Snowshill is a tiny hamlet tucked away down a valley in the middle of the Cotswolds, in south-west England. It’s a typically unspoiled Cotswold village, with old, tumbledown cottages and picture perfect streets.
As Snowshill is so small it may not sound like somewhere to spend a full day; perhaps only a couple of hours to lazily meander about the picturesque streets and have a drink or pub lunch at the local, the Snowshill Arms.
But hidden away on the outskirts of Snowshill lie two attractions that will mean you need to set aside a whole day for Snowshill – and they’re guaranteed to appeal to people of all ages, not just families with young kids like us.
Read on to find out about things to do in Snowshill, Cotswolds, with or without kids!
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Snowshill Manor and Gardens
The most famous attraction in Snowshill village is Snowshill Manor and Gardens. The house is a typical Cotswold stone building; beautiful certainly, but not particularly remarkable from the outside. But visitors don’t come to Snowshill Manor to marvel at its architecture; instead it’s what’s inside that counts.
The house was owned by Charles Wade, who bought it after he served in the First World War. He never lived in the house, and didn’t intend to, so why did he buy it in the first place?
Charles Wade was a collector. He began collecting objects when he was only seven years old – so you can imagine that he had quite a lot of things by the time he bought Snowshill Manor! He was at pains to note that he didn’t collect objects because they were worth a lot of money; instead he loved unusual, quirky and beautiful things. He especially loved items from the Far East, and you’ll notice this as you wander around the house. Wade filled the house completely with his collections – by the time everything was in it, there was no room for him and so he lived in a little outhouse called the Priest’s House. The outhouse looks as though it’s sprung straight from the pages of a fairytale, so don’t miss this either!
The set up and collections inside Snowshill Manor make it one of the most interesting “museums” in the area, and it should be on your list if you’re visiting this part of the Cotswolds!
The Manor house is about a mile away from the entrance and car park, but it’s a pretty walk through woodland. Through the trees you’ll catch glimpses of the Cotswold countryside surrounding Snowshill. Get the kids to spot the poems written by Charles Wade which are written on small boards and dotted along the path.
When you arrive at the house itself, you’ll start to get an idea of what to expect inside the house by the eccentric objects in the gardens and by the Priest’s House. There’s also a little bookshop to browse in near the entrance. As entry to the house is timed, you may want to look around the Priest’s House and gardens before you go into Snowshill Manor.
It’s a kid’s delight inside Snowshill Manor. The building is kept fairly dark and gloomy, and the wood panelled walls add to the somewhat mysterious atmosphere. I don’t think that the magical wardrobe which leads to Narnia would have been out of place here.
Each room is full of Wade’s collected treasures and they really are an eclectic mix. Obviously, you can’t touch most of the collection but in several rooms we spoke to a member of staff who had replicas for the kids to take a closer look at.
As you walk around you won’t see any labels telling you about the objects – you’re supposed to appreciate them from a purely aesthetic point of view. However we visited during the World Cup so there were a few flags dotted about to let us know where the objects came from. There will usually be a guide in each room so you can ask about any items which particularly take your eye.
It was clear that Wade was a lover of Oriental crafts as I spotted plenty of Japanese and Chinese flags on the cabinets and next to vases and lamps in the downstairs rooms, although he was never lucky enough to visit Asia.
Take time to peek in the cabinets in the downstairs rooms – tubes full of iridescent, glittering beetles, pocket compasses, old spectacles and portraits of unknown women are some of the treasures hiding inside. Other random things dotted around included one of the biggest books I’ve ever seen; a large manta ray picked in a jar; and huge wooden ships.
The kids will love the dressing up room, the large attic room absolutely chock-full of bicycles and the toy room next door. They can also complete a kids’ trail so pick one up when you buy your tickets. As a Japanophile my favourite items were the sets of samurai armour. I knew there was some samurai armour here but I wasn’t expecting a roomful of warriors, arranged seated around a campfire with others on guard – amazing stuff. The husband found some medieval weaponry in another room, along with an enormous set of armour, and that kept him happy.
Snowshill Manor outbuildings
Once you’ve looked around the house, don’t forget to take a look in the outbuildings as well. The Priest’s House is where Wade lived – you can look inside the living room which is just as he left it when he gave Snowshill Manor to the National Trust in 1956, a few years before he died. It looks as though his collection was starting to take over his home as well as the Manor!
Go up the rickety steps around the corner to see Wade’s bedroom and more weird and wonderful objects in the room opposite before visiting the gardens, if you haven’t already.
Snowshill Manor gardens
Snowshill Manor gardens were designed in an Arts and Crafts style which was fashionable at the time Charles Wade bought the house. As Snowshill is set on a hillside, the gardens are tiered, and from the area closest to the house there’s a lovely view down over the rest of the gardens and the surrounding countryside. The top part of the garden nearest the house is set out as a series of “rooms” with water features and statues dotted around. These gardens have a real English country garden feel – in July they were full of roses, clematis and foxgloves.
In the main part of the garden there’s a miniature village called Wolf’s Cove – this is a replica of one that Charles Wade had built, but the original was removed in the 1970s. Wolf’s Cove is still under construction, but it’s going to have a working railway and canal system, and should be finished in 2019.
At the bottom of the garden there are alcoves to relax in and a cottage garden and meadow to explore, if you’re not already worn out.
Snowshill Manor and Gardens really is one of the most original and intriguing places in the Cotswolds – we definitely recommend a visit!
Tickets and dates for Snowshill Manor
Snowshill Manor is run by the National Trust, so if you’re a member then your entry will be free. Otherwise entry to the house and gardens costs £12.80 per adult and £6.40 per child. Family tickets are available too.
Snowshill Manor is open in the spring, summer and autumn and closed over the winter. Dates vary each year so do check on the website before you visit to make sure it’s open.
When you buy your entry ticket you’ll be given a time slot to visit the house. Before and after you go in the house you’re free to look around the shop, gardens and outbuildings. There’s a cafe by the car park too, although we didn’t try it – we were too full up from our visit to Cotswold Lavender.
If you time your Snowshill visit right, then you can easily spend a couple of hours looking at Snowshill lavender. A short drive out of the main Snowshill village, you’ll find Cotswold Lavender and distillery. At Cotswold Lavender you can stroll through a large lavender field for the public to walk through. It gets busy but as the field is so extensive you’re bound to find spots to take photos of the plants without getting too many people in your viewfinder!
Visit in July and you can’t miss the patchwork of purple fields peppered amongst the green, and the sight of the cream farmhouse rising above the lavender fields is one of the best summer panoramas in the Cotswolds.
The fields smell as heavenly as they look; we managed to visit when the lavender was at its peak. The scent, stirred up by the light breeze, wafted around us as we walked through the field. The lavender buzzed with hundreds of bees attracted by the perfume, and the kids had room to tear about (when I wasn’t trying to get photos of them in the lavender). As well as lavender, the farm also grows camomile and has a wildflower meadow.
Across the road from the lavender fields, by the cream farmhouse, is the shop which sells products made from the harvested lavender and camomile. You can tantalise your taste buds with lavender ice cream or lavender scones (recommended).
Tickets and dates for Cotswold Lavender, Snowshill
Cotswold Lavender farm is open to the public only while the lavender is in bloom, so usually throughout July and the beginning of August. The dates vary from year to year so you’ll need to double check the farm is open before you travel. You can buy tickets to the lavender fields when you arrive. Tickets cost £4 per adult, £2 per child and kids under 5 go free.
Where to stay near Snowshill
As Snowshill is so small there isn’t a hotel here, however the National Trust own a series of gorgeous cottages just opposite Snowshill Manor which you can rent. Click here for more information and to book.
Alternatively, I’d recommend staying in nearby Broadway where there are some lovely family friendly hotels.
Try the Lygon Arms in Broadway – this is one of the best hotels in the Cotswolds. It’s got a spa, a swimming pool, tennis court and a great restaurant. Kids’ beds can be added to the rooms and there’s a kids’ club too, so it’s perfect for families. Click here for more information.
Russell’s is another exceptional hotel in the centre of Broadway. This 5* boutique hotel has beautiful rooms, many with original wood beams and features. There’s an award winning restaurant and bar on site. Click here to find out more.
If you prefer to self cater then you could try Northwick Farm Cottages. These are chalets set on a farmstead just outside of Broadway, and they make a great base for visiting the area. Click here to learn more.
More things to do near Snowshill
You can take a walk around Snowshill village itself, which would be a good idea if you’re not about for the lavender window. The streets are very pretty and old fashioned, and there’s a good pub called the Snowshill Arms which serves traditional fare and has a good beer garden with kids’ play area. Alternatively you can take a walk in the countryside, along the Cotswold Way.
If you’re in the area for a few days then there are plenty more beautiful things to do near Snowshill. If you’re in the mood for more gardens then try Hidcote Manor Gardens, just along the road. You’re also not far from Broadway Tower, where you can get one of the best views in the Cotswolds – read more here.
Nearby towns include Broadway and Chipping Campden, which are two of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds and well worth a visit. Slightly further afield you’ve got Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-On-The-Wold.
Kids will love the animals at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, which is only a couple of miles away. Click here to find out about more to do in the Cotswolds with kids in our bumper guide.
What’s the quirkiest museum that you’ve ever visited? Let us know in the comments!