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POSTED BY May 11, 2023
Randonnee Cotswold Way

Route Overview

Where is the Cotswold Way?

The Cotswold Way is a long distance National Trail in south central England. The trail is 164km (102 miles) in length, and connects the market town of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire to the city of Bath in Somerset (near Bristol). It became the 16th National Trail in England and Wales in 2007 and, being a relatively new National Trail, the Cotswold Way is very well way-marked.

Why should you walk the Cotswold Way?

The Cotswold Way is a uniquely English trail that offers beautiful and relatively easy walking, with many panoramic views. The route passes through a varied, quintessentially English landscape with old woodlands, picturesque villages, wildflower meadows and famous ancient sites. 

Cotswold Way Walking Holidays in England

When is the best time to walk the Cotswold Way?

When booking a hiking holiday, every season has its own charm, but indeed some months are better for hiking than others. It is always important to make yourself aware of the best times to walk any long-distance trails as weather conditions and busyness can greatly impact your overall hiking experience.

Due to the longer daylight hours and more favourable weather conditions we recommend hikers to walk the Cotswold Way between the beginning of March and the end of October. During this period, most of the accommodations and luggage transfer services along the route operate during this time. Of course, there are also longer daylight hours and favourable weather conditions during these months too.

In addition to the issues with most service providers along the route being closed during the winter months, the fewer hours of daylight at this time of year also make these months an unfavourable choice for hiking the trail.

How long does it take to hike the Cotswold Way?

The Cotswold Way can be completed in it’s entirety in between 9 and 13 days for most hikers. This will depend on a number of factors, such as, how experienced you are at hiking, your level of fitness, and what you actually want to get from the trail. It’s not a race, and it is perfectly ok to want to take your time and enjoy local sights, culture and cuisine when hiking, no matter what the area. So to is it ok if you want to get as many kilometers under your belt (or boot, as the case may be) as possible in one day. For this reason, Hillwalk tours offers each of our hiking trails at different difficulty levels, but more about that later.

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Tour Route

Types of Trails

Choosing the right hiking tour for you can be, at times, tricky. It is always important to consider your own physical capability and comfort levels.

For example, at Hillwalk Tours, we have grouped each trail route we offer into three categories depending on personal preference and fitness levels. These are – gentle, moderate, and challenging. Each of these categories, depending on the destination, will include anything from 4 to 13-day itineraries, with customers given the option to add rest days where they see fit.

Our gentle hikes are perfectly suited for those who would consider themselves as a part-time hiker who enjoys taking photos and meeting locals while taking in the spectacular scenery. Our moderate hikes will suit people who are used to regular exercise and appreciate the opportunity of covering plenty of ground each day without going beyond their limits. Finally, our challenging hikes are for hikers who look to set off early in the morning and not stop until they have reached their destination.

With regards to our Cotswold Way trail, we offer both gentle and moderate hikes. Each of these hiking categories cover the following average hiking distance and time each day:

Gentle: 14-16km or 9-10 miles and between 3-5 hours per day

Moderate: 18-22km or 11-14 miles and between 47 hours per day

Challenging: 22-28km or 14-18 miles and between 5-8 hours per day

Hillwalk Tours Guide Notes

If you decide to walk the trail with Hillwalk Tours, you will receive a detailed walking pack once you have fully booked your hiking holiday. This walking pack will include detailed maps and unique route notes and walking directions written and constantly updated by our route development team. By personally walking each trail and creating our own detailed route notes, it allows us to provide more itineraries, route options and alternatives than what you will typically find across generic guidebooks. It also includes GPS tracks meaning you will never have to worry about getting lost.

Alternatively, off the shelf guide books can be purchased, such as Richard Sale’s ‘Guide to the Cotswolds’, Cicerone’s guidebook of the Cotswold Way or the TrailBlazer’s guide to the Cotswold Way.

Starting and Finishing Point

Starting in the market town and former wool centre of Chipping Campden the Cotswold Way follows quiet paths and tracks through lush farmland and charming English villages, such as Broadway and Stanton. Meadows and the occasional woodland section are passed as the trail drops down to the ruins of Hailes Abbey before continuing to the attractive former wool town of Winchcombe.

From there the route rises again and climbs up past the ancient long barrow of Belas Knap and, after passing through more woodland, to the highest point of the trail at Cleeve Hill (317m / 1040 ft). Through ancient beechwoods and limestone grassland and past some more prehistoric sites the route passes to the east and south of nearby Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Woodland sections and some more ascents and descents lead to a number of higher points with wide ranging vistas, including Cooper’s Hill, famous for its cheese rolling. The route then comes to the wonderful town of Painswick before descending to cross the Stroudwater Canal.

A number of steep ups and downs reward with panoramic views and neolithic burial chambers and Iron Age hill forts accompany the trail through beech woods and fields on its way to the enchanting village of Wotton-under-Edge. From there the route gets more remote as it passes a number of picturesque beauty spots, interesting Cotswold houses, and two more Iron Age forts.

The last section of the Cotswold Way passes the sprawling countryside estates of two wonderful old country homes at Dodington Park and Dyrham Park. After crossing a 17th century battlefield the route descends to Bath, one of the most beautiful cities in Britain, where the spectacular Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths are a fitting location to mark the end of the Cotswold Way.

Sample Cotswold Way Itineraries

The following are examples of Hillwalk Tours Gentle, Moderate and Challenging itineraries of hiking the Cotswold Way.

Cotswold Way 6-Day Gentle

Day 1: Arrival in Chipping Campden

Day 2: Chipping Campden to Stanton (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 3: Stanton to Winchcombe (8.1 Miles / 13 Km)

Day 4: Winchcombe to Dowdeswell (11.2 Miles / 18 Km)

Day 5: Dowdeswell to Birdlip (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 6: Departure from Birdlip

Cotswold Way 7-Day Gentle

Day 1: Arrival in Chipping Campden

Day 2: Chipping Campden to Stanton (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 3: Stanton to Winchcombe (8.1 Miles / 13 Km)

Day 4: Winchcombe to Dowdeswell (11.2 Miles / 18 Km)

Day 5: Dowdeswell to Birdlip (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 6: Birdlip to Painswick (8.1 Miles / 13 Km)

Day 7: Departure from Painswick

Cotswold Way 8-Day Moderate

Day 1: Arrival in Cheltenham

Day 2: Leckhamton Hill to Painswick (12.4 Miles / 20 Km)

Day 3: Painswick to Nympsfield (12.4 or 14.3 Miles / 20 or 23 Km)

Day 4: Nympsfield to Wotton-Under-Edge (9.3 or 11.8 Miles / 15 or 19 Km)

Day 5: Wotton-Under-Edge to Old Sodbury (13 Miles / 21 Km)

Day 6: Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton (8.7 Miles / 14 Km)

Day 7: Cold Ashton to Bath (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 8: Departure from Bath

Cotswold Way 9-Day Moderate

Day 1: Arrival in Cleeve Hill

Day 2: Cleeve Hill to Leckhampton Hill (11.2 Miles / 18 Km)

Day 3: Leckhampton Hill to Painswick (12.4 Miles / 20 Km)

Day 4: Painswick to Nympsfield (12.4 or 14.3 Miles / 20 or 23 Km)

Day 5: Nympsfield to Wotton-Under-Edge (9.3 or 11.8 Miles)

Day 6: Wotton-Under-Edge to Old Sodbury (13 Miles / 21 Km)

Day 7: Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton (8.7 Miles / 14 Km)

Day 8: Cold Ashton to Bath (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 9: Departure from Bath

Cotswold Way 9-Day Challenging

Day 1: Arrival in Chipping Campden

Day 2: Chipping Campden to Winchcombe (18.6 Miles / 30 Km)

Day 3: Wicnchcombe to Leckhampton Hill (17.4 Miles / 28 Km)

Day 4: Leckhampton Hill to Painswick (12.4 Miles / 20 Km)

Day 5: Painswick to Dursley (16.8 or 18.6 Miles / 27 or 30 Km)

Day 6: Dursley to Hillesley (12.4 Miles / 20 Km)

Day 7: Hillesley to Cold Ashton (16.2 Miles / 26 Km)

Day 8: Cold Ashton to Bath (10.6 Miles / 17 Km)

Day 9: Departure from Bath

Hillwalk Tours Cotswold Way Map

Cotswold Way Path Terrain


Waymarking is an important aspect of the trail to ensure walkers can navigate the trail safely. The Cotswold Way is waymarked with a variety of signs and markers, and as a national trail, the way-marking tends to be very good on the trail. The Cotswold Way is waymarked by an acorn symbol – the official symbol for ‘National Trails of England and of Wales’.

If you are ever in doubt, you can also check the Hillwalk Tours turn by turn directions and route notes including GPS coordinates provided in your walking pack. We also supply all you need to know about local information and history as you pass, along with trail alternatives and other activities.


The Cotswold Way can be quite a challenging hike as it has a lot of steep climbs and descents. Due this, it may be a good idea to allow more time than you usually would to walk the same distance. The difficulty of the Cotswold Way varies depending on the section of the trail you are hiking. Some sections are relatively flat, while others are much more challenging.

The route does not climb to any great heights and there are no particularly difficult sections. However, many walkers are surprised at the frequency of steeper climbs and there is a bit of up and down on every section of the trail. Some of those hills are steeper than you might expect from a casual glance at the landscape and poor weather can exacerbate what would otherwise be fairly straightforward.  

Some of the more challenging sections of the Cotswold Way include the climb up to the Broadway Tower, the steep descent into the town of Wotton-Under-Edge, and the hilly section between Painswick and King’s Stanley.

Overall, while the Cotswold Way is not considered to be an easy trail, it is still suitable for most hikers with a reasonable level of fitness and some hiking experience. Hikers should be prepared for some challenging sections and should ensure they have the necessary equipment and supplies for the trail.

At Hillwalk Tours, we offer a range of Gentle, Moderate and Challenging grade hikes along the Cotswold Way. Gentle tours average approximately 14-16km (9 -10 miles) per day, Moderate 18-22km (11-14 miles) per day, and finally our Challenging Tours average 22-28km (14-18 miles) per day.

Cotswold Way Sights & Attractions

1. The Cotswolds ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’

Explore the beautiful natural landscape of the Cotswold towns and villages – Discover the quintessential English villages and wool towns built in honey coloured Cotswold stone.

Cotswold Way
The Cotswolds

2. Bath

Find history from Romans to Georgian times in the World Heritage Site, the city of Bath.

Bath England on the Cotswold Way
Bath England

3. Belas Knap

Long barrow neolithic burial chamber dating back to 3,800 BCE. Today, Belas Knap is a popular destination for hikers to visit along the Cotswold Way.

Cotswold Way HIking Belas Knap
Belas Knap

4. The Devil’s Chimney

A local landmark of unknown origin – it’s a limestone rock formation that twists crookedly up from the ground.

The Devils Chimney Cotswold Way
The Devils Chimney

Wildlife on the Cotswold Way

With a mix of fields, woodland and village terrain you are sure to see a wide variety of flora and fauna. You may see a variety of birds, including skylarks, bullfinches, yellowhammers and birds of prey like the red kite. You may even be lucky enough to see mammals such as hedgehogs, badgers and deer.

In addition, the route also visits a wide variety of natural habitats, such as internationally important wildflower meadows and shaded beech woodlands that can be full of the colour of bluebells and the scent of wild garlic in spring. The Cotswold are a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ so the scenery on this long distance walk is pretty much guaranteed to always be pleasing to the eye.

Badgers on the Cotswolds Way
Badger – Author: kallerna

History of the Cotswold Way

The Cotswold Way was originally incepted by the Gloustestershire Ramblers in 1970 as a long distance footpath. Despite the idea first coming around 50 + years ago, it only became one of the UK’s National Trails in 2007. Today, it is one of the most popular walking trails in England.

Did you know?

Every year up to 1,500 people walk, jog, run along the Cotswold Way for The Cotswold Way Challenge.

Cotswold Way Pop Culture

Film and TV

Agatha Raisin

Based on a series of mystery novels by M.C. Beaton, this TV series is set in the Cotswold village of Carsely. It follows a former PR agent who now solves crime.

Agatha Raisin set on the Cotswold Way
Agatha Raisin

Bridget Jones Diary

This 2001 Classic Romantic Comedy features a memorable scene in which Bridget visits her parents home in the Cotswolds.

Bridget Jones Diary Set on the Cotswold Way
Bridget Jones Diary

The Holiday

Jack Black stars in this romantic comedy along with Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Kate Winslet. The plot revolves around two women on opposite sides of the Atlantic who arrange a house swap. With scenes set in both LA and the Cotswolds, the film really highlights the beauty of the English countryside.

The Holiday set partially in the Cotswolds
The Holiday

Midsomer Murders

A long running BBC TV detective series set in the fictional county of Midsomer. Many episodes are filmed against the picturesque backdrop of the quaint villages and rolling hills of the Cotswolds.

Midsommar Murders
Midsomer Murders

Hot Fuzz

Filmed in the Cotswolds, this 2007 action comedy film centers around a buddy cop duo investigating a series of murders in a country village. It forms the second part of director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s (pictured below) ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ along with Shaun of the Dead and The Worlds End.

Hot Fuxxzz
Hot Fuzz


‘Death in the Cotswolds’ by Rebecca Tope

This novel follows Thea Osbourne, house sitter turned amateur detective as she investes a series of murders in the Cotswolds. The plot includes scenes along the Cotswold Way.

Agatha Raisin Novels – M.C. Beaton

The source material for the aforementioned television series, it follows a former London PR agent as she retires to the Cotswolds, only to find herself caught up in a world of murder investigation.

Food and Drink

Steak and Kidney Pie

Arguably England’s most popular comfort food, this traditional pastry crust filled with chunks of succulent steak, kidney and gravy is a must try when visiting England. Don’t be surprised to see various other types of pies with different fillings!

steak and kidney pie

Yorkshire Puddings

Although originating in Yorkshire, this light and airy bread is considered a staple in English cuisine. Often served as an accompaniment with roast dinners, Yorkshire Puddings are made from a batter of eggs, flour, and milk or water.

yorkshire pudding

Fish and Chips

Although debated by some, the English believe they invented this famous UK takeout food. It is typically made with white fish covered in batter which is then fried and served with freshly cut chips. Mushy peas are also commonly ate with this dish. Traditionally, fish and chips were served in newspaper but this is less common as a result of the decline in the newspaper industry and for hygiene reasons.

fish and chips
Fish and Chips

Roast Dinner

This dinner typically consists of roasted meat, roasted potatoes, vegetables accompanied with Yorkshire Puddings, gravy and stuffing. Although it can be eaten on any day of the week, it is traditionally eaten on a Sunday.

english roast dinner

Full English Breakfast

Depending on what part of England you are visiting, a full English breakfast typically consists of bacon, sausages, egg, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns and toast. Found in accommodations, restaurants, and cafes up and down the country, it is the ideal breakfast to set you up for a great day of exploring one of our English trails.

Full English Breakfast
Full English Breakfast

Lancashire Hot Pot

This stew-like casserole originated in Lancashire and consists of lamb or mutton and onion topped with sliced potatoes slowly baked on low heat. It differs from Irish stew in that it uses thinly sliced potatoes instead of mashed potato and is cooked in a pot rather than an oven.

Lancashire Hot Pot


This popular English dessert is perfect for all of the sweet-tooth’s out there. The usual ingredients are a sponge base soaked in sherry, fresh or tinned fruit in jelly, custard and whipped cream. It is commonly served in a glass dish so that each layer is on show.

english sherry trifle


Not only do the English love their Ales, they are a beer brewing country now for thousand of years! Their ales, top fermented cask beer, are usually left to finish maturing in the cellar of the pub itself rather than at the traditional brewery. The naturally carbonated beer styles include brown ale, pale ale, bitter and mild. A great way to quench your thirst along the Cotswold Way.

English Ale

Is the Cotswold Way Vegan Friendly

The vegan diet has become more and more popular throughout Europe in recent years, and you will find that there are plenty of vegan options available in most eateries. Each of the accommodation we work with at Hillwalk Tours have given us their guarantee that vegan breakfasts will be catered for once they have been informed. That being said, some of the more rural locations of the trail may have limited options so we advise bringing certain items such as plant-based milk, nut butters or protein powders if you so choose.

In addition, the following apps show restaurants which offer vegetarian and/or vegan opions:

Nearby Trails

There are various other English trails available to you once you have completed the Cotswold Way. Here are the other Hillwalk Tours English hiking tours we offer:

The Cotswold Way Tips and FAQs

Probably one of the most common questions asked when hiking the Cotswold Way or any trail for that matter is – what will I pack?

Once you have fully booked your Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday, you will receive a detailed ‘recommended equipment’ list inside your Walking Pack. For those who are still unsure of what to bring, here are some of the things we advise you bring with you along the Cotswold Way:

– Waterproof Clothing
– Fleece and other warm clothing
– Base Layer
– Light, comfortable Trousers
– Wicking Socks
– Suitable Hiking Boots
– Backpack/Rucksack
– Hat and Gloves
– First Aid Kit and Foil Blanket
– Whistle and Torch
– Insect Repellent
– Mobile Phone
– Plug Adapter/Converter

For more on what to pack – check out these packing musts.

Yes, you are allowed to bring your dog on the Cotswold Way, but that said, you must keep a close eye on your furry friend as you will be passing through fields with livestock.

As most of the accommodation we work with in this area don’t accept pets of any kind, it is not possible to bring any pets, such as your dog, on a Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday.

As it is such a popular National Trail, you will never be alone as such while walking the Cotswold Way. You will always meet people along the way with the only exception of course being in the depths of winter.

If you experience any difficulty or an emergency of any level, it is advised that you phone the relative emergency services on 999 or 112. It is also important to note that mobile/cell phones can call this number with or without mobile/cell phone reception.

For those who have fully booked their Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday on the Cotswold Way we provide 24/7 on-call support to all of our customers and you will also receive a detailed description on how to remain safe on your hike.

Yes, many people chose to take the Cotswold Way as a solo hike. Asa result of its popularity, the trail is also deemed safe for female solo hikers.

We believe that the beauty of the English countryside should be enjoyed by everyone. With this in mind, we have designed our hiking tours to cater for practically all levels of fitness. Our range of ‘Gentle’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Challenging’ hikes in all regions allows you to decide how far you wish to walk each day and the pace you set. So, whether you are a novice walker or an experienced hiker, we always have a tour to suit you.

No, as it is designed as a long distance walking route, you will frequently come across terrain specifically for walkers. It might be best to leave the bike at home this time!

Generally, our tours take place between the months of March to October to hopefully allow for good, dry weather and longer days of daylight while you carry out your tour. This will hopefully ensure that you enjoy your hiking experience with us to the fullest. You can also check out the individual tour page for the Cotswold Way on our website.

Our 7-Day tours include 6 nights of accommodation – specifically the first 6 nights on your hiking tour. Your tour finishes on the seventh day when you check out of your last accommodation.

To ensure you’re fully equipped and informed throughout your trail we provide a very informative ‘Walking Pack’ that you take with you on your trail. This pack has every detail you will need to successfully finish your trail without any disruption. We advise that you carefully look through this pack before embarking on your journey so that you have some sort of idea of where you’re going and what you will entail throughout the journey. Included in this pack is as follows;

– Route notes (prepared by a member the Hillwalk Tours team who has walked every step of your tour)
– Detailed hiking map(s)
– Waterproof map-case
– A sneak-peak at where you will be staying
– Our tips on the most interesting attractions to visit along the trail
– A look at fascinating local history
– A guide to the best places to eat and drink
– Mountain safety information, emergency contact details & the country code

The Cotswold Way Image Gallery

Hillwalk Tours

About Us

Hillwalk Tours is an award-winning walking tour operator which specialise in self-guided walking holidays in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Our goal is to create happy experiences for all of our customers, suppliers & staff.

Fill out the form below with any questions you may have and we will get back to you promptly.

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Leave No Trace

We like to walk in nature and since you are reading this – we believe you do too! It is important to ensure that our impact on the environment is limited so that hikers can enjoy the same view after us. The rule applies: when you leave, make sure that nature looks the same as when you arrived or simply put “leave no trace.” As more and more people take to the great outdoors, our collective mark on the environment increases.

What does this mean in reality? Of course, do not leave any rubbish or waste behind. Do not collect stones, flowers, or other “souvenirs”. Don’t carve your name on a tree or break branches… I think you get the drift. It is imperative for walkers to play their part in making sure litter, damage to vegetation and all forms of pollution are limited.

Noise can also be a form of pollution. Whoever walks through a forest talking and laughing loudly, for example, ruins the peace and quiet of other walkers, who can no longer hear the birds. The same goes for cell phones that suddenly start ringing. Keep the volume down and respect your surroundings. Ultimately, the point is to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy walking through nature. So that applies to you, but also to those who tread the path after you.

Hillwalk Tours proudly supports sustainable tourism and loves the countryside as it is – wild, peaceful and clean. We are proud to support the “Leave No Trace” initiative that aims to preserve the natural beauty of each nations countryside where we offer hiking holidays. We try to create happy experiences for our accommodation too, and the restaurants, shops and taxi companies that serve our walkers. These are often small businesses located in isolated areas that have been left behind by urban migration and a lack of investment in rural regions. Their warm hospitality and friendly welcomes epitomise the magic of a Hillwalk Tour and we’re dedicated to helping keep these rural communities alive.

The Benefits of Hiking

In recent years, walking and hiking outdoors has been widely reported to have numerous physical and mental health benefits. The following are examples of some of these benefits:

Improve strength and fitness

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle gain
  • Improve metabolism
  • Improve digestion
  • Better quality sleep
  • Increase in Vitamin D
  • Improve discipline
  • Sense of achievement
  • Living in the present moment

Hiking Equipment List

For a more in-depth list of recommended hiking equipment list, click here.