The Only Way is Cotswold
The Cotswold Way is a national trail, which is one of several long distance routes for walking, cycling and horse riding through the finest landscapes in the country. They have all been created by linking existing local footpaths, bridleways and minor roads and by developing new ones where there were missing links. Their genesis goes back to the early decades of the twentieth century, when walking in the most beautiful parts of Britain became increasingly popular. After World War II the desire to keep areas of Britain “special” and to protect them from unsuitable development led to the establishment of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) and Long Distance Routes (now called National Trails in England and Wales). The Cotswold Way is a fairly recent addition to the list, formally opening only in 2007. It follows, for the most part, the escarpment between Chipping Campden in the north and Bath in the south. Parts of it are extraordinarily beautiful, particularly the section between Campden and Painswick – wonderful villages, long views westward to the Malvern Hills, the Forest of Dean and the Welsh mountains, the handsome town of Cheltenham – but, for me, the last part before Bath, although it is punctuated with the occasional gem, has less to offer both in terms of interest and of variety and quality of available accommodation. Part of the problem is that National Trails tend to be linear, which, in the case of the Cotswolds, means that a giant part of the region is necessarily excluded from the route.
For that reason Cotswold Journeys has created an alternative route, which we call the Cotswold Grand Tour. Our route begins in Cheltenham, with its excellent shops, restaurants and Regency architecture, and then follows the official route north via Winchcombe and Broadway to Chipping Campden. From there, we head south stopping at Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, Northleach and Cirencester, before rejoining the Cotswold Way at Painswick. From there, you can return to Cheltenham, or continue south to Bath along the normal route. Or take a train from nearby Stroud to Bath. In our opinion, this route shows off the region to much greater advantage in all its variety and contrasts. It also means that you can stay in better accommodation, whether bed & breakfast or luxury hotel. Most importantly, you obtain a rounded picture of the Cotswolds, which, after all, extend eastwards from the escarpment, as well as north and south along it. It would be a shame to miss the wool village of Northleach, or the Roman town of Cirencester or the remains of one of the most ambitious projects of the Industrial Revolution, the Thames & Severn Canal.
Full details can be found here.