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Cheap Holiday Expert’s guide to the Cotswolds

Chelsea, a self-confessed bargain hunter and the founder of CheapHolidayExpert.com, rounds up the best low-cost experiences in the Cotswolds.

When you’re on the hunt for an affordable weekend break, the Cotswolds isn’t the first place to spring to mind. However, when VisitEngland challenged me to a weekend in and around that area on a budget, I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s my comprehensive guide to the Cotswolds on the cheap…

1

Cheap hotels in the Cotswolds

The Barrel Store

The Barrel Store is a well-considered hostel in the centre of Cirencester which will help you keep your costs down no matter the time of year. It hosts everyone from solo travellers to groups of four, all the rooms are private and most come with an ensuite too. 

I loved its central location and the cheery staff on check-in duty! It’s also part of the New Brewery Arts Centre, so after rustling up some breakfast in the shared kitchen, check out their free exhibition. 

Midweek prices start at £45 whilst at the weekends they begin at £55. My favourite thing? The prices don’t go up during the school holidays, but you will need to book early to snatch a room.

More cheap places to stay in the Cotswolds

B&Bs offer amazing value for money too. Check out The Priory Bed & Breakfast in Burford and Forthay Bed & Breakfast in Dursley.

Pubs and inns with rooms are another budget option. Check out The Old House at Home in Chippenham, The Holford Arms in Sherston, Hunters Hall Inn Hotel in Tetbury and The Thames Head Inn in Cirencester, which has a caravan and camping site.

There’s also a good range of Premier Inns available in the area, including Chipping Norton, Little Witcombe and Cirencester

2

Cheap hotels near the Cotswolds

Mollie's Motel

It’s also worth looking at places to stay within driving distance of the Cotswolds. Mollie’s Oxfordshire is a perfect example and where I stayed on the second night of my budget trip.

Chic bedrooms come complete with a Dyson hairdryer and ghd straighteners and a beautiful lounge, bar and buzzing restaurant to enjoy too. Plus, there’s helpful extras like unlimited tea and coffee and EV charging outside. 

What’s more, you’re just a 24-minute drive from the idyllic town of Burford. With rooms starting at £70 a night, you’d be hard-pressed to find such high standards at such an affordable price anywhere else.

More places to stay near the Cotswolds

National Trust-owned The Fleece Inn holds plenty of history (it's over 600 years old!) and has a glamping caravan and a self-catering cottage to choose from. A much newer inn, at just 400 years old, is The Radnor Arms in Malmesbury. Finally, there’s a Premier Inn in Chippenham which will have you exploring the Cotswolds by car in just six minutes.

3

Free and cheap attractions in the Cotswolds

Museum in the Park, Stroud

There are some incredible budget-friendly things to do in the area – many of which operate on a donation-only basis. A stand out for me is the Museum in the Park in Stroud, which has its own collection, temporary exhibitions, a walled garden, gift shop and cafe, regular workshops, and family-friendly events.

More low-cost attractions in and around the Cotswolds

Head to Chipping Campden to take photos of quintessential Cotswolds scenes, go hunting for treasure in the many antique shops in Burford or bask in the architectural triumphs of the 11th-century Gloucester Cathedral. A childhood favourite of mine is the Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum in Bourton-on-the-Water, where you can see TV legend Brum for £7.50 for adults and £5.25 for children. 

For those travelling without children, take a tour and sample some tipples at The Cotswolds Distillery from £20 per person. In Oxford, the excellent Oxford University Museum of Natural History houses an impressive array of natural history specimens - from bugs and butterflies to gigantic spider crabs and all things dinosaurs.

4

Budget restaurants in the Cotswolds

Somewhere Else, Cirencester

I love a pop-up restaurant, and when I saw that Somewhere Else cocktail bar in Cirencester were hosting Asha’s Indian Kitchen during my stay, I knew I had to try it out.

There were so many things to choose from but I had to try out the Naan Burgers. I opted for the £9 aged beef, bacon jam, and cheddar topped with an onion bhaji and it was just as good as it sounds. 

As I was on a strict budget, it was just tap water for me but if you’ve got a bit more to spend, Somewhere Else is the place to go if you’re a cocktail connoisseur. The ‘Somewhere Else 65’ – a gin, triple sec, lemon, sugar, prosecco and grenadine concoction – sounds right up my street. 

More cheap places to eat in and around the Cotswolds

I tucked into £6.25 jacket potatoes in Diversitea in Cirencester, whilst the Jolly Nice Farm Shop, 15 minutes drive away, is another great option for sandwiches made with local products that start at £4.50. Elsewhere, The Old Stables in Castle Combe make a mean sausage roll for £3.75 and check out Honeycotts Coffee & Shakes in Burford for numerous hot lunchtime eats for under a fiver.

For dinner, try Mermaid Fishbar in Moreton-in-Marsh for cod and chips from £8.90. Fancy some pub grub? The Plough Inn in Ford serves up their pie of the day for £14.95, whilst The Golden Cross in Cirencester has steak frites for £13.

If you fancy diverting your taste buds away from English fare, head to the nearby cities for a plethora of diverse options. Bombay & Co in Cheltenham has curries from £7.99 (and don’t forget to add a naan for £2.29), whilst Lula’s in Oxford offers up Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes from £9. I ordered the spicy chicken with gomen and an injera (a sour fermented pancake), and it’s one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

I also have to give a cheeky mention to Rozana, a Lebanese takeaway in Oxford’s Covered Market which supplied us with the most delicious hot falafel wraps for just £3.50. I’m hoping the low price will distract you from the fact it’s not actually in the Cotswolds but a brilliant excuse to visit the city as part of your trip!

5

Free and cheap things to do in Cirencester

Corinium Museum, Cirencester

I spent the first 24 hours of my trip in Cirencester with a budget of £50 for all food, drink and activities. The good news is that even whilst watching the pennies, there were many free and cheap things to choose from. My favourite was the fantastic Corinium Museum which showcases the archaeology from the local area and the stories behind the items. With loads of interactive elements, it’s great for children too. Entry is £7.40 for adults and £4.70 for children (under 5s go free).

More affordable things to do in Cirencester

Go and see a show at the Barn Theatre. I saw the fantastic ‘Around The World in 80 Days’ for just £12.97 each, and no, I didn’t have a restricted view! The next day I headed out on a walking tour of Cirencester using The Whereat Trail which takes in the 19th Century Obelisk, the Roman Amphitheatre and Cirencester Park. 

You could also take a dip in the Open Air Swimming Pool if you’re visiting between May to September. Another stop should be at the New Brewery Arts Centre to learn from their free exhibition, grab a tea at the cafe and check out a workshop or talk they are running. 

Finally, if you’re after a souvenir for your trip or perhaps just some tasty treats, Cirencester has plenty of markets to choose from. Always dependable for scouting out local food and drink is the Corn Hall Indoor Market.

6

Cheap outdoor activities in the Cotswolds

Cotswold Country Park and Beach, Shorncote

Good weather on the horizon? Get yourself to Cotswold Country Park and Beach, which has the UK’s largest inland sandy beach, swimming lagoon and loads of activities, including water sports, AquaVenture inflatable course and mini golf. They also have all day BBQ hire – a great way to save money on food. Pedestrian entry starts at £2.25 each, whilst car costs start at £12.72. 

More cheap activities in the Cotswolds

Head to Cotswold Water Park to start ticking off some of their 180 lakes, or discover the source of the Thames River near Kemble and tread the start of the Thames Path. You can also try stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking at South Cerney Outdoor from £18 an hour. Less high octane but still outdoorsy, the Cotswold Farm Park is where you can explore, play and feed the animals from £10.95 for adults and £9.95 for children.

14 Mar 2023(last updated)

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  • 1

    The Barrel Store

  • 2

    Mollie's Motel

  • 3

    Museum in the Park, Stroud

  • 4

    Somewhere Else, Cirencester

  • 5

    Corinium Museum, Cirencester

  • 6

    Cotswold Country Park and Beach, Shorncote

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