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10 of the Best Walks and Hikes in the Cotswolds

10 of the best walks and hikes in the cotswolds
Lockdown has meant that everyone has been walking more than usual lately, and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the big outdoors during the past year. Living in Oxfordshire means I am very close to lots of beautiful countryside and the surrounding Cotswolds, and I’m very lucky to be able to take lots of regular walks in my local area. If you’re planning a summer staycation or a Cotswolds Road Trip later on in the year you can be sure to find plenty of exciting local walks to enjoy. Whether you’re just looking for a gentle stroll with the kids or are up for a bit more of a challenging hike with friends, I’ve put together 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds in this handy blog post. So grab your snacks, rucksacks and walking boots, fill up your water bottles and get out into the beautiful Cotswolds countryside for a whole lot of exploring…

Asthall Leigh to Swinbrook

 

 

First up on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds starts in the tiny village of Asthall-Leigh, where you can park for free along any of the roads surrounding the Maytime Inn. This scenic 5 mile walk is perfect for all ages and abilities. There are some steep hills and inclines but most of the walk is on flat grassy/stony paths. There are some stunning views across the Windrush Valley as you pass through the tiny hamlet of Widford and this walk is particularly beautiful during April and May when the bluebells are out in full swing. This walk doesn’t get too muddy so waterproofs aren’t essential but that does depend on the unpredictable Great British weather! Finish up at either The Swan at Swinbrook or the Maytime at Asthall-Leigh for a delightful post walk dinner and drink.

 

Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower

 

I couldn’t write about 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds without giving a special mention to the Cotswold Way, one of the most popular walking routes in England. Spanning 100 miles of quintessentially British countryside, the Cotswold Way is completed by thousands of keen walkers every year and offers truly stunning views from all angles. The starting point of the Cotswold Way is this walk from Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower, a steady six mile route which takes you between an ancient market town and a classic Cotswolds tower. Starting at Chipping Campden’s market square, where a plaque officially marks the start of the Cotswolds Way, this walk takes you to the top of Dover’s Hill, through enchanting woodland (which is covered in bluebells if you’re visiting in May) and then into the thriving village of Broadway. Finish up at Broadway Tower, where you’ll spot Bambi in the deer park and can admire magnificent countryside views from the top of the 65ft high tower.

 

Minster Lovell to Crawley

 


This gentle 3.5 mile walk starts at the wash meadow in Minster Lovell (free parking) and continues on to the next village of Crawley. Cut through the wash meadow or walk along the road past a row of the prettiest thatched cottages where you’ll cross farmland and follow a footpath which takes you all the way to Crawley. Be sure to take wellies or waterproof boots on this one if it’s recently rained as the river levels can get quite high and the pathways are extremely muddy after a lot of rainfall. After crossing the main road in Crawley (by the traffic lights) make your way back towards Minster Lovell by following the river Windrush as it runs alongside you. You’ll soon arrive at the Minster Lovell Hall and Ruins, an English Heritage site which dates back to the 12th century, and has its original Dovecot in tact. The Ruins sit right next to the river Windrush and are a lovely place to visit with a picnic at any time of year, making this walk perfect for families and children.

 

Leckhampton Loop

 

 

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Back to the Cotswold Way now which features twice on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds, but this time its all about the Leckhampton Loop, a four mile circular walk which is moderately easy but offers stunning countryside views along the way. Starting and finishing at the layby opposite the Seven Springs pub just outside Cheltenham, this diverse walk passes through endless green fields, beautiful nature reserves and tranquil woodlands. Clamber up an Iron-Age hill fort to reach the top of Leckhampton Hill and take a moment to breathe in the far-reaching countryside views. If you want to tick off another classic Cotswolds landmark, follow the waymarkers and you’ll end up at Devil’s Chimney, a limestone rock formation which stands above a disused quarry. This walk is great for all ages with only a few steep sections and no annoying stiles to navigate – download this free map route for specific directions to make the walk even easier.

 

Charlbury to Finstock

 

 

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Starting and ending in Charlbury’s village centre, this pleasant five mile walk crosses two pretty Cotswold villages and is easily accessible for all ages. Park the car down Church Street in Charlbury and walk through the village towards Cornbury Park, a stunning Cotswold country estate encompassing farmland, forest and a deer park. Follow the tree lined Cornbury Park all the way until you reach the village of Finstock, where you’ll need to take care whilst crossing a major B road. As you make your way back towards Charlbury from Finstock you’ll pass by rolling hills and glorious countryside views, the river Evenlode and the Cotswold Line railway. There are four excellent pubs dotted along this route – the only question is which one (or four) will you choose to stop off at during your walk?!

 

 

Shilton to Burford circular

 

 

Up next on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds is one of my personal favourites and the walk that I do most often as it is closest to my home! Most of the time I start this one from my house and leave the car at home but to save a bit of time you can start from the tiny village of Shilton and park in the centre of the village right next to the ford. Take the footpath that runs alongside one of the houses opposite the war memorial and cut through the fields over towards Burford. You’ll be treated to rolling hills and miles of green countryside before reaching Burford Golf Club which you can walk behind to reach the A40. Cross the road carefully (the A40 is notoriously busy) and follow the hill down towards Burford high street where you can stop off in some of the shops or enjoy a pub lunch before heading back to your start point in Shilton. This walk is  moderately easy and fairly flat until you get to Burford hill, but it is quite a long one (7-8 miles in total) so just be prepared for that.

 

 

Bourton on the Water and The Slaughters

 

 

Another of my favourite local walks, this 7.5 mile loop starts and ends in pretty Bourton on the Water, also known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, and passes through the tiny  villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter too. Park in the chargeable public car park next to Birdland and from the village green in Bourton make your way towards the parish Church where you’ll walk alongside a clearly marked footpath. You’ll soon reach the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter, which is home to a 19th century mill with original water wheel, and two bridges criss-crossing their way over the little Eye stream. Continue on the footpath that runs alongside the mill and, after crossing three fields, you’ll find yourself in Upper Slaughter which is just a mile away. Residing on a grassy slope above the little Eye stream which connects the two villages, Upper Slaughter features the ruins of a Norman motte and bailey castle and a 15th century manor house which is now a hotel. After leaving Upper Slaughter you can make your way back to Bourton on the Water to end up right where you started.

 

 

Badbury Clump 

 

 

 

This walk is a new one for me as I only recently discovered it after meeting my friend Flo here for a New Year’s Eve stroll last December but I absolutely loved it! Start at the National Trust car park on the B4019 (£2 for 3 hours) and make your way around the pink route, which is a gentle 1.2 mile stroll covering endless woodland and taking in some stunning countryside views. Directly opposite the car park you’ll see the ancient Iron Age hillfort which is said to have been a battle site between the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons back in the Dark Ages. Badbury Clump does get extremely busy with hikers and dog walkers during peak times, and even more so in the month of May when the bluebells are out in full bloom and the hillfort is painted a gorgeous shade of purple.

 

 

Uffington White Horse Hill 

 

 

Another National Trust site nearby (£2 car parking for 3 hours) is Uffington White Horse Hill, an Iron Age hillfort which stands 860 feet above sea level and is the highest point in the whole of Oxfordshire. I have been visiting White Horse Hill for walks and picnics since I was a toddler but it’s only in my adult life that I’ve learnt to appreciate its sheer beauty. A series of burial mounds dating back to the Neolithic period can be found on White Horse Hill, and legend has it that nearby Dragon Hill was the site where St George slayed his famous dragon. White Horse Hill boasts my favourite view across the whole of Oxfordshire and, on a clear day, these stunning views even reach as far as six counties! There are a number of walking trails you can follow around the site all varying in length but I usually just walk a couple of miles and spend the rest of the time drinking in the scenery.

 

 

Blenheim Palace circulars

 

 

Last but not least on my list of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds is beautiful Blenheim Palace. If you haven’t got a Blenheim Palace annual pass you can only do part of this walk by using the side gate at Woodstock and entering part of the grounds, but please be aware that you can only get so far by using the public footpath. If you try to make your way towards the palace you’ll run into staff members who stop and search at certain parts throughout the grounds so if you haven’t got a pass be prepared to be asked to leave! If however you have got an annual pass you can enjoy several wonderful circular walks around the palace grounds and in the formal gardens themselves. I usually walk around the top and bottom lakes which each take a couple of hours in total to complete. Look out for lots of  birds and wildlife within the palace grounds and pass by the ‘finest view in England’ as described by Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim and is buried at St Martin’s Church in nearby Bladon.

 

I hope some of these routes have given you some serious walking inspo that you can look forward to planning on your next visit to the glorious Cotswolds countryside. These are just a tiny handful of some of my favourite local walks and there are soooo many more that I could have picked but there is definitely not enough room for all of them on one single blog post! I could write for hours and hours about all of my favourite local walks but my pick of 10 of the best walks and hikes in the Cotswolds will have to do for now. Have you ever been walking in the Cotswolds before? I’d love to hear where your favourite place was!

 

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