Cotswold Way, England
A quintessential English walk - 164 km, 11 days
BRITAIN'S COTSWOLD WAY WALK is one of the best loved walks in England. This hiking trail takes you along the limestone ridge, the scarp of the Cotswold Edge. The Way begins in Bath, passes villages and towns of Hawkesbury, Wooten-under-edge, Dursley, Randwick, Painswick, Cheltenham, Winchcombe and Stanton before arriving at the old sheep town of Chipping Campden.
MARK RICHARDS wrote one of the original guidebooks ‘The Cotswold Way’, which is a useful illustrated booklet, with line-drawings, detailed maps and route directions.
THE COTSWOLD WAY ROUTE is 164 km long and for those contemplating this hiking trail for their walking holiday in England, a certain amount of planning is required. Although the path is well marked, the English weather is unpredictable and needs to be catered for.
The Cotswold Way route was first suggested some 50 years ago by Gloucestershire-area Ramblers, of which Tony Drake and Cyril Trenfield were principals. Although recognised as a suitable route for a National Trail in due course, the path was initially sponsored by Gloucestershire County Council, who had no powers of footpath creation, and so used only existing rights of way.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALK: Cotswold Way Route: Starting from historic Bath, the 164 km hiking trail wends its way north-eastwards and ends at Chipping Campden, an old sheep town. Although the green rolling hills seem gentle, there are some stiffer sections to cross. Besides being popular with walkers, the Cotswold Way is also run once a year as the Cotswold Way Relay from Chipping Campden to Bath, usually in late June or early July. The winning team typically takes a collective time of about 12 hours.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS: Bath Abbey, Bath’s Roman Spa, the Somerset Monument, the Tyndale Monument, Prinknash Abbey, Coopers Hill (where they chase a round of cheese down a steep hill), Sudeley Castle, Cleeve Hill, Hailes Abbey, and the Broadway Tower.
WALKING ROUTE PLANNER: The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the town or village in which you will end your day. It's also nice to plan on arriving a little earlier in a village if there are interesting attractions you may like to visit, such as in Painswick or Winchcombe. We did the walk in 11 days, however it's also possible to do it in about 9 days.
LUGGAGE TRANSFER: This efficient service is readily available and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘self-guided’ itineraries.
YOUR COTSWOLD WAY ACCOMMODATION: This is usually in B&Bs or inns and should be booked in advance.
FOOD: Mostly good quality traditional English food is served up at B&Bs and village inns and there are wide choices in their menu. Cider and ale are common. Most B&B owners can cater for vegetarians or people with other food preferences if given sufficient notice.
WHEN TO GO: The northern Spring or Autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.
WALKING GEAR: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your shoes should have been broken in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.
ITINERARY for the Cotswold Way - 164 km
The following is an outline of the 11-day walk itinerary that we chose. We decided on this itinerary because of the reasonable distances and the available accommodation.
- Where to Start: Bath, England.
- How to get there: Trains or buses from London’s Victoria Station to Bath. Then take a taxi to your accommodation..
Walking itinerary: 11 days (we recommend an extra day at Winchcombe)
- Day 1. Bath - Cold Ashton (16km). After looking at the Roman Baths and the Jane Austen Centre, a glorious walk through Regency and Victorian Bath and out to the countryside. The Way crosses some main roads before arriving at the quiet village of Cold Ashton.
- Day 2. Chipping Sodbury (17.5km). Some hill climbing today. One thing that starts to become apparent today is the walk's mix of farms, pastures, woods, country estates, golf courses and little villages. And these sites will be repeated from time to time along the Cotswold Way.
- Day 3. Wotton-under-edge (17.5km). The Way now starts to become a little simpler and for much of the day it follows the extensive limestone scarp quite faithfully, climbing to the heights and down again to the vale several times. Visit St. Adeline’s Church in Little Sodbury (William Tyndale preached here). The Somerset monument, after a military commander, Somerset who served under Wellington at Waterloo. We reach Wotton-under-edge, once a wool town.
- Day 4. Dursley (11km). This section has many ups and downs and is typical of the Cotswolds. Over the next two days you will ascend and descend about 830 metres, so prepare yourself for some fine, if energetic walking. Visit the Tyndale monument on Nibley Knoll. After the descent from the Knoll there is another walk up to Stinchcombe Hill before the final walk into Dursley.
- Day 5. Randwick (11.5km). After Dursley we come to Cam Long Down, an isolated wedge of hill, a detached outlier of the main Cotswold scarp. The Cotswold way climbs its western spur and traverses its whole length. We visit Hetty Pegler’s Tump and Nymphsfield Long Barrow, Neolithic burial mounds. We walk through a number of villages such as Middleyard Kings Stanley before making it to Randwick.
- Day 6. Painswick (14.5km). On the way is Standish Wood and the marvellous open top of Haresfield Beacon. Today we walk through some other delightful woods, Cliff Wood, Halliday’s Wood and Maitland’s Wood. We walk through Edge and have our first glimpse of the wonderful Cotswold village of Painswick.
- Day 7. Birdlip (11.5km). After visiting Painswick’s fine St. Mary’s Church and the Rococo Gardens, today’s walk is through a mix of fields, pastures, downland, woodland, villages and small townscapes, with excellent viewpoints from the edge of the Cotswold scarp. A varied itinerary today. First a climb up to Painswick Beacon, an Iron Age Hill Fort. Then down to Prinkash Abbey to visit this relatively modern Benedictine monastery. Further along we come to Cooper’s Hill where the annual cheese rolling events are held. If you have the time you will be able to visit Witcombe Roman Villa with its fine Roman mosaics.
- Day 8. Langett (near Cheltenham) (25km). We first walk up Crickley Hill, a Neolithic settlement and then on to Leckhampton Hill and the Devil’s Chimney, the symbol of the Cotswolds. Then to Seven Springs – claimed as an alternative early source of the Thames. Further on are Chatcombe and Lineover Woods, before we arrive at Langett and our B&B on the shore of the Dowdswell Reservoir.
- Day 9. Winchcombe (11km). We bypass the large spa city of Cheltenham and walk up Cleeve Hill, great views. We descend to a velley and then continue uphill (again) and come to Belas Knap, a magnificent Neolithic Long Barrow, built 5,000 years ago. Further along we take the alternative route to Sudeley Castle and spend a few hours exploring the former home of Katherine Parr, one of King Henry's wives. We then walk the remaining few kilometres into Winchcombe.
- Day 10. Stanton (13km). Today is another day full of wonder as we walk to Hailes Abbey, on of the most famous pilgrimage sites during medieval times. We walk through two delightful Cotswold villages, Stanway and Stanton. Then we pay a visit to Snowshill Manor, the work of a tireless collector.
- Day 11. Chipping Campden (16km) - your destination! More ups and downs – what did you expect? From Stanton we walk to Broadway and the well-known upmarket Lygon Arms Hotel. Then to the folly known as Broadway. Then a pleasant walk to Fish Hill, Mile Drive and Drover’s Hill and we’re there. Visit St James and the Jacobean Market Hall.
- How to get back from Chipping Camden: Bus to Stratford-Upon-Avon, train to London.
There is a lot to see on this 164 km hiking trail through England, so don't forget to bring your camera. Be prepared for rain and the wonderful walking. The Way is usually walked from south to north. Spend an extra day in Bath to soak up the history. You might also like to visit Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare's town) after finishing your walk.