12 magical things to do in the Cotswolds this Christmas

Enjoy a cracking Christmas in the Cotswolds with so many fun, festive things to do, from ice skating on Gloucestershire's biggest all-weather ice rink and following magical light trails, to meeting Father Christmas.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Fill up on Christmas cheer in the Cotswolds, with SoGlos's pick of 12 magical things to do this festive season. © Johnny Hathaway.
In partnership with Cotswold District Council  |  cotswolds.com
Cotswold District Council

Cotswold District Council supports local towns and villages across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It encourages residents and visitors to support local businesses and craftspeople, shop on the high streets and enjoy the wealth of events that take place across the district all year round. This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Cotswold District Council

Christmas in the Cotswolds is a magical time of year, when the pretty chocolate-box villages are adorned with twinkling lights and the trees come to life with magic.

SoGlos rounds up 12 fabulously festive things to do in the Cotswold district, covering everywhere from Chipping Campden to Tetbury. 

Be enchanted by Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury

The magical light trail in the trees is back at Westonbirt Arboretum this festive season, with Enchanted Christmas running on selected evenings from Friday 25 November to Wednesday 21 December 2022.

See the elves rushing to decorate the forest in time for the big day, with a chance to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas - not to mention traditional fairground rides, festive food and warming drinks at the Christmas villages. 

Glide around The Gateway Ice Rink at Cotswold Water Park

Get your skates on and take to the ice on Gloucestershire's biggest all-weather ice rink. With space for 100 skaters at a time, The Gateway Ice Rink at Cotswold Water Park is open right up until Tuesday 3 January 2023, so there's plenty of time for a trip!

Making ice skating as inclusive as possible, the rink is fully wheelchair accessible and there are sensory skating sessions with reduced lighting and visitor numbers every Monday. Plus, skaters can warm up with wood-fired pizza, hog roast rolls and seasonal pies from The Gateway's pop-up shack, with open fires to toast marshmallows on, too!

Boo and hiss at the Barn Theatre panto in Cirencester

It wouldn't be Christmas without a trip to the see the panto - oh no it wouldn't - and audiences in the Cotswolds won't be disappointed, with The True Adventures of Marian and Robin Hood on stage at the Barn Theatre until Saturday 31 December 2022. 

Promising 'a feast of myth, music and medieval slapstick', the show sees the two enemies bury the hatchet to overthrow the hapless Sheriff of Nottingham and the evil Prince John with magic, acrobatics and some dodgy Norman haircuts.

Have a festive feast at The Old Stocks Inn in Stow-on-the-Wold

Served from Thursday 1 to Friday 23 December 2022, The Old Stocks Inn's festive feasting menu features classic Christmas dishes with a signature twist - perfect for get-togethers before the big day. 

Choose from two or three courses, with dishes including chicken and mushroom terrine; spiced pumpkin velouté; slow-cooked and seared turkey breast with parmentier potatoes; charred cauliflower risotto; pan-fried market fish with pancetta and clam chowder; whipped cheesecake with vanilla wine poached pear; dark chocolate mousse; and of course, Christmas pudding with crème Anglaise - with cocktails and an impressive wine list on offer, too. 

See Santa at Cotswold Airport

Father Christmas is flying into Cotswold Airport, where families can see him in his grotto on board a former British Airways Boeing 747 from Friday 25 November until Saturday 24 December 2022.

Guests are invited to pick up a boarding pass and North Pole Passport; pass through the 'naughty or nice' security check-in; before taking a seat in Premium Economy for the in-flight elf and safety briefing. Then they can explore the on-board winter wonderland, meet Father Christmas and enjoy a story in front of the fire; decorate their own gingerbread house with Mrs Claus; then head to the toy factory to build their own teddy bear to take home. 

Hunt for elves at Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-in-Marsh

The Big Batsford Elf Hunt is on! Naughty elves are hiding all over the arboretum and families have from Thursday 1 December 2022 until Sunday 1 January 2023 to find them all, for the chance to win a prize.

Batsford Arboretum is also selling fresh-cut real Christmas trees, so visitors can enjoy a fun festive day out hunting for the elves, then take home the perfect Christmas tree, too. 

Follow the Enchanted Light Trail at Cotswold Farm Park in Guiting Power

Lighting up the famous farm park after dark, Cotswold Farm Park's Enchanted Light Trail is a must-visit for families during the festive season. 

On selected dates from Friday 25 November until Saturday 31 December 2022, visitors can step 'through the wardrobe' into a Narnia-inspired winter wonderland, full of sparkling sculptures and interactive light installations. With the chance to feed the animals a bedtime snack, toast marshmallows on crackling fire pits and dance the night away at the frozen palace ball, it promises to be one of the season's most unmissable attractions. 

See a live screening of The Nutcracker at Cirencester's Corinium Museum

The spectacular story of The Nutcracker is coming to Cirencester this Christmas, with a special live screening of The Royal Ballet's performance taking place at the Corinium Museum on Thursday 8 December 2022.

Tchaikovsky's legendary score accompanies Clara, as she adventures into a world of wonder, sweets and sugar plum fairies, making for a truly magical and festive night out. 

Snap a selfie with Bourton-on-the-Water's famous Christmas tree

Bourton-on-the-Water's incredible Christmas tree is one of the most iconic sights in the Cotswolds at Christmas. The tree actually sits in the River Windrush, which runs through the village, creating colourful light reflections that make for beautiful festive photos.

The lights will be on from Thursday 1 December 2022, with plenty more decorations dotted around the chocolate-box Cotswold village. Visitors won't want to miss paying a visit to its famous Victorian Christmas Shop, too!

Go shopping at a Cotswold Christmas market

With Christmas markets taking over Cotswold towns throughout December 2022, residents and visitors can take to the streets to shop for unique Christmas gifts, lovingly created by local crafters and makers.

Fairford Christmas Market and Tetbury Christmas Market both take place on Friday 2 December 2022, with the Christmas lights being switched on, too; Chipping Campden's Christmas market takes place on Saturday 3 December 2022, with stalls filling the High Street, an indoor market at the Town Hall, festive food and drink in the Market Square and even an appearance from Father Christmas; Far Peak on the outskirts of Northleach holds its Christmas market on Saturday 10 December 2022; while Cirencester Gift Market takes over the town on selected dates from Sunday 11 to Thursday 22 December 2022. 

Visit the Christmas Tree Festival in Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold's St Edward's Church might be known for its famous door, but it's also home to a delightful Christmas Tree Festival from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 December 2022. 

The charming event sees spectacularly-decorated Christmas trees on display in the church, with prizes for the most tree-mendous designs revealed at a special celebration service on the Sunday. 

Have Christmas lunch at Highgrove near Tetbury

Offering a two- or three-course Christmas lunch in its beautiful Orchard Room, guests are invited to dine at the family home of King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, for a festive meal fit for royalty! 

Dishes include venison terrine or house-cured salmon to start; braised short rib of beef or pan-fried roots and chestnut cake for the main course; with classic Christmas pudding, dark chocolate mousse or confit pineapple for dessert. Guests can also enjoy a spot of shopping in the Orchard Ante Room, with homewares, local food and drink, and artwork by His Majesty himself all available to buy. 

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