21 Aug 23
10 great reasons to walk the Cotswold Way
The world-famous Cotswolds in southwest England are a timeless tapestry of green rolling hills, storybook villages and historic landmarks. They are primarily located in the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but extend into sections of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
In 1966, an area of approximately 790 square miles of the Cotswolds region was designated as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.
The region’s defining walk is the 102-mile Cotswold Way, which stretches from medieval Chipping Campden to the historic city of Bath, famed for its stunning Georgian architecture and healing thermal waters.
The route meanders through idyllic Cotswold countryside and is bursting with honey-hued stone cottages adorned with blooming flowers, sheep-dotted fields, miles of enchanting dry stone walls, quiet country lanes, charming tearooms and oversized churches.
We’ve designed a unique 190km walking itinerary that begins in Stratford-upon-Avon, recognisable for its distinctive timber-framed Tudor houses and as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. We follow the famous Monarch’s Way – the escape route used by King Charles II after his defeat by Cromwell – to join the Cotswold Way at Chipping Campden.
Here’s 10 great reasons to choose it for your next long-distance walk.
1. Bard memories
In the flower-filled medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon you can visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and his wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Depending on timing, you may be able to take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Shakespeare’s final resting place is the nearby Holy Trinity Church.
2. Nanny Farmer’s Bottom
On the way to quaint Old Sodbury, a tiny town that lies just below and to the west of the Cotswold escarpment, you’ll pass through the gloriously-named valley called Nanny Farmer’s Bottom. When you arrive in town, we recommend taking a break for a refreshing ale at the 500-year-old Dog Inn and visiting the town’s 900-year old Norman church.
3. Double Gloucester
The Cotswolds has some of the finest cheese in all of England. Delicious and distinctive offerings include the famous Double Gloucester, Stinking Bishop and Cerney Pyramid. Coopers Hill, on the way to Painswick, is famous for its annual cheese-rolling event, which dates back to the 1700s. The cheese can reach a speed of about 110km/h! Competitors from all over the world take part in the spectacular.
4. Burial mounds
You can still get a hint of a time when the Cotswolds were remote, wild and rugged by walking up to the giant hump that is Belas Knap – a 200-foot longbarrow. Constructed 5,000 years ago, this ancient neolithic monument is close to the summit of the highest point in the Cotswolds. Inside there are four polygonal burial chambers accessed through a secret entrance and passageways inside the mound. Excavations in 1863 and 1928 unearthed the remains of almost 40 people.
5. Queen of the Cotswolds
Often referred to as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’, Painswick – surrounded by grand National Trust woodland – is the midway point of the walk. This town is one of the best-preserved villages in the Cotswolds and famous for the country’s sole surviving Rococo Garden – designed in the 1740s as a fanciful pleasure garden for Benjamin Hyett II and his many guests.
6. Rare blue butterflies
The rare and enigmatic Large Blue butterfly, declared extinct in 1979, has been painstakingly reintroduced into Britain by conservation organisations. The Cotswolds has two designated reserves harbouring these rare butterflies and is regarded as one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of them.
7. Cotswold lions
The Cotswold Lion is a mighty and ancient breed of sheep that lives in this delightful part of the world. It was introduced to the UK by the Romans and their wool, known as the ‘Golden Fleece’, was an important export. It played a major role in the development of many Cotswold towns and villages and also in the finances of the nation. They are now classified as a rare breed.
8. Ridiculously beautiful villages
Could a village be more perfect? The idyllic honey-coloured village of Stanton remains almost unchanged for over 300 years and has been described as the ‘most ridiculously beautiful’ village in the Cotswolds. Sitting on the slopes of Shenberrow Hill, its narrow streets are framed by impossibly attractive thatched stone cottages.
9. Afternoon tea
Superb sandwiches, fluffy scones, delicious cakes and the perfect brew. Tisanes Tea Rooms occupies a 17th century stone building full of olde-world charm in the beautiful village of Broadway. More than 30 different teas, most of which are loose leaf, are compiled in its dedicated tea menu. You’re unlikely to find a more refined cuppa in this corner of the Cotswolds.
10. Roman baths
Bath is the original wellness destination retreat. You can pamper yourself with a therapeutic spa in the natural hot springs of the Roman baths or visit one of its many galleries, museums or chic boutiques. Bath’s huge abbey church, built between 1499 and 1616, is famous for the ladders of angels that climb up and down the West Front. A hand-carved blue limestone disc featuring place names from along the route has been set into the pavement outside the ornate west doors to mark the end of the Cotswold Way.