As we have hopefully shown in the last posts, there are lots of fantastic attractions in Swindon. Alternatively, you could take a break after playing our escape room in Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds. It’s easy to make the short drive to this charming market town that looks like it fell right out of a Midsomer Murders episode. On your way there you could even stop by Cotswold Country Park and Beach to take a refreshing dip in a lake.
Cirencester is brilliant for a leisurely coffee and some casual shopping. Coming from the Forum Car park – where you can stay for free after 3pm – you turn onto Dyer Street. This seamlessly blends into Market Place, which essentially forms the town’s high street. Here you will find a mix of upmarket brands, independent shops, cafés and local pubs. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, you might want to have a meal or refreshments at the gorgeous Kings Head Hotel rooftop terrace. And don’t miss the Corn Hall next to it! Every Friday and Saturday there are antiques and craft markets, perfect if you like hunting for treasures.
On the opposite side of the road towers the parish church of St John the Baptist. Informally known as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds, this impressive piece of medieval architecture certainly lives up to its nickname. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of its delicately crafted Cotswold stone features and the tall solemnity within. The abbey next door was sadly razed under Henry VIII, but its grounds have been turned into a very pleasant park.
There are more shops down Black Jack and Castle Street, just to the west of Market Place. These include gift shops, fashion boutiques, an art supplies shop, a chocolaterie and what is possibly the last remaining independent bookshop on this planet. While you are having a good nose around, make sure not to miss the cute little side alleys and courtyards. They don’t only come with a satisfying sense of discovery – don’t feel embarrassed if you end up squealing ‘Hah, I found one!’. There is also some really good stuff tucked away from the main view.
If you love art and/or like to support hand-made craftsmanship, you might want to drop by the New Brewery Arts. It is accessible via a side alley off Cricklade Street and offers a range of beautiful fashion and household objects.
What have the Romans ever done for us?!
You can’t go to Cirencester and not visit the Corinium Museum. Corinium, as it was then known, formed the second largest town in Roman Britain. And this is definitely reflected in the museum, which features some of the finest mosaics in the country and a column head the size of a baby elephant. Among lots of other impressive finds and reconstructed contexts of course. Also, the Stone Age to Corinium Gallery has just been freshly revamped into an appealingly modern and interactive display. Okay, full disclosure – I do have a background in archaeology, so I am slightly biased. But this also means that I know what I’m talking about and this is just a really outstanding collection.
If you like green spaces and are up for something unusual, you might want to take a walk around the amphitheatre. It’s a couple of minutes drive from the centre but has free parking and is open all day. With the upward structures gone, now only the gentle grassy slopes of the oval earthworks remain. Still, you can get a pretty good impression of the size of this place, which had a capacity of a whopping 8,000 viewers.
There are lots of great places to eat out in Cirencester. We can personally recommend The Fleece for Pub food, Côte Brasserie for elegant dining (they do amazing Moules frites!). Jacks Tearoom is fab for a lunch or if you want something smaller. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth you should stop by He Says She Waffles, who are reopening soon. For more inspiration, take a look at what the official Cirencester website and Cirencester Rocks suggest.
That’s it for lovely Cirencester. In our next posts we are going to take a closer look at our escape rooms and tell you all you need to know before visiting!