The Cotswold way is a national trail in England that runs the length of the Cotswold region from Chipping Campden to the town of Bath, a distance of 102 miles in total.
On the official trail website at nationaltrail.co.uk they recommend between 7 to 10 days to walk the entire way. If you don’t have that much time, just walk part of it. That’s what my mother and I did on our mother daughter trip to England. (Other trails including shorter circular loops can be found on the Cotswold Area of outstanding natural beauty website: cotswoldsaonb.org.uk).
Most people walking the way arrange to have their baggage transferred for them. Leaving your luggage with the inn you were just staying at, the transfer service will pick it up and it will be waiting for you by the time you get to your next accommodation.
The official trail website breaks the way up into the following segments:
Chipping Campden to Broadway – 6 miles
Broadway to Wood Stanway – 6.5 miles
Wood Stanway to Winchcombe – 5.4 miles
Winchcombe to Cleeve Hill – 5.6 miles
Cleeve Hill to Dowdeswell – 5.5 miles
Dowdeswell to Leckhampton Hill – 4.7 miles
Leckhampton Hill to Birdlip – 5.6 miles
Birdlip to Painswick – 8.6 miles
Painswick to King’s Stanley – 7.8 miles
King’s Stanley to Dursley – 7.2 miles
Dursley to Wotton-Under-Edge – 7.3 miles
Wotton-Under-Edge to Hawkesbury – 7.4 miles
Hawkesbury Upton to Tormarton – 7.7 miles
Tormarton to Cold Ashton – 6.6 miles
Cold Ashton to Bath – 10.2 miles
At around 6 miles each, these are pretty bite sized small segments. We knew we could easily walk one segment in just half a day, but we weren’t sure about walking all the way from Winchcombe to Chipping Campden (around 18 miles) in one day. We’d read accounts from plenty of ramblers who had walked that chunk in one day, but we didn’t want to worry about feeling rushed and my mother who’s in her sixties, never having been there, wasn’t entirely sure how much she could handle ~ so we decided to cheat a little :). There are different ways you could cheat. There are buses, private cars for hire (best arranged in advance) or, best of all, you can cheat using the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway. The GWSR runs from Cheltenham to Broadway, with stops at Winchcombe, Hayles Abbey halt, and Toddington (which is less than a mile from Stanway).
One could walk from Chipping Campden to Broadway, board the train and disembark at Hailes Abbey halt then walk the rest of the way into Winchcombe. Or, walk from Winchcombe to Stanway, board the train and disembark at Broadway then walk to Chipping Campden. Well… you get the idea, there’s a lot of fun possibilities 🙂
My mother and I started in Winchcombe and traveled west to east on the Cotswold way, toward Chipping Campden.
Winchcombe is an early medieval market town with limestone houses and old timbered inns. We stayed in the 16th century White Hart Inn. We loved our rooms and the overall historical charm and ambience. A short distance and lovely walk from Winchcombe is Sudeley Castle.
Sudeley Castle was built in 1443 with numerous additions and restorations since, including a banquet hall built by Richard lll the partial ruins of which are now redesigned as a garden. The castle has a number of notable gardens which can also be explored during one’s visit. Sudeley Castle is also the burial place of Queen Catherine Parr, Henry the Vlll’s last wife. Her tomb can be viewed in a restored 15th century church on the Castle grounds.
Just to the west of Winchcombe the Cotswold way trail passes by Belas Knap Long Barrow, a Neolithic burial site. The Belas Knap Long Barrow dates from around 3000 BC. A footpath also connects Sudeley Castle to the Long Barrow.
Leaving Winchcombe walking east on the Cotswold Way, one soon approaches the ruins of Hailes Abbey. Hailes Abbey was founded in 1246 and was dissolved in 1539 by Henry the Vlll following his dissolution of the monasteries act. You can visit the ruins and also a small museum. The Cotswold way passes right next to both.
Continuing west to east one reaches Stanway
Stanway is an estate village, centered on the manor of Stanway House. Located right along the Cotswold Way trail, Stanway House is a Jacobean manor, constructed in the late 16th century with some remodeling and restoration over the years. The manor house and it’s gardens have limited visiting days and hours (check http://www.Stanwayfountain.co.uk). Just before reaching Stanway House the way passes by St. Peter’s Church, a beautiful stone church built in the 12th century. Also located on the estate is the Stanway watermill, a fully restored 13th century watermill (only open for viewing part of the year.)
Continuing west to east one reaches Broadway
Broadway’s picturesque main street runs through the village. The street, named High Street, is lined with chestnut trees, shops, cafes, historic inns, and stone cottages. The Cotswold way connects to Broadway’s High Street on both sides. Leaving Broadway to the east, the Cotswold way rises rather steeply uphill, climbing to the second highest point in the Cotswolds, at the top of which one finds Broadway Tower.
Broadway Tower was built in 1798 as a folly. (A folly being an extravagant ornamental building with no real practical purpose. Constructed primarily for decoration.) Visitors can explore the interior of the tower. There is a very small museum inside and extraordinary views from the top.
Continuing west to east one reaches Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden –
The small market town of Chipping Campden is either the start or end of the Cotswold Way and like many towns in the Cotswolds was once a rich wool trading center during the Middle Ages. We stayed at the Bantam Tea Rooms and Guest House with a great view of the old Market Hall just across the street. The beautifully aged Market Hall with its old timbered rafters and worn stones was built in 1627 and it’s here you’ll find the first (or last) trail marker as it’s the official beginning or end of the Cotswold way.
Check to see if your visit will coincide with the town’s yearly Open Gardens Weekend. A lovely event where all the best private gardens are open for viewing.
A few things to be aware and prepared for –
Be prepared for rain showers, (even in summer)
Be prepared to step in sheep’s poo, but don’t worry too much; it’s a lot like stepping in clumps of mowed grass.
Be aware not all footpaths are marked with the name of the trail, most just have little arrows. Several places may have more than one footpath, which means you may know you’re on a trail but not which one. It may be helpful to know the Cotswold way trail will often have arrows with the acorn symbol, the acorn is the symbol for a national trail.
Be aware some luggage transfer services only transport luggage North (east) to South (west), so only in the direction of Chipping Campden towards Bath. Be especially careful if traveling in the direction my mother and I did to check with a baggage transfer service before booking your lodging because the service providers that only transfer luggage one way may not say this on their website. Only after you contact them will you find out.
Enjoy the Beauty of the Cotswolds ~ All Along the Way 🙂