A Visitor’s Guide to Cirencester in the Cotswolds


We’re lucky enough that Orion Holidays HQ is very close to what we consider to be one of the best towns in the Cotswolds. 

It’s one that proves popular with visitors to the area, so much so we’ve created this in-depth visitors guide to Cirencester – or as some local folk might say “The Capital of the Cotswolds”.

Cirencester, once known as Corinium Dobunnorum, sprang up as a Roman fort guarding the nearby river Churn crossing. It became one of the most significant Roman towns in Britain & served as the second-largest Roman town outside of Londonium (now London). The town thrived during this period, with the construction of a forum, basilica, amphitheater (with its earthwork that can be visited), and defensive Roman walls (now ruined but they can be found if you look around – more briefly later).

The Romans and town inhabitants (most likely from the local Dobunni tribe) certainly left their mark on the area as there are other Roman ruins nearby including Chedworth Roman villa. You can also visit the Corinium Museum in Cirencester which shows off just how much the Romans left behind!

Exterior shot of the Corinium Museum in Cirencester

The Corinium Museum in Cirencester – it is worth checking out!

We’ve provided our visitors guide to Cirencester to help you get the most from your visit but one thing before you decide to pop down from the Water Park: Some directions and a word on visitor parking in the town.

If you encounter any parking difficulties or inaccuracies, please do contact us for assistance.

Cirencester hosts a decent number of car parks, but when the town is busy these spaces can end up a bit limited. At times it’s tempting to park in residential streets, especially to avoid any car parking charges.

Please don’t be a hindrance to locals who might already have limited parking near their home. It is possible to reach Cirencester by taxi or bus, though you could catch the train to Kemble (which is a similar distance away as Swindon is) but ultimately most visitors will use their car.

Directions to Cirencester from the Cotswold Water Park

From the Cotswold Water Park jump on the A419 and head towards Cirencester, coming off at the next junction. You won’t be on the carriageway for long so stay in the left lane.

Once you’re off the carriageway, take the 2nd exit off the roundabout, head down the road passing a military base followed by Dobbies Cirencester on your left. Head straight over the next small roundabout; keep an eye out here as people will do U-turns here on the roundabout due to the road layout beyond.

Carry on down to the shortish section of dual carriageway but take care, this bit of tarmac encourages people to rush down to the next roundabout. We suggest you keep your wits about you on Cirencester’s dual road network!

At this roundabout, take the 2nd exit and then at the next roundabout move into the right hand lane taking the 2nd exit onto another section of dual carriageway.

Towards the end of this carriage, get yourself in the right hand lane and turn right at the large roundabout into Hammond Way – between Waitrose Cirencester on your right and St James’s Place on your left. Stay in the left-hand lane (the right-hand lane takes you into Waitrose car park) and go left at the next roundabout. Follow the road up and round to the right and then down to Old Station Car Park – it will be on your right. Pull in and park here. Don’t forget to pay for your parking!

Old Station Car Park in Cirencester

Old Station Car Park, Cirencester

This is where we will start our  Cirencester town guide from. When we popped in we were lucky and managed to grab a free parking space on the road near Old Station car park. Please note though this usually is NOT the case. Other pay and display car parks in the town are as follows:

  • Abbey Grounds Car Park north of Cirencester Church with 93 spaces + 2 disabled spaces
  • Beeches Car Park – close the A429 and rounabout, with 144 spaces + 3 disabled spaces
  • Brewery Car Park by Tesco (the “Big Daddy” of car parking in Cirencester!) with 289 spaces + 6 disabled spaces
  • Forum Car Park opposite Cirencester Police Station with 175 spaces + 12 disabled spaces
  • Sheep Street Car Park across the road from Old Station Car Park with 102 spaces with 6 disabled spaces
  • Waterloo Car Park behind Dyer Street with 234 spaces + 2 disabled spaces

Insider tip! Free all day parking is available on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays only in the staff car parks for Cotswold District Council, Trinity Road, GL7 1PX and St James’s Place, Hammond Way, GL7 1FP (next to the Leisure Centre). 

Starting your Walk

So, now you should be ready to wander around Cirencester and take in the sights.

As you head to the road you pulled off, you’ll see to your right there are 3 roads, you want to take the one to the left to follow our guide. On your left will be a very tall wall, sadly preventing you getting a good look at some of the Bathhurst Estate, but stick close to this wall and you’ll mosey on down Park Lane.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Follow Park Lane round to the left onto Park Street and then take the next left onto Cecily Hill; a wide but very pretty avenue that leads up to the Cecily Hill Gates at the entrance to Cirencester Park, which is open to members of the public.

If you decide to check out the Park then read on, if not then feel free to skip this part.

Cirencester Park

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Listed as number 4  out of 37 Cirencester attractions on Tripadvisor, Cirencester Park is definitely worth a stroll along its mostly tarmac paths (great for accessibility) and its stunning avenue of trees. You’ll find locals there as it’s a popular area for some exercise, kids to run around or walk their dogs.

It’s a place to roam, with plenty of space giving you a moment to take in the peace and quiet. You can also grab a drink here too as there is a lovely onsite café.

Back into Cirencester town

Cecily Hill Armoury in Cirencester

Cecily Hill Barracks, near Cirencester Park

Once you are out of Cirencester Park you can retrace your steps back down Cecily Hill, taking a moment to admire the building designed as a castle – Cecily Hill Barracks, it was originally a Victorian armoury. You might also notice the uniformly painted doors on the residential buildings in the street too.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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At the junction, take a left onto Thomas Street and then the next left into a small lane, signposted “Riverside Walk”. This lane follows an outlet of the River Churn. The lane will take you along the water’s edge and past Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool, that’s been around since 1870. Pop your head through the gate and take a look or if you’ve got your swimming kit, take a dip. You can also get an ice cream here too.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Back out on the lane, turn left and keep walking to the end of it, past the lock gates and you will find yourself on Barton Lane.

There’s no reason to stop here as it’s mostly new-builds on your left, an open grassy area to your right, followed by a local junior school.

Continue to the end of Barton Lane then turn right onto Gloucester Street and you’ll get an initial glimpse of Cirencester’s church in the distance. Amble down this street, taking your time, noting the old buildings that closely line the road. Take care as the pavements on both sides of the street are narrow.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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You’ll reach a very fine-looking old building to your right; if you walk just past it and look back you’ll spot the blue plaque on the wall providing a brief history of the building. It’s worth a quick read.

Talking of blue plaques, Cirencester hosts many historic buildings with blue plaque status awarded by the town’s own Civic Society. The Society provides a handy guide to their locations:

https://www.ccsoc.org.uk/MAP/AboutPlaceMap.aspx

Keep heading towards the heart of Cirencester and you’ll pass the well regarded and Grade 2 listed Corinium Hotel & Court Restaurant on your left, with its well-regarded restaurant. Worth a stop for a coffee or a cool drink here to take in the ambience. There’s also a lovely garden to relax and admire at the rear of the hotel.

St John Baptist Hospital and Chantry

Several houses down from the hotel, you might want to take a left onto Spitalgate Lane and grab a quick peek at the Grade 1 listed St John Baptist Hospital and Chantry.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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This medieval hospital, founded in 1169, offered accommodation but also had a ward for the sick or wounded. Taken over by Cirencester Abbey in 1320, the townsfolk reacquired it in 1539 when the Abbey was dissolved.

Sadly, you can’t gain direct access to this listed Schedule Monument as it has been fenced off by the council but you can still get a good look at the VERY old remains of the Chantry chapel. The hospital was demolished in the 1700s due to its poor condition even back then.

St John Baptist Hospital and Chantry in Spitalgate Lane

St John the Baptist Hospital and Chantry (what’s left of it anyway!)

Once you’ve had a good look, come back onto Gloucester Street, turning left onto what is now Dollar Street.

Dollar Street and Gosditch Street

No, it’s not named after the American currency, the name “Dollar” came from the a corruption of “dole-hole” – and was where the town’s Abbots would ‘dole out’ charitable gifts and help to the poor.

There isn’t too much else to see here, however there is a gem of an Indian restaurant to be found. The place only opens after 5pm so you might have to stick around (we’d advise you book a table if you want to eat there!).

The locals LOVE IT so do take a look:
https://www.indianrasoi.org/

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Dollar Street morphs into Gosditch Street, so named after a ditch frequented by geese as a branch of the Churn river once flowed along this street.

If you’re a fan of home décor then do check out the lovely “The Painted Furniture Company” shop. It’s worth a browse, even if it’s just the starting point for some refurbishment ideas for when you get back home.

Keep walking and you will easily reach the back of Cirencester’s John the Baptist Church. Originally built in the 1100s on top of an earlier Saxon church, this iconic building was expanded through the centuries and is now a Grade 1 Listed building.

If you’ve got time, dart left into Cirencester Abbey Gardens and onto the Abbey Grounds Park with its stunning lake. It’s a beautiful green space in the centre of Cirencester and you won’t be disappointed. We also know part of the original Roman wall is in the park so take a moment to find it.

For those with kids who want to let off steam there’s an extensive play area for them too.

Return to Gosditch Street, turn left and follow the road into the heart of Cirencester; this is where you’ll find most of the action!

Market Place and Cirencester Church

We’d recommend walking directly into the Market Place and then cross over to the other side of the road. Turn around and you’ll get a real sense of the grandeur of the church. It’s magnificent to take it all in, which is why so many people mistakenly consider it a cathedral.

If you walk back across you will find the church is open to all and its definitely worth popping inside and taking a look. You will also find a shop inside that sells bibles, books and postcards.

Cirencester Church on Market Place

Cirencester Church on the Market Place

 

If you’re a history buff then the official church website offers some key dates in history – take a look here:

https://cirenparish.co.uk/visit-the-parish/the-parish-church-of-st-john-baptist/parish-church-history/

Once you’ve completed your tour of the church then head left and take a nose at the shops on both sides of the Market Place. On Mondays and Fridays – till 3pm – you will find a busy and popular market, offering an array of stalls selling plants, outdoor furniture, wicker baskets, fresh food (including local produce), household goods and much more. Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Saturday, you’ll find Cirencester Farmers Market being held in the town too.

Did you know Cirencester holds one of the oldest Charter Markets in the country? It was even was mentioned in the Domesday Book (way back in 1086!).

Our Favourite Places for Shopping in Cirencester

Some of our team’s favourite stores to go shopping in Cirencester are on the Market Place:

Crew Clothing
Sahara Clothing
Cirencester Antiques Centre
Barbour Partner Store
Brooke Taverner Mens Clothing
Cornhall Indoor Market & Arcade

There’s plenty to see and do on Market Place especially if you’re a shopaholic. If you carry on past The Bear Inn (a pretty decent Cotswolds Pub), you will find yourselves on Dyer Street which offers more shops for the visitor. Sadly we find Dyer Street less visually appealing than Market Place, mostly down to some of the 1960’s building architecture in place; it does not seem to fit well with the rest of Cirencester town centre. In its favour, there is an M&S food hall to make up for it.

Hotfoot it back up Market Place and at the crossroads hang a right, past the church and then head left into Black Jack Street. There is always something going on here and rightly it takes the crown as our favourite street in Cirencester!

Checking out Black Jack Street

The name of this street is said to come from the soot darkened statue of St John, which was positioned in the church bell tower for many years, until its removal. It turned black due to the heat and smoke from local blacksmith furnaces close to the church. There’s still some debate in the town on the origins of the name but this is probably the nearest we will get to the truth.

Today, Black Jack Street offers a delightful experience for shoppers proving immensely popular with visitors and Cotswold locals. If you visit on a Friday or a Saturday it can get very busy, so arrive early if you want to enjoy it at its best. The street itself is fairly narrow so it doesn’t take too many people to be wandering around it to make it feel a little claustrophobic, certainly if crowds aren’t your thing.

Some of our favourite Black Jack Street highlights to check out are:

Keith’s Tearoom

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Established in 1971, Keiths is an independently owned coffee shop & tea specialist you definitely ought to check out! Beautiful slices of cake too.


Address: 2 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website:: https://restaurantwebexperts.com/KeithsCoffeeShop/


 

Cote Cirencester

 

 
 
 
 
 
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We really love to visit this French restaurant on a team night out! From the outside it seems small, but it’s Tardis like when you get inside. Due to its popularity with visitors and locals it gets  busy, it’s worth being a little patient. It’s very French so we recommend you just take it all in and enjoy their exceptional food!

Yes Cote are a national chain but you never get that feeling when you’re there.


Address: 4 Black Jack St, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://www.cote.co.uk/restaurant/cirencester/


 

Drizzle Chocolate

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If you’re a fan of people watching, and erm, CHOCOLATE, then Drizzle Chocolate is the place to head to. It’s an award winning French styled chocolate shop AND a café too, so a double win for everyone! Being independent and family owned their staff go the extra mile to ensure everyone is served promptly. They know their chocolate (and ice creams) too. Highly recommended by us that’s for sure.


Address: 3 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://www.drizzlechocolate.co.uk/


 

La Bobina Wine Bar and Tapas

 

 
 
 
 
 
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It feels like there is an European influence here and La Bobina continues this with its stylish Tapas Bar. Savour the best in Spanish snacks and food, you’ll be totally spoilt for choice. Hidden down an alleyway so you need to look for it but it is well worth the find. Get to share a bit of Spain – in the heart of Cirencester!


Address: 14 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://la-bobina.co.uk/la-bobina-tapas-cirencester/


 

Knead Bakery & Patisserie

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A gorgeous bakery, Knead is also dog friendly café offering sumptuous cakes and delicious coffee. Their focaccia is to die for and you can also get a huge sausage roll too.


Address: 12 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://kneadbakery.co.uk/


 

Jacks Brunch Kitchen

 

 
 
 
 
 
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At the far end of Black Jack Street you will find Jacks Brunch Kitchen. If you’ve overindulged the night before then Jacks is the best place for a breakfast that’ll chase the cobwebs away! They take great pride offering all their customers delicious yet affordable food. It’s a hidden gem in Cirencester but you’ll easily find it next to the Corinium Museum.

Insider tip: When Black Jack Street is busy try Jacks, there’s plenty of space and tables so it’s likely you’ll get a seat!


Address: 44 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://www.jackscirencester.co.uk/


 

Jesse Smiths Butchers

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If you’re a meat eater then do drop by into this lovely traditional butchers. You’ll pay a premium but Jesse Smith’s only supply the finest high quality meats, all locally sourced. Perhaps not one for vegans or vegetarians. Do check out Jesse Smith’s wonderful Cirencester Farm Shop just up the road for vegetables if meat isn’t your thing.


Address: 14 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA
Website: https://jessesmith.co.uk/pages/our-shops


 

The Corinium Museum

Once you reach the end of Black Jack Street, do take the time to check out Cirencester’s amazing town Museum. It really is worth the visit if history is your thing.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If not, then head left onto Silver Street and turn right onto Castle Street. From here you can retrace your steps back to your car.

Castle Street

There’s a few restaurants however we’ve reserved one shop worth visiting and that’s Encore in Cirencester.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The girls in our team say that Encore is an absolute treasure trove. They’ve been stocking pre-loved luxury labels in Cirencester since 2000 and you can find some real bargains. The staff definitely know their luxury high end fashion and offer extremely helpful customer service and expertise. If you’re looking to come away from Cirencester in a new outfit then Encore is definitely worth a visit.


Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our detailed visitors guide to Cirencester town centre. If you feel that we have missed anything out that then let us know.

Visit Black Jack Street in Cirencester

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