Spending summer days in the Cotswold is one of life’s great pleasures and one of our favourite things to do whilst there; especially with our children and dog, is to go for a picnic, indulging in wholesome clotted cream and strawberry jam-packed scones amongst 160 acres of open greenery and surrounded by wildlife like rhino, zebra, giraffe, ostrich and many other amazing animals.
What is it?
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens (cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk) is a zoo set in 160 acres of greenery in the quaint Cotswold town of Burford. It is different from a typical zoo as it has plenty of green open space, perfect for idyllic picnics. We also found that the animal enclosures are more open, allowing for a more intimate experience with the animals.
When should I go?
As everything is mostly outside, pick a mild, dry day to take full advantage of the grounds and exhibits. Avoid days that you expect to sizzle beyond 30 degrees Celsius, as the park is quite exposed and there is limited respite from the heat .
How do I get there?
The wildlife park is 1 hour and 45 mins or 80 miles west from Central London, on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds. It is just off the A40 by Burford town on the A361. The park is difficult to get to without a car. We would recommend hiring a car for the visit. Parking is free/included in the entry price. If possible, park close to the gift shop, which is a left turn after the drive-thru ticket booth.
How do I make a day of it?
Aim to arrive at Burford 15 to 30 mins before lunch time, which is perfect if you are driving out from London. Stop by the town centre to stock up for your picnic before heading into the park. Try Bakery On The Hill (map) for fresh creams teas and pastries. There is also a Co-Op (grocery shop) across the road for other picnic essentials if you did not manage to pack from home.
Allow 3 – 4 hours to cover the park after lunch (with plenty of rest and hydration stops in between). The park closes at 6 pm during the main season and 5 pm from Nov to Mar. After the park, head back to Burford or another nearby town for dinner before heading back to London or to your hotel in the Cotswolds.
Where is the best spot for picnic?
Picnics are permitted anywhere in the park, although there are also 3 dedicated picnic shelter areas where tables and benches are provided for those who prefer it or haven’t brought a picnic mat.
We think the best picnic spot is on the large green patch facing the Oak Tree Restaurant and the Skymaze Adventure (children’s playground). We like the large open space and view of the main building and garden. It is close by to the kids playground and the rhino, red panda, reptile house, etc to keep kids/adults entertained. Best of all, it is a short 10 min walk back to the car park, allowing you to drop off your picnic paraphernalia before walking around in the park.
What should I bring?
Put on a good pair of comfortable shoes as theres a lot of walking involved and don’t forget all of your picnic supplies (picnic mat, picnic chairs, plates, cutlery, cups/glasses, etc) for the perfect day out in the Cotswolds. If going on one of the rare sunny summer days in England, when the sun can be surprisingly unforgiving, make sure you arm yourself with plenty of water, slather up with sunblock and cover up with a parasol or big hat.
Is it child friendly?
Of course! If the animals don’t keep them fascinated, there is also an adventure playground called the The “Skymaze” which consists of treehouses interconnected with bridges or slides, located by the main building (Manor House).
Baby changing facilities are available in all the 3 blocks of toilets across the park. The walking paths consist mostly of dirt paths, but are pram-friendly. Unfortunately, scooters, bicycles, etc are not permitted in the park.
Is it dog friendly?
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens is probably one of the only wildlife parks that allows dogs. Dogs must be kept on lead and under adult supervision at all times. Although there are certain areas which restrict entry to dogs such as the restaurant, gift shop, Bat Belfry, Reptile House, Children’s Farmyard and any areas with free ranging animals, there is still plenty to see and with 160 acres, plenty of space to roam around, and explore.
How much is it?
E-tickets cost £14.40 for adults (over 16 years of age) and £9.90 for children (3-16 years of age) and senior citizens (over 65 years of age). Children below 3 years of age are free. E-tickets can be purchased from their website (cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk)
Where is good for dinner after?
The Cotswold Arms (cotswoldarms.co.uk)
Cap off the day with a pint and some traditional English food in this 18th century historic pub back in Burford town. It is a charming place with exposed stone walls, solid wood floors and real log-burning fireplace. There is also a stone-paved beer garden patio to the back. Tuck into the fish & chips, a beef & local ale pie, a juicy cut of steak or a spicy BBQ vegan burger.
The Feathered Nest Country Inn (thefeatherednestinn.co.uk)
Or, if you can spare another 15 mins of driving, venture out to the amazing Feathered Nest Country Inn for unrivalled views of the Cotswolds. Start off with a tipple in the garden as you look out to the rolling hills. Then move to your outdoor dining table under the magnificent tree to savour some exceptional food. The crispy buttermilk chicken is to die for.