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Great Britain is blessed with some fantastic walking trails and one of the best is The Cotswold Way. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or you prefer short walks combined with cultural sightseeing, the Cotswolds is an ideal destination.
The largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, the Cotswolds is a rich landscape of honey coloured houses and rolling hills.
Enjoy local culture, fantastic pubs and cosy accommodation, together with beautiful scenery. This 2 to 3 day Cotswolds itinerary takes in the UNESCO-listed attractions of Bath, as well as easy to moderate walks.
Walking The Cotswold Way: Heart of the Cotswolds
Suitable for those who like sightseeing and the countryside, this Cotswold itinerary features a nice mix of urban and rural attractions. You only need a basic level of fitness and can adapt the activities depending on your personal preferences.
What’s more, this itinerary can be enjoyed at any time of year, with appropriate clothing and footwear. During this Cotswolds trip, you’ll find out more about the area’s rich history and get a taste of countryside living.
The full Cotswold Way National Trail stretches over 100 miles, from Chipping Campden to Bath. You’d need up to 10 days to walk it. This is a shortened 2 to 3 day itinerary with the highlights of the central Cotswolds.
Day 1: Bath
Start your trip in Bath, a scenic gateway to the Cotswolds. As Bath is relatively compact, we recommend exploring on foot.
The largest city in Somerset, Bath is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage listed attractions. The most iconic of these is the Roman Baths, built around 70 AD.
This extremely well preserved complex includes the Temple Courtyard and The Great Bath. You can’t bathe in the baths themselves although you can taste the water at The Pump Room Restaurant next door.
For a luxurious outdoor swim, head to Thermae Bath Spa which is a few minutes walk away. The rooftop pool boasts panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Bath Abbey is another must-see attraction. Founded in the seventh century, the Abbey is known for its stained glass windows, as well as the unique Ladders of Angels on the west front.
Outside the abbey, a circular blue limestone pavement disc marks the beginning and end of the Cotswold Way. The stone includes many place names from along the 102 mile national trail.
Take some time to admire the Regency architecture of the Circus and the Royal Crescent. Lansdown Crescent is less well known but equally impressive.
Depending on your preference, visit The Fashion Museum, located within the elegant Assembly Rooms or the Jane Austen Centre. The famous author lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806.
Alternatively, you can explore the Holburne Museum, which features in the hit TV series Bridgerton. The museum displays some fine 17th and 18th century paintings. Have lunch in the museum’s Garden Cafe or one of the many great restaurants in Bath.
In the afternoon, you could take a walk along The Kennet & Avon Canal towpath, go paddleboarding on the river Avon or enjoy a hot air balloon ride at sunset.
If you’d like to stay in Bath for a few more days, there are some longer walks that are worth doing too. The Bath Skyline offers fantastic views over the rolling hills and city centre.
The Cotswolds Circular Walk No. 12 starts from the racecourse and brings you back into town via Prospect Stile. You can see as far as Wales from here!
Where to Eat in Bath
Bath has a fantastic selection of independent cafes and restaurants, from casual eateries to fine dining.
- Café Lucca – Casual dining in Bath’s Antique Quarter.
- Giggling Squid – Photogenic restaurant specializing in Thai food.
- Olive Tree – Michelin star dining at the Queensbury Hotel.
- Pump Room – Afternoon tea in the Regency salon.
- Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House – Taste the iconic Bath bun in savoury or sweet form.
- Society Cafe – Gourmet cafe and pastries.
- Sweet Little Things – Instagrammable floral decor and great cakes.
- The Circus – Family run restaurant serving great British food.
- Wild Cafe – Simple food and quality ingredients.
Where to Stay in Bath
We recommend spending the first night of your Cotswolds trip in Bath. There are lots of options, from five star hotels to cosy cabins and B&Bs.
Day 2: Central Cotswolds or Bristol
After one or two days in Bath, head out to see more Cotswolds gems. Dyrham Park is a National Trust country house dating from the 17th century.
Located in the village of Dyrham in South Gloucestershire, this Baroque mansion is surrounded by an ancient deer park. A filming location for the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, Dyrham Park contains an impressive collection of Dutch Old Masters.
Another option is to head to the market town of Corsham in Wiltshire. There’s a bustling high street and a vibrant arts centre, The Pound.
You may spot some peacocks roaming around town. They come from Corsham Court, an Elizabethan manor house with gardens designed by Capability Brown.
This historic Wiltshire country house also boasts a collection of paintings by artists such as Van Dyck and Joshua Reynolds. There are 6 Corsham Heritage trail walks, from 4 -9 miles long which showcase the area’s historic and industrial heritage.
If you prefer a day of urban exploration, Bristol is easily accessible by train or bike via traffic-free Bristol-Bath Cycle Path. The city is an important creative hub with many independent shops and cafes.
One of the best things to do in Bristol is to visit SS Great Britain. This transatlantic steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the longest passenger ship in the world.
Where to Eat near Bristol
There’s a huge selection of restaurants in Bristol, and some excellent cafes and pubs in the surrounding countryside.
- Adelina Yard – Modern European cuisine in Queen’s Quay, Bristol.
- Dyrham Park – Places to eat include The Stables Restaurant, a courtyard cafe and garden tea room.
- Mother & Wild – This neighbourhood cafe in Corsham serves delicious pizzas and tapas.
- The Ox – Great steaks and cocktails in a basement bank vault in Bristol.
Where to Stay near Bristol
You could either stay for a second night in Bath or opt for accommodation in Bristol or nearby.
Day 3: Painswick & Woodchester
The historic wool town of Painswick lies right in the middle of the Cotswold Way. Stroll around the village centre and browse in the local shops.
On St Mary’s Street, you’ll see an unusual set of 17th century iron stocks. Known as spectacle stocks, they were once used as a form of public humiliation for wrong-doers.
For pampering, you can’t beat The Wellness Spa at Richmond Painswick. This relaxing haven has a 16m swimming pool, hydrotherapy plunge pool, sauna, steam room and fitness centre.
Close by, you’ll find the Rococo Garden. This is the only remaining rococo garden in the UK and has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
In the afternoon, we recommend a visit to Woodchester Mansion and Woodchester Valley vineyard. Although the mansion itself is unfinished, it has been well maintained and has some attractive walks around the estate.
The award-winning vineyard offers tours and tastings throughout the year. Another option is the five mile circular Laurie Lee Wildlife Walk.
Laurie Lee’s poems are dotted along the walk, set in glass posts. You could include a pit-stop at Lee’s favourite pub, The Woolpack.
There’s also the pleasant woodland walk around Cranham Coopers and the Beechwoods, Cotswold Way Circular Walk no 7.
Where to Eat near Painswick
Rural pubs with sweeping views are in abundance. Here are some of the best places to eat near Painswick and Woodchester.
- Falcon Inn – A 16th century hotel and pub with real ales and home cooked food.
- Edgemoor Inn – Tasty food and panoramic views of Painswick Valley.
- Rococo Garden Cafe – In the former Coach House, open to all.
- The Woolpack – Laurie Lee’s favourite pub immortalized in Cider with Rosie, in the village of Slad.
Where to Stay near Painswick
There are some fantastic glamping sites, B&Bs and hotels in and around Painswick and Woodchester. At Hammonds Farm, you can spend unlimited time with the on-site alpacas.
- Burleigh Court Hotel – An 18th century manor house with a 2 AA rosette restaurant.
Court House Manor – B&B in a 15th century house visited by King Charles I.
- Falcon Inn – A traditional 16th century pub with rooms.
- The Painswick – Chic country house retreat with friendly staff and spacious grounds.
Tips for Walking The Cotswold Way
- Firstly, check that the place you want to visit or stay in is open and whether there are any booking restrictions at present.
- Some walks around Bath and Painswick are fairly strenuous due to the amount of hills. The city centre walks in Bath and Bristol are on the flat and easily manageable for all.
- In Winter, it can get quite muddy along some sections of the trails, so walking boots and a rain jacket are recommended.
- Try to respect the Countryside Code, by keeping to paths where possible, leaving no litter and keeping dogs under control when around wildlife and other animals.
Discover more about The Cotswold Way and the National Trails here.
Getting to The Cotswold Way
There are direct Great Western Railway trains from London Paddington to Bath Spa. You can book taxis from Bath or hire a car to get to Painswick.
As you can see, the cultural and walking options in the heart of the Cotswolds are endless! With stunning landscapes and fascinating heritage, a trip centred around the Cotswold Way National Trail is a great way to escape the everyday.
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This article is in collaboration with Visit England and Discover England’s Great Walking Trails.
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