It's a hot and humid morning in February 2008 when I…
The Cotswold Way is one of the UK’s National Trails. At 102 miles long, it’s no afternoon stroll, but it is a great introduction to long-distance walking: it’s very difficult to get lost, you’re never far from civilisation, and most importantly there are plenty of country pubs along the way!
You can walk the trail in either direction, but I chose north-to-south. I started in Chipping Campden and am aiming to complete the route in eight days over several weekends, traversing the Cotswolds all the way down to Bath. I’ve passed through wild escarpments, hill farms, atmospheric woodland and gorgeous Cotswold villages. It really is a lovely walk!
The route is very well way marked: on some days the only reason I looked at the map was to see how far I had to go. If you use a GPS device, you can download the GPX file from my hike here (this covers Chipping Camden to Cold Ashton so far – the first seven days out of eight). But read this warning first.
If you’re a regular walker, I’d recommend the OS Maps smartphone app. You can import this GPX file into it and download the maps to your phone before you leave home. It’s a great way to navigate, but make sure you have a real map with you as well, as batteries always go flat just when you need them most.
I’ve split the route up as follows. I’ll link to details for each day as I complete it.
- Day 1: Chipping Campden to Wood Stanway
- Day 2: Wood Stanway to Dowdeswell
- Day 3: Dowdeswell to Birdlip
- Day 4: Birdlip to Standish Wood
- Day 5: Standish Wood to Dursley
- Day 6: Dursley to Hawkesbury Upton
- Day 7: Hawkesbury Upton to Cold Ashton
- Day 8: Cold Ashton to Bath
You can see a map and profile of the route (days 1 to 7 so far) below.
The great thing about the Cotswold Way is that it’s so accessible, so it’s really easy to walk one day at a time. You’re also never far from civilisation, so you don’t have to worry about taking all the measures you might take in Snowdonia or the Lake District to stay safe. That said, it is still the UK and so there’s still a good chance of experiencing all four seasons in one day – so make sure you’re prepared for cold and wet weather, whatever the time of year.
Layered clothing, waterproofs, walking boots (it can get very muddy in places), plenty of water and snacks, and a map are about all you need. As I mentioned above, a smartphone with the OS Maps app is a great addition.
There are plenty of guidebooks out there, but the one I used (and would thoroughly recommend) is Cicerone’s Walking the Cotswold Way. As well as being a great written guide to the geography and history of the trail that’s easy to carry with you, it also comes with a pocket-sized 1:25,000 OS map booklet covering the whole trail, which really is all you need.
For most of the trail I camped at the gorgeous Thistledown Campsite near Stroud. It’s a great site with good, eco-friendly facilities but with pitches so spread out it almost feels like you’re wild camping. I was there in the autumn and it was easy to find my own quiet spot. I’d highly recommend it.
I drove to the start of the trail each day and then got a taxi back to my car at the end of the day. It’s not the cheapest option – taxi costs ranged from £20 to £45 – but it was straightforward to do and had the advantage of giving me flexibility on how far I walked. It’s a good idea to find taxi numbers and check availability before though – at the end of day 7 I was very nearly stranded as all the taxi firms were booked up!
If you have any questions about walking the Cotswold Way, please ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer.