Spending summer days in Cotswold is what life is meant for. There are many wonderful ways to spend them and one of our favourite, especially if you have children or a dog, involve indulging in a wholesome clotted cream and strawberry jam-packed scone on a picnic in 160 acres of open greenery surrounded by wildlife like rhino, zebra, giraffe, ostrich and many more 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 an idyllic picnics. We also found that the animal enclosures are more open, allowing for a more intimate experience with the animals.
When shall I go?
As it is a mostly outdoor park, the weather is a key consideration. It is best experienced on a warm summer day to take full advantage of the acres of greenery for a relaxing picnic. But, not on days when it sizzle beyond 30 degrees Celsius, you will have limited respite from the heat as the park is quite exposed.
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 Cotswold. 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 at the park. If possible, park close to the gift shop, which is a left turn after the drive-thru ticket office.
How do I make a day of it?
Aim to get there about 15 to 30 mins before lunch time, which is perfect if you are driving out from London. Stop by Burford town centre before going into the park to pick up some fresh Afternoon Tea and other picnic goodies from Bakery On The Hill (map) for a delightful picnic. There is also a Co-Op (grocery shop) across the road for other picnic essentials if you did not manage to pack from home.
The park closes at 6 pm (5 pm from Nov to Mar) and it will take you 3 – 4 hours to cover it after lunch (with plenty of rest and hydration stops in between). After the park, head back to Burford or another nearby town for dinner before heading back to London or to your hotel in Cotswold.
Where is the best spot for picnic?
You can picnic anywhere in the park. There are 3 dedicated picnic shelters areas where table and benches are provided if you do not have a picnic mat.
We think the best picnic spot is on the large green patch facing the Oak Tree Restaurant and the Skymaze Adventure (kids playground). It is best as it a large open space with a nice view of the surrounding greenery as well as of the main building. It is close enough 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 mins walk back to the car park to drop off your picnic gears before walking around in the park.
What should I pack?
Bring picnic food and all your picnic gears (picnic mat, picnic chairs, plates, cutlery, cups/glasses, etc) for the perfect day out in Cotswold. Put on a pair of good walking shoe. As the park is very exposed and the sun can be unforgiving on the rare sunny summer day in England, make sure you are armed with plenty of water, sunblock as well as parasol or a big hat.
Is it child friendly?
Of course. Apart from being fascinated with all the animals, there is also an adventure playground by the main building (Manor House). The “skymaze” has treehouses interconnected with bridges or slides.
Baby changing facilities are available in all the 3 blocks of toilets across the park. The walking path are mostly dirt path, but are pram-friendly. Unfortunately, scooters, bicycles, etc are not permitted in the park.
Is it dog friendly?
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens are probably one of the only wildlife park that allows dog. Dogs must be kept on lead and under adult supervision at all time. They are not allowed in the restaurant, gift shop or into the Bat Belfry, Reptile House, Children’s Farmyard and any areas with free ranging animals, but there are plenty of the 160 acres that you can wonder with your dog.
How much is it?
E-tickets for adult (over 16 years of age) cost £14.40 and £9.90 for children (3-16 years of age) as well as 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 fish & chips, or a beef & local ale pie or 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 view of the Cotswold. Start off with a tipple in the garden and look out to the rolling hills of Cotswold. Then move to your outdoor dining table under the magnificent tree to savour some exceptional food. The crispy buttermilk chicken is to die for.