Considered a “big village” among the tiny market towns in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water lies in a valley populated by no more than 4,000. You’d find crowds here though, as busloads of tourists visit this charming village that’s also fondly called “Venice of Cotswolds”. The 5 low bridges, all constructed with local stones, spanning over the River Windrush is a charmer. All have very descriptive names: the Mill Bridge (built 1654), the High Bridge (1756), Payne’s Bridge (1776), New Bridge (1911) and the Coronation Bridge to replace a wooden footbridge built in 1750. The river cutting through town used to be wider until it was rechanneled to power the 3 mills.

Unlike the more bucolic Castle Combe and Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water is more modern and vibrant with its antique and souvenir shops, tearooms and restaurants lining the riverbank. The whole place is actually “prettied-up” for the tourists and it’s no brainer to think the tourism industry is making good money here. If you like shopping, you’d get busy here. And most restaurants offer good views of the river flowing through the entire town, complete with swans, ducks, even pigeons. There is a Museum of Vintage Cars as well as a “model village” showing a miniature Bourton-on-the-Water complete with bridges and stone houses. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any. Just as well as I don’t fancy a car museum nor a village scale model. But I found a bench by the riverbank. And the time to sit still even for just a moment. It was a pleasant day. Not sunny, but at least it didn’t rain. Not too cold too.

The name Bourton-on-the-Water derives from a Saxon phrase meaning village or settlement by the fort or camp. Except that that settlement has been fully commercialised. Funny but every time I see shops selling gemstones like one would find in cruise liners, it hits a panic button. Instant alert that it is a tourist trap. Definitely not your idea of “countryside” but the stone houses, some ivy covered, still hits a spot. And yes, the low bridges over the River Windrush add charm. Like Venice? No gondolas for sure as they can’t pass under those low footbridges. But still a charmer. No wonder it’s one of the more popular towns in the Cotswolds area.