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Walking in the Cotswolds

Pauline Kenny

The Cotswolds area is named for the limestone Cotswolds hills that run for 50 miles northeast from Bath. Historically this area was used for raising sheep and was made wealthy by the wool trade. The towns are beautiful; full of stone cottages and narrow lanes, surrounded by open fields and wooded areas. Most towns have a "wool church", a large church from the 1500s built by the rich wool merchants of the time. These are all well worth visiting.

The Cotswolds is an official Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), second only to the Lakes District in size. This puts in on the level of a National Park, but most of it is privately owned, not government owned. There building and farming restrictions within an AONB, to keep the area protected.

We love this area for the abundance of public walking trails, the beautiful villages and the beautiful countryside. If you want an outdoors vacation, this is a perfect place.

White garlic flowers on Sapperton walk. Pauline Kenny 05/2000

Southern Cotswolds Sapperton - Golden Valley trail, May 2000

Walking Guidebooks

For walking in the Cotswolds, we use the Goldeneye Complete Collection of Cotswolds Walks and both Pathfinder Guides for the Cotswolds. We sometimes use the AA 50 Walks guide, but it is not my favorite. This gives us lots of walks to choose from, but you will see that many walks are the same in these three guides (so you really only need one of them). See our Hiking Guidebooks page for links to Amazon for purchasing these book.

You will also find small local walking guidebooks in the local shops. There is no shortage of good books describing walks in the Cotswolds. Make sure you also have an Ordnance map for the area as backup when walking.

Our Favorite Southern Cotswolds Hikes

Slad and Dillay Valleys (Laurie Lee Country) from Goldeneye book. May 2000
We did part of this walk right from our Painswick cottage. From the cottage we went up over the ridge and down into Slad (use the Ordnance Survey map to find the trails). We walked around Slad, then down to the river and along the river. Then we cut across the valley back to Bulls Cross. Then down into Painswick for afternoon tea at Chancellor's Tea Rooms and home. A wonderful walk.

Cranham - Sheepscombe from Goldeneye book. May 2000
2 1/2 circular walk from Cranham. Fabulous walk mostly through Saltridge Woods, along an open meadow (commons), down into Sheepscombe, then back through the Workmans Woods. When we did this walk, the Workmans Woods were covered in bluebells and white garlic flowers. There were so many wildflowers that it looks like a colored mist lying on the ground. We skipped the downhill walk to Sheepscombe because you only had to walk uphill again and we didn't want to stop there for lunch. Cranham and Sheepscombe are in the same valley as Painswick, only a short drive from our cottage. Note: The pub in Sheepscombe only serves food at lunch time.

Sapperton - Golden Valley from Goldeneye book. May 2000
2 hour circular walk from Sapperton. Fabulous walk starting in very pretty village then along an old canal (no longer in use, but it connected the Thames and Severn Rivers) and back through woods and fields. The woods were covered in white garlic flowers - it was like walking through snow. There is a pub in Sapperton and it is a 15 minute drive to Cirencester, a larger town with many shops and restaurants.

Other Southern Cotswolds Walks

Bibury - Coln St Aldwyns from Goldeneye book, May 2000
2 1/2 hour circular walk from Bibury. Fabulous walk from a beautiful village, through farmers fields and back along the River Coln. The river was flooding over the footpath when we did this hike, so we got a little lost. We had a very good late lunch at the William Morris tea shop on the main street in Bibury. They have a great collection of William Morris fabrics displayed in the tea shop and will show you more if you ask.

Castle Combe from Goldeneye book, May 2000
We did the long version, a 2 hour circular walk from Castle Combe. A perfect hike. Some up and down, some very muddy patches. Much of it through woods and then beautiful open fields. Castle Combe is a beautiful traditional village with several thatched roof houses. There is only one pub which serves lunch until 2pm (we arrived too late).

Roman Villa - Chedworth Woods - Chedworth from Goldeneye book, May 2004
Do not do the version from the Pathfinder guide (Cotswolds Walks #26). It goes through an old airfield and it is easy to lose your way. Plus you walk under high power lines for part of the hike near Withington.

This is a good walk to do after you have looked at the remains of the Roman Villa. We did a short version of this hike, against the recommended direction and it was hard to find our way. I recommend doing it as they suggest. Their shortcut version would have been very nice. The walk was very pretty and we had a good lunch in Chedworth, at The Seven Tums, a pub that has very good food.

Note from September 2004: We did the Pathfinder version of this hike and had a good lunch at The Seven Tums.

Our Favorite Northern Cotswolds Walks

Stanton - Stanway from the Goldeneye book, September 2004
A perfect 2 - 3 hour walk. Both Stanton and Stanway are small villages, with no shops or tea rooms (Stanton has a pub), but they are very beautiful. The hike starts in Stanton and follows the Cotswolds Way to the top of the hills, then you walk through a lovely woods down to Stanway, then across beautiful open fields back to Stanton. We had lovely weather for our walk.

Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle from the Pathfinder book (Cotswolds Walks #23), September 2004
Excellent long walk, 4.5 hours. This walk starts on the Cotswolds Way. You can stop for lunch or tea at Hailes Fruit Farm near the Abbey. We did this walk twice in 2004 because we could do it right from our cottage and loved it both times. There is a shorter version (4 hours) in the Goldeneye book, but the beginning is more difficult - a muddy trail up a hill (we lost our way and went up that hill 3 times).

Broadway - Broadway Tower from Goldeneye book, May 2000, September 2004
From September 2004 notes: Wonderful 3 hour walk. We visited the St. Eadburgh's Church on the first part of the walk. They were preparing for a wedding that afternoon and told us to listen for the wedding bells around 3pm. We heard them ringing for half an hour as we were finishing the hike.

From May 2000 notes: We didn't do the whole walk; we just went straight up the Cotswold Way to the Broadway Tower, then followed the rest of the hike back to Broadway. It was about 1 hour uphill to get to the tower. We had afternoon tea at the tearoom by the tower. On the walk from the tower, we got to walk through a field with two Scottish longhorn cows and their calves. There were delightful woods full of wildflowers on the way back. At the end of the walk we came upon a very old church just outside Broadway. The last few fields were full of rabbits. They hop off in all directions when they hear you coming.

Lunch: Our favorite tea room in Broadway is Tissanes, on the main street near the car park. Good cream tea, good cakes, good food also. Another good place for lunch or tea is the Small Talk Tea Shoppe, further down on the High Street.

Broadway is a very pretty Cotswolds town and is full of interesting shops (aimed at the tourist market). In 2000, I got a very nice Polartec vest at Landmark Walking and Country Wear on the main street. In 2004, I was still wearing that same vest, but went in a got myself a new one.

Other Northern Cotswolds Hikes

The Sacred Tombs of Belas Knap from the AA 50 Walks book, September 2004
A very nice 2.5 hour hike that we did right from our apartment in Winchcombe. Belas Knap is an ancient burial mound that can only be visited by walking to it (but you can drive closer to it). Lovely walk through fields and forest. Easy walk.

Stanton, Laverton and Buckland from the AA 50 Walks book, September 2004
Easy walk between three beautiful villages (1.5 hours). The day we walked they were spreading manure on a huge field near Stanton - I can still smell it. We all had to have baths after this walk! But we returned the next week and the smell was gone. We have come across the same smell in other areas (this manure spreading must be a common occurance). The walk starts in Stanton and you walk across fields to Laverton and then Buckland. You return a bit higher up across the hillside.

Chipping Campden to Broad Campden, from the Pathfinder book (More Cotswolds Walks #2), September 2004
Wonderful hike (2 hours) that walks through the beautiful National Trust land on the edge of Chipping Campden, behind the church, to farmers fields and to Broad Campden. We got lost in one field where it had been plowed and we could not see the trail, but found our way again.

This time we had an excellent lunch at the Kings Arms hotel in Chipping Campden.

Guiting Wood from the Goldeneye book, September 2004
Very nice easy hike (1.5 hours) mostly through woodland. It can be very muddy. We parked as recommended on Critchford Lane, but this parking area is very remote and the farmer told us cars are broken into regularly here (we saw glass on the ground). I would recommend doing the longer version of the walk and parking in Guiting Power, where there are a couple of good looking pubs. This would add another 30 - 60 minutes to the hike.

Deerhurst, Apperley and the River Severn, from the Pathfinder book (More Cotswolds Walks #16), September 2004
A level hike across fields and through small towns to an unused canal, then back along the River Severn. Even though it was level, there were so many stiles that you did a lot of climbing. This is just south of Tewkesbury, not in the Cotswolds but was a lovely hike. It was muddy along the canal, but the trail along the river was good. There is a Saxon Church in Deerhurst (Odda's Chapel, built in 1056) where the walk starts. There are pubs along the way, but they did not look great. Instead drive up to Tewkesbury and go to the Abbey Tea Rooms in an old building across the street from the entrance to the Abbey. This is an excellent tea room with perhaps the best scones of our trip.

Winchcombe - Little Farmcote - Sudeley from the Goldeneye book, September 2004
We only did the first part of this hike up to Little Farmcote, then went to Hailes Abbey and back on the Cotswolds way. The first part of the hike takes you on the Gloucestershire Way but is badly marked and takes you through muddy fields and up a muddy field. We lost our way and climbed that hill 3 times looking for the trail. We did finally find it. It is much better to do the Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle walk from the Pathfinder book.

Cotswolds Hikes That We Did Not Like

Lower Slaughter/Upper Slaughter/Lower Harford from Goldeneye book, May 2000. Not recommended.
The first part of this hike was very nice, but the last half was not. Very nice walk from Lower Slaughter to Upper Slaughter and then along the river, but the next part was along a busy road, then up through boring farm fields and another longer part on a busy road. The hike continued through farmer fields to get to another very nice part along the Windrush River and back to Lower Slaughter.

Next time I would just walk from Lower Slaughter, through Upper Slaughter, all along the river, until you get to the busy road (at Swiss Farm House), then go back the way you came. This was a long hike; about 5 hours. There is a very good place for afternoon tea in Lower Slaughter; Washbourne Court Hotel, 17th century hotel beside the river. Tea is served outside on a patio.

Note from 2004: We went to Lower Slaughter and walked the one mile to Upper Slaughter and then back. Then tea at the Washbourne, but sitting inside this time because it was a cold day. It was lovely. They had a fire going and you sit on couches and big chairs around a coffee table instead of in a restaurant type setting.

The Rollright Stones from the Pathfinder book (Cotswolds Walks #27), September 2004. Not recommended.
A long hike (5 hours) with too much time walking on roads. The Rollright Stones are well worth a visit, but drive there and see them. This hike was also very convoluted, going up and down some valleys just to add distance to the hike. That felt pointless to me. The only place to stop for food along the way is a dreary tea room in a Garden shop.

Chipping Campden and Dover's Hill from the Pathfinder book (Cotswolds Walks #14), also in Goldeneye book, September 2004. Not recommended.
This hike was okay, but again too much walking on roads. The view from Dover's Hill is very nice. A good alternative is to just do the first part of the hike up to Dover's Hill and then back. This is the start (or end) of the Cotswolds Way Long Distance Trail.


Slow Travel UK - Travel Notes - Hiking/Walking Guidebooks

Magazine: Country Walking. A monthly magazine with great walking information. £3.20 (2004 price). www.emap.com

www.goldeneyemaps.com: The Goldeneye hiking guidebooks are very good.

www.iprow.co.uk: Institute of Public Right of Way. Information about footpaths.

www.walkingbritain.co.uk: Walking Britain

www.mapsguidesandmore.com: You can purchase my recommended walking guidebooks online at Maps, Guides and More. To find them, go to > Walking, Trekking & Hiking > United Kingdom > England. They also carry the Ordnance Survey maps.

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