Charming villages, old English pubs, and plenty of history can be found along the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile walking path that crosses through the most beautiful of England’s landscapes. Along the Cotswold Way you travel back in history to ancient civilizations and see how time has changed little. Sheep have grazed these hills for centuries turning families into wealthy wool merchants.
The Cotswold Way allows you to take in the charming villages and beautiful countryside at your own pace. We are fast hikers with built-up endurance to cover the required daily distances of a shortened timeframe. While most guidebooks recommend the Cotswold Way as a 10-day itinerary, we did it in 7 days back in 2011. The information in this post was updated in 2019.
Itinerary for Hiking the Cotswold Way
This was our itinerary and daily mileage for hiking the 102-mile Cotswold Way over 7 days:
- Chipping Campden to Winchombe, 17 miles
- Winchombe to Cheltenham, 15 miles
- Cheltenham to Painswick, 16 miles
- Painswick to Middle Yard, 9 miles
- Middle Yard to Wotton-under-Edge, 16 miles
- Wotton-under-edge to Tomarton, 14 miles
- Tomarton to Bath, 15 miles
Terrain of the Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way is very is hilly with some steep ascents and descents. While the terrain may seem easy when looking at the countryside, the path regularly goes straight up the hillside and back down the other side rather than any type of switchback. This makes it challenging in several areas.
The English weather can be another factor impacting the amount the time you need to complete any section. When we hiked the Cotswold Way in August 2011, we lucked out with 6 out 7 beautiful days. We had sunshine, brisk mornings, and breezy afternoons for most of our hike. Uncharacteristic perfect weather! Our final day, 15 miles of hiking from Tomarton to Bath, was cold, grey, windy, and pouring rain for hours. That’s typical weather according to the locals.
Access to Amenities on the Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way goes through villages of varying sizes, and even the tiniest of villages have at least a convenience store or pub to get food and drink. There are a few small towns with grocery stores, shops, and pubs along with a few larger-sized towns with shopping centers, a variety of restaurants, and supermarkets. Amenities, food, and drink are widely available across the entire route.
A Google search will pull up several self-guided tour companies who can plan your hiking adventure including supplying maps, making sightseeing suggestions, making all overnight reservations, and transferring your luggage. I did all of this myself and bought a Cotswold Way guidebook from Amazon.
I hired Sherpa Van (http://www.sherpavan.com/trails/cotswold-way.asp) to transfer our luggage each day. Without fail, our bags were already in our room at each location before we arrived.
Here are some highlights, where we stayed, and additional planning details along the 102-mile Cotswold Way.
Getting To the Cotswold Way
How did we get to the start of the Cotswold Way? We flew into London and spent a few days before going on the hiking portion of our trip.
We then rented a car and drove to Oxford for an overnight stay. From there, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon and spent two days immersed in everything Shakespeare.
After turning in the rental car, we took a taxi to Chipping Campden, the official start of the Cotswold Way. Alternatively, you could take a train from London to Moreton in Marsh, and get a taxi to Chipping Campden (about 6 miles away).
We spent the night at The Old Bakehouse in Chipping Campden which includes a full English breakfast that filled us up for day one of hiking.
The Old Bakehouse B & B
Chipping Campden is a small medieval village with one main road (the high street) and a few shops. There is a small plaque designating the start of the Cotswold Way along with signage and a full map of the route.
Day 1: Chipping Campden to Winchombe, 17 miles
With our bellies full, we headed out for day one of our adventure!
The first 6 miles are open countryside with plenty of flowers and sheep.
The first sightseeing destination on the Cotswold Way is Broadway Tower. It was built in 1799 as an artists retreat. We could see the tower on the trail long before we actually got there. Once we made our way up the steep hill, it was well worth paying the entrance fee and taking the many stairs up the tower to the top where we were rewarded with 360 degree views. There’s also a restaurant on site. This is the second highest point on the Cotswold Way at 1,024 feet.
After leaving Broadway Tower, we steeply descended into the village of Broadway where we found several restaurants, pubs, a tea shop, grocery store, and pharmacy.
Leaving Broadway, we ventured on for another 11 miles through English countryside before stopping for the night in Winchcombe. A highlight of this section is the picture-perfect tiny village of Stanton with its stone houses and old church.
Our accomodations in Winchombe were at the Wesley House, a 15th century merchant’s home turned into a restaurant, small hotel, and private wedding/party venue. It includes a few rooms to rent above a very popular, organic and locally-sourced restaurant with a large menu. The food is excellent! Breakfast was not included but there was a bakery on our way out of town. We bought pastries and ate along the way.
Wesley House B & B
Day 2: Winchombe to Cheltenham, 15 miles
Today, the Cotswold Way took us through Cleeve Common and Cleeve Hill, the highest point on the trail at 10,666 feet. This section has lots of open green space that led us into a thick forest.
After 6 miles, we reached Belas Knap, an ancient long barrow/burial ground dating to 2500 BC. Today it is a grass-covered mound with signage explaining its purpose.
At the end of a long day, we found ourself in Cheltenham. It’s a decent sized town with Michelin starred restaurants, stylish shops, museums, art galleries, two concert halls, and three theatres.
We rented a detached cottage at a family home and farm just outside of Cheltenham, known as California Farm. Sadly, the gorgeous cottage is no longer available for rent. Due to Cheltenham’s size, there are numerous other available options to stay overnight.
Day 3: Cheltenham to Painswick, 16 miles
Day 3 hiking was more open land dotted with magnificent estates.
We finished the day at St. Anne’s B & B, a former wool merchant’s home directly on the Cotswold Way in Painswick. The owner is very welcoming to hikers. There are restaurants and pubs within a very short distance for lunch or dinner. The owner prepares a delicious organic breakfast and may prepare a to-go lunch as well if you ask in advance.
St. Anne’s B & B
Day 4: Painswick to Middle Yard, 9 miles
Finally, we have a short day! Only 9 miles which also takes us to the halfway point of the Cotswold Way. Woohoo! 55 miles to go before we reach Bath.
Our destination for day four was Valley Views B & B. It is also located directly on the trail in Middleyard. It is a private home owned by a single woman. The three available rooms are surprisingly large and private with their own baths (and bathtubs for soaking your sore feet!). Snacks, coffee, tea, television, and wireless internet are available in the individual rooms. A delicious, organic, and locally-sourced breakfast is made by the hostess.
Valley Views B & B
Day 5: Middle Yard to Wotton-under-Edge, 16 miles
More forest walking, more long barrows, and the Tyndale Monument defined day 5 on the Cotswold Way.
Our stop for the day was the Swan Hotel in Wotton-under-Edge, a lively small town with several pubs and restaurants. The Swan Hotel also has a restaurant with an extensive menu. We ate here and enjoyed the British-style menu. The rooms are nice and comfortable with plenty of space.
Day 6: Wotton-under-edge to Tomarton, 14 miles
Today, the Cotswold Way took us through more small villages and farms. A highlight for me was walking through the field of sunflowers.
The Compass Inn in Tormarton is family-run but owned by the Best Western hotel chain. It is an 18th century former coaching inn set in 6 acres of gardens. An on-site restaurant and bar serves lunch and dinner.
Day 7: Tomarton to Bath, 15 miles
Up until the final day, we head great weather. Day 7 was grey, cold, and rainy until we made it to the Bath where the sun shone again. I didn’t take any pictures on the trail because of the heavy rain.
Our final destination on the Cotswold Way was Brocks Guest House in Bath. It’s an elegant Georgian home built in 1765 very close to the historical town center.
Brocks Guest House
The city of Bath has been a major tourist destination ever since Roman times. We stayed two nights in order to see everything that it has to offer including the architecture and the Jane Austen museum. Our reward for finishing the Cotswold Way was a nice dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.
Hiking the Cotswold Way was a huge achievement and a very memorable trip. England also has several other long distance hiking trails that we look forward to walking someday. We enjoyed the Cotswold Way so much that we would definitely go back and try another national trail.