The Best Walking Routes in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of the country’s prettiest regions, full of quaint villages, winding lanes and some top pubs and restaurants.

Being located north-east of Bristol, the Cotswolds is a landlocked area, and consequently a little quieter than the traditional summer holiday destinations, making it a perfect place to visit if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.

The Cotswolds is also a year-round gem – so you’re not restricted to high season only – with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Check out these leisurely walks, perfect for discovering this fab region.

Taking the train to the Cotswolds is a simple and stress-free way to visit the area. Starting from several GWR train stations located within the Cotswolds, including Charlbury, Stroud and Moreton-in-Marsh, Cotswolds National Landscape has created downloadable Cotswold Gateways walks to explore the surrounding countryside of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) so you can easily discover hidden corners, epic views, historic sites, and a rich diversity of wildlife.

We ask all passengers to wear a face-covering in stations and on trains. Make sure you plan your journey in advance, reserving a space and downloading tickets to a mobile device if you can, and avoiding travel when it’s busy. For more safety guidelines, visit gwr.com/safety.

Stow-on-the-Wold

Highest of all the Cotswold towns (it stands 800ft above sea level, atop Stow Hill) Stow-on-the-Wold is among the area’s best-known destinations. An important market town, it has an impressive square that’s been known to host up to 20,000 sheep on market day.

Today, Stow-on-the-Wold is celebrated as a centre for the antiques trade, and a great place to begin when exploring the surrounding countryside.

Start with a leisurely tour of the town itself. Setting off from the medieval cross in the square, visit St Edward’s Church with its tree-flanked north entrance; the stocks, where criminals were once punished; ending at The Porch House, one of the oldest public houses in England, where you can enjoy a well-deserved rest.

Row of houses on a main street in Stow-on-the-Wold, some local residents on the background. Stow is a market town in Cotswolds, UK

Getting there: the nearest GWR station is Moreton-in-Marsh, and Stow-on-the-Wold is an onward bus or taxi journey.

The Gloucestershire Way

Stow-on-the-Wold is also on the Gloucestershire Way, connecting the town with the Forest of Dean and the Severn Vale. Spanning 100 miles across diverse countryside, the route offers great views over river valleys and picturesque towns, linking with the Wye Valley Walk and Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail.

An 11-mile stretch of the Gloucester Way takes you from Stow-on-the-Wold to the village of Salperton, with its Norman church and Palladian style country house at Salperton Park. If you’re feeling energetic, a further 12 miles will get you to Crickley Hill, jointly owned by the National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and offering stunning panoramas, wildlife and archaeology.

View of a farm house from Crickley Hill looking west with hills in the background and a yellow sky from the sunset, UK

Bourton-on-the-Water

Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the most-visited villages in the region. With the River Windrush, straddled by low bridges, running through its centre, this quaint destination is ideal for exploring, especially during the quieter, low seasons.

Begin with the circular walk that takes you from the Visitor Information Centre on Victoria Street out to the peaceful areas around the village, where you can discover more about the local heritage. Be sure to grab a guide for this walk from the Visitor Information Centre, which will tell you everything you need to know.

If you’re looking to go further afield, then the four-mile walk from Bourton-on-the-Water to Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter is another circular stroll that lets you discover even more pretty villages in the area.

The ominously-named Upper Slaughter is dominated by the Manor House, one of the finest buildings in the area, with sections dating back to Elizabethan times.


Back in Bourton-on-the-Water, grab a drink and a bite to eat at Chester House Hotel. Enjoy lunch or dinner at the venue’s L’anatra Italian kitchen, where you can tuck into fresh Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.


Getting there: the nearest GWR station is Moreton-in-Marsh, and Bourton-on-the-Water is an onward bus or taxi journey. From Bristol and the south west, the Regency town of Cheltenham is an alternative gateway to the Cotswolds, with onward bus connections to Bourton-on-the-Water.

The Cotswold Way - a step back in time

Spend three days exploring the northern Cotswolds, based between three of its most handsome heritage towns: Chipping Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe. Wander idyllic honey-stone hamlets, discover more about the ground-breaking Arts and Crafts Movement, stop off in teashops and walk out into the sublime surrounding hills. If you fancy a longer walk and an exploring break then National Trails is the place to start planning your multi-day overnight itinerary.

Getting there: the nearest GWR station is Moreton-in-Marsh, from where Chipping Campden is an onward bus or taxi journey for the start (or end) of the Cotswold Way.


17 May 2021
The Cotswolds I
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