Bath and the Cotswolds Feature
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Great Walks in the Cotswolds
The gentle Cotswolds countryside, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is threaded with more than 3,000 miles of pleasant walking routes that enable you to appreciate these upland tracts at their best. It's easy to plan an afternoon walk or a multiday exploration.
The Cotswolds are a delight: wherever you turn, green areas are dotted with church steeples and thatched roofs, restful on the eye and nourishing for the soul. To enjoy them to the fullest, do as the locals do—hoist on some walking shoes, don a sun (or rain) hat, and set forth on foot. Waymarked routes crisscross the area, and none of them is too challenging. No specialized equipment is required; it's healthy and it's free. Walks come in all lengths, but unless you decide to tackle one of the more ambitious regional trails, it may be easiest to pick a circular route. Just look for the "Public Footpath" and "Public Bridleway" signs, which indicate a right of way even when this passes through private property. Before you know it, you'll be opening gates and crossing stiles on the trails along with everyone else.
Bring with You
Light walking shoes or boots are essential, as are rain gear (even if it's sunny out), water, and a map. The walks may not be strenuous, but wear pants you won't mind getting dirty as you pass through fields. A fleece will keep the wind at bay, though in cold weather, bundle up as needed. Carry a day pack for anything you don't want to hold or wear; you'll need your hands free to open gates along the trails.
Choose Your Walking Route
The most celebrated route traversing the area is the Cotswold Way (www.nationaltrail.co.uk), a 102-mi national trail that traces the escarpment marking the western edge of the Cotswolds, stretching north to south between Chipping Campden and Bath, and taking in Broadway, Winchcombe, and Painswick, among many other villages. The trail has incomparable views across the Severn Vale to the Malvern Hills and takes you through varied scenery: limestone grasslands crossed by dry-stone walls, beech woodlands, and stone-built villages with ancient churches. You can select a route rather than walk the entire trail, which might take 7-10 days.
The Heart of England Way (www.heartofenglandway.org) runs a linear route from Bourton-on-the-Water north to Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Hill, and Chipping Campden, and continues north into the West Midlands. It's 100 mi in all, and the Cotswold section takes in hills and deep wooded valleys.
The Warden's Way and the Windrush Way both run between Winchcombe and Bourton-on-the-Water, 14-mi rambles that link the Cotswold Way (at Winchcombe) with the Oxfordshire Way (at Bourton-on-the-Water). The Warden's Way takes you through Upper and Lower Slaughter; the Windrush Way follows the meandering River Windrush and touches on Sudeley Castle, but without entering any village en route. You could make a circular walk of this, one day per leg.
Part of the Cotswold Way can be incorporated into an easy circular route between Chipping Campden and Broadway, along mostly level ground but including the elevated viewpoints of Dover's Hill and Broadway Tower. The circular route adds up to around 12 mi.
One of the most scenic Cotswolds walks explores the Coln Valley, a 6-mile (10-km) circular route beginning and ending at Bibury. The path follows the banks of the lovely River Coln for part of the way, through meadows and woodland.
Tourist information centers carry local walking maps and publications describing longer trails. The most useful map for walkers in the area is Ordnance Survey Explorer OL45 (1:25,000). The National Trail website (www.nationaltrail.co.uk)outlines circular walks of 2-6 mi that can be made from the Cotswold Way.
Cotswold Voluntary Wardens conduct free guided walks of 2-10 mi with informative commentary (no booking needed). The Cotswold Lion free newspaper at tourist offices lists these, or look on www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk, the Web site of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
Walk the Landscape (www.walkthelandscape.co.uk) organizes guided and self-guided hikes with luggage transfer and accommodation. Compass Holidays (www.compass-holidays.com) arranges short walking trips in the Cotswolds, and Sherpa Van (www.sherpavan.com) offers a luggage transfer and accommodation booking service.
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