Picture Perfect English Countryside Walking Holiday

 The Cotswold Way:  If you close your eyes and dream about what the quintessential English countryside looks like with the charming medieval villages, pastures marked by hedgerows, rolling hills, stone cottages with equally charming gardens, the you are dreaming about the Cotswold Way.  In this two part series on Kit's Cotswold Way Walking Holiday, Kit takes us from Dursley to the end point at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath.  You can learn about Kit's walk from Chipping Camden to Durlsey in Part One here.

 

My friend, Simon, whom I met on the West Highland Way in Scotland last year, got up super early and hiked six miles to meet me at my guest house so that we could walk to Bath together and celebrate the conclusion of my 100 mile hike of the Cotswold Way.  You can check out my West Highland Way podcast and post here.

Bath

 Bath is either the start or the end of the Cotswold Way National Trail.  I walked from Chipping Camden to Bath (southbound), which most folks do.  

Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its Roman Baths.

The Cotswold Way footpath ends with an etched limestone marker inset on the plaza in front of the Bath Abbey.

 

Perfect UK Walking Holiday

The Cotswold Way is a 102 mile (165 km) historic footpath through some of England's most stunning scenery. Most of the trail is located within the noted Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This footpath is not particularly diffiuclt, but because it is long, it is a big of an endurance hike.

Each night you stay in a charming guest house or hotel in one cute village after another. You begin in either Chipping Camden (most common) or in Bath. Other notable villages include Broadway, Stanton, Painswick, and Wooten-Under-Edge. Cute – cute- cute!!!

Click for your FREE Cotswold Way Travel Planner
Click for your FREE Cotswold Way Travel Planner

Choose Self-Guided or Self-Planned

On this trip, I used Mickledore to make all of my arrnagements. After booking, I was sent a packet that included a full sized map, a descriptive book on the Cotswold Way, dining and other town recommendations, plus a very thorough itinerary of where I was staying that included photos, map and a description of how to find the room from the trail.  Alternately, you can plan this trip yourself, but do be sure to book all rooms in advance as the villages are small and so they could be sold out when you arrive.  Also, Mickledore told me in the packet when I should book dinners in advance as in some villages (surprisingly!), finding dinner could be scarce.

SPECTACULAR Scenery!

Much of the time you are walking on the ridge of the Cotswold Escarpment (and escarpment is where two mostly level landscapes are divided by different elevations). This is particularly true as you walk alongside the charming Cheltenhem (worthy of a day or two side trip if you have the time!).

There is no hill higher than 4000′, so the hills are not excessively challenging. This footpath is more of an endurance event rather than a killer hike.  Usually most mornings you start in a valley and climb uphill.  Then there will be a few ups and downs throughout the day. On my 9 day hike, I hiked between 7-16 miles per day. You can vary the length of your trip somewhat to accommodate your desired daily milage.  On my 16 mile day, I was mostly on the ridge so it wasn't too bad.

Unfortunatley, I had plantar fascilitis on my right heel during this hike.

My instructions from Mickledore said that my first night's accommodations would be in Stanton and to lookout for a red phone booth.

Boy was I happy to see this phone booth! Happily although my foot was miserable for the first two days, this hike seems to have made my heel better. I hardly even notice it now!

On a walking holiday, it usually takes your body a couple of days to get its ‘mojo' and understand that ‘this' is what it's supposed to do now.

Cotswold Way Scenery

Much of the time you will be hiking through pasture land. I think the irregular hedgerows that mark the property borders make these pastures particularly charming. Land use laws in England allow you to walk across private property on these century's old footpaths that connect villages and other trade routes. You go through gates or sometimes steps over the fences and walk often through sheep (beware the Cotswold Lion (kidding : it's their lambs!) and sometimes horse or cow pastures. Once the path even goes through a golf course – and people are walking their dogs on the golf course!

Yet other times you are in rare undisturbed meadowland preserves or in beech forests. At the end of each day, you land in a charming village with cottages made of the local Cotswold quarried stone – stunning! Some of the roofs are still made of thatch! Most have boisterous cottage gardens contrasted with perfectly manicured hedges.

Cleeve Hill Cheese Rolling Contest

The video showcasing this annual ridiculous event is worth a minute of your time!

“Contestants” tumble down a super steep hill, competing to be first to grab a rolling cheese ball.  Broken bones included!

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Charming Villages

If you can spare the time, spend a night in Broadway even though it's only five miles to Chipping Camden. Stanton is the quintecential English country village, so do stay there. Most of these villages are VERY small, so do make sure you know ahead of time whether you need to make a dinner reservation! You will be tired and hungry when you arrive and want to make sure that you can get a good meal! Be sure to download the FREE Travel Planner for my itinerary (you will get it automatically with the monthly newsletter if you subscribe).

Kit ‘carries' the Royal Mail and a Folly for the Birds

As I entered town, I saw one of the adorable ‘Royal Mail' carriers. I was taking a photo of the cute vehicle when the postamn returned from the house from which he had delivered a package. I told him how I loved his carriage and he asked if I wanted a picture in it: “Um, YES, please!!!

Later on, I took this photo of a folly: Follies are extravagant, usually tower-like edifices, built to show wealth and prestige. The first folly I saw was for men only in its day. And they would laugh and take baths on its roof and just be ridiculous. The folly pictured here is modern built and is for the birds, not men: it is built as a haven for nesting owls and other barn dwelling birds.

Takeaways

This is a wonderful adventure for people interested in dipping their toes into adventure travel: it is challenging in an endurance way (you MUST make it to each day's destination as accommodations are limited), but the trail itself is not too difficult. Everyone speaks English, and the food are things you would recognize. There is also public transport if you need a lift to the next destination.

It's also great for someone who just needs some time to think. It is a very meditative footpath: you can be alone a lot if you wish. But there is also a lot of opportunities to interact with locals who use the path themselves for daily walks or to get somewhere. The locals are EXTREMELY friendly!

Were I to do it again (and I might!), I think I would go slower so I wasn't so tired when I arrived at the village. I would also take a detour and spend a couple of days in Cheltenhem, which is just downhill from the trail.

Here's a link with more information on the National Trails.

Other Links Mentioned in this podcast episode:

UK's Ten Best Walking Holidays

Scotland's West Highland Way Walking Holiday

Trailblazer Guidebook on the Cotswold Way

Podcast:  How I Built This with Guy Raz with Sir James Dyson (Dyson bagless vacs)

Compeed blister pads

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England's Cotswold Way Walking Holiday by Kit Parks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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