When I think of England, I picture the beautiful Cotswolds villages that this walk takes you through. That’s why the Cotswolds has always been and still is home to the rich and famous. The quintessential English charm found no-where else in the world. The honey-coloured stone buildings and some of the most unspoilt, historic and famous towns and villages yet only a couple of hours from London. It really is a unique experience!
Popular with both the English themselves and international visitors from all over the world, the area is well known for gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), outstanding countryside with river valleys, water meadows and beech woods, sleepy ancient limestone villages, historic market towns and for being so ‘typically English’ where time has stood still for over 300 years.
Day 1 – Arrive Moreton in Marsh
Your experience begins with the arrival to Moreton in Marsh, which is located at the head of the beautiful Evenlode Valley, Moreton in Marsh is a thriving market town with excellent public transport links including a direct link to London by rail, the town dates back 1000 years to the Saxon era.
Today’s Moreton-in-Marsh, a bustling market town, came into being well over a thousand years ago during Saxon Times. It was given to the Deerhurst Monastery near Tewkesbury in the ninth century before being seized by Mercia and then falling into the hands of Edward the Confessor, who included it in his endowment of Westminster Abbey in 1065.
Overnight: Moreton in Marsh
Day 2 – Stow on the Wolds
Our walk today takes us to Stow-on-the-Wold, which grew from trade along the Fosse Way, which is one of seven major roads that converge here. The settlement was originally controlled by the local abbot. When Henry I granted the town its first charter for a weekly market in 1107 he decreed that all proceeds must go to Evesham Abbey. In 1330 the weekly market was joined by an annual seven-day market, set up by Edward III. The seven-day market, which was to be held in August, soon expanded and the towns were granted a charter for two five-day fairs, to be held in May and October.
Today Stow-on-the-Wold is a bustling market town that thrives on tourism and the antiques trade. The square forms an imposing centre with a pair of stocks at one end, which would have been used to punish petty criminals, and the old market cross at the other.
Day 3 – Bourton on the Water
We are off to Bourton-on-the-Water, today, which is often described as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ due to its six bridges that span the River Windrush. Two of these elegant arched stone footbridges date from the 18th century and greatly add to the charm of the village, which is sliced in two by the river and its grassy banks.
Featuring countless steeply-pitched roofs, stone mullions and dormer windows built from the trademark yellow Cotswold stone, the village is regularly voted one of the prettiest in England. Many of Bourton’s cottages are more than three hundred years old and some even date back to Elizabethan times, over four hundred years ago.
On our walk to Bourton-on-the-Water we visit the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. The name comes from old English ‘Slohtre’, which has nothing to do with killing things and means, simply, ‘Muddy place’. Today’s villages are far from muddy places. They are the epitome of idyllic, civilised Cotswold charm. Straddling the banks of the River Eye, also known as Slaughter Brook, the two villages have remained utterly unchanged for more than a century with no building work taking place at all since 1906.
Overnight: Bourton on the Water
Day 4 – Winchcombe
Today you will be transferred from Bourton-on-the-Water to beautiful little village of Guiting Power, before continuing your walk to Winchcombe.
Winchcombe is the intersection of five well-established walking trails including the famous Cotswold Way (we connect and walk along this path, tomorrow). The site was first settled when Cenwulf, King of Mercia, founded an abbey here in the 8th century. Winchcombe, which means ‘Valley-with-a-bend’, went on to become the capital of Mercia, an important Saxon town with the right to mint its own coins.
On entering Winchcomb, we pass the famous Sudeley Castle, wedding venue of Liz Hurley and final home of Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII. The castle itself dates from the 10th century. Sudeley castle has a long history of changing ownership and can claim to have been the temporary home of the young Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) and the young Lady Jane Grey.
Day 5 – Broadway
Some beautiful little villages are on the path to Broadway, today. Broadway has often been referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’. The village is named after its gracious, grass-fringed main street, which is one of the longest high streets in England. This ‘Broad Way’, which culminates in the village green, is lined with a mix of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings, characterised by the picturesque honey-coloured Cotswold Limestone from which they have been built.
On the edge of the green is the imposing and beautiful Lygon Arms, a world famous inn housed in a sixteenth century manor house which has played host to both King Charles and Oliver Cromwell. The inn, of which there were at one time 33 beers, testament to Broadway’s history as a major staging post between London and Worcester as coaches were forced to stop here and harness extra horses to go up Fish Hill.
Broadway Tower, also known as Fish Inn Tower is on the first part of our walk tomorrow.
Day 6 – Chipping Campden
Our first stop today is Broadway Tower which is a folly, at 1024 feet above sea level is the second highest point in the Cotswolds and from which, on a clear day, it is possible to see fourteen different counties. Built in the late 18th century by the 6th Earl of Coventry’s family, the tower forms part of an extensive country estate which also houses an animal park, restaurant, picnic area, children’s play area and adventure playground.
Chipping Campden is a relatively unspoilt and undiscovered town yet a charming and engrossing place. The high street and much of the town were designated a conservation area in 1970 and the nearby gardens of Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court, home of the biggest rose in England, are both outstanding. Chipping Campden forms the start of the Cotswold Way, the famous hundred mile stretch of footpath that runs all the way to Bath, and it is here that this famous footpath crosses with another famous trail, the Heart of England Way, which ends in Oxford.
Overnight: Chipping Campden
Day 7 – Moreton in Marsh
The circle will be completed today as you walk from Chipping Campden back to Morton in Marsh, leaving some time to re-explore the things you may off missed on arrival day. Perhaps it is market day.
In the thirteenth century the Abbot of Westminster re-built the town and set the blueprint for how it is today, with a wide street along the Fosse Way serving as the location of a bustling market. It was given an official charter as a market town by Charles I in 1637. The right continues to be exercised every Tuesday morning when the High Street fills with more than two hundred stalls, making it the biggest open-air street market in the Cotswolds.
Overnight: Chipping Campden
Day 8 – Onward Journey
After a relaxing breakfast, it’s time to continue on with your journey.