One of the most beautiful parts of the UK is the Cotswolds. Our Instagram feeds are filled with photos of its quaint stone cottages, winding lanes with cobbled streets and ye olde lampposts. It’s perfect for a short break. But how do you decide which of its pretty villages or towns to stay in? Well for our first trip to the Cotswolds in 2018 we chose Winchcombe for its proximity to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. For our second trip in October 2019 we knew we wanted to try out the other side of the Cotswolds, and I knew I wanted to stay in a character cottage. So I literally typed ‘character cottages’ into Google and came across a website called www.character-cottages.co.uk. That’s how we found Chipping Norton. The fact that it had a Caffe Nero on the high street swung it for us, as you know my kids love that coffee shop. On the map it looked an easy drive from Slough at just over 2 hours, and it was close to Oxford, Bicester Village and Banbury so we had to option of visiting bigger towns if was too boring. But it turns out that Chipping Norton was enough to keep our family entertained, it was such a friendly little town.
Chipping Norton is the highest town in Oxfordshire, known as ‘Chippy’ to locals. It is a traditional market town with a vibrant high street, that has a good mix of independent shops, chain stores and pubs. Our holiday cottage was just off the High Street which was great as we could literally walk into town. Being on the main road meant that we had to park on a side street across the road as our cottage didn’t have a driveway. It was okay though. As we live in an apartment, we always try to stay in a house with an upstairs and downstairs when we go on holiday, as its such a novelty for our family. The kids love it. Our cottage was quirkily decorated, the owner clearly loves animals as there were animal themed pictures, trinkets and mugs all through the home, as well as ‘Chippy’ coasters. And London Underground vintage posters on the staircase wall. There was also a huge garden. Looking out of the window to see Cotswolds stone houses was so nice. I totally recommend booking a character cottage if you are staying in the Cotswolds.
The atmosphere is lovely in the evening also, with lots of people milling around. It was October half term when we visited so there was definitely a relaxed feeling in the air.
Visiting the Cotswolds with kids meant that we had to make sure there was enough to keep them entertained and we were after kid-friendly places to eat.
Kids Activities in Chipping Norton
1) The Fox – child-friendly pub
On our first evening we went into a pub called The Fox, as when we looked through the window it seems to have a good amount of people inside. There was a short wait for a table in the dining area so we sat in the main area with drinks, and Ganesh nipped back to our cottage to get colouring pencils for the kids. Then they were so quiet and occupied, it was almost as it G and I were on a date, we could forget they were there! I think this is when the kids’ colouring obsession started, as I always have to bring a book and pencils with us wherever we go. I much prefer it to giving them a tablet, as art is so relaxing. As for dinner, Lily didn’t want to sit in the dining area with the other diners after all that, so we ate where we were sitting in the bar area and the staff were absolutely fine with that. It was pie night which G and I went for – delicious! The kids meals were tomato pasta for Tyler and fish nuggets and chips for Lily.
It turns out that this pub was holding a Halloween party later in the week, and Tyler was so keen to go. On our last day we came back for the party and it was brilliant. It was held upstairs and all the activities were free. Two large rooms were decorated and there was Halloween colouring, hot chocolate, biscuit decorating and slime making. And it was lovely to hang out with the local community. We even met an Asian mum from Chipping Norton – she came up to us and said ” I had to say hello, I’m so happy to see brown faces!” That cracked me up, as it was obviously a rarity in this town. I was sorry to tell her that we hadn’t moved here, we were just visiting. But yeah, it was lovely to be in a town where people just come up and talk to you.
2) Visit a tea room – The Chipping Norton Teaset
We discovered the cutest tea room on the High Street called The Chipping Norton Teaset. It was so bright and airy inside and as we entered we saw cakes on the display to tempt us. I had some sort of apple cake and it was delicious. I loved the vintage-style tea set and how Lily’s babycino came in a teacup too. Tyler had a cold milk that came in a retro-style glass and stripey paper straw. It was such a novelty experience that the kids didn’t need any distractions, they were happy drinking their milks and looking around. The staff were nice, and other families came in with children, so this is definitely a child-friendly place.
3) Try out a local bus
One of the simplest things we always do when we go on holiday is to go on a local bus. It keeps my bus enthusiast Tyler happy and we get to see another town. We caught the X9 bus to Witney. The journey was about 40 minutes from what I remember, taking us down winding roads with lovely scenery. In Witney we did crazy golf and then decided to come back by car to go shopping there on another day. I will write about that in another post.￼￼ I highly recommend taking the kids on a local bus ride, it keeps children entertained and it’s fun.￼
4) Hang out in a book store…
but not just any book store. One with a secret reading nook and a cafe. I think a lot of us love the charm of independent bookshops, and in Chipping Norton there is an absolutely gorgeous one called Jaffé & Neale. It has a café inside and the children’s area at the back has a secret reading nook under the stairs.￼￼ The selection of books is really quirky, there are books that I had not seen before. The children did not want to leave as it was quite cosy in here. In the end the kids begged Dada to buy the two books they are reading in this photo, and he was happy to buy them to support an independent business.￼
5) Visit the museum and walk the History Trail
The Chipping Norton Museum is on the High Street but it is closed in the autumn/winter months, as it is run by volunteers. But if we had come in the spring/summer we would definitely have visited the museum, as Tyler was quite keen. Luckily we had the history trail map from our holiday cottage and did that instead. It was really interesting to walk around town and stop to look at the buildings, learning about the history.￼ I felt like a history teacher, and Tyler enjoyed being the detective, looking for secret pillars and lion heads etc. As for Lily, she just enjoyed walking around with us. ￼The trail that we did is not online anywhere, but there is this Town Trail that is similar.
6) Go shopping
Chipping Norton High Street has a small selection of shops, mostly independents and a variety of antique shops. We spent a lot of time in Beales as they had a toy department, but sadly I hear they have gone into Administration. Hopefully another retailer will come to Chipping Norton in its place.￼ For food shopping there is a Sainsbury’s local and a giant Co-op, like one you have never seen before, seriously, it is HUGE and you get in by escalator as it is upstairs.￼ As well as the independent tea rooms and cafes there is a huge Caffè Nero, which of course the kids wanted to visit. It was also handy for the loos which the children urgently needed at various points of our visit.
Other activities we would have done if we came in the warmer months:
7) Go for an outdoor swim at Chippy Lido
8) Let the kids play at the Chipping Norton playground on New Street.
9) We probably would have done part of the scenic walks, like this circular walk from Chipping Norton to Over Norton and back.
There is a place called Fairytale farm, but we decided not to go based on the reviews. And there is also the Chipping Norton Theatre if your children like watching shows.
With it being October half term and cold and dark in the evenings, we enjoyed being in our warm cosy cottage, cooking our dinners, watching TV, the kids playing with the games and toys we brought.
So, that is my guide to visiting Chipping Norton with kids. I hope it was useful to you, especially if you are considering a short break to the Cotswolds. It is such a beautiful part of the UK, I highly recommend it.￼
Have you visited the Cotswolds before? If you have any recommendations, please do do share in the comments.