50 free things to do in the summer holidays in Gloucestershire

Don't miss SoGlos's 50 FREE ideas for keeping the kids entertained in and around Gloucestershire this summer holidays. From new art trails to popular family attractions, how many will you tick off?

SoGlos has hunted high and low for a whopping 50 fun and completely FREE things to do in and around Gloucestershire while school’s out for the summer holidays.

From fruit picking and farm parks to exhibitions and family festivals, SoGlos’s hot list – sponsored by Severn Wye Energy Agency – is jam packed with inspirational ideas to set you up for a memory-making, action-packed six weeks.

About the sponsor – Severn Wye Energy Agency

Sustainability charity Severn Wye works with local authorities across Gloucestershire to give residents a greener future – offering practical ways to live and work more sustainably, with a focus on taking climate action and reducing carbon emissions.

Climate change starts at home and the organisation is committed to helping locals develop a closer relationship with the environment. Advocating for sustainable local economies by encouraging people to buy local, holiday locally and enjoy local experiences, Severn Wye is a firm believer in championing everything Gloucestershire has to offer.

For more information, visit severnwye.org.uk.

1. Spot kingfishers across the Cotswolds

Track down colourful kingfishers by following this fantastic arts trail from Cotswolds National Landscape. Sponsored by Visit Gloucestershire, the Kingfisher Trail is made up of 21 large sculptures, all decorated by local artists – with an app to help you find them and two separate routes covering the western and eastern Cotswolds.

2. Discover Gloucester Cathedral’s best kept secrets

Home to the only monarch’s tomb in the south west and a Whispering Gallery full of secrets, Gloucester Cathedral is packed full of exciting discoveries for families seeking fun – with many free activities to complete as part of its new Summer Challenge.

3. Explore the world of Ladybird books

The Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester brings the beloved children’s books to life, inviting families to discover the stories behind them through fun activities. Entry is free, with donations encouraged, and there’s a small charge for additional activities such as costume crafting and dance sessions.

4. Catch big screen entertainment in Cheltenham

A giant screen is coming to Imperial Gardens this summer 2021, with everything from the Olympic games to Disney movies being shown for free. With no tickets required, pack your picnic blanket and enjoy some open-air entertainment from Friday 23 July to Monday 30 August 2021.

5. Search for sculptures in the Forest of Dean

Children can burn off some energy along the four-mile Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean, with plenty of impressive woodland-inspired sculptures to see – including some brand-new additions for summer 2021. What’s more, there’s a fantastic play area and picnic site at Beechenhurst, the trail’s starting point, where families can follow up adventure with a bite to eat.

6. Go retro in Gloucester

Travel back in time when Gloucester Goes Retro returns to the city on Saturday 28 August 2021. Westgate, Northgate, Eastgate and Southgate Streets will all be themed around different eras, with highlights including live music, vintage fancy dress, historical vehicles and more.

7. Delve into the past at Gloucestershire Archives

Young historians can discover stories from times gone by at Gloucestershire Archives’ free Passport to the Past events. Taking place on the first Wednesday of every month, the virtual history clubs invite children aged six to 13 to join in with fun activities and learn something new.

8. Boogie on down to Café Rene

A week packed with live music from local talent, barbecues, real ales and cider, the ever-popular Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival is returning to Café Rene from Monday 26 July to Sunday 1 August 2021.

9. See the Everyman Theatre’s free family show

Kids can help Zeb and Cat save the world, learning all about the environment and wildlife issues with the Everyman Theatre’s brand-new children's play. Entertaining young families across Gloucestershire from Monday 26 to Friday 30 July 2021, the free performance will be touring outdoor venues and libraries across the county – with the chance to meet the characters and join in with fun activities, too.

10. Fly to Hogwarts

Film fans big and small can hunt down some famous filming locations in Gloucestershire. Whether it's walking in the footsteps of Harry, Hermione and Ron at Gloucester Cathedral or soaking up scenes from Peter Rabbit 2 at Gloucester Docks, many of the county’s film spots are free to visit.

11. Spot birds of prey at Symonds Yat

Take a trip high above the River Wye to Symonds Yat Rock, a popular Gloucestershire viewpoint where budding birdwatchers can catch a glimpse of peregrine falcons nesting on the neighbouring cliffs.

12. Wander through Tewkesbury Abbey

Free to visit, the gorgeous Tewkesbury Abbey has a rich architectural history with fascinating stories to discover within. There’s a pop-up shop and tea room for refreshments and, if you’re lucky, you might spot its resident peregrine falcons which nest in the tower.

13. Head to the city farm in Gloucester

Offering an escape from the hustle and bustle, St James City Farm in Gloucester invites local children to meet its menagerie of domestic and farmyard animals, from cheeky goats to cuddly bunnies and guinea pigs.

14. Take on Gloucestershire Libraries’ reading challenge

Young readers can learn more about nature and the environment by taking part in this year’s annual Summer Reading Challenge running at libraries across Gloucestershire, as well as online, throughout the summer holidays.

15. Soak up the sunshine at Cotswold Water Park

With more than 40 square miles to explore, even the most energetic children will be tired after a day spent discovering Cotswold Water Park, with footpaths and cycle routes boasting lovely lake views, picturesque picnic spots and the chance to spot some wildlife at the bird hides.

16. See the Flying Scotsman in Gloucestershire

Train lovers can see the Flying Scotsman when it chugs through Gloucestershire on Saturday 21 August 2021. Passing through the county on its way to Worcester from London, here’s where you can see the famous steam train in action.

17. Get a personal best at Cheltenham’s Junior Parkrun

It’s back! Suitable for youngsters aged four to 10, Junior Parkrun takes places every Sunday morning at The Park in Cheltenham, inviting young runners to take on the 2km route and have fun. Run entirely on grass, the free weekly event is marshalled, with the whole course visible from the starting area.

18. Gallivant around Gloucester Docks

While away a few hours for free at the historic Gloucester Docks. Soak up some local history as the children explore the wonders of the magnificent Victorian port, spotting tall ships, narrowboats and brightly coloured barges. There’s plenty of smooth paving for a scoot too!

19. Make your own gargoyle

Gloucester Cathedral's interactive Tribune Gallery exhibition offers free, hands-on fun for children – giving them the chance to dress up, learn about medieval stone masonry and even design their own gruesome gargoyles when it reopens in summer 2021.

20. Step into Beatrix Potter’s world in Gloucester

Wander into the wonderful world of Beatrix Potter at the House of the Tailor of Gloucester, the tiny little home to rare displays and memorabilia, set within the same building next to Gloucester Cathedral that inspired the author’s magical tale.

21. Discover Stroud’s secret garden

Peek inside the walled garden at Museum in the Park in Stroud’s Stratford Park, with plenty of outdoor space and floral features to explore. The museum displays are expected to reopen this summer, with a programme of family activities and alfresco entertainment to be announced, too.

22. Head to The Suffolks on a Sunday

Reclaiming the streets this summer, The Suffolks Sunday Market is taking place in Cheltenham on Sunday 25 July and Sunday 29 August 2021 and features delicious food and drink, as well as stalls selling everything from vintage goods to arts and crafts.

23. Follow in the footsteps of gladiators

Discover Gloucestershire’s Roman heritage at the Cirencester amphitheatre, located just outside the historic Cotswold town, which was once known as the great city of Corinium, second only to London in size!

24. Pick some summer berries across Gloucestershire

Offering buckets of tasty fun in the great outdoors, head to one of the best places in Gloucestershire to go fruit picking. Many fields are free to enter – but you’ll have to pay for the fruits of your labour, of course!

25. Wander around a famous farmers’ market

As one of the biggest and busiest farmer’s markets in the UK, Stroud farmers’ market hosts local traders every Saturday morning, selling a variety of treats for hungry children to sink their teeth into. While SoGlos has also rounded up 14 must-visit farmers' markets in Gloucestershire, with many open for business this summer.

26. Explore Robinswood Hill Country Park

With woodland walks and nature trails aplenty, Robinswood Hill Country Park is an brilliant family outdoor attraction in Gloucester. Let the kids run free while exploring historical and geological sites, taking in the stunning scenery along the way.

27. Be wowed by colour at New Brewery Arts

One for older children with an interest in art or fashion, New Brewery Arts in Cirencester is hosting a free exhibition in its upstairs gallery this summer, inviting visitors to discover the wonderful world of Tatty Devine. From its start-up days on a stall in East London to collaborations with big names, ‘Misshapes: The Making of Tatty Devine’ celebrates the cult British brand, which has been creating colourful and quirky jewellery for 20 years.

28. Walk through Roman ruins

Families can visit the Great Witcombe Roman Villa to uncover a piece of Roman Britain on their doorstep. Dating back to around 250 AD, the building was once one of the largest villas in the Cotswolds, complete with a bathhouse complex and at least one shrine to an unknown god.

29. Step back through time along the Tewkesbury Battle Trail

Follow in the footsteps of 15th century soldiers during an excursion along the Battle Trail in Tewkesbury, a waymarked route that leads through the key battle areas. A trail leaflet is available from the Tourist Information Centre or available to download online.

30. Count the trees at Painswick Church

Get some numeracy practice in at Painswick Church, trying to count all of St Mary’s famous yew trees. Little ones can have fun by weaving their way through the maze of trees, working from one to 99 – and making sure not to miss any on the way!

31. See sky-high exhibitions

Promising pilots will be delighted at the Jet Age Museum, where visitors can marvel at a replica of Britain’s first jet aircraft, the Gloster E28/39 and other original Gloster-built planes. The museum is free of charge to enter and open at 10am to 4pm on weekends.

32. Try wild swimming

Explore Gloucestershire’s wild waters by taking a dip in one of the county’s natural swimming spots this summer. From wading through the River Wye at Lower Lydbrook to paddling in the Cotswolds, it’s free to dive right in at many local locations. Just remember to make sure it’s safe to swim before getting in the water and take precautions.

33. Spot some of Britain’s rarest bats

Treat the little ones to a late night and head to Woodchester Park after hours for the chance to see rare Greater Horseshoe bats flying through the twilight sky. Many other bat species also call the site home, with plenty of chances to spot them soaring through the woodland.

34. Roam free in Cirencester Park

While admission charges are due to be made from spring 2022, Cirencester Park is free to enter all summer. Nestled in the grounds of the Bathurst Estate, visitors can walk through the grounds with a four-legged friend, play beneath the towering trees, or even ride across the sweeping lawns on horseback.

35. Play at Primrose Vale

Families can enjoy a few hours of free fun at Primrose Vale near Cheltenham, which has a brilliant outdoor space for the kids to run wild and well-stocked café for parents! There’s also the chance to pick your own strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and seasonal vegetables, although you’ll need to pay for the produce, of course.

36. Create shapes at Selsley Common

Parents and kids can take inspiration from the local family that used quarry rocks to bring dinosaurs to life at Selsley Common and create some rock formations of their own this summer holiday. The Stroud beauty spot is a gorgeous place to enjoy a family picnic, too.

37. Get walking

From the fantastic Forest of Dean to riverside paths, a walk amongst wildlife is fun for the whole family – not to mention the perfect way to blow off the cobwebs after being cooped up in the classroom. And there’s a whole host of beautiful walks to enjoy in Gloucestershire, too.

38. Treat yourself at Orchard Street Market

Coming to Gloucester Quays on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 August 2021, there’s something for the whole family at Orchard Street Market – with local stalls selling artisan produce and craft goods, plus live music to dance to.

39. Roll out the picnic blanket

With plenty of picturesque picnic spots in the county, summer is the perfect time to eat alfresco. From Cannop Ponds and Crickley Hill, to Stratford Park and Coaley Peak – to name just a few, discover the best picnic spots in Gloucestershire for some inspiration.

40. Make a big splash

Kids looking to cool off can head to one of the best splash pads in and around Gloucestershire with several free of charge options. There are also perfect family-friendly paddling spots, including Wenchford in the Forest of Dean.

41. Run wild on adventure playgrounds

Let the little ones loose on one of Gloucestershire's best children's playgrounds, many of which are completely free to visit. Enjoy playing on tyre swings, climbing castle turrets, whizzing along zip wires and zooming down slides – all while getting a spot of fresh air.

42. Get pedalling in the Forest of Dean

Hop on your bike and head to the sign-posted Family Cycle Trail in the Forest of Dean, a scenic route along the old Severn and Wye railway line, starting from Cannop Valley with plenty of picnic spots along the way.

43. Become a cycling pro

And if the Forest of Dean’s bike routes weren’t enough, children can become better cyclists with Forestry England, too. Download the Cycle Superstar Challenge from its website to record your progress as you build confidence while learning to ride in the forest – with mini challenges to complete along the way.

44. Become a tourist in your own county

With an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty all around us, we might take the Cotswolds for granted. But there are plenty of quintessential delights to discover on the doorstep and we have found the best reasons to visit the Cotswolds – whether you want to soak up the sights, go for a ramble or snap the perfect Instagram!

45. Find King Arthur’s Cave

Little knights can discover the stuff of legends just over the Herefordshire border, hunting for King Arthur’s Cave in the Great Doward. Cloaked in local superstition, the limestone cave has been dated back to the Late Stone Age, with flint tools, woolly mammoth bones and supposedly even the skeleton of a giant human discovered there.

46. Take a day trip to Pittville Park

Kiddies can go wild at Cheltenham’s most exciting outdoor play area in Pittville Park, with plenty of fun equipment to keep them entertained. Not to mention its aviary, which is home to a whole host of fluffy and feathered friends.

47. Discover Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons

From its famous limestone grassland to its eclectic herd of cattle, this protected site is home to some of Britain’s best wildlife. A popular beauty spot with locals and tourists alike, it’s ideal for a summer family adventure – and totally free to explore.

48. Stroll through Severn Ham

Get back in touch with nature at the stunning Severn Ham water meadow. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing family walk – with plenty of open space for little ones to let loose, just a stone’s throw from Tewkesbury town centre.

49. Catch sight of beautiful butterflies

Take a stroll through Prestbury Hill Butterfly Reserve, surrounded by colourful butterflies of all shapes and sizes. With around 30 species calling the reserve home, see how many you can count while admiring the gorgeous Cotswold views.

50. Go on an Iron Age adventure

Greystones Farm Nature Reserve in Bourton-on-the-Water is home to wildflower meadows and rivers bursting with wildlife, as well as working dairy cows, Neolithic fortifications and a replica Iron Age roundhouse. Travel back in time or get closer to nature, exploring the site by its two themed trails – both of which cover flat ground and have no stiles, making them suitable for the littlest of explorers.

For more information about Severn Wye Energy Agency, visit severnwye.org.uk.

By Annabel Lammas

© SoGlos
Wednesday 28 July 2021

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