Guide to Cotswolds: Discover Cirencester (2023)

Cirencester

In this guide to Cotswolds we’re looking at Cirencester, a historic market town in Gloucestershire, England, that boasts a rich history dating back to the Roman times.

Once a thriving centre for the wool trade, the town has experienced significant growth and development over the centuries, making it an attractive destination for both tourists and residents alike.

Characterised by its beautiful honey-coloured stone buildings and the impressive remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain, Cirencester has many stories to tell.

Visitors will find an excellent mix of outdoor spaces, independent shops, and many attractions, including the world-renowned Corinium Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Roman artefacts.

Cirencester offers an array of events throughout the year, providing entertainment and insight into its storied past.

The town’s vibrant arts and crafts scene adds to its charm, making it an unforgettable experience for those who choose to explore the rich and unique heritage of this Cotswolds gem.

History

This guide to Cotswolds highlights the rich history of Cirencester. Dating back to the Roman era, the town has survived wars, plagues, and economic changes and today, it is a thriving market town and a popular tourist destination. 

Roman Era
During the Roman era, Cirencester, known as Corinium Dobunnorum, was the second-largest settlement in Britain after London. The town was an important center for trade and commerce, and it was home to many wealthy citizens. The remains of a basilica, an amphitheater, and many rich villas have been discovered in the town. 

Medieval Times
In the medieval period, Cirencester became a prosperous wool town and was so successful that it became known as the “capital of the Cotswolds.” The town’s wealth is reflected in its beautiful architecture, which includes many churches, guildhalls, and manor houses. 

Modern Day
Today, Cirencester is a vibrant market town that attracts visitors from all over the world. The town’s economy is based on tourism, retail, and agriculture. The town is also home to many great restaurants, cafes, and pubs. 

Guide to Cotswolds: Cirencester
Guide to Cotswolds: Cirencester

Despite its modern-day success, Cirencester has not forgotten its past.

Many of the town’s historic buildings have been preserved and restored, and visitors can still see the remains of the town’s Roman past. 

Overall, Cirencester’s rich history and beautiful architecture make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in British history and culture.

Geography

Cirencester is a market town in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, southwest-central England and is the largest town in the Cotswolds and lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames.

The town is situated approximately 80 miles west of London and can be reached via the M4 and M5 motorways.

Location and Climate

Cirencester has a temperate maritime climate with average temperatures ranging from 2°C to 22°C throughout the year. The town is surrounded by rolling hills and is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Natural Environment

Cirencester is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is home to several parks and green spaces. The town’s largest park is Cirencester Park, which covers over 3,000 acres and is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer and badgers.

The town is also near several nature reserves, including the Cotswold Water Park and the Lower Woods Nature Reserve.

Getting to Cirencester

Located in the heart of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is a beautiful and historic town and getting here is quite simple, as it is well connected to nearby cities such as London, Bristol, and Birmingham.

This guide to the Cotswolds section will provide information on the best modes of transportation to reach Cirencester and directions from London, Bristol, and Birmingham by car.

There are several transport options available for those looking to visit Cirencester. They include:

  • Rail: The nearest train station is Kemble, which is about 6 miles from Cirencester. Kemble station is well connected to London, Gloucester, and Cheltenham. Please note that the ticket office is closed until further notice due to staffing issues (April 2023)
  • Coach: National Express services run regularly to Cirencester from various locations in the UK. See here for the timetable and pricing.
  • Car: Cirencester is easily accessible via the M4 and M5 motorways. There are also several A-roads that provide a more scenic route.

Directions from Nearby Cities and Heathrow Airport by Car:

London
Take the M4 motorway westbound towards Bristol amd exit at junction 15 and follow the A419 towards Cirencester. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes depending on the traffic.

Bristol
Take the M32 motorway northbound and then join the M4 eastbound towards London. Exit at junction 18 and follow the A46 towards Cirencester. This route takes about 1 hour.

Birmingham
Take the M42 southbound towards the M40 and exit the M40 onto the A429, which leads directly to Cirencester. The journey typically takes 1 hour and 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

Heathrow Airport
Cirencester is about 80 miles from Heathrow Airport by car.

Cirencester’s Top Attractions

The beautiful market town of Cirencester has plenty to offer visitors who seek both history and outdoor activities and in this guide to Cotswolds, here are some attractions not to miss:

Explore Cirencester’s rich Roman heritage at the famous Corinium Museum. Well-known for its extensive collection of unique Roman artefacts, it offers an immersive experience that allows you to step back in time.

Every guide to Cotswolds and Cirencester mentions Market Square for good reason. In the town’s heart, this is a charming place to find shops, eateries, beautiful architecture, bustling local markets, and even an impressive Grade I listed Corn Hall building.

Broad Ride
This is a stunning and iconic avenue lined with horse chestnut and lime trees.

Cirencester Amphitheatre
This dates back to the 2nd century and had seating for about 8,000 people. Then the amphitheatre lay dormant for a few centuries before the Abbot of Cirencester turned it into a bull baiting ring. You can still make out the amphitheatre’s form and it’s all covered in grass.

Cirencester Parish Church of St. John Baptist
The stunning Cirencester Parish Church of St. John Baptist is an architectural marvel dating back to the 12th century. The church’s intricate Perpendicular Gothic stonework and exceptional stained glass windows leave visitors in awe of its craftsmanship.

Cirencester Park
This is a splendid Grade I listed landscape garden covering over 3,000 acres and has diverse flora and well-maintained walking trails, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and walkers alike.

The Corinium Museum
The museum’s exhibits include intricate mosaics, coins, pottery, and sculptures from the Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum–the modern-day Cirencester.

The Market Square
Sometimes there is a farmer’s market and stalls selling handicrafts, antiques and old records. But the square is a joy to walk around, regardless.

Culture and Society

Traditions and Festivals
No guide to Cotswolds would be complete without mentioning Cirencester’s rich cultural heritage.

Various festivals and events, including the Cirencester Charter Market, which has been held since the Middle Ages and takes place every Friday in the town center.

Another popular event is the Cirencester Agricultural Show, which has been held annually since 1844 and showcases the best of the region’s agricultural produce and livestock.

Local Cuisine
Cirencester is known for its local cuisine, which includes traditional dishes such as Gloucestershire Old Spot pork, Cotswold lamb, and Double Gloucester cheese.

The town has a thriving food scene, with many independent cafes, restaurants, and pubs serving up delicious dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.

Where to Eat and Drink in Cirencester

For a fine dining experience, consider trying out The Rectory, an elegant restaurant offering modern British cuisine. For more casual options, Made by Bob is a popular café serving delicious breakfasts and lunches.

Looking for an authentic pub experience? The Crown Inn is a traditional Cotswold pub with a cosy atmosphere and a menu of hearty British dishes.

In Cirencester, a diverse range of cuisines is available to cater to all tastes and budgets.

Some of the most popular options include:

  • British – The King’s Head Hotel, Suave, and The Rectory
  • Italian – Amore Mio
  • Indian – Spice Lodge and Khushi
  • Chinese – Bamboo

Prices in these establishments vary, with casual dining options starting at around £10 per meal, while fine dining venues may charge up to £60 for a multi-course meal.

Special Events and Offers

Throughout the year, many Cirencester eateries take part in special events and promotions to entice both locals and visitors. These may include seasonal food festivals or discount offers during specific times of the day or week.

Keep an eye out for event announcements and promotions at local venues to make the most of Cirencester’s dining scene.

More Information

Where to Stay in Cirencester

In this guide to Cotswolds and Cirencester, it’s time we took a look at the fabulous accommodation on offer throughout the region and there are some real gems out there suitable for a quick break, a romantic weekend, or a proper holiday.

Here are some top-rated accommodations in Cirencester:

  • The Fleece at Cirencester – A historic coaching inn with cosy rooms, traditional British cuisine, and a central location. Had some of the best fish and chips ever in the pub and an excellent seafood platter.
  • Stratton House Hotel – An elegant country house hotel with luxurious rooms and an on-site restaurant, just a short drive from the town centre.
  • The Barrel Store – A unique and stylish hostel offering private and shared rooms with modern amenities, perfect for budget travellers.

Accommodation and Price Ranges

Cirencester offers various accommodation to suit different budgets and preferences:

Type of LodgingPrice Range
Hostels£20 – £40 per night
Bed and Breakfasts£60 – £100 per night
Hotels£80 – £200 per night
Luxury Hotels£200+ per night
April 2023

In this guide to Cotswolds, you may have noticed the region has full and diverse dining and accommodation options and Cirencester is no different.

For those planning an extended stay, there are many accommodations available, such as quaint bed and breakfasts, luxury hotels and self-catering options, ensuring a comfortable visit to Cirencester.

Cirencester holds a wealth of historical and cultural treasures, providing endless opportunities for exploration, education and entertainment.

With so many historical sites and charming lanes to discover, a visit to this picturesque Cotswold market town is sure to leave visitors enchanted and inspired, encouraging them to return time and time again.

In this guide to Cotswolds, we have explored some popular attractions to be found in and around Cirencester, including the Corinium Museum, the Roman Amphitheatre and Cirencester Park.

Each of these locations offers visitors a unique insight into the town’s rich Roman and medieval past, making them essential stops for anyone looking to dive into the history of this enchanting town.

Enchantment Awaits
Enchantment Awaits

The Cotswolds region is home to many charming villages and towns, churches, historic landmarks, outdoor activities, in a beautiful part of England. After visiting the region many times, we created the TravelCotswolds website dedicated to helping others plan their own trips to the Cotswolds.

Contact: hello@travelcotswolds.com

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