Friday as we were having such a good time. We started on the Monday with a trip to Swindon to visit the STEAM museum before heading to Winchcombe and checking in to our cottage. We thought this would be an easy break in the journey, but we ended up going round and round in circles in Swindon when the Sat Nav got lost. So we stopped for dinner in the Swindon Harvester before trying again. By then it was dark, and the country roads were so dark, no lights, up and down and loads of bends. It was still another hour and half’s drive and quite frankly terrifying!
After driving through posh Cheltenham, we arrived at Winchcombe at 9pm. The next problem was that our cottage didn’t have a number, it was called ‘The Cottage’. The road was pitch black, an old lady opened her front door when we parked up. I had to use the flashlight on the phone to look at all the house numbers on each cottage! Our one was right at the top of the road, and it was a relief to get in.
The cottage itself was absolutely beautiful, it had been restored, newly painted. It was little, with the front door opening into the living room/kitchen, and the bathroom off the kitchen. Stairs went up to two little double room. There were wood beams, cute windows. No fireplace which is a good thing with kids, who went straight to bed and slept so well. I woke in the morning to sounds of giggles downstairs – Tyler had figured out the smart TV and they had just made themselves at home! Living in a cottage was fun, it was very cramped but a lovely experience. And the views out of the windows were just beautiful, all the houses were made of that Cotswold stone.
Here’s what we did on our Cotswold break:
1)STEAM Museum and Swindon Designer Outlet
As I mentioned earlier, we stopped off at Swindon on our way to the Cotswolds to visit the GWR Steam Museum. I had wanted to visit here for a long time, so as we were headed in this direction, it was perfect. The kids loved it, it is a huge museum taking you through the history of steam, what workshops to make the trains would have been like, and I introduced Tyler to Mr. Brunel himself – I told him he was a very important man in the history of trains and bridges.
The tickets cost about £20 for our family, which is good value. There were a lot of steam trains to look around and walk on to the carriages, and even a play area amongst them.
The was a steam train simulator where you could drive a train and blow the whistle, and a signalman simulator too – Tyler really enjoyed this.
Next door to the museum is the Swindon Designer Outlet, which is in a beautifully restored train shed, with original machinery and clocks on display. It is huge and the choice of shops is brilliant, we got quite a few bargains.
2) Bus trip to Cheltenham
This is Tyler’s thing when we visit any town – to go on the local bus, see what colour is it and what the seat moquette looks like. In Winchcombe’s case, the buses look like coaches and come ONCE AN HOUR!! So if you miss one, you’re stuffed. By luck we were at the bus stop, which looks like a little outbuilding, with just 5 minutes to wait. It cost us about £3 each for return to Cheltenham I think. The seats were red if you were wondering!
Cheltenham is a huge shopping area, all in quite grand buildings, and a lot of the fascias had giant oversized letters. Lily had fallen asleep on the bus so I was carrying her. We quickly found somewhere to eat inside a shopping centre so I could lie her down. And we had a nice lunch break, taking our time while she slept.
When Lily woke, we wandered around TK Maxx and then House of Fraser, which is in an old historic department store building. We then headed back to Winchcombe, which is when I went out on my own to take photos of the pretty town.
The reason we came to the Cotswolds was this railway, and it did not disappoint. Tyler was beyond excited! And I have to say it is the most beautiful of all the heritage railways we have visited – I mean look at that view!
With it being half term, it was super busy. Winchcombe is a station on the middle of the line, so there were already people sitting on every seat and there were a lot of carriages. But even standing in the doorway was magical, the kids loved the wind blowing through their hair and seeing the cows and sheep!
As well as steam trains, vintage diesel trains were running too. In the first carriage you could pretend you were driving as the driver and the front windows were right in front of you.
At Toddington we had lunch and a wander around the little toy museum that was full of vintage treasures including a 1920s wendy house that the kids could play in. Just wow.
We got on a train to the last stop at Cheltenham Racecourse, and on this train Tyler made friends with a girl his age and they were holding hands, chatting about her Halloween party – these kids move fast! We then stopped off at the shop before heading back to Winchcombe. An absolutely lovely day out. It cost us about £50 in tickets, but it’s worth it, these railways are restored and run by volunteers, so we are contributing to the keep. That’s how I see it.
4) Winchcombe Museum and a walk to Sudeley Castle
Thursday was our spare day as we booked an extra night. After lunch in town, Tyler and I checked out the little museum in Winchcombe. It randomly had a collection of police uniforms from different countries around the world, as well as some local history.
Afterwards we went for a family walk to Sudeley Castle which was at the end of the road our cottage was on. It was a really pretty walk.
Unfortunately there was a playground at the end of the walk, that could only be accessed through the castle. With it costing £40 for us all to enter, we said no and the kids had a meltdown. Lily then fell asleep, leaving Ganesh to carry her the 3/4 mile home!
In the evening we decided to have a meal out as it was our last night, and ate at a Thai restaurant.
5) Bourton-on-the-Water Model Town
On the Friday, we packed up and said goodbye to the cottage – wah! I drove to Bourton-on-the-Water, and the roads to get there were terrifying. Narrow, winding, single-track country roads, so steep. It was strange, we HAD to drive through the car park of Sudeley Castle to get on to the road, then through a village called Power-something. I was so nervous! Views were beautiful though. If I wasn’t driving I would have taken photos!
We parked up and had lunch in a tearoom, before heading to The Model Village. It’s no Bekonscot, but still very cute and an exact replica of the town, with even a model of the model village! It cost a tenner to get in for our whole family.
We walked through the real Bourton-on-the-Water afterwards and it’s so pretty! They call it the Venice of the Cotswolds and I can see why. Super busy with tourists though, it must be crazy in the summer.
With that, we headed home. It was raining.
If you’ve got to the end of this post, thank you for reading it. I know there are a lot of photos, in fact narrowing it down to these 27 was the hardest part!
If you are thinking to travel to the Cotswolds, I hope you find this post useful.
And if you have any other recommendations on where to visit in the Cotswolds, please do let me know in the comments!