Whilst the Cotswolds is an area perhaps best known for its picturesque range of towns and villages, it’s also a brilliant part of Britain for walking holidays. Whilst there’s not quite the same range of terrain that you get in places like Scotland or the Lake District, there are still plenty of popular public footpaths and established walking trails that wind through the five different counties included in this popular UK destination.
If you’re visiting the Cotswolds and looking for things to do during your stay, it’s likely that at least a little bit of walking will be on your list. We’ve put together a guide to some of the best Cotswolds walking routes that cover both long and short distances to help inspire you to lace up your hiking boots and get out and explore.
The Cotswold Way
It wouldn’t be a post about the best Cotswolds walking routes if we didn’t mention the area’s most famous trail. The Cotswold Way celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020 and is a path that has been favoured by visitors to the area for many years, providing a route through some of the finest scenery and most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds.
Stretching 102 miles between Chipping Campden and Bath, you can either tackle The Cotswold Way in its entirety or just walk a section of the trail depending on where you’re staying. It’s a route that is suitable for the majority of walkers, although be prepared for a couple of unexpectedly steep climbs if you decide to walk the whole thing.
Hiking the full length of this Cotswolds walking trail will take you up to ten days, but there are plenty of sections that will fill an afternoon or even just provide you with a weekend of walking. There’s no better way to see the range of scenery and visit some of the most popular towns and villages in the area, which is why it’s one of the area’s highest-rated walking routes.
The Cleeve Hill Ring
The Cleeve Hill Common Ring is another one of the most popular walks in the Cotswolds, offering a circular route with a range of terrain that is an ideal way to fill a day. The route itself is around 6 miles (or 10km) and will take experienced walkers 3-4 hours, whilst groups with older or younger members may need more time.
This trail gets its name from Cleeve Hill or Cleeve Common; the highest point in both the Cotswolds and in Gloucestershire. At the summit, you’ll be able to see across the nearby hills, over the woodlands and sometimes as far as Cheltenham and the edge of Wales, as well as enjoying a range of scenery on the way up and down that includes patches of rare limestone grassland.
The Cleeve Hill Ring is one of the best circular walks in the Cotswolds, including a section of the famous Cotswolds Way and taking you up to the best viewpoint in the entire area. There are several steep climbs that some walkers may find challenging, and the top of Cleeve Common should also be avoided in bad weather as mist can descend very quickly and make visibility dangerous.
The Windrush Way
The Windrush Way links Winchcombe with Bourton-on-the-Water and was created as a walking route in the 1980s by the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens. It’s a 14-mile route that includes sections of hill walking and following paths through towns and villages such as Hawling and Cold Aston, and is a great way to see a lot of highlights of the area in one day.
The Windrush Way connects the Cotswold Way with the Oxfordshire Way, so can be added on to a longer walk or used as a way to connect sections of both of these famous routes. There’s not a lot of variety in terms of scenery on the route, but you can be guaranteed blissful peace and quiet as you stroll through the countryside and spot famous landmarks including Sudeley Castle, Gazeley Wood and Westfield House.
This Cotswolds walking trail also has a sister route known as the Wardens Way, which is a similar length but sticks to the paths that connect nearby towns and includes less long sections of paths through the countryside.
The Rollright Stones
The best walking route to the Rollright Stones near the village of Long Compton begins at Chipping Norton, one of the most popular towns in the Cotswolds. The trail is only around 5 miles long so is a great route if you’ve got children with you or are just looking for a walk that will fill half a day.
Walking from Chipping Norton to Over Norton, you’ll travel through woodland and across fields following a public footpath. There’s a bit of a climb as you get close to the Rollright Stones, and the first area you’ll come to is the ancient Whispering Knights burial chamber, thought to have been built around 3,800 BC.
The main attraction of this ancient site is the stone circle known as The King’s Men, which is said to be a spot where ley lines are supposed to converge and strange, mystical energies are within our grasp. It’s an impressive end to the walk, from which you can either retrace your steps or walk on to nearby Little Rollright.
The Diamond Way
The Diamond Way unsurprisingly gets its name from the rough shape that the route makes. It was created by the Rambler’s Association North Cotswold Group to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 1995 and is made up of a series of different public footpaths that connect to form one of the best circular walks in the Cotswolds.
You can start the Diamond Way from any section of the route depending on where you are staying and which villages or towns you would like to visit along the way. The entire trail is roughly 65 miles long and can take up to a week to complete, depending on how quickly you walk, with many walkers just enjoying small sections instead of the entire thing.
This Cotswolds walking trail is pretty easy going and flat, passing through lots of beautiful scenery and sticking to mainly quiet footpaths that let you really appreciate the presence of nature. It connects Northleach, Chipping Campden, Guiting Power and Bourton-on-the-Water at the four corners of the ‘diamond’ and has plenty of places to stop for an afternoon tea, pub lunch or overnight stay in a small countryside B&B.
The Leckhampton Loop
The Leckhampton Loop is a small section of the longer Cotswolds Way and is a very popular path to walk that centres around the Charlton Kings Common in Gloucestershire. At only 4 ½ miles long, it’s one of the best family walks or walks for holidaymakers with dogs in the Cotswolds because of its easy length and range of different sights along the route.
The first highlight of the Leckhampton Loop is an Iron Age hillfort, which is thought to have been built between 500 and 100 BC. If you take a little detour from the route you’ll also get to see the limestone rock formation known as the Devil’s Chimney, which is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the whole area. On the final stretch of the walk, you’ll also pass by the remains of a Victorian quarry.
The Wychavon Way
The Wychavon Way was originally created in 1977 to celebrate and commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It’s a 42-mile route that can be walked in its entirety over several days or picked up at various points if you’re only looking for a short walk.
This long-distance path is one of the most popular routes for walking in the Cotswolds thanks to the variety of scenery included along the way. It begins in Droitwich Spa in northern Worcestershire which is a charming little town most famous for the production of rock salt from nearby natural brine springs.
Other points of interest along the Wychavon Way include a stretch of path beside the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, Banbury Stone Tower and the Iron Age Hill Fort of Kemerton Camp at Ashton Under Hill. The walk ends in the village of Broadway, which is one of the most popular places in the Cotswolds because of its beautiful architecture, range of attractions and peaceful atmosphere.
The Blossom Trail
Walking the Blossom Trail in southern Worcestershire at any point of the year is a very pleasant experience, but the best time to enjoy the route is definitely in the spring when the 3000-acres of trees that give the walking trail its name are all in bloom for a couple of weeks. Cherry and apple blossom trees are in abundance along the entire 40-mile stretch of path, and if you time it just right you’ll get to enjoy a fragrant sea of pink from start to finish.
The Blossom Trail runs through the Vale of Evesham which forms part of the floodplains of the River Avon. The route was initially established in 1983 when it was only 8 miles long and has gradually been extended as the need for more orchards has grown and the importance of areas of natural beauty like this walking route cuts though has become more prevalent.
There are a variety of popular attractions, towns and villages along and close by to the trail, so it’s easy to plan stops along the way or plan a short section of the walk into a visit to somewhere nearby in the area. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful walks in the Cotswolds, particularly on sunny days when the places you pass through will also be bustling with people.
The Winchcombe Way
The Winchcombe Way is known amongst keen walkers as a unique Cotswolds walking route because the trail is in a figure-of-eight shape. It connects many of the hidden gems of the northern Cotswolds over the 42-mile path and takes between 2 and 4 days if you want to enjoy the whole thing.
Highlights of the western loop of this path include ascending Langley Hill for spectacular views, visiting Alstone, climbing the famous Cleeve Common and then passing by the 15th-century Sudeley Castle on the final stretch of the trail, known for its impressive range of gardens and pretty little chapel.
The eastern loop of the Winchcombe Way leaves Winchcombe and heads towards the Farmcote valley, passing through places like Taddington, Cutsdean, Stanton and Snowshill. You’ll also get the chance to visit both Stanway House and Hailes Abbey as the route loops back around and heads towards Winchcombe again.
Whether you’re a seasoned walker or just someone who enjoys a pleasant stroll in the sunshine when they’re on their holidays, there’s a Cotswolds walking trail that will be exactly what you had in mind. With plenty of circular routes on offer as well as long-distance paths that join many of the most popular places in the area, it’s easy to plan a walk or two and get out into the countryside to explore some of the scenery that makes this location so famously beautiful.
If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful part of England and are still looking for somewhere to stay on your holiday, check out our range of self-catering properties in the Cotswolds.