Miniature, minute, and delightfully accurate down to the very last detail, the tiny model village in the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ is open every day with the exception of Christmas and is certainly one of the more unusual things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water. There’s even a replica River Windrush with real water trickling through the pint-sized settlement! Here’s how to visit Bourton on the Water Model Village, including tips on when to go and a brief history of this quirky Cotswold attraction.
A history of Bourton on the Water Model Village
There’s a reason that this is the only Grade II listed model village in England, and it’s not just because the buttery stone façades of the teeny tiny abodes (80 in total) and replica shops are made of local Cotswold stone. Instead, the one/ ninth scale replica of the village of Bourton-on-the-Water took five years to build in the 1930s.
Opened to the public on the Coronation Day of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, the miniature Cotswolds Village was the brainchild of a previous publican of the Old New Inn, a pub which is still in operation to this day. Complete with churches (the main church even contains a choir which sometimes sings when you’re nearby), mini gardens, and little replicas of the boutiques in the village, the tree-lined streets are created using carefully pruned Bonsai trees!
Highlights of the model village at Bourton
The Viewing Platform: Though the scale of the village means that you’ll tower above the houses from no matter where you stand, the best view of the entire scene can be found from the viewing platform to the right-hand side of the model, when facing away from the entrance. This is also one of the best places from which to snap a picture!
The Bonsai Trees: Featuring both deciduous and evergreen varieties, keen gardeners will love these perfectly scaled Bonsai trees, that have been created with help from Mr John Constable. Many of the houses also feature their own miniature gardens, including pint-sized greenhouses and tiny gardening equipment.
The Miniature Landscapes Exhibition: Close to the exit, there’s a row of seven model replicas of cottages that were created by John Constable from Langport in Somerset. Accurate and beautiful, these houses have featured in the Model Village since 2014.
The Model of the model village: Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the miniature village is the model of the model of the model Village. Yes, you read that correctly! Look closely enough, and you’ll soon spy that behind the replica of the Old New Inn pub, there’s a model of the model village that you’re currently standing in. Within that model, there’s a further model village!
Tips and things to know before visiting the Model Village of the Cotswolds
You should know before you go that this is one of the most popular attractions in one of the most popular Cotswolds destinations. As you can well imagine, this means that the mini village gets pretty busy, especially so during peak season (i.e. during the summer) and during school holidays. In order to make the most of the place without the crowds, I’d recommend going mid-week and early in the morning or just before closing.
Next, you can pay with card or cash (contactless payment is also accepted). This is different from some of the other Bourton-on-the-Water attractions where cash remains king (such is the case with the Dragonfly Maze). Otherwise, there’s a small paid parking just outside the New Inn, though I’d recommend parking further down the street at 30 Rissington Rd as there’s plenty more space! Unfortunately, the narrow pathways mean that there is limited access for wheelchair users.
The Model Village is certainly an outdoor attraction and so you won’t want to visit when it’s raining as there’s quite literally no cover overhead! When we visited in May of 2019, we paid £4.25 per adult to enter, though concessions cost a little less. There’s also a further room featuring miniatures, though we didn’t go as this was an extra £1 and we still had plenty more things to cram into our Cotswolds itinerary!
Finally, as many other online reviews of the Model Village have said, some of the displays are a little ‘tired’ and some of the house and shop interiors are a little dusty. While the Bonsai trees remain perfectly pruned, some of the houses do require a little restoration work. With that being said, you’re paying to see a little bit of history (and pay for its upkeep and restoration), and I personally loved our visit!
Why you’ll love Bourton-on-the-Water
Truth be told, when it comes to ‘fun activities’ for all ages in the Cotswolds, there are certainly some villages which fit the bill and stand out much more than others. Because, while the large draw of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is indeed the beautiful Cotswold towns and breathtaking countryside, for those looking to enjoy touristic hotspots, Bourton is certainly the place to go.
After all, there’s a motor museum housed within a former water mill works, a model village, several boutique shops, plenty of cafés and pubs in which to enjoy some traditional Cotswold fare, and even a maze in which you could easily lose yourself for at least an hour, simply trying to solve the puzzles.
And if that’s not enough, you can always simply splash around in the town’s central river and enjoy an ice cream on the green! For all this and more (did I mention that Bourton on the Water is within easy driving distance of many other Cotswold towns?), I chose Bourton-on-the-Water as my base for my last Cotswolds adventure (check the best accommodation prices here). Alternatively, if you’re short on time and looking to visit as a day trip from London, then you might consider booking a tour like this one.