Cotswolds Discovery Centre at the Old Prison

The Cotswolds Discovery Centre is the visitor centre for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a place where you will learn and discover more about this beautiful and unique protected landscape and how people have helped shape it over thousands of years.

The Cotswolds Discovery Centre is housed in the grade II* listed Old Prison, a fascinating 18th century building and now a unique historic visitor attraction in the Cotswold market town of Northleach. The centre is also home to the Cotswolds Conservation Board and the Cotswolds Dry Stone Walling Academy.


Learn about the Cotswold landscape and the heritage of its people and buildings

Through imaginatively designed information displays you will learn how geology has shaped the landscape; when dinosaurs first roamed the area; and how the wealth of the area came as a result of the 'golden fleece' of the Cotswolds sheep.

You will also find inspiration for great places to discover and visit across the Cotswolds AONB such as historic sites and gardens, wildflower grasslands, ancient woodlands plus the Cotswold Way National Trail which runs the length of the Cotswolds escarpment providing sweeping views for miles around.


Explore the fascinating Rural Life Collection

Housed within the grounds of the Cotswolds Discovery Centre is the unique Lloyd Baker Rural Life Collection - a wonderful display of historic agricultural and farming machinery. This fascinating and nationally important collection of farm wagons, carts and implements along with two shepherds huts, will take you back in time to the days when the land was toiled by man and beast and tractors hadn't yet been invented.


Glimpse into life in a 19th century house of correction bursting with history

Walk inside the chilling cells and capture the feeling of being locked inside!

A visit to the Old Prison offers you a unique glimpse into life in a 19th century house of correction. Built in the 1790s, this was once a fine example of a model prison used to inspire better care and rehabilitation of prisoners throughout Britain and further afield. It even served as a blueprint for London's Pentonville Prison.

Over the years the building has seen many changes of use including a police station, petty sessional court and tramp station. You can still see one of the original cell blocks built in 1844 along with the historic court room which was in use right up until the 1970s.


Relax in our cafe and enjoy locally sourced delicious homemade food 

The Cotswold Lion Cafe serves homemade food, prepared from locally sourced fresh ingredients. We offer a wide range of delicious breakfasts, light lunches and afternoon teas, along with speciality teas, coffee and soft drinks.

We use local suppliers where we can to provide the best quality raw ingredients in order to make our homemade specials including: organis Cotswold Brie from Upper Slaughter, apple juice and chilli oils from Cheltenham, fresh meats and salamis from Cirencester, and chutneys and pickles from Moreton-in-Marsh.

There is outdoor seating available in the family friendly courtyard where you can relax and enjoy your visit, or get snuggly warm in front of our new wood burning stove. The cafe is licensed and is also available to hire for your own private party or event.

We bake seriously good foord with a friendly welcome to all, whether you are arriving by car, bus, on two wheels, or foot or with your dog.

Contact: Jessica Hughes, Cafe Manager on 01451 861563 or email:


Our Cotswold shop stocks a selection of local food and drink products and a range of unique hand-made gifts and art works. the shop also stocks maps, guides and books to help you explore the Cotswolds further.

Opening times

March to October:           Daily, 9.30am to 4.30pm
November to February:  Tuesdays to Sundays, 9.30am to 4.30pm.










Events and activities

Take a look at the right hand side of the page to see our many events and activities taking place throughout the year. 

Talks, tours and private group visits

As well as a range of events and activities available throughout the year, you can also book your own private group tour, guided walk or themed talk  with a wide range of topics available.  

Sample List of talks available:
1. The Jurassic beneath your feet: the Geology, Fossils & Landscape around Northleach.
2. History of Northleach over the past 100 years.
3. Geology and Quarrying in the Cotswolds.
4. The Conservation Work of the Cotswold Wardens.
5. The Cotswold Way National Trail.
6. Wildflowers of the Cotswolds.
7. Managing Woodllands for Wildlife.
8. Managing Grasslands for Wildlife.

Guided Tours and Walks available:
1. Guided Tour of the History of Northleach Old Prison.
2. Guided Tour around the Medieval Town of Northleach – see the visible signs of history from the 13th Century to the present day.
3. Guided Tour of Northleach – one of England’s finest Norman “Planted” Towns. Discover why hundreds of these market towns were set up in England and Wales over a period of 250 years following the Norman Invasion of 1066.
4. Guided Geology & Landscape Trails – see how drainage patterns, settlement patterns and the shape of the landscape reflect the geology beneath our feet. Local routes available, i.e. Northleach to Hampnett return.

Please contact Rachel Cawte for further details:



LOCATION: Click here to view location on Google Maps.

For further information, please call the Cotswolds Conservation Board on 01451 862000.