Chipping Campden might enjoy its label as the prettiest spot in the country but beneath the butterscotch brickwork beats a fiercely competitive heart. The jewel in Gloucestershire’s crown is also home to the Cotswold Olympick Games, a cutthroat competition in the heartland of England.
This is a rural games event on steroids. Located at the foot of Dover Hill on the outskirts of town, every year locals and visitors trash it out for victory in wheelbarrow sprints, hammer tossing, tug ‘o war contests, water slides races, dustbins charges, sword fighting (ok, they’re wooden), and cross country running.
The Cotswold Olympick Games have been a thing here since around 1612 (coincidentally the year of the last British burning at the stake), when local lawyer Robert Dover established the competitive games as an outlet for local combative spirit. The historical roots are on proud display on the day. Locals dressed in Stuart-era pageantry parade around on horseback while Morris dancers and folk dancers prance across the grass. There’s an old fashioned helter skelter, and fairground rides while funk and flame jugglers bring it all up to date.
The Cotswold Olympick Games are free to enter and open to everyone over the age of 16, but competition is fierce. You’ll need to register your interest in advance (via the website at the bottom) and turn up early on the day to secure your place.
The star event is the shin kicking contest, a fairly blood thirsty affair. Rules are basic: opponents grip each other by the shoulders and try to kick each other as hard as they can until someone falls on the ground. In bygone times devious contestants tipped their boots with nails to inflict greater wounds but in these more benign times toe caps have been banned and you’re even allowed to pad your legs with straw.
The games site opens at 4pm and the games themselves kick off at 7pm and keep going until the sundown. Spectators gather on the side of the hill and once the victors have been crowned, a fire-lit procession wraps things up.
Mid-summer is a brilliant time of year to visit Chipping Campden. Its glow up is in full force; all foxgloves and forget-me-knots, thatched roofs and scones for tea. The Cotswold Olympick Games mark the tail end of the town’s literary festival season but there’s still plenty to do locally. Make sure you book a hotel early - accommodation gets snapped up well in advance.
Make sure you have clothes and shoes you don’t mind potentially being ruined. There’ll be a lot of mud, water, and foam! Of course, you can just spectate, and save yourself the mess!
You can sign up to events here!
Affordable, convenient and comfy rooms close to the event you're going to
We recommend staying at one of these three hotels:
Closest: Noel Arms This is in the heart of the village, 20 minute walk from Dover Hill
Cheapest: Cotswold House
Feeling fancy: The White Hart Royal Hotel
By train: The nearest stations are Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham, both some 15 minutes away by car, a little more by bus. You can catch the no.1 and no.2 buses from Moreton-in-Marsh or local taxi.
By road: Parking is available at the recommended hotel, parking in Chipping Campden near to the event is likely to be restricted and walking or using public transport is advised.
There are plenty of food stalls on site, though no alcohol allowed. (Let’s face it, the event sounds wild even without).
The car park has disabled parking. There’s level access through a pedestrian gate on a hard track that runs from the car park to the viewpoint. Assist dogs are welcome.
Take part in something different.
Watch and support other attendees.
Relive the history of local games.
Affordable, convenient and comfy rooms close to the event you're going to.
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