Walking in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is one of the best areas in England for walking and hiking. The public footpaths are well signed and maintained and range from short, easy walks to longer, vigorous hikes.
In the Towns & Villages section I have listed my favorite hikes in each area. All these hikes are in the Pathfinder or Goldeneye guidebooks listed below. There are many resources for finding walking routes, but these guidebooks are my favorite and are dependable. The hikes are described in good detail, the maps are good, and they pick hikes that are particularly beautiful and have good points of interest along the way.
Going on walks is our favorite Cotswold activity. We usually do short two to four hour walks each day, leaving time to have lunch out in the area and explore some of the sights after the walk. We travel with our hiking equipment: good boots, lightweight hiking pants, rain jackets, day packs, hiking poles, water bottles, a few layers of warm things just in case. Read more about Walking Gear and Equipment.
If you plan to do any walking while you are in the Cotswolds, you need a good walking guidebook (or two) and an Ordnance Survey Map (Explorer series, 1:25,000). The guidebooks list popular hikes, rate them by time and difficulty and give detailed directions for the walk. The Ordnance Survey Map is for backup. It shows all the walking trails in the Cotswolds. Use it if the guidebook does not show any walks in an area or bring it with you in case you get lost. A compass will help you read the map.
I purchase walking guidebooks and maps from the UK (from the publisher or from Amazon.co.uk) before a trip so I can pick out the walks we want to do. You can also find some used through Amazon.com.
Note: All these walking/hiking guides show the complete, circular walk - so that you end up where you started and do not use public transportation.
Cotswold Classic Walks (Goldeneye): These are my favorite walks in the Cotswolds. This book has 25 circular walks with excellent maps and hike descriptions, plus information about the area. Most hikes are two to three hours long, some have shorter versions. Order direct from Goldeneye - they ship to the US. If you are only going to get one walking book for the Cotswolds, this is the one to get. website
South Cotswold Walks, North Cotswold Walks (Goldeneye): Goldeneye also publishes two laminated folding maps with 10 walks each, similar to Cotswold Classic Walks. website
Jarrold Short Walks (Jarrold): 20 walks ranging from one to three hours (most are two hours long) covering all the main areas of the Cotswolds. Good descriptions and detailed maps, plus interesting notes about the area. These guides are from the same publisher as the Pathfinder Guides (below). website
Cotswolds, More Cotswolds, Pathfinder Guides (Jarrold): These two Pathfinder Guides for the Cotswolds were written 20 years ago but updated recently. I have used mine for years. They are light and easy to tuck into your backpack. The maps and hike descriptions are excellent. website
50 Walks in the Cotswolds (Automobile Association - AA): The maps and descriptions are not as good as Goldeneye or Pathfinder, but they offer a wide variety of hikes in the area. Be sure to bring your Ordnance Survey map with you.
Walking Maps (Ordnance Survey)
The Cotswolds are crisscrossed with walking paths, so you need a good map to find your way. The Ordnance Survey Explorer maps are the best for hiking. Buy them from Amazon.co.uk before you leave. In the Cotswolds you will find them for sale at tourist offices, newsagents and book shops.
Ordnance Survey has two map series:
- Explorer (orange) at 1:25,000 scale, perfect for walking
- Landranger (purple) at 1:50,000 scale, good for driving
The Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps are detailed maps, showing every town, village, hamlet, farmhouse, road, lane, trail, etc. and are just what you need when out walking in the countryside.
Long Distance Footpaths in the Cotswolds
Several long distance footpaths, that take many days to complete, run through the Cotswolds. The best known, the Cotswold Way, is part of the National Trails system, maintained by the government and marked with an acorn symbol. The others are Long Distance paths maintained by local counties and volunteers. On our walks we have met people doing these long distance paths, either all in one shot or locals doing it piece by piece one weekend at a time. There are companies that will help you do these long distance paths, carrying your bags to that night's B&B.
The following long distance paths run through the Cotswolds. You may come upon them when doing the walking trails. The benefits of walking on one of these paths is that it is maintained and well signed.
Cotswold Way (100 miles - National Trail): Straight walk from Bath to Chipping Campden, along the western edge of the Cotswold escarpment. Passes through Wotton-under-Edge, Dursley, Painswick, Winchcombe and Broadway. website
Cross Cotswold Pathway - Macmillan Way (86 miles): The Macmillan Way (290 miles) is a straight walk from the south coast in Devon to the Boston on the east coast. The part from Bath to Banbury, called the Cross Cotswold Pathway, passes through Cirencester and Stow-on-the-Wold. website
Cotswold Round (207 miles): Combine the Cotswold Way with the Macmillian Way - Cross Cotswold Pathway to get a circular walk in the Cotswolds. Ramblers.org
Cotswold Canals Walk (37 miles): The Stroudwater Canal starts at the River Severn and meets the Thames and Severn Canal near Stroud, which continues through the southern Cotswolds reaching the River Thames at Lechlade. This walk joins the The Thames Path. Guide from Countryside Matters
Diamond Way (60 miles): Circular walk in the northern Cotswolds from Northleach to Chipping Campden, passing through Moreton-in-Marsh, Blockley and Guiting Power. Ramblers.org
Gloucestershire Way (100 miles): Almost a circle starting and ending near the River Severn. Chepstow to Glouchester to Stow-on-the-Wold, then back to Winchcombe and Tewkesbury. Guide from Countryside Matters
Heart of England Way (100 miles): Straight path from Bourton-on-the-Water north to Milford, passing through Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Chipping Campden and then north into the West Midlands. website
Monarch's Way (615 miles): Straight walk from Worcester to Shoreham, passing through Stratford-on-Avon and into the Cotswolds (Stow-on-the-Wold, Cirencester) to Bristol and then down to Shoreham on the south coast. Following a historical path of Charles II in 1651, fleeing after his defeat in the Battle of Worchester. Ramblers.org
Oxfordshire Way (65 miles): From Bourton-on-the-Water in the central Cotswolds into Oxfordshire, ending at Henley-on-Thames. Ramblers.org
Thames Path (184 miles - National Trail): Follows the River Thames from the source near Cirencester, through the Cotswolds Water Park, to Lechlade, then leaving the Cotswolds and ending in London at the Thames Barrier. website
Wardens Way (14 miles): In the northern Cotswolds, from Winchcombe to Bourton-on-the-Water, connecting the Cotswold Way with the Oxfordshire Way. Combine with the Windrush Way to make a circular long distance walk.
Windrush Way (14 miles): Following the River Windrush from Winchcombe to Bourton-on-the-Water in the northern Cotswolds. Combine with the Wardens Way to make a circular long distance walk.
Wysis Way (55 miles): A southern Cotswolds walk linking three rivers - Wye, Severn and Thames. Starts west of the Cotswolds in the Forest of Dean, comes into the Cotswolds above Stroud to Bisley, then down into the Frome Valley to the source of the Thames south of Cirencester. Guide from Countryside Matters
You will find descriptions of local walks on local tourist office websites and on the National Trust site.
Great British Walks from National Trust has downloadable walks throughout the United Kingdom.
Escape to the Cotswolds - Walking from Cotswolds AONB has downloadable walks.
Web Resources for Walking in the Cotswolds
You will find descriptions of local walks on local tourist office websites.
National Trails: Government maintained National Trails.
Ramblers.org: Descriptions of the long distance paths in England.
South Cotswolds Ramblers Association: Associations of walkers.
Walking Britain: Detailed descriptions of walks throughout Britain, with several in the Cotswolds.
Walking Pages : Descriptions of the long distance paths in England.
Walking Guidebooks and Maps
Countryside Matters: Publisher of detailed guides to some of these footpaths.
Gloucestershire Tourism: List of Glouchestershire booklets for walks.
Goldeneye Guides and Maps: Walking guides.
Jarrold Publications: Pathfinder guides for walking/hiking in the United Kingdom.
Live for the Outdoors: Country Walking Magazine, a good UK magazine for walkers. Get this magazine when you are in England.