Affectionately known as the “Queen of the Cotswolds,” Painswick, is one of the places that you must visit when you are in the Cotswolds. It’s a historic wool town mainly constructed of locally quarried pale Cotswold stone.
Painswick is more than just a pretty town. It is home to a historic church and churchyard, unique attractions, charming shops, restaurants, and more surrounded by glorious countryside.
Let me share information more so that you can plan a visit. In this post, I will reveal the best things to do in Painswick, where to eat, where to stay, other places to see in the area, and more.
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- Where is Painswick?
- About Painswick
- Things to do in Painswick
- Where to Eat in Painswick
- Where can you park in Painswick?
- Things to Do Near Painswick
- When is the best time to visit Painswick?
- Where to Stay in Painswick
- Is Painswick Worth Visiting?
- Expert Tips for Visiting Painswick
Where is Painswick?
Painswick is located in the Stroud District in the county of Gloucestershire, England. The closest city is Gloucester which is six miles (or about a 20 minute drive) away.
Painswick gets its nickname as the Queen of the Cotswolds because of the prosperity it saw with the cloth and wool trade during the medieval period. Many of the fine old buildings you see today were made possible thanks to the wealth created by the cloth making industry.
The history of Painswick goes back much further than that though. There is evidence of an Iron Age settlement on nearby Painswick Beacon. You can still see the earthworks from the Kimsbury Camp hill fort.
The village is mentioned as Wyke in the Domesday Book under the lordship of Roger de Laci, who was banished in 1096 for supporting a rebellion. The village gradually became known as Pain’s Wyke, after Pain FitzJohn who was a Norman baron, to distinguish it from other villages with a similar name. Eventually, that turned into Painswick.
Painswick was also a bustling place during the English Civil War. King Charles I and his army passed through the area before and after laying siege to Gloucester. There were other battles in the locality including one at the parish church.
Things to do in Painswick
Painswick has plenty to offer its visitors. You will definitely want to bring your camera when you explore this town. Here are our recommendations for what to do.
#1 Visit St Mary’s Church
You can’t miss St. Mary’s Church in Painswick as the weathercock on its spire stands 639 feet above sea level. It may be best known for the yew trees in its churchyard (more on that below), but it also has some interesting features inside the church.
Since it is mentioned in the Domesday Book, we can presume that there has been a parish church in Painswick since Saxon times. While the first building is thought to have been built in 1040AD, the oldest part of the church that remains today is St Peter’s Chapel which dates back to 1377.
In 1632, a spire was added to the church, but it has been rebuilt many times since then. There were also other additions like the Rood Loft that were made to the church during the 18th-20th centuries.
During the Civil War, Parliamentarians were stationed inside the church and it was besieged by Royalist forces. You can still see graffiti done by a soldier involved in the fighting on one of the columns and damage on the upper stonework of the north side of the tower from a bullet and cannon shot.
The church tower now has 14 bells. Their bell ringers society was formed in 1686 and calls themselves the “Ancient Society of Painswick Youths.”
St. Mary’s has a collection of more than 300 embroidered kneelers that are on display inside the church. These have been called some of the finest church craftsmanship in the country and depict biblical stories, local scenes, animals, and memorials to local people.
There is also a model ship of ‘Bonadventure’ on show. It is 1/25th the size of the actual ship which was the flagship of Sir Francis Drake before the Armada. The model was constructed in 1885 by James Farrier and given to the church in 1971.
#2 Count yew trees
The yew trees in St. Mary’s Churchyard almost makes it feel like a place out of a storybook. They definitely make the church more photogenic and memorable.
According to legend St. Mary’s churchyard has 99 yew trees and if they tried to plant more the Devil would not allow them to grow. To mark the Millennium, they decided to test things and planted one more tree. It went ok until 2007, when one of the yew trees toppled over. Was it the Devil’s work?
While many churchyards have yew trees, none have quite this many. During the Saxon era, it became a tradition to plant yew trees in churchyards because the tree’s ability to regenerate symbolizes rebirth.
Most yew trees in England are over 900 years old, but the ones in by St Mary’s Church were only planted in the 18th century. They have to be trimmed annually to keep them healthy.
You can try counting the yew trees, but everyone seems to get a different number. We decided to opt for the easy option of looking at the plaques with numbers on the trunk of each tree. We wanted to find #99 but the best we could do is #98.
Also, don’t miss the pretty half-timbered Lych Gate at the entrance to the churchyard. While it looks Elizabethan, it was actually built in 1901.
#3 Take a Photo of the Spectacle Stocks
Just south of St. Mary’s churchyard on St. Mary’s Street, you can find the town’s 18th-century iron stocks. They are called the ‘spectacle stocks’ because they look like a pair of glasses. This style of stocks is extremely rare as there is only one other similar set in existence.
Today these stocks are a popular photo spot but back in the day they were used to punish criminals. Those who committed less serious crimes would be locked in leg irons for a certain amount of time while the rest of the town looked on.
#4 Visit the Loovre Gallery
What used to be the town’s public restroom (or loo as the British say) has been converted into the studio gallery of local artist Rupert Aker. It has 8 meters of wall space and a glass roof panel that allows daylight in. The name is a fun play on the famous Louvre Museum in Paris.
The Loovre Gallery was closed when we visited so we had to settle for peeking inside the window. If you would like to go inside, it’s best to make an appointment. You can contact Rupert Aker through his website here.
#5 Check out the Ashton Beer Collection
The Ashton Beer Collection is a museum and gallery of the Arts & Craft Movement and its influence. You can see some of John Ashton Beer’s collection of Arts & Crafts furnishings in the former Christchurch on Gloucester Street.
Inside the listed building you can see works from top names like Augustus Pugin, C.R. Ashbee, William Morris, Ernest Gimson, Gordon Russell, the Barnsley brothers, Baillie Scott, and more. It’s on the same level as what you would expect to see in a national museum.
The museum is open by appointment. Get more information here.
#6 See One of Britain’s Oldest Bowling Greens
Lawn bowling is the English version of Bocce. The concept of tossing balls to get as close as possible to a target can be traced back to ancient Rome. Bowling in England dates back to the 12th or 13th century.
You can find one of Britain’s oldest bowling greens by the back of the Falcon Inn in Painswick. Legend has it that Charles I had a game on the green during the siege of Gloucester. It was built in the 16th-century shortly after the Falcon Inn and is still in use today.
It was originally used for gentlemen to unwind after a day of hunting, but now The Falcon Bowl Club uses the green. Tony Allcock, the 14-time world champion who became chief executive of the English Bowling Association, was a member.
#7 Take a walk
Painswick is a popular spot for walkers as it is about the halfway point on the 102-mile long Cotswold Way, which is one of the UK’s national trails. You could walk along the Cotswold Way or there are several other options.
By the parking lot, there was a board that mapped out two walking routes. One was a moderate circular walk via Painswick Stream (printable map and guide here) and the other was a more strenuous circular walk up to Frith Wood (printable map and guide here).
Another possibility is a circular walk to the Painswick Beacon. It’s about 5 miles and classified as strenuous but on a clear day I’m sure the views would be worth it. Get the map here.
Where to Eat in Painswick
When we were in Painswick, we wanted something simple for lunch that would be quick so that we could get back to exploring. We opted for baguette sandwiches at St. Michael’s which were just what we needed.
If you are looking for something fancy, I have heard nothing but good things about The Painswick. You can treat yourself to their afternoon tea Monday to Saturday and then Sunday they have a roast lunch. It’s also a lovely spot for dinner. Keep in mind their menu changes seasonally.
For a traditional pub lunch, head to The Falcon Inn. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also offer a wide selection of wines, ciders and ales.
Where can you park in Painswick?
We parked in the Stamages Lane Car Park, which is close to St. Mary’s Church. The pay machine was not working when we visited, so it was free.
Things to Do Near Painswick
In addition to all the things to do in the town of Painswick, we should mention some of the other attractions in the area. If you have time, definitely try to fit these in.
When Painswick House was built in 1735 by Charles Hyett, it was originally called Buenos Aires, because of the fine air in Painswick, about a half mile away. The Rococo Garden was established about ten years later, and depicted in a painting by Thomas Robbins.
Unfortunately, the gardens fell into disuse, but with the help of the painting they were restored in the late 1980s to the original design. Today they remain the UK’s only complete surviving Rococo garden.
The Painswick Rococo Gardens are famous for their snowdrops as they have over five million of these white flowers. We were too late to see the snowdrops but timed it right for bluebells.
It’s quite a photogenic place and we enjoyed exploring the different garden areas. The spots that stood out most to me were actually the buildings (Eagle House, Exedra, and Red House) because they compliment the plants well.
They also have one of the best mazes that I have seen. It’s actually two mazes in one. If you walk to the viewpoint you can see that the maze says 250 which is fitting since it was created in 1998 to celebrate a special anniversary.
I’d suggest allowing around 90 minutes to see the Rococo Gardens. Entrance is about £10 per adult. They do have a cafe but it does not serve lunch until noon.
Read more reviews of the Rococo Gardens here.
To get the best views in the area, you want to go to Painswick Beacon. Legend has it that while Royalists were in Painswick, King Charles I went up to the Beacon and as he was admiring the beautiful valley to the east said “This must be paradise.”
As I mentioned, it is walkable from the town if you are ambitious. If not, you can drive and park much closer. Just put Painswick Beacon Car Park into Google Maps.
From there, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the viewpoint where you can catch a glimpse of the Forest of Dean, May Hill, the River Severn, and more. You can also see the earthworks of the Kimsbury Camp hill fort, dating back to the Iron Age.
Great Witcombe Roman Villa
This hidden gem is not easy to get to as you have to drive down a single track road and walk uphill a bit. Then you find the remains of a large Roman villa which was built around 250 AD.
We enjoyed walking through the ruins and taking in the views of the countryside. The information board outlined the floorplan so we knew more about what we were seeing. Unfortunately, the mosaics here are protected inside modern buildings that are only open on rare occasions.
It is free to visit, but if you are not an English Heritage member you will need to pay £2 to park.
If you are interested in learning more about Roman times in Britain while you are in the Cotswolds, you should also visit the Chedworth Roman Villa, about a 30 minute drive away, where you can see mosaics.
You could also visit the city of Gloucester. The big attraction here is Gloucester Cathedral. Not only was it a Harry Potter filming location (like Christ Church College in Oxford and Alnwick Castle), but it’s been a place of worship for over 1,300 years.
Entry to Gloucester Cathedral is by voluntary donation.
RELATED READ: Hogwarts in the Snow Review
When is the best time to visit Painswick?
While it may not be as popular as other spots in the Cotswolds, I would still recommend visiting in the spring or fall rather than the summer when everyone is out exploring. I am tempted to plan a visit for late February so that I can see the snowdrops at the Rococo Gardens.
Where to Stay in Painswick
While you can see the town of Painswick in a day, if you want to also explore the area around Painswick, it might be a good idea to spend a night or two. The Painswick Hotel might be the best option, but it comes at a premium price. For that special couples trip to the Cotswolds it might be worth it.
Alternatively, you might want to consider one of the charming holiday homes in the village. You can find several highly-rated options on Booking.com here.
Is Painswick Worth Visiting?
Yes. It’s a pretty town that has some unique offerings that you won’t want to miss. Additionally, the area around Painswick has several attractions that are must dos.
Have you been to Painswick in England?
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Last Updated on January 30, 2023