In this post I want to share six short walks in the Cotswolds I’ve done and enjoyed. Perfect for anyone looking for a walk this weekend or on your next visit to this beautiful part of England.
For someone who has lived on the edge of the Cotswolds for two years now, I’ve explored such a small part of it. As part of my attempt to make something of my 2020 summer, I made it my mission to do a heap of short walks in this most wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and get to know this area a little better.
I mentioned these walks in my Weekly Blogs as I did them, but in the interests of sharing things in an easier to find way, I thought I’d bring these together and put them all in one place. So here are six short walks in the Cotswolds I’ve done, enjoyed, and recommend.
If you don’t have a subscription to OS Maps and you like hiking, I would highly recommend it for route planning and when out and about – I’d really appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link to get started.
Six Short Walks in the Cotswolds
Guiting Power, Barton and Naunton (5.6 miles)
Guiting Power itself is a charming little Cotswolds village, which has been a settlement since 780 and since the 1060s has been based on an old manor owned by King Edward the Confessor. Apparently, the Domesday Book noted that there were “four villagers, three Frenchmen, two riding men, and a priest with two small-holders” in this village back in 1086. It’s a bit different these days…
My five mile circular route first took me from the centre of Guiting Power, north-east across fields to Barton, which boasts the first recorded English fulling mill. From Barton I headed up a (not too steep) hill through trees and along a lane passing the bottom of Cotswold Farm Park (using part of their nature trail for some of the route) and a stone quarry, across the top of a hill with lovely grand views, and down a country lane past another quarry and into Naunton.
In Naunton there is a large 17th-century dovecote, which is occasionally open to the public, which would have provided eggs and meat to villagers back in the day. The final leg of the route joined the Warden’s Way back to Guiting Power.
The highlight when I walked this had to be the field of poppies I came across on the way into Naunton. Perfect timing, really. I could see the red from quite a way away, and the lane I was on went right by the field meaning I could easily snap some photos without stepping off the public right of way.
I should also give a massive shout out to the people who look after the Warden’s Way in this area. A waymarked route which runs from Bourton-on-the-Water to Winchcombe, the path was so beautifully well-kept and easy to navigate, it’s a delight to find such a nicely maintained footpath across crop fields.
Bourton-on-the-Water and the Slaughters (5.3 miles)
A walk I abandoned on first attempt thanks to flooding, but am very glad I went back to try another time, because it was an absolute delight. I actually got the route from my Pathfinder book, but I’ve plotted it here on OS Maps if you want to follow it yourself.
If you are heading to Bourton, note that this is a hugely popular tourist spot in the Cotswolds (for very good reason, it’s gorgeous), and so you should arrive early… There’s plenty to see in the village itself, and all the coffee shops and artisan delis you will ever need, but this particular walk heads out of the village and away from the coach parties.
This five-mile short Cotswolds walk begins by following alongside the River Windrush along the Windrush Way (which goes to Winchcombe), before picking up the Macmillan Way and heading over to Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter.
The name “slaughter” is less deadly than you may think, it actually derives from the word for ‘miry place’. Thankfully, these villages are anything but miry; they are considered to be the prettiest in the Cotswolds, and I can see why. The mill appears in the 1086 Doomsday Book. And then from the Slaughters, the route takes the Warden’s Way back to Bourton-on-the-Water.
The circular route was flat (well, mostly flat, flat enough), easy walking along well-kept footpaths, through farmland and through paddocks, along country lanes, past manor houses and watermills, and even over a ford. A lovely route which will make mooching around Bourton-on-the-Water even nicer afterwards.
Snowshill, Staunton and Stanway (8.5 miles)
This route by Country Walking Magazine starts at Snowshill, where there is a popular National Trust property and lavender farm, although neither were open when I visited thanks to the pandemic restrictions at the time.
The route starts by heading through part of the Snowshill estate along the Winchcombe Way (a public right of way, naturally), before joining up with the Cotswold Way and heading through the two beautiful small villages of Stanton and Stanway, before heading back up (and I mean “up”) through Lidcombe Wood and back to Snowshill.
It is a beautiful and varied route, taking in all the different types of scenery the Cotswolds has to offer. It was a real shame that the first half was done in very misty conditions, so it’s a walk I’ll have to go back and do again on a better day to get the benefit of the views from Snowshill itself.
Stanton is an absolutely stunning little village, complete with original Stott Lanterns hanging at either end of the settlement, and Stanway has a large manor house, tithe barn, and working watermill. And between the two villages I walked by Linseed fields that were just starting to turn blue – missed that by about a week, reckon.
All in, this probably pushing the “short walk” definition, but it’s well worth the effort of the distance and those hills. There’s meadow, farmland, villages, woodland, hill views, and plenty of Cotswold stone to keep the interest along this half day gander.
Sapperton (7 miles)
This undulating walk around Sapperton really was all about the woodland, and I loved that about it. At just shy of 7 miles it was a fantastic nearly-three-hours of slow paced wandering focused around the River Frome.
The route meandered through peaceful woodland, over high plateaus with views all around, past the stunning stately home of Pinbury Park, across quiet farmland, through a beautiful cottage garden (actually through the middle of it, the path definitely went that way, a local confirmed that for me!), through wildflower meadows, into a nature reserve on the side of a hill, and along the route of the Sapperton Railway Tunnel (you walk on top of it…) with it’s straight line and brick built air shafts.
Some the footpath up through Frampton Wood was a touch overgrown, as became the norm last summer thanks to much less footfall due to the pandemic, but it was all still passable, and the route was easy to navigate.
As with all these short walks in the Cotswolds, this route made use of a couple of official long-distance paths, this time the Macmillan Way and Wysis Way. I don’t know about you, but every time I see those green diamonds on my OS map I end up adding the route to my ever growing to-hike list.
To give you an idea of how peaceful this walk was; I saw a deer sat in the path ahead of me, and only came across other people when I was close to a village.
Bredon Hill (5.9 miles)
I had to double check whether Bredon Hill, which is a bit north of Cheltenham close to Evesham, sits within the Cotswolds or the Malverns. While technically it is in the Cotswolds AONB, it does kind of stand on its own between the two sets of hills, standing out to anyone who travels up the M5 on the Gloucestershire and Worcestershire border.
It was, once, part of the Cotswold upland, and so it definitely fits in this short walks in the Cotswolds feature. It is home to Roman and Iron Age relics and standing stones, and has apparently inspired writers, musicians and artists from AE Housman to Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The route I took is a really splendid walk around the whole bulk of the hill. The views from the tower at the summit (Parson’s Folly) are superb. I was fortunate that the sky was reasonably clear, I could very easily see The Malverns in one direction and over to the Cotswolds escarpment in the other. I mean I could basically make out my house from the top of the hill, which is always a plus for me.
There was a reasonably big ascent at the start, nothing too taxing on the legs and lungs though, and a steep descent at the end, but nothing that made the walk too strenuous. I loved how one of the farms I walked through had lots of signage about the wildlife and farming practices, which kept the interest.
South Cerney, Cotswold Water Park (5.3 miles)
The area known as Cotswold Water Park in the south Cotswolds has just this month been named as our first ever manmade Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Water Park is a large collection of lakes covering over 40 square miles and 170 lakes, with lots of activities, some beautiful homes (I could see myself living in one of the wooden waterfront properties here, for sure), and a whole host of bird and other wildlife to see.
The five-mile circular route I chose and share as the last in my six short walks in the Cotswolds feature starts and finishes in South Cerney village, but I chose to park at the visitor’s centre car park so I could also visit Cotswold Outdoor and grab lunch at the café there.
It was a lovely route, primarily along the disused canal, now a haven for wildlife, and through woodland. But interesting features do include a handful of disused locks, some beautiful bridges, and plenty of quiet lanes. This isn’t the route to do if you are hoping to see lots of the lakes, as while you are super close, you are mainly on footpaths and tow paths without sight of the water.
I hope this post provides you with some walking inspiration for your next visit to the Cotswolds.
Clearly there are thousands more routes you could choose from, and if you have any suggestions for my wanderings over the next few weeks, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet me @Splodz. Happy walking!
If you don’t have a subscription to OS Maps and you like hiking in Great Britain, I would highly recommend it for route planning and when out and about – I’d really appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link to get started.