Cotswold Way: Self Guided
The gently rolling hills of the Cotswold Way skirts England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This stunning region is home to chocolate-box villages surrounded by picture-perfect countryside. This is quintessential England as described in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. You’ll pass through villages including medieval Chipping Campden and the historic city of Bath, famed for its stunning Georgian architecture and healing thermal waters.
Our specially-designed 189km walking itinerary 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. From here, discover the delightful honey-coloured villages such as Stanton and Painswick for which the Cotswolds is famous. Meander through a patchwork of sheep-dotted fields, see miles of enchanting dry stone walls and enjoy quiet country lanes and lush pastured farmland before arriving in World Heritage Listed Bath.
Get Ready For
- Specially-designed walk beginning in Shakespeare’s home of Stratford-upon-Avon
- World-renowned Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Ancient history including the Neolithic burial mounds of Belas Knap
- Look out for butterflies at the two conservation reserves
- Visit Stanton the ‘most ridiculously beautiful’ village in the Cotswolds
- Indulge in exceptional local cuisine at posh gastro pubs along the way
finding your way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the Cotswold Way. Simply download your map with the unique link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real-time without any internet connection needed or cumbersome pages of notes. The app has many great features: it shows the location of each night’s accommodation, weather forecasts localised for your overnight stops, plus important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact details. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Daily distances will vary from that in the walk notes depending on where your accommodation is located and if you take any optional diversions.
Make your way to the flower-filled medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Explore its Shakespeare theme with a visit to Sharespeare’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. You can also visit the Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare’s final resting place.
- Ascent 194m
- Descent 93m
Today you begin your Cotswold adventure following the Monarch’s Way to Chipping Campden. At the end, you’ll find a tiny historic market town with stunning examples of Cotswold stone craftsmanship and a history steeped in wool trading. The village is pleasant, enjoyable and extremely ‘English’, so try to make time to savour the numerous tea shops, attractive high street stores and storybook cottages.
- Ascent 405m
- Descent 400m
Today you’ll walk up and along the Cotswold escarpment. Take in the lovely views over splendid countryside from Dovers Hill. The walk takes you past Broadway Tower, a folly built in 1799. Here you’re at the second highest point of the walk (312m). Enjoy a break at the cafe, before continuing to Stanton through stunning countryside with rolling sheep-filled farmland and pretty barns. Idyllic honey-coloured Stanton remains almost unchanged for over 300 years and has been described as the ‘most ridiculously beautiful’ village in the Cotswolds.
- Ascent 575m
- Descent 370m
Walk through lovely meadowland before passing grand 16th-century Stanway House. It’s hidden from view behind golden stone walls, but famous for its stately Jacobean gatehouse. The path begins a steady climb with respite found at the wonderfully-named Pinky Dickins bench before following the escarpment to Beckbury Camp — an Iron Age hill fort. The trail passes the ruins of 13th-century Hailes Abbey. This was once a pilgrimage destination before being destroyed under the reign of Henry VIII. From here, descend into bustling Winchcombe where the path rises on gentle trails to the highest point (325m) of the walk at Cleeve Hill Common. Here you can look out to the River Severn and Wales. You’ll also pass by Belas Knap, an interesting Neolithic ancient burial mound with four chambers. It’s a worthwhile place to take a break.
- Ascent 595m
- Descent 615m
The trail continues along the Cotswold escarpment with highlights including gorgeous views over spa town Cheltenham and beyond. Enjoy glorious woodland walking surrounded by bluebells, wild garlic and ancient beech trees. You’ll also find two designated reserves harbouring rare butterflies. Near Leckhampton, keep a lookout for the distinctive limestone rock formation known as the Devil’s Chimney. As you near Birdlip you’ll pass Crickley Hill and Barrow Wake, a ‘biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest‘, which embraces an abundance of orchids, flowers, herbs, butterflies, snails and moths.
- Ascent 575m
- Descent 685m
The trail descends from Birdlip through beautiful beech woodlands before climbing to Coopers Hill. This hill is famous for its annual cheese-rolling event. Fun facts — the event dates back to the 1700s, and the cheese rolls down the hill at approximately 70kph. The path leads to Painswick Beacon where there are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort. Historic Painswick is often referred to as “The Queen of the Cotswolds”. When you reach here, you’ve also reached the mid-way point of the walk. This town is one of the best-preserved villages in the Cotswolds and famous for its Rococo Gardens and 99 yew trees surrounding St Mary’s church. According to legend, should a 100th tree grow, the Devil would pull it out.
- Ascent 550m
- Decent 650m
A pleasant descent leads to woodlands, then gentle uphills and open meadowland to Edge Common with views back over Painswick. The path dips then climbs once more for spectacular views over the River Severn and the Vale of Berkeley. Standish Wood offers exquisite spring-time displays of bluebell and wood anemone. Passing between Stroud and Stonehouse on the low level route, the trail crosses the Stroudwater Canal before entering unassuming King’s Stanley.
- Ascent 875m
- Descent 850m
In spring, the scent of wild garlic will greet you on the lovely woodland trails of Penn Wood. There are a few ups and downs today, but you’ll enjoy great views all along the escarpment as you dip in and out of various valleys and hills. The trail also passes by another Neolithic burial ground called Nympsfield Long Barrow. There are some longer scenic options, so at this point you’ll need to make a choice: if it’s a clear day, we suggest the longer route. On the way is the Tyndale Monument, dedicated to writer William Tyndale, translator of the New Testament into English in 1525. After the monument the woodland path descends into the bustling market town of Wotton-under-Edge.
- Ascent 550m
- Descent 525m
As you leave Wotton, take a moment to visit the 13th-century parish church of St Mary the Virgin. You’ll see stunning views from the Cotswold escarpment before journeying through open fields, valleys and small sections of woodlands. Savour the charm of every little hamlet and the gloriously-named valley Nanny Farmer’s Bottom as you stride the easy paths to tiny Old Sodbury. Here we recommend a refreshing ale at the 500-year-old Dog Inn.
- Ascent 250m
- Descent 175m
Today’s short but rewarding walk takes you past some impressive old manor houses reflecting both the past and present wealth of the Cotswold region. Amble through the grand gardens and rolling parklands of Dodington Park. This estate was designed in 1764 by famous landscape architect Capability Brown. The trail skirts the perimeter wall of the National Trust’s baroque-style Dyrham Park which featured in the movie The Remains of the Day. From the village of Dyrham, the trail climbs up through Dyrham Woods before continuing through fertile sheep-filled farmland into charming Cold Ashton with its fine views over the valley.
- Ascent 285m
- Descent 475m
Your final day on the delightful Cotswold Way sees you descend into the peaceful, secluded valley of Lower Hamswell. Climb again to reach the site of the 1643 civil war battle of Lansdown before crossing a plateau to emerge at Prospect Stile. Here, across a patchwork of fields, you’ll see your first views of Bath. As the walk becomes more urban, take the time to reflect on the picturesque golden villages, wild-flower meadows, rare butterflies and welcoming locals you’ve seen on your Cotswold Way adventure. Nearer the city, catch glimpses of fine parks and wonderful Regency architecture as you make your way to beautiful Bath Abbey. 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.
Grand Bath is the original wellness destination retreat, so 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.
Enjoy a hearty English breakfast before your departure any time prior to 10am.
Stratford-upon-Avon is famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Its picturesque streets are lined with Tudor-style buildings, and the River Avon flows through, offering scenic beauty. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a cultural gem, drawing visitors from around the world to enjoy Shakespearean performances.
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You begin your Cotswold adventure following the Monarch’s Way to Chipping Campden – a tiny historic market town with stunning examples of Cotswold stone craftsmanship and a history steeped in wool trading.
Idyllic honey-coloured Stanton remains almost unchanged for over 300 years and has been described as the ‘most ridiculously beautiful’ village in the Cotswolds.
Cleeve Hill is the highest point in the Cotswold Hills. Its stunning panoramic views stretch across Cheltenham and the surrounding countryside.
Birdlip is nestled atop the Cotswold escarpment. Known for its breathtaking vistas of the Severn Vale and Malvern Hills, it’s a haven for nature enthusiasts and hikers. The village exudes traditional English charm with its historic architecture and quaint atmosphere.
Historic Painswick is often referred to as “The Queen of the Cotswolds”. When you reach here, you’ve also reached the mid-way point of the walk.
King’s Stanley surprises visitors with its rich industrial heritage. It was once a hub for the production of woollen cloth and boasts historic mills and canals that whisper tales of its past.
In the bustling market town of Wotton-under-Edge you’ll find notable landmarks including the 13th-century St Mary’s Church and the imposing Ancient Ram Inn.
Savour the charm of every little hamlet and the gloriously-named valley Nanny Farmer’s Bottom as you stride the easy paths to tiny Old Sodbury. Here we recommend a refreshing ale at the 500-year-old Dog Inn.
Cold Ashton offers a glimpse into its rich past through well-preserved 17th-century limestone cottages. St Gabriel’s Church, a medieval gem, adds to the village’s historical appeal.
Bath is the original wellness destination retreat! 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.
- Hassle-free walking with exclusive use of RAW Travel’s specifically designed navigational hiking app
- 12 nights in quintessential Cotswold accommodation including B&Bs, guesthouses and small hotels
- Daily breakfast including fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals and/or a hearty, cooked English breakfast to support your day on the trail
- Pack-free walking with luggage transfers on each hiking day (1 x 20kg bag per person)
- Pre-trip guidance and planning from experienced and dedicated RAW Travel Destination Expert
- Single supplement $1350
- Travel insurance
- Lunch and dinners
We thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the Cotswolds. Tracks, accommodation, the app were all great.
Jo Taylor, West Pymble (NSW) – October 2023
North Cotswolds – Cotswold Way
- Walk from Stratford-upon-Avon to delightful Painswick
- Enjoy honey-coloured villages and medieval market towns
- Indulge in exceptional local cuisine at posh gastro pubs
- See the birthplace of poet and playwright William Shakespeare
South Cotswolds – Cotswold Way
- Walk from charming Painswick to the elegant streets of Bath
- Explore honey-coloured villages and medieval market towns
- Follow the path through two butterfly conservation reserves
- Discover the ancient history of Neolithic Belas Knap
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed