When you live in the middle of a country it’s not often you get to visit a beach. When we go away for a few days I was trying to make sure we’re near enough to get out of the coast even for a brief visit but when they’re weather gets hot a trip to the beach isn’t on the agenda. The thought of sitting in a car in traffic queues trying to find a beach that is not actually round isn’t my idea of enjoyment. So it’s nice to find some inland beaches that will provide a bit of the beach you feel even if they have not got the sea breezes.
A couple of years ago we visited Bosworth beach and this year I finally found a day we could check out Cotswold Country Park and beach. The first week of the school holidays has been so hot I’m not really keen on the outdoors. But if there’s somewhere I can paddle in and a bit of shade I’m happy enough.
We knew we would need to arrive early to get a parking space and ensure we got entry. You can pay online in advance for the Country Park and beach but it annoyed me that you didn’t have a choice not to pay for Gift Aid online. So we decided to get there early and pay on the gate. We were 20 minutes later than opening time but still had no problems getting in, although there was a short wait. They have parking stewards so it’s easy enough to work out where to park, but you might be parked some way away from the beach.
Cotswold Water Park
Cotswold Water Park is made up of 151 lakes, some of which you can visit to do various different water activities. You do need to make sure when you’re visiting that you go to the right lake and postcode for the activity or hotel you’re looking for. It’s definitely worth making a weekend of it if you’re travelling some way.
Cotswold Country Park and beach
Cotswold Country Park and beach is made up of two 2 lakes, the North and South.
The North Lake is where the wibit aquaventure inflatable course is located. Having seen it, N has decided he wants to go back and have a go on that. It’s for over age 6 which I was quite surprised about as I expected the age to be 8 or 9 +. Children need to be over a certain height and obviously able to swim 50m. You can hire wetsuits if needed and life jackets have to be worn which are provided. In hot weather you definitely need to book as it will book up well ahead.
The South Lake is where you can do kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or take the rowing boats or pedalos out. All of these have additional costs and are non coached. You can also book to have lessons on the kayaks and paddle boards
There are plenty of facilities as you might think. Toilets are near the entrance and then at the far end of the lake with with an additional set of toilets halfway down by the beach. In the main building there’s the reception and shop upstairs, with a simple cafe and pizzeria, plus an ice cream kiosk on the bottom floor. You can either take away or eat overlooking the water, which is also where you hire the kayaks and paddle boards from.
We had a really nice half and half pizza from there. 12 inch pizza that was £12 and I can definitely recommend the Hawaiian or pepperoni, it was definitely worth the money. If a little bit strange to be eating pizza on the beach.
You also pay for or crazy golf at the shop, which isn’t that well signposted where to go go to pay. Finding the crazy golf in the first place was a bit of a nightmare, as they didn’t seem to be much signage for it, and the map didn’t have it in the right place. You need to leave a deposit of £5 but I don’t think many people use the crazy golf as we seemed to be that the only people who used it all day that we were there.
There was also a beach shack at one end of the beach which serves hot dogs and burgers drinks and ice creams from lunchtime, as well as an ice cream kiosk further up the beach selling the usual. As well as delicious Kelly’s ice cream at only £2 a cone. Bargain compared to most places selling ice creams.
At Cotswold Country Park there are two beaches, the smaller kids beach and small paddling area alongside a playground. Then the family beach which is larger and has a good sized swimming lagoon, blocked off from the lake. There are also lifeguards overseeing that swimming area.
It was pretty busy when we arrived but we were still able to find an area at the back of the beach to put down our camping chairs and picnic rug. There’s a couple of levels to the beach so you don’t have to sit right on the edge but you can sit in near enough to keep an eye on children. They ask that children under 8 are supervised in the water.
Above the beach, up some steps is a grassy area with picnic tables and plenty of room to set up picnic blankets and chairs, if you’d rather set up off the sand.
Just up from the beach you can also hire BBQs to use use, as you’re not allowed to use your own. We did see one man making a fire on the grass so I’m not sure how he got away with it. There’s a decent sized playground with equipment for different ages, and just behind there a volleyball court which anyone can use. So there’s plenty to use for free although obviously things like the golf and the Wibit inflatable course are chargeable. We also spotted the climbing wall which quite a few children were enjoying.
The beach isn’t large but it’s plenty big enough as they do limit the number of cars coming in.
I was quite surprised at how little N wanted to actually go in the water or play on the beach. He was happy just to sit and enjoy watching, or just had a short kick and throw around the ball in the water. I think next time we’ll go with friends so he’s got some more people to play with, because I’m not that exciting to play with. He just wanted to play crazy golf instead.
We did play crazy golf. It’s a bit frustrating as there’s quite a long walk back to the shop to first get golf clubs and ball, then walk to the golf, and back again to give the clubs and ball back. It would have made more sense to have someone taking money and handing out clubs next to the golf, or even alongside the aquaventure reception as they seemed to have a lot of people hanging around there.
Let’s just say that my ability in crazy golf has obviously been lost in the hot weather, as N beat me by a long way for the first time ever (followed up by junkyard golf the next day where he beat me again).
We stayed at Cotswold Country Park and beach for just over 3 hours as that was enough for us in the heat. By 11ish the car park was full apart from pre booked tickets so if you’re going on a hot day either get there early, around opening time, or pre-book because you wouldn’t want to go and then not be able to get in. The car park isn’t that big either and it’s mostly non shaded, but most people ended up in the overflow car park up by the aquaventure course.
As there’s a bit of a walk from the car parks to the beach it’s worth either having a little trolley or wagon to carry all your stuff. Especially if you’re going to be there all day long with picnic and lots of beach stuff.
N has already said he wants to return and I’m sure we will do at some point. He wants to try kayaking, and I quite fancy stand-up paddle boarding. I think if it wasn’t so expensive he’d quite like to have a birthday party on the wibit inflatable course.
Top tips for for visiting an inland beach
- Either pre-book or arrive at or just after opening time. You don’t want to travel and risk not getting in which can easily happen on hot days.
- Fill your car with people because while you only pay for parking, it is expensive to visit places like this. For a car with however many people in, it cost £14.50 or £16 including Gift Aid.
- Check what activities are available in advance because you could miss out if you don’t pre-book.
- Think about shade in hot weather. Not all all inland beaches have tree cover or shelter so bring your own. We saw someone creating their own from a huge pole and and piece of canvas while I took my umbrella to sit under if it got too hot. Luckily we managed to find a spot under a tree which worked well even once the sun had moved.
- If you take deck chairs or camping chairs to sit on always take a picnic blanket or large towel to lay out on the floor to give your area a bit more space. Otherwise you’ll find people walking all over the place and you’ll feel like you don’t actually have a space for yourselves.
- Some places only take cash for the parking, others you can pay at machines on the way out. So check in advance what method of payment there is to make sure you you can pay if there is no card machine.
We had a great time at Cotswold Water Park and beach and hopefully will be back soon to check out some of the other activities.
Can you recommend any other inland beaches that we should try out?