Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water

The village of Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most heavily visited Cotswold attractions, yet for all that, it has a charm that cannot be disguised by the hordes of summer visitors. Part of the charm lies in the setting. The River Windrush flows gently through the centre of the village.

The Windrush at this point is a peaceful waterway, scarcely more than a shallow brook flowing at a gentle pace. It is spanned by 3 very low stone pedestrian bridges and two further bridges accessible by vehicles.

Perhaps the classic view of Bourton, and one much used by calendar and postcard photographers, is looking up the river at one of these lovely little bridges, which are constructed of warm-toned Cotswold stone.

So closely identified with its waterway is Bourton that the village has been called the "Venice of the Cotswolds", which may be stretching things a bit too much. The cottages of Bourton are also constructed of Cotswold stone, and it is this material that does much to enhance the attractiveness of the houses and shops.

For shops there are in abundance, from the obligatory souvenir boutiques to classy antique shops used to dealing with an international clientele. A concerted effort has been made to create an atmosphere of calm beauty in Bourton; containers of flowers festoon every building and hang from posts, and grassy lawns lead right to the river's edge, where willows hang over the water.

The war memorial and village green
The war memorial and village green

There are a variety of purpose-built attractions to entice visitors into parting with some hard-earned cash, including a model village, a motor museum, a perfumery, and a pottery! Keep a close eye on your pocketbook, for it may be a real struggle to avoid spending more than you can afford in Bourton.

The village of Bourton has its origins in pre-Roman times. A Celtic military camp covering over 60 acres existed to the north-east of the present village. Evidence suggests that the camp may have been inhabited as early as 400 BC.

The Romans took over the camp for a time, though they later moved to a site closer to the River Windrush and the Fosse Way, the great Roman road which struck through Bourton on its way from Devon to the mouth of the Humber. Several minor roads intersected the Fosse Way, most leading from the Roman settlement.

The extensive remains of a Roman villa were discovered near the point where the Fosse Way crosses the Windrush. The site was inhabited for as long as 300 years, and so numerous were the coins found there that they were carted to the market at nearby Stow and sold by the peck!

More interesting to students of archaeology is the Saxon pit dwelling found north of the Roman camp. This dwelling is one of only five such remains in the entire country. From the discovery of loom weights, needles and spindles it seems certain that the house was used by a Saxon weaver.

The Saxons used the old Roman camp and changed its name to Salmonsbury. They also named the village, sensibly calling it Burghton (or Boroughton), meaning "the town by the camp".

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About Bourton on the Water
Address: Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England
Attraction Type: Village
Location map
OS: SP165205
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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