Unusual things to do near Dursley

When most people plan holidays, they do one of two things: either decide what they want to see and find accommodation nearby; or find accommodation and then look for things to do in the local area. Are you looking for something a little different, a little out of the ordinary? Then check out our suggestions for some of the more unusual things to do and places to see in and around Dursley…

Dursley Pancake Race

If you happen to be here on Shrove Tuesday, head over to Parsonage Street in Dursley itself for the annual pancake race which starts at 12 noon. Entrants are required to supply a pan and pancake and flip it 6 times whilst completing the course. This is a fun event, often run in fancy dress, and is a giggle to watch. Money raised from entry fees and sponsorship goes to a local charity so it’s all in a good cause! It’s great entertainment for all the family (be sure to check out our blog post for other ideas of fun things to do in the Cotswolds for all the family too).

Purton Hulks

Decommisioned boats and barges were deliberately run aground to help strengthen the banks of the River Severn.

The largest ship graveyard in mainland Britain lies along the banks of the River Severn at Purton. Reinforcing the bank between the river and the Gloucester and Sharpness ship canal became a priority after a bank collapsed in 1909; more than 80 boats were deliberately beached and holed to shore up the bank. 20 minute drive from Dursley, the site is a short walk along the canal towpath after parking in Purton village. Each vessel is marked with a small plaque, making for an unusual, atmospheric, poignant place to visit.

Surf the Severn bore! (Or just check it out…)

In the hazy morning light, surfers wait patiently for the tidal bore (wave) to reach them.

The Severn bore is a wave that scoots up the river Severn on the incoming tide under certain conditions – it’s a tidal wave, but not like a tsunami… although sometimes it is big enough to surf, and lots of people try. This is one of only a few river bores throughout the world. You can see the bore from many places along the river where there are footpaths along the banks. Particularly good viewing spots are Framilode and Epney, or if you go as far as Gloucester, Over Bridge. Check bore times, dates and other information here.

Cheese Rolling

Looking down Cooper's Hill from the top of the cheese rolling slope: you can't see the ground surface dropping away as the face of the hill is slightly concave (and very steep!) 
Photo credit: Pete Verdon / Public domain

The annual cheese rolling event at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester has become a world-renowned phenomenon. Much like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, it’s potentially dangerous for participants. (Not because of the cheeses, but because of the incredibly steep hill they run down chasing them!) The event is held towards the end of May; it’s free to spectate and races commence at noon, but get there early to ensure an unobstructed view of the hill.

Cheese Tasting

A variety of delicious cheeses are made locally, including the famous Double Gloucester.

If you prefer sampling cheeses to throwing them down a hill, our recommendation is to head to Stroud Farmers Market. Stroud, a 25 minute drive from Dursley, boasts one of the best farmers markets in the UK. A variety of locally made cheeses are sold here from 9am to 2pm every Saturday. The most well-known Gloucestershire cheeses are Double Gloucester, Single Gloucester and Stinking Bishop; but you’ll also be able to try local cheddar-style cheeses, organic bries and goat’s cheeses. And of course there are plenty of other fantastic produce stalls at the market so go prepared with your shopping bags!

Tetbury Woolsack Race

Thought to have originated in the 17th century as a way for drovers to show off their strength to the local girls, the woolsack race takes place each year on Whitsun bank holiday. Tetbury was one of the major centres of the woollen industry in the Cotswolds during the Middle Ages. It’s a popular place to visit, with the town centre comprising an array of handsome 16th and 17th century buildings.

The woolsack race is unique and if you’re fit and up for a real challenge, why not add it to your bucket list of unusual things to do? The traditional woolsack race tests the participants’ strength to the max. The men carry a 60lb (27kg) woolsack up a steep (1 in 4) street in the town as fast as they can. Nowadays the event includes a street fair and also women’s and children’s races (with much lighter loads!)

Fly a Glider

A glider flight over the Cotswold edge gives a truly stunning and memorable view of the local countryside.

We’re lucky enough to have two top class gliding clubs nearby: the Bristol & Gloucestershire Gliding Club at Nympsfield and the Cotswold Gliding Club at Aston Down. Both clubs offer trial flights and if you’ve never been gliding before why not give it a try? It’s a great way to get a different perspective on the gorgeous Cotswold countryside.

One thing you might see from above is crop marks indicating where archaeological remains lie buried beneath the soil. During the summer you can sometimes see these from the air, although not from ground level. If you do find something and it piques an interest in archaeology, check out our blog post of the best Roman sites to visit nearby.

Learn to Ski (Yes, Really!)

Learn to ski near Dursley at Gloucester's dry ski slope.

One of the more unusual things to do near Dursley has to be learning to ski! Gloucester Ski & Snowboard Centre offers skiing lessons at their dry slope facility on Robinswood Hill in Gloucester. Taster lessons are an hour long and £35 per adult, £28 junior (ages 10+); or you can get the “Learn to ski in a day” pack at £100 (ages 12+).

Christmas Day Open Air Swimming

If you’re looking for something really wacky to do, check this out! It’s bonkers, but true; every Christmas Day, Sandford Lido in Cheltenham hosts an open air swim. It’s for adults only, due to the temperature of the water – but if you’re up for the thrill of the chill, why not give it a go?

Bibury Duck Race

Attending a duck race is perhaps an unusal thing to do - the Boxing Day Duck Race at Bibury is a popular and fun charity event.

If you’re here on Boxing Day, head over to Bibury for the annual duck race. This is a charity fundraising event with two races; both garner a great deal of attention as the ducks float down the River Coln which runs through the village.

The first race starts at 11am and you can sponsor one of around 150 decoy ducks at £10 per duck; if your duck wins, you get to nominate the charity which the day’s proceeds will be donated to. In the second race, thousands of yellow plastic ducks set sail and you can sponsor these for £1 per duck. There are prizes for the first 20 ducks to cross the finish line as well as for the very last duck.

Bibury is a charming place to visit anyway, but this event offers great entertainment for all the family – just remember to wrap up warm. And if you sponsor a duck, good luck!

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