North Cotswolds - Winchcombe
Winchcombe, like Burford, is not a typical golden Cotswolds town. The main street is lined with an eclectic mix of historic building styles. Locals say that Winchcombe is still a "working" town. Instead of only upscale shops for tourists it has the shops you need if you live there.
Winchcombe sits in a valley surrounded by hills on three sides. This area is great for walkers/hikers and a good base for exploring the northern Cotswolds.
Winchcombe, High Street
Winchcombe is an historic town. A monastery founded in 798 by one of the kings of Mercia became an important pilgrimage shrine and a Benedictine abbey was built around it. The abbey was destroyed in the 1500s and is now the site of the Abbey Hotel.
Walk the High Street: The long main street runs for several blocks and is lined with interesting old row houses. Even though this street is the main road from Cheltenham to Broadway (B4632), it is not busy and the traffic does not move fast. There are another few blocks of shops and restaurants on the B4078 which goes towards Greet.
Church: The parish church, on the High Street in the center of town, was built in the late 1400s. There are around 40 grotesques (similar to gargoyles) on the edges of the roof and other spots on the outside of the church. The inside of the church is not as exciting, being redone in the Victorian era.
Historic Buildings: On the High Street south of the church - Jacobean House (17th century), Chandos Almshouses (1573), Dent's Terrace Sudley Almshouses (1865) with their striped stonework.
A note about parking: Park in the Long Stay lot, on Back Street (off North Street), near the library. Much less expensive than the Short Stay, just as close to the high street and has public toilets.
There is a lot to choose from in Winchcombe. Here are a few:
Food Fanatics, 12 North Street. Great deli with a coffee shop. They are open later than the tea rooms. website
Wesley House (restaurant), High Street. Expensive (£35 - £38 per person for 3 courses) but one of the best restaurants we have ever been to. website
Food & Drink in Nearby Villages
There are many good restaurants in Chetenham. Also in Broadway, just north of Winchcombe.
Hailes Abbey - Orchard Tearoom, Hayles Fruit Farm. Nice tea room on a farm near Hiales Abbey. We have stopped here several times when hiking from Winchcombe.
There are several small food shops in the center of Winchcombe: a specialty food shop (Food Fanatics - see above), bakery, butcher, small grocery shop.
The nearest supermarkets are in Cheltenham (see our list of supermarkets in the Cotswolds).
There are many shops in the center of town: antiques, clothing, hardware, kitchen supplies, chemist, newsagent, tourist office.
Farmcote: Village on the hills above Hailes and Winchcombe with beautiful views. Norman church with Jacobean pulpit and 16th century benches. You go through this village on the Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle hike from the Pathfinder guide.
The Guitings: Guiting Power and Temple Guiting. Beautiful villages. In Guiting Power, where the River Windrush begins, the church has been rebuilt, but Norman doorways remain. Temple Guiting has the 18th century (Georgian) Temple Guiting House once owned by Knights Templar (parts of the Norman church remain). Tudor Temple Guiting Manor House nearby is a vacation rental (website). Good walks in nearby Guiting Wood. The roads to this area are narrow farm tracks. (Guiting is a dervative of the old English gyte meaning a flood or torrent.)
Stanway: Described on the Broadway page.
Hailes Abbey: National Trust. Remains of a 13th-century Cistercian abbey just outside of Winchcombe. You can walk here on footpaths from Winchcombe or drive. There is a very good tea room near the Abbey. The Roman Road, the Salt Way, passes nearby. website
Sudley Castle: Originally over 1,000 years old, destroyed by Cromwell's troops, rebuilt, visited by royalty - you know the type of thing. A big beautiful castle in the countryside near Winchcombe. You can tour the castle and the grounds. We stayed near here for a month in September 2004 and visited a few times. Very good walking in this area. website
Belas Knap: Long barrow near Winchcombe. We walked to it from Winchcombe on a nice footpath, but you can drive (on the B4632 south of Winchcombe, take a lane east to Charlton Abbots/Andoversford). There is an area for parking about half way between where you get on the road and Charlton Abbots. The best long barrow I have seen is West Kennett Long Barrow near Avebury, so if you have limited time, just see that one.
Cotswold Farm Park, near Guiting Power: Rare breeds conservation, visit the animals. website
Walking in the Cotswolds: Recommended guidebooks and maps for walking in the Cotswolds. We use these guides: Cotswold Classic Walks (Goldeneye), Cotswold Short Walks (Pathfinder Guide), The Cotswolds Walks and More Cotswolds Walks (Pathfinder Guides). Using those books, I listed our favorite hikes in this area below. All are circular walks - begin and end at the same spot.
Winchcombe and Hailes Abbey (Jarrold Short Walks - 3hrs): Walk along the Cotswold Way from Winchcombe to Hailes Abbey (medieval ruins and a good tea room nearby), then up into the hills and back on the Gloucestershire Way.
Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle (Pathfinder - 4.5hrs): This is a longer version of the walk above coming back to Winchcombe via Sudeley Castle. We did this hike several times when we stayed in Winchcombe. Goldeneye has a shorter version (skips Hailes Abbey) - Winchcombe - Little Farmcote - Sudeley - 4hrs.
Cleave Hill (Jarrold Short Walks - 2.5hrs): Cleeve Common is the highest wold in the Cotswolds at 1083 feet. As on Minchinhampton Common, there is a golf course here. Beautiful views and part of the trail is on the Cotswold Way. Pathfinder - Cotswolds has a longer version (Cleave Common - 4hrs) where you walk to Belas Knap, a Neolithic long barrow.
Guiting Wood (Jarrold Short Walks - 3.5hrs or less): Two short circular walks from the same point, one around Guiting Wood, the other from Guiting Wood to the village of Guiting Power, or do both as a figure "8" walk. There are pubs in Guiting Power.
The Guitings and Guiting Wood (Pathfinder - 3hrs): A good walk around Guiting Wood, also visiting the villages of Temple Guiting, Kineton and Guiting Power. Goldeneye has a shorter version, Guiting Wood - 1.5hrs.
Winchcombe is a Walkers are Welcome town! Website is www.winchcombewelcomeswalkers.com (we don't link to it because it disables the back button - naughty web design).
- Winchcombe: Tourist information, lists of restaurants/pubs/tea rooms, accommodations, walking tours, local information.
- Cotswolds & Severn Vale: Winchcombe and Tewkesbury Tourist Offices website.
- Winchcombe: A walk through this market town, north of Cheltenham, northern Cotswolds.
- Winchcombe Shops: Typical shops, pubs, tea rooms and restaurants in a Cotswold Market Town.