Walking weekend in the English Cotswolds

This past weekend Catherine and I headed north some 100 miles from London to the Cotswolds, a gorgeous part of the country. We were celebrating our recent engagement and after our few days there, I was so happy with my choice of where to go!

Beautiful old stone-housed villages are a dime a dozen; all with phenomenal names including Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Snowshill and heaps more. We were staying in a small market town called Chipping Campden at the top of the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile walking trail that follows the Cotswold Edge escarpment from Chipping Campden up north to Bath in the south.

The area is home to so many trails it feels almost overwhelming although it really does not matter which routes you pick. We did find, though, that the Cotswold Way was better marked and thus easier to follow.

We rented a car for the weekend and whilst it is very convenient to have a car in this part of the world, and super fun to zoom around the windy country roads, there are public buses. Though they may be infrequent, I understand they become more so over the summer months, with a little planning you could certainly get around without any problems.

We had driven through on Friday afternoon and en route had stopped at Blenheim Palace to wander round the gardens. Though the trees were bare and the majority of flowers not yet in bloom, it is still beautiful wandering about and we loved seeing so many pheasants – they are gorgeous! And of course, being a huge Churchill fan it was super to see where he was born and spent most of his childhood. (You can also visit his grave at the cemetery 2 mins away).

The Churchill Memorial Garden, with it's 90m path dotted with milestones, is where Churchill proposed to Clementine.
The Churchill Memorial Garden, with it’s 90m path dotted with milestones, is where Churchill proposed to Clementine.

Chipping Campden itself is really pretty with a lovely high street. It is small enough to retain that ‘quaint town’ charm but big enough with a few things to see as well as shops if you fancy that and a good selection of restaurants and pubs. The roughly 400-year old St James Church is well worth a (free) visit while dinner at the Eight Bells Pub was delicious! I would also happily recommend staying with Jane at Bramley House – BnB accommodation around England is never cheap and this was a special weekend for us and a real treat.

After a wonderful BnB breakfast on Saturday, we caught the bus to Moreton-in-the-Marsh, a larger town in the area and one with a station should you be catching the train through. We walked some 10 miles along the Monarch Way, dropping down into Brockley where he had a super cup of coffee and deliciously warm croissant at the one-and-only tea shop in town and then continuing back to Chipping Campden.

(As an aside, the Monarch Way is a 615 mile route that approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in battle).

The view as we made our way down into Brockley

On Sunday we wanted to walk along the Cotswold way so we drove to Stanton and walked a circular route via Snowshill. I thought this was a more beautiful walk than Saturday and the views we enjoyed were your quintessential English scene with green rolling hills, the odd house set amongst the fields and a beautiful little village tucked away.

You can also enjoy super views from Broadway Tower and Dovers Hill, both of which are easily walkable from Chipping Campden.

Aside from the walking, we took in some theatre at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is 12 miles from Chipping Campden.  Here it was very useful to have the car and it was a brilliant and very funny show (we saw Don Quiote) and a fantastic experience.

There is really is so much to do round this way with a weekend barely enough to scratch the surface. I have no doubt we will be back many times more over the years and I am really excited to walk more of the Cotswold Way.

Practical Information:

When to go –

We had decent weather with very little rain, patches of sunshine and blue sky but mostly cloudy. While summer would no doubt enjoy more beautiful weather, though you never know in England, I suspect it would be extremely busy and thus I think going in the shoulder seasons would be best. As long as it is not raining you can always go walking though things do look prettier when there is blue sky and sunshine!

Trail and Town Information –

I found the circular route we walked on Sunday on the National Trail Site – these are perfect if you cannot or do not want to do a multi-day hike.

Three other sites I used for research that detail the many walking route in the area were:

Many towns have their own websites, including Chipping Campden.

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