The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile footpath which follows the western edge of the Cotswold Hills and encompasses everything which is special about this area – picturesque villages, spectacular views and rolling countryside.
The walk runs between the market town of Chipping Campden and the Roman city of Bath -large plaques mark the start and finish points – and can be walked in either direction. While the majority of the walk takes place in Gloucestershire, the walk strays into Worcestershire to include Broadway and also enters Somerset as you approach Bath.
As you would expect from the Cotswolds, the terrain is challenging and there are numerous steep climbs and sharp descents. Once mastered though, these ascents lead to stunning views and on a clear day it’s possible to see as far as the Brecon Beacons, the Malvern Hills and the Severn Estuary depending where you are on the walk.
As well as being undulating, the walk also passes through conservation areas like Cleeve Common – the highest point in the Cotswolds, places of interest such as the Battle of Lansdowne, and historical sites like Belas Knap. It takes you down stony paths, through dense woodland and across wide open spaces, there really is a bit of everything on this walk.
While you need to be reasonably fit to tackle the Cotswold Way, you don’t need to be a seasoned map reader. Plentiful signage and obvious paths will keep you on track along most of the route although it’s recommended to have a guidebook at hand for those rare instances where the way ahead is not clear. A good guidebook will also inform you of the historical and geographical points along the route as well as advising on practicalities.
Hotels, bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are never far away although few are directly situated on the Cotswold Way so a bit of planning is required if you want to walk on consecutive days. Most people complete the route in 6-10 days depending on how far you wish to walk each day and while some people do it all in one go, others prefer to complete it in a series of weekend or day walks.
The walk passes through quaint Cotswold villages such as Winchcombe, Painswick and Wotton-under-Edge with their independent shops and eating establishments which offer the opportunity to refuel and purchase basic amenities. However it’s worth thinking ahead as there are parts of the walk where civilisation is sparse and some pubs, cafes and shops are not open every day.
If you want to explore the Cotswolds, this long-distance hike is a great way of doing so. Don your walking boots, purchase a guidebook and get out in that fresh Cotswold air!