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Day Walks & Circular Routes on the Cotswold Way

By Alex Stewart
More by Alex

Beautiful Short Hikes You Can Do Along the Cotswold Way

If you’re exploring the Cotswolds and looking to get a taste of the landscape, countryside and villages that go towards making up this quintessential corner of England, what are the best day walks or sections of the Cotswold Way to hike? Perhaps you’re looking for a taste of what the whole trail has to offer? Walking the full 100-mile route will take you upwards of a week, so you might only have time for a few highlights. Luckily there are plenty.

We’ve picked out a series of straightforward walks and sections that can easily be turned into circuits that showcase the area’s charms. These take in wild open spaces like Cleeve Hill, pretty villages from Broadway to Stanton and historical sites such as the Neolithic burial chamber at Belas Knap. We’ve also included some suggestions for where to soak up a view or pop in for a pint in a perfect old pub.

Day Walks & Circular Routes on the Cotswold Way

Chipping Campden & Dover's Hill Circuit

Distance: 5 miles/8 km
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty
: Easy – Moderate

From the delightful market town of Chipping Campden at the northern end of the Cotswold Way, get a feel for what it’s like to embark on a long distance trail by picking up the path at the marker stone and heading out of town towards Dover’s Hill, owned and managed by the National Trust. Follow an old track onto the hill and climb along the edge to the high point to take in the incredible views that are an excellent taster of what’s to come.

If you’re here in spring, you might encounter the Olympick Games, which have been played on the hill annually since 1612. Unlikely sports like ‘shin-kicking’ and ‘pike-tumbling’ are still enacted here. With your fill of vistas, revived by the fresh wind, it’s possible to detour from the Cotswold Way and descend from the hill into Lynches Wood to the north, where there are spectacular shows of bluebells in May. A loop south takes you back to the path you left Chipping Campden on so you can retrace your steps. The Red Lion Inn, close to the start/finish, is a relaxed place for a celebratory pint.

Broadway & the Tower

Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

For a scenic walk through a pretty Cotswold village to an intriguing landmark and along a section of the Cotswold Way, set out from the green among the unfailingly lovely stone cottages of the village of Broadway. Once off the High Street, ascend Beacon Hill towards the silhouette of a tower, alternatively on a track and a series of steps flanked by a dry-stone wall.

Rising from the second highest point in the Cotswolds and looking for all the world like a defensive fortification, Broadway Tower is a folly built in 1798 for Lady Coventry. Climb the tower’s 55 feet to stand on the roof platform among the crenellated towers, where there are impressive views all around – on a clear day you’re meant to be able to see 16 counties from up here, and you can see across the Severn Vale into south Wales.

Having refuelled at the cafe and explored the red deer park here, you could retrace your steps or complete a circuit by going past Rookery Farm to Coneygree Lane. Turn north, and a path will take you back to Broadway and the village green, where you’ll find tearooms and The Trumpet & Crown pub if you’re in the mood for a pint.

Stanton & Snowshill

Distance: 6 miles/9.5 km
Duration: 4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Combine two idyllic villages with this pretty section of the Cotswold Way for a great day out. There are some superb views, shaded woodland and a couple of warm and welcoming pubs to look out for. Stanton is often regarded as one of the loveliest villages in the Cotswolds. Stroll out of town on the Cotswold Way and climb to Shenberrow across fields. Follow the trail to Manor Farm and Buckland Wood. Here the Cotswold Way continues north towards Broadway.

Turn south though and make your way to Snowshill and Snowshill Manor, an unconventional house and museum managed by the National Trust full of thousands of objects and curiosities that once made up the eclectic private collection of Charles Wade. There’s a pretty Arts & Crafts garden, a tearoom in the grounds and an unspoilt Cotswold stone pub, the Snowshill Arms.

Tear yourself away from Snowshill to head west towards Littleworth Wood. Here you’ll rejoin the Cotswold Way and follow the familiar path from earlier down into Stanton once more, enjoying the views that you had your back to before, arriving at The Mount Inn, a 17th-century walker’s pub boasting incredible views from its garden terrace.

Broadway to Winchcombe

Distance: 12 miles/19 km
Duration: 6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

There are additional options for extended days out on the Cotswold Way through the lovely the Cotswold countryside. Traverse the rolling hills between Broadway and Winchcombe, dropping in on unspoiled hamlets and soaking up fine views. The path south from Broadway passes through Buckland Wood, climbs to Littleworth Wood and, beyond Shenberrow Hill, comes to Stanton, with its time-weathered, honey-hued stone cottages.

Next is Stanway, where you can visit the Jacobean-era Stanway House on selected days during the summer months. Continue past Iron Age Beckbury Camp to Hailes, centred on the ruins of a once-important and grand abbey. The final stage is a pleasant stroll into Winchcombe, a wool town and the one-time capital of the kingdom of Mercia. Winchcombe has plenty of places to stay and eat, along with facilities for the walker and access to a bus route that runs through the Cotswolds for the return journey.

Winchcombe & Belas Knap

Distance: 5 miles/8 km
Duration: 4 hours
Difficultye: Moderate

From the former Saxon capital of Winchcombe, access one of the highlight stretches of the Cotswold Way where hikers will discover just how ancient the trail is. Leave the town on the Cotswold Way and follow the path across rolling green fields past the 15th-century Sudeley Castle. Gain height until you reach Belas Knap, a shapely 55m long grass-covered mound that is in fact a Neolithic long barrow, or burial chamber. The site is around 5,000 years old, and archaeologists have excavated a number of skeletons as well as flints and pottery from the burial chambers within the carefully constructed structure.

After exploring, you can retreat the way you came to return to Winchcombe and a refreshing pint at the Plaisterer’s Arms. Should you have more energy in your legs, it’s about two hours on to Cleeve Common. This is a wild and windswept corner of Gloucestershire designated a Site of Scientific Interest because of the significant limestone grassland it sits on, which is home to a wealth of wildflowers, butterflies, birds and animals. A network of paths crosses the common allowing you to explore it more fully.

Leckhampton Loop

Distance: 4.5 miles/7 km
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

There are more opportunities for walkers to enjoy the Cotswold’s rich natural history on this short circuit that also comes with far-reaching views. From Seven Springs, pick up the Cotswold Way as it climbs along an escarpment to Charlton Kings Common where there are many great vantage points to enjoy the views.

Several rare flowers and butterflies are also found among the grasslands here. Shortly beyond is Leckhampton Hill, look out for the site of an old Iron Age hill fort and a limestone rock pillar known as the Devil’s Chimney standing above a disused Victorian quarry. Complete a circuit by dropping off the ridge here and looping back on a woodland path at the foot of the slope, bringing you round to rejoin the Cotswold Way just before your original start point.

Selsey Circuit

Distance: 5 miles/8 km
Duration: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

By combining two branches of the Cotswold Way, you can create a ready-made scenic circuit with some attractive highlights that have become a popular outing. South of Randwick and Westrip, the Cotswold Way splits with a short onward route and a more scenic detour, both converging at Penn Wood. To combine the two in a circuit, take the Cotswold Way south from the somewhat functional town of King’s Stanley through Middleyard to Penn Wood. Instead of hiking on to Dursley, detour through the trees on the alternative branch of the Cotswold Way and cross Selsey Common as you head north again.

This is a superb spot to look for wildflowers and orchids hidden among the long grass during summer. Crest the high ground next to an ancient burial mound and drop down again to the village of Selsey, centred on a church that features stained glass windows created by William Morris and leaders of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Sustenance is available at the Bell Inn. From here, it’s a stroll through some industrial heritage to Ebley Mill and a section of trail heading west along the restored Stroudwater (Ebley) Canal. Leave behind the canal on the Cotswold Way to loop round past a second Victorian mill, Stanley Mill, and return to King’s Stanley.

Dursley to Wotton-Under-Edge

Distance: 7 miles/11 km
Duration: 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

Quieter than the honeypot villages on the northern sections of the Cotswold Way, Dursley is a small market town surrounded by forested hills from which to venture south. Climb steeply out of the village and walk around Stinchcombe Hill, catching glimpses of the views flickering through the leafy trees. Strolling south, you’ll stumble on the sleepy hamlet of North Nibley.

A sharp haul brings you to the foot of the Tynedale Monument, a tower named for William Tynedale, who first translated the New Testament into English. Bask in the views and climb the tower to see even further. A wooded walk delivers you to Wotton-Under-Edge. The village has several pubs if you’re in need of refuelling. Or delay your pint until you get back to Dursley, where the CAMRA award-winning Old Spot awaits.

Old Sodbury Circuit

Distance: 2.5 miles/4 km
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Short but sweet, this taster circuit is a lovely, gentle stroll on a section of the southern Cotswold Way, around oak-fringed farmland with some fascinating ancient history thrown in. From the Dog Inn in Old Sodbury, stood right on the route of the Cotswold Way, walk north past the impressive church of St John the Baptist. Beyond a sizeable sycamore tree, cross fields and shady woodland before climbing the ramparts of a large Bronze Age hill fort.

Beyond, the trail descends to the quiet village of Little Sodbury where the hilltop church of St Adeline is an excellent spot to rest and enjoy the views of the unfurling fields and hills. You can either return the way you came or cut south across the fields towards Old Sodbury and the village church before finishing where you started at the Dog Inn, perhaps this time with a pint!

Cold Ashton to Bath

Distance: 10 miles/16 km
Duration: 5.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

Take the chance to walk the final section of the Cotswold Way and hike from Cold Ashton to Bath as the trail slips out of the hills and builds to its culmination in the city. From the village of Cold Ashton, wander rolling hills while slowly gaining height as you climb to the top of Lansdown hill. This spot is the site of a famous battle between Royalists and Parliamentarians in 1643.

Passing Bath racecourse, make time to soak up the views across the city from Prospect Stile before you follow the trail through the last of the open countryside, dropping to the edge of the city. In your new, urban environment, look out for tidy avenues of beech trees and attractive Georgian architecture as the trail meanders through Royal Victoria Park, past the iconic Royal Crescent and across the picturesque tree-filled Circus.

The approach of Bath Abbey’s dramatic spires, close to the historic Roman Baths, means you’re approaching the finish, marked by a circular Cotswold Way plaque set in the ground by the main abbey door. If you’re short on time, shorten this route by 4 miles by catching the park & ride bus out of Bath to the pick-up point near Bath racecourse. Then make your way around the racecourse boundary fence to start at the viewpoint at Prospect Stile.

Visit the Cotswolds With Us

Meet the Author: Alex Stewart

A childhood being marched up hills and highpoints on family holidays has translated to a lifetime love of the outdoors. This led to a career working with tour operators and walking companies that, twinned with a passion for writing, has taken me on adventures all around the world. Over 20 years, I’ve explored and written about walking, trekking, hiking and tramping in places as far apart as New Zealand, Peru and the Swiss Alps, for guidebooks, newspapers, magazines and websites. These days I’m on a mission to prove that the UK offers as much adventure as anything you’ll find overseas. I’ve found a lot of joy in experiencing wild places close to home, sharing stories of the wildlife, history and heritage we have on our doorstep while also introducing my young family in turn to the outdoors. Home-grown adventures include racing coast-to-coast across Scotland and walking and cycling across England. I have trekked the Pembrokeshire and Norfolk coasts, claimed Yorkshire’s three peaks, hiked a number of our national trails, and camped in wild places while bagging Wainwrights and Munros. Friends joke though that, in many ways, alongside the pursuit of the perfect sausage roll, all this activity is really just an excuse to seek out artisan scotch eggs and local craft ales to try…

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