The Cotswold Way is a 103 mile Long Distance Path from Chipping Campden to the Roman city of Bath. It is claimed to be the best way marked trail in England.
This trail will appeal to those who want a very gentle introduction to walking in the English countryside; the Cotswolds are hilly rather than mountainous - the highest point being little more than 1000 feet above sea level. Officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls of Jurassic limestone, and patches of unspoiled woodland; stone-built also are almost all the cottages, farmhouses, villages, and small towns that our route passes. The way is also a walk through English history, passing prehistoric hill forts, and ancient burial barrows, Saxon and Civil War battle sites, as well as fine stately homes.
The Cotswolds became wealthy during the 17th Century, due to the wool trade, the fine stone houses and churches are a symbol of that era. The industrial revolution seemed to bypass the region, and the Cotswolds today is still a very affluent part of Britain.
Stage 1- Chipping Campden to Winchcombe 28 km (17.5 miles), 835m (2740 feet)
The Cotswold Way begins in one of the areas finest villages and then embarks on probably its most challenging section. Impressive views from the top of the escarpment are interspersed with delightful villages at its foot and there is a wealth of history and interest throughout. Refreshments are readily available with plenty of tea rooms and inns in Broadway, a fine village inn in Stanton serving lunch from 12 till 2pm and a farm shop tea room at Hailes. There are also several shops in Chipping Campden where you can get the ingredients for a picnic with an official picnic site at Fish Hill and other good places to stop on each hilltop in fine weather.
Stage 2: Winchcombe to Dowdesweil 22 km (13.7 miles), 540m (1770 feet) of
A day of contrasts that takes you across the wildest part of the Way on Cleeve Common then skirts around the largest town along the route, Cheltenham. After a long climb from Winchcombe, the Way stays mostly at high level before crossing the valley of the River Chelt. Refreshments are served at the golf club on Cleeve Hill and at a couple of inns nearby. Winchcombe has plenty of shops for picnic supplies and there are numerous pleasant places to stop in fine weather. There is a good selection of accommodation available on the outskirts of Cheltenham a short distance from the Way throughout the last part of this section.
Stage 3: Dowdeswell to Painswick 30 km (18.6 miles), 550m (1800 feet) of
This section follows the top of the escarpment with regular shorter hills replacing the long climbs of the earlier stages. It takes you across open grass and farmland and through glorious beech woods passing an amazing collection of archaeological sites along the way. For lunch the Air Balloon Inn near Barrow Wake serves food all day as does the Royal William on the way to Painswick Beacon. The Royal George at Birdlip serves lunch from 12 till 2.30 and there is also a small village shop. At Coopers Hill the Haven Tea Garden is a wonderful place to swap tales with fellow walkers. You will find picnic tables at Crickley Hill and other pleasant spots on Leckhampton Hill, Barrow Wake and in Cranham Woods.
Stage 4: Painswick to Uley 23 km (14.3 miles), 590m (1930 feet)
More wide views and longer hills again today as the Way crosses the valley of the River Frome. This, unusually for the Cotswolds, breaks through the escarpment to flow west into the Severn creating impressive slopes of hanging beech woods. The hills above are rich with hill forts and burial mounds but refreshment stops are rather scarce with just one inn on the route at Edge and others just off it in Westrip, Kings Stanley and Nympsfield. There are shops for packed lunch supplies in Painswick or, with a short diversion, in Ebley near Rye ford and kings Stanley. The only official picnic site is at Coaley Peak but you will find other nice places at Hares field Beacon, Standish Wood and Stanley Wood.
Stage 5: Uley to Wotton under edge 15 Km (9.3 miles), 430 m (1415 feet) ascent.
A short day and chance for a bit of a breather though you still have a few hills to negotiate. You can use the extra time to explore the ramparts of Uley Bury and the old cloth-weaving town of Dursley or pause for thought at the Tyndale Monument. Refreshments and shops are readily available in Dursley and you can get lunch between 12 and 2pm at the Black Horse in North Nibley where there is also a village post office. You can get supplies at the start in the Uley Stores and there are plenty of scenic though rather exposed spots to stop for a picnic around Stinchcombe Hill.
Stage 6: Wotton under Edge to Tormarton 23 km (14.3 miles), 570 m (1865 feet)
After the climb out of Wotton it is generally easier gradients on this stage. There are no inns actually on the Way before Old Sodbury but short detours will take you to village pubs in Hillesley, just beyond Alderley, and in Hawkesbury Upton. There is also little open ground along this section with the Way following tracks, lanes and field paths so opportunities for picnic stops are limited. The best places are probably the woods above Long Coombe on the way to Hawkesbury or by the attractive pond in the village. Old Sodbury hill fort is a scenic stop later on in the walk. There are plenty of shops in Wotton at the start which are a better bet than the few village shops along the route that have less regular opening hours. It may be worth getting two days supplies, as the opportunities are also limited tomorrow.
Stage 7: Tormarton to Bath 26 km (16.2 miles), 410 m (1345 feet)
Shorter climbs are followed by the long descent into Bath. The first part crosses the A46 several times and the M5 but also takes you off on pleasant field walks along the hillsides below Dyrham Park. The second half takes you up onto Lansdown, site of a Civil War battle and one of the country's highest racecourses, offering wide views over the World Heritage City of Bath. As you walk into the city beautiful parks and the sweep of Georgian crescents replace the open countryside. After an official picnic site before Dyrham there are inns at Pennsylvania (where you can also get provisions from the petrol station shop) and Cold Ashton and other nice spots to stop at Little Down and Penn Hill.
Arriving by train and bus: Communications into and out of the Cotswolds are very good including train, or National Express coach services to Oxford, Cheltenham and Evesham. You can then take a local bus to Chipping Campden. For the latest information on train departure and arrival times there is a 24 hour National Rail Enquiries service: Tel:08457 484950. or you can visit the website www.nationalrail.co.uk . National Express Coach info can be obtained on 08705 808080 or look at www.gobycoach.com. You can even book up "Open jaw " tickets for coaches now which means that you can travel into Oxford or Cheltenham and then out of Bath at the end of the walk!
Departing at the end of the walk: Bath is one of the most popular tourist towns in the whole of Britain and thus has excellent connections both by coach and rail to all the main centres of the country.
Most Convenient International airport:
Heathrow. There are direct connections via the coach station at Heathrow all the way to Bath, Cheltenham and Oxford. Cardiff and Bristol airports are also useful.
Arrival By Car: Chipping Campden is north of the A44 between Evesham and Oxford, 12 miles south of Stratford Upon Avon.