Cotswold Way


Highlights:

  • Picturesque traditional villages

  • Rolling English countryside

  • Stately homes and gardens

  • Bath, a World Heritage Site

Brief:

⏱ Duration: 8-10 days
🗺 Distance: 166 km
⛰ Difficulty: Moderate
🗓 Best Time: March - Nov
🛏 Accomm: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 
 

Walk Overview

The Cotswold Way is one of the United Kingdom’s 16 specially protected “National Trails”. It’s up there amongst the most celebrated of the National Trails as its 164 kilometres (102 miles) route between Chipping Campden in the north and Bath in the south takes in quintessential English countryside and a number of England’s most attractive villages.

The path broadly follows the western edge of the Cotswold Hills escarpment thus affording magnificent views, particularly to the west over the River Severn towards south Wales. While you’re following the course of an escarpment, it’s an escarpment eroded by the centuries and so the trail has many (mainly gentle) ascents and descents. The trail passes through beech woodlands, open rolling farmland and harsher upland areas. In spring and summer, the path is adorned by a vivid profusion of wildflowers and in autumn the more subdued plant-life puts on a show of pastel colours.

The Cotswold Way can be walked north to south or vice versa. The Official Guide to the National Trail recommends north to south. The author’s reasoning is (i) starting in Chipping Campden, a classic, marvellously preserved Cotswold market town, means you’re immersed in the Cotswolds from the outset, whereas Bath, for all its magnificence, doesn’t feel like the Cotswolds; (ii) transport to Chipping Campden is more difficult than Bath, therefore it makes sense to get to Chipping Campden when you’re more capable of precise scheduling; and (iii) finishing the walk in Bath seems appropriately triumphal!

There are many highlights on the walk, including:

  • Chipping Campden, one of the best preserved and historic market towns in England.

  • The beautiful ‘Arts and Craft’ garden of Hidcote Manor, featuring a series of linked garden rooms and elaborate topiary.

  • Broadway Tower folly and its views towards the stunning villages of Broadway and Stanton.

  • Painswick, known as “The Queen of the Cotswolds” because of its stunning ancient stone architecture.

  • The 99 sculpted yew trees in Painswick’s St Mary’s churchyard.

  • Numerous historical sites en route including ancient hill forts, Neolithic burial chambers and Roman villa ruins.

  • Stately homes and gardens including the Kiftsgate Court rose gardens, the impressive Sudeley Castle, Snowshill Manor, the Rococo Gardens at Painswick House and Dyrham House with its ancient deer park.

  • Most of the villages along the path offer an array of eating options, interesting shops and local attractions.

The Cotswold Way officially ends at Bath Abbey in the centre of the magnificent Georgian city. There is much to explore in Bath including the Royal Crescent, the Circus, the Botanic Gardens, the Roman Baths and Pumproom and the River Avon.

The complete Cotswold Way covers 164 kilometres (102 miles) and generally takes about eight or nine days of walking. Your total trip duration then depends on whether you incorporate rest days and, if so, how many.

A nine walking day itinerary is shown below. The itinerary shown below involves an average daily distance of 18 kilometres (11 miles).

Shortened versions of the walk are available, including the Cotswold Way North and the Cotswold Way South which are also on our “Iconic Walks’ listing.

 
 

Itinerary

The walk takes about 9 days to complete. A typical 9 itinerary completing the entire track is shown below.

 
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Day 1

Chipping Campden to Stanton

Distance: 16 km

Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 2

Stanton to Cleeve Hill

Distance: 21 km

Time: 5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 3

Cleeve Hill to Birdlip

Distance: 26 km

Time: 6.5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 4

Birdlip to Painswick

Distance: 14 km

Time: 3.5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 
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Day 5

Painswick to King Stanley

Distance: 14 km

Time: 3.5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 6

King Stanley to Wotton-under-Edge

Distance: 24 km

Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 
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Day 7

Wotton-under-Edge to Old Sodbury

Distance: 21 km

Time: 5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 8

Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton

Distance: 14 km

Time: 3.5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 9

Cold Ashton to Bath

Distance: 16 km

Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 

Walk Options

Guided

There are currently no walk tour operators who offer the entire 164 kilometre walk as a guided trip on a regular basis. There are a few operators who offer to guide either the entire walk or a shorter version on designated dates each year. Generally, with these options, comfortable accommodation is offered at one central base and walkers are transferred to a section of the walk each day.

Typically, the package offered by these operators includes:

  • 10 day tour with professional guides, 9 days of walking

  • 10 nights accommodation

  • All meals

  • Transfers between the track and the accommodation

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Assisted self-guided

Many tour operators offer self-guided trips on the Cotswold Way.

Typically, the service includes:

  • Track notes, maps and information pack

  • Accommodation, usually with ensuites (the range and quantity of accommodation available in some villages is limited; also, the basic package offered by some tour operators might not always extend to ensuites)

  • Luggage transport between accommodation (and sometimes, where necessary, vehicle transfers between track and accommodation)

  • Breakfasts and optional packed lunches

  • 24/7 support

The duration of the self-guided options varies depending upon how far you wish to walk each day. Accommodation options range from comfortable through to luxury, again depending upon the size of the village or town and the purchased package.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Independent

There are some camping areas along the route that make camping on some nights a possibility. It’s also quite feasible to book accommodation along the route yourself and, if you require luggage transfers, to arrange that independently.

For those considering this option, it’s worth noting that the self-guided tour operators often have preferred rates with accommodation providers and luggage transfer companies. They also often have reserved allocations at the best-located/most suitable accommodation for the particular walk, so sometimes when accommodation shows no availability to an independent inquiry there’s still availability through a self-guided operator.

Also, be aware that the Cotswolds is a popular destination for both local and overseas travellers, so during the holiday season it will usually be necessary to book accommodation well ahead of your visit.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

 

Essential Information

Access

The starting point for the Cotswold Way is either Chipping Campden or Bath. 

Chipping Campden and Bath are both readily accessible by public transport:

  •  for Chipping Campden, there are regular trains between London’s Paddington Station to Cheltenham or Moreton-in-Marsh. From there, it’s a short bus or taxi ride to Chipping Campden.

  • from Bath, there are direct and regular trains to London’s Paddington Station.

best time

The best time to do the walk is between March and November. 

In spring and summer vivid wildflowers (especially bluebells and daffodils) adorn the route and then in September and October the autumnal foliage colours the landscape with various shades of pastel.

DIFFICULTY

This walk is rated at a difficulty level of moderate. It is waymarked and is generally well-defined and maintained. The full walk is long and includes a reasonable number of ascents and descents.

AccomModation

There are many accommodation options at either end of the Cotswold Way (Chipping Campden and Bath) and, generally, plenty along the route. Accommodation options include camping, hostels, B&B’s, guesthouses, inns and hotels. If finishing in Bath, there are some unique accommodation options there that provide a highly memorable experience.

Many of the accommodation providers, particularly those near to the route, are attuned to walkers’ needs or offer amenities suited to walkers. 

We can assist walkers in choosing the accommodation options which best suit their needs. Click here to contact us.

Dining

We can assist you in choosing special dining options along the route and at the end of the walk.

Other activities

As a popular tourist destination, the Cotswolds offers many attractions in addition to the Cotswold Way.

Many walkers choose to add extra days to their trip so that they can explore these other attractions. Some will do that through rest days along the trail; others prefer ‘add-ons’ at the end of the walk. Some do both!

We can assist walkers to explore the many attractions of the Cotswolds.


Assistance

We can assist walkers with various aspects of their walking holidays. Click here to contact us.