Sun, sand and surf: It’s the Costa del Cotswolds!
Think you have to schlep to the coast to bask on a beach, ride a pedalo or go wild in a wetsuit? You'd be wrong. Welcome to the Cotswolds Country Park Beach - a slice of beachy heaven on your doorstep. We donned our flippers and headed down to see what you can get up to there.
Tucked away in the heart of the Cotswolds is something quite extraordinary – the UK’s largest inland beach. You’d never think it was here, just a few minutes drive from the market town of Cirencester, but the Cotswold Country Park and Beach is a gleaming slice of Costa-style paradise. Set in 40 square miles of countryside, this unique area of over 150 lakes (known as the Cotswold Water Park) is home to the Park itself.
Its crowning glory? A long bank of super-soft golden sand which frames a beautiful freshwater lagoon. The sand itself is actually sourced from beaches near Padstow, so you’ll really feel like you’re in Cornwall without having to join the crowds. But it’s not just a watery wonderland, there are also a myriad of adrenalin-activities to get stuck into here.
Fancy trying out the Cotswolds answer to Ninja Warrier? Then book on to the Aquaventure course, where you can bounce, slide (and fall off) a brilliantly fun stretch of bouncy obstacles. Never glided across a lake in a giant swan pedalo? Then tick it off the bucket list here. And if you still have any energy left head for the go-karts, mini golf, adventure playground, SUP paddle-boards or electric boats.
The Aquaventure Course
First up we headed to the main event – the Aquaventure Course. Set on one of the lakes right next to the beach, it’s a brilliantly fun wipe-out experience. And don’t think you need to be athlete-level adrenaline seeker to enjoy it, we had all kinds of ages and people in our session (up to 30 at a time) including loads of women, hen-dos groups and children.
You can hire wetsuits if you don’t have one which you then slip on in the changing rooms. The course itself is an absolutely exhilarating 50 minute session of slipping, sliding and generally laughing yourself silly off on the 40 giant inflatable blocks.
After a helpful initial briefing on the rules and regs, you’re handed a lifejacket then you swim the short 20 foot to the landing platform, from where you navigate an increasingly challenging set of bouncy pads. My two boys and husband were far better at it than me so I left them to it, they even managed to reach the giant Tower, which you can climb up if you are agile enough and launch yourself off.
Also amazing fun was the trampoline and a giant fun bag (?!) where your water buddy heroically sits on the end and the other jumps so you get catapulted into the water.
But the highlight was the spectacular Spinner (above) a fairground-like giant ball which spins around as you hang on for dear life. Let’s just say I was more than happy for the kids to try that one out – but my son reliably reported back that it was ‘one of the best things he’d ever been on’ (high praise indeed from the hard to please teen).
After the session everyone swims back to shore, muscles aching (it’s a fabulous workout!) but very happy. Safe to say the whole family loved it, so much so we have already booked to go back again for for one of their birthdays.
Tickets cost £15 per person which is extraordinarily good value for so much fun – and wetsuits can be hired for £5.
Scoff and quaff
The Beach Shack Cafe sits right on the water’s edge on a pretty boardwalk, and it has a really exceptional menu. There are grill options, a big range of burgers, and a great kids menu. We opted for the fabulously titled Land, Sea and Air Burger – a triumph of stacked up beef, grilled chicken in Katsu sauce and cod goujons all together in a delicious pretzel bun (£7.25). The boys went for standard cheese burgers (£5.75) and side of chips and salads. Even if there’s a queue, take my word for it – eat here! Everything is freshly cooked on the spot, and it was really delicious.
Fun and frolics on the lake
Luckily there’s plenty to do here to work off all those calories, so after lunch we headed to the Swan Pedalos.
You get around half an hour on the lake, so once we had our lifejackets on we headed out in our chosen swan to explore the lake. You can’t go too far (luckily for my erratic steering) as the deeper part of the lake is roped off, but you get to pedal all around the lake and even to a little island.
Being a real nature haven here you are surrounded by birds and other wildlife and you’ll find yourself frequently gliding past the real deal (the actual lake swans) during this experience. Plus don’t think you need to pedal for the whole half hour. We anchored up at a beautiful quiet spot at the edge of the lake, put our feet up and just basked in the sunshine for half of it, the sounds and sights of the beach happily bubbling away around us – just idyllic!
There’s so much to do here it’s no surprise people come for the entire day. Also on offer are electric boats which small ones can whizz around the mini lake on, two adventure playgrounds, go karts, mini golf and a high wires area (due to open again soon).
I know I’ll definitely be heading back to try out the SUPs. You can hire both kayaks and paddleboards, and they seemed really popular on the day we came (make sure to book ahead), a really good way to brush up on some balancing skills before that summer staycation too I’d say.
Come here for the activities but stay for the chilled beach vibes. Whether or not you want to try an activity, you can pitch up and spend the whole day just enjoying the tranquil views. We saw lots of people having BBQs at the permanent pitches dotted around the site which looked tremendous fun to do with a group of friends or family. Book your BBQ pitch ahead of time through the website.
And don’t miss! … The circus is coming to the Cotswold Country Park and Beach! With 3 x 40 minute shows a day, guests will have the fantastic opportunity to sit back and enjoy acrobatics and astonishing performances. John Lawson’s Circus troupe will be performing in a colourful Big Top here from 22nd July right through to 31st August so catch them whilst they’re on.