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 engaging exhibitions to popular family attractions, how many will you tick off?

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Family having a summer picnic
Free fun for the kids during the summer holidays in Gloucestershire – and more pennies for ice cream!
In partnership with Severn Wye Energy Agency  |  severnwye.org.uk
Severn Wye Energy Agency

As a 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, reducing carbon emissions and advocating for sustainable local economies by encouraging people to buy local, holiday locally and enjoy local experiences.

Severn Wye Energy Agency

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 is jam packed with inspirational ideas to set you up for a memory-making, action-packed six weeks.

1. Tick something off The Gloucestershire Bucket List


Spanning outdoor adventures to cultural hotspots, SoGlos's definitive list of 100 things to do in the county is your one-stop shop for inspiration for family days out this summer. Pick up a free printed copy from the venues featured, or see The Gloucestershire Bucket List for the digital version.

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 — including the surprising places where animals are hiding all over the medieval building, revealed as part of the free Noah's Ark family trail.

3. Kids go free at Westonbirt Arboretum

Offering free entry for children up to 18-years-old from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 4 September 2022, families can enjoy days out at one of Gloucestershire's best-loved attractions for less during the summer holidays.

4. Jam out at The Brewery Quarter

Bringing an eclectic mix of live music, from rock to reggae, Summer Jam at Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter is bound to get toes tapping — with lots of local musicians on the line-up, as well as face painting and children's entertainment, from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 July 2022.

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. 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 27 August 2022. 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. Visit The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum

After an extensive refurbishment, The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum in Cheltenham is reopening just in time for the summer holidays. Curious kids can play, touch, dance and sing their way through the interactive World of Wonders! gallery, learn about local history and browse special exhibitions, with a programme of activities planned for its reopening weekend on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July 2022, too.

8. Wave to the prisoner at Tetbury Police Museum

With a sleeping prisoner in the cells, a magistrates' court in action and the largest collection of handcuffs in the whole country, little law-abiders are sure to love Tetbury Police Museum. There's even the chance to have a go at solving mysteries and read cold case files of real crimes that have taken place in the quaint Cotswold town.

9. Play with colour at Cheltenham Paint Festival

With big wall murals and colourful artworks to discover all over town, watch world-renowned street artists at work during the colourful Cheltenham Paint Festival, taking place from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 July 2022.

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. 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.

13. 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.

14. Take on Gloucestershire Libraries’ reading challenge

Young readers can learn more about the science behind fashion, music and more 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. Get a personal best at Cheltenham’s Junior Parkrun

Suitable for youngsters aged four to 14, 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.

16. Boogie on down to Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival

Promising six days packed with live music from local talent, the ever-popular Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival is returning to venues across the city from Tuesday 26 to Sunday 31 July 2022, with free performances at Café René, Pilgrims Yard and Gloucester Brewery's Warehouse 4.

17. 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.

18. Become a forest superhero

Learn all about the heroic minibeasts that live in the Forest of Dean by following the free Superworm activity trail at Beechenhurst, arming yourself with creepy-crawly facts as you search for Julia Donaldson's beloved characters around the forest. The activity pack isn't essential but adds some extra fun, costing £3.50 from the café or ranger hatch. 

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.

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 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. Inside, there's a special display by Stroud District Council’s LGBTQIA+ group, Stride, to celebrate 50 years of Pride in the UK, as well as 'I Spy' trails and museum quizzes for children.

22. Head to The Suffolks on a Sunday

Reclaiming the streets this summer, The Suffolks Sunday Market is taking place in Cheltenham on Sunday 28 August 2022 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 to browse 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 miniature worlds at New Brewery Arts

One for older children, New Brewery Arts in Cirencester is hosting a free exhibition of ceramic works, created by artists to share their deeply personal experiences and previously untold stories. Encouraging spectators to see through someone else's eyes, 'Welcome To My World: ceramics with narrative' opens on Saturday 13 August 2022.

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. 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!

30. 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. 

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. 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.

34. 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.

35. Hunt for artisan treasures at The Faddle Fair

Coleford's fantastic Faddle Fair is back for another day of local food, live music and shopping opportunities on Saturday 27 August 2022, with face painting and fun family entertainment to keep the children entertained.

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 6 and Sunday 7 August 2022, 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, discover the best picnic spots in Gloucestershire for some inspiration. There are also some brilliant urban picnic spots to explore in Gloucester, too. 

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. With some incredible play areas in the Cotswolds too, 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. Or, discover more of Gloucestershire's best cycling spots, with plenty of family-friendly tracks for kids to practice their pedalling.

43. Become a cycling pro

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 SoGlos has 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. 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.

50. Catch sight of beautiful butterflies

Take a stroll through Prestbury Hill Butterfly Reserve, surrounded by colourful butterflies. With around 30 species calling the reserve home, see how many you can count while admiring the gorgeous views over Cheltenham Racecourse and beyond towards the Malverns.

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