Cirencester in the Cotwolds – Things to see and do

Known as the “Capital of the Cotswolds”, Cirencester is a thriving market town with ancient origins. The Roman fort (later town) of ‘Corinium Dobunnorum’ was one of the most critical places in Roman Britain. Today, the only visible remains of the Roman city are part of the old town walls and the grassed-over amphitheatre. With so much history, Cirencester’s award-winning Corinium Museum – where you can experience life as a Roman and marvel at the stunning mosaics – is high on the list of must-see places in the Cotswolds. 

Cirencester’s prosperity in the Middle Ages was mainly due to it being a centre for the Cotswolds’ wool trade, and the “woolgothic” St John the Baptist Church still dominates the Market Place. Cirencester is home to Britain’s oldest open-air swimming pool,  which is run by volunteers and uses natural spring water. But it’s not all about the past with Cirencester, as the town mixes old with new splendidly with a vibrant arts centre with workshops in a converted brewery and a fantastic selection of independent shops, a variety of bustling markets and lots of individual places to eat and drink. 

Cirencester is not just a town of historical significance. It also offers a wealth of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. The Abbey grounds and the extensive 18th Century parkland landscape of Cirencester Park, famous for its polo ground where various members of the Royal family have played, are perfect for leisurely strolls and picnics. As an important regional tourism centre, Cirencester provides all the necessary information for a memorable visit at the Visitor Information Centre, conveniently located in the Corinium Museum.

Historical Attractions

  • Corinium Museum: Learn about Cirencester’s Roman history at this fascinating museum. It showcases an extensive collection of Roman artifacts, including mosaics, sculptures, and everyday items from the town’s Roman past.
  • Church of St. John the Baptist: This impressive parish church dominates the town’s Market Place. Explore its stunning architecture, stained glass, and medieval features.
  • Cirencester Amphitheatre: Visit the remains of a Roman amphitheatre located on the outskirts of the town. It’s a unique site where you can imagine gladiatorial contests and other public spectacles from ancient times.

Cultural Highlights

  • New Brewery Arts: This arts center is a hub for local crafts and workshops. You can watch artisans at work, participate in craft classes, and shop for handmade items.
  • The Barn Theatre: A vibrant theatre located in nearby Cirencester. Check the schedule for a variety of performances, including plays, musicals, and concerts.

Outdoor Activities

  • Cirencester Park: A large, beautiful park ideal for leisurely walks and picnics. It features woodland trails, open fields, and horse-riding paths. Keep an eye out for special events like horse trials and classic car shows.
  • Batsford Arboretum: Although a short drive from Cirencester, this arboretum offers a stunning collection of trees and plants. Visit during different seasons for a unique display of colors and flora.

Local Shopping and Markets

  • Cirencester Market: Held on Mondays and Fridays, this traditional market in the Market Place offers local produce, crafts, and antiques. It’s a great place to experience the town’s bustling atmosphere.
  • Independent Shops and Boutiques: Explore Cirencester’s high street and surrounding areas for a variety of independent shops, from clothing boutiques to artisanal food stores.

Food and Drink

  • Pubs and Restaurants: Cirencester has a variety of places to eat and drink. Try The Fleece or The Twelve Bells for classic pub fare, or visit Made by Bob for a more contemporary dining experience with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
  • Tea Rooms and Cafés: Visit the Café at New Brewery Arts for a relaxing cup of tea and homemade cakes, or The Cotswold Coffee for quality coffee in a stylish setting.

Nearby Attractions

  • Cotswold Water Park: Just a short drive from Cirencester, this extensive water park offers a range of outdoor activities, including sailing, wakeboarding, and hiking.
  • Bibury: A picturesque Cotswold village known for its iconic Arlington Row, a set of historic cottages. It’s a popular spot for photography and leisurely strolls.
  • Tetbury and Westonbirt Arboretum: Visit the charming town of Tetbury for antique shopping, and explore the stunning Westonbirt Arboretum with its diverse collection of trees.

Events and Festivals

  • Cirencester Open Air Theatre: During the summer, enjoy open-air performances in the beautiful grounds of Cirencester Park.
  • Phoenix Festival: A popular local festival featuring live music, food stalls, and family-friendly activities. Usually held in August, it’s a great way to experience the community spirit of Cirencester.

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