24. Cotswold Water Park... and the UK's largest inland beach
Just a few miles from Cirencester, the Cotswold Water Park is an incredible leisure resource that was born out of gravel extraction which began half a century ago.
But the Cotswold Water Park is not what many people might imagine it to be, as there are no water slides, log flumes or the like. It is, in fact, a collection of 150 lakes and wetlands, covering 40 square miles, making it one of the UK's largest nature reserves with many previously "lost" species being successfully reintroduced into the wild.
When gravel extraction started 50 years ago, it created huge lakes which have proved ideal for a variety of uses including just about every water-based activity you could imagine, as well as plenty of fishing opportunities.
The water park also hosts a popular triathlon and the generally peaceful environment makes it a popular location for walking, cycling, riding, caravanning and camping.
Cotswold Country Park and Beach, formerly known as Keynes Country Park, is the number one attraction in the Cotswold Water Park. Open from February to December, the country park offers the largest inland beach in the UK, as well as boat and kayak hire, bouncy castles, crazy golf, a climbing wall, adventure playgrounds, open water swimming, cafes and wonderful lakeside walks.
Cotswold Country Park and Beach comprises two lakes formed about 40 years ago through gravel extraction and they are so clean that you can usually see the bottom of the lake from the viewing gallery on the Millennium Building. In the winter, although many of the water-based facilities close, the country park is still a great place to come for a beautiful lakeside walk.
The Cotswold Water Park as a whole has become a popular destination for both locals and visitors to the area who either come for the day or stay for longer. A wide variety of accommodation options include luxury lakeside lodges, beautiful hotels, self-catering apartments or campsites.
Jill Bewley, from the Cotswold Water Park Trust, said: "The Cotswold Water Park is a wonderful destination for all the family, all year round. With so many activities to choose from, from angling to zorbing, wakeboarding to walking, the crystal clear lakes and surrounding Cotswolds countryside provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.
"This is also a great place for wildlife watching, from the dazzling displays of dragonflies on hot summer days to the thousands of winter water birds which stay here from the Arctic, there is always something to see. And the choice of accommodation is second to none."
A number of villages sit either in the designated 'Cotswold Water Park' or just outside it. While there is still some gravel extraction, the area is a Site of Specific Interest because of its geology with its various nature reserves providing protected areas for endangered wildlife.