Cymraeg

The Cotswold Way: A Step Back in Time

The honey-stone villages and rippling hills of the northern Cotswolds seem plucked from a bygone era. In the Middle Ages, this was among the wealthiest regions of England, thanks to a flourishing wool trade. Now, the sheep remain, nibbling on the grassy hummocks, as do remnants of that prosperity – large churches, gloriously grand mansions. But the industry has gone, leaving a peaceful place, best explored on foot.

The elegant Cotswold town of Chipping Campden is the start (or end) of the Cotswold Way and the former rural HQ of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Movement. But it’s just one of the many oh-so-photogenic settlements (some dating back to the Doomsday Book) that speckle the escarpment’s dips and slopes. Settlements like Winchcombe and Broadway, where you’ll find higgle-piggle streets, oak-beamed pubs and thirst-slaking tearooms, independent boutiques, and museums and workshops packed with curiosities. Best of all, between these charming towns lie heart-soaring countryside – swathes of open pasture, beech woodland and big views, laced with tempting walking trails.

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Days

3

Distance

Walks from 5km to 10.5km

Difficulty

Easy / Moderate

Landscape

Rolling Countryside / Connecting Villages & Towns

Theme

History / Food & Drink

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Heritage / Hands On

The Cotswold Way: A Step Back in Time

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own walking and exploring break in the northern Cotswolds. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.

Itinerary

Spend three days exploring the northern Cotswolds, based between three of its most handsome heritage towns: Chipping Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe. Wander idyllic honey-stone hamlets, discover more about the ground-breaking Arts and Crafts Movement, stop off in teashops and walk out into the sublime surrounding hills.

Day 1 To Chipping Campden

Begin at the beginning: charming Chipping Campden marks the start of the Cotswold Way, and makes the perfect launch-pad for lovely walks that loop into the countryside and back, in time for lunch.

Take a morning stroll south to the old silk trading centre of Blockley, where pretty cottages cluster around the Norman church and village green, and the mill stream trickles through the valley bottom. Alternatively, strike north across the hills for Hidcote, an Arts and Crafts garden where secret dells, exotic blooms, mazes and masterful planting create a delight of ‘outdoor rooms’.

Refuel back in Chipping Campden – Badgers Hall does a fine cream tea and lemon drizzle – before exploring more of the town. The high street is classic Cotswolds: an attractive procession of honey-hued almshouses and dwellings, hewn from local stone and dating from the 16th century. It certainly caught the attention of architect CR Ashbee, proponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, who moved his Guild of Handicraft from London to Chipping Campden in 1902. The venture didn’t last long but some craftsmen stayed, drawing other artisans. Visit the Guild, still in its original 18th-century silk mill home, to see a range of local artists’ work, from silverware to ceramics.

Then head to Chipping Campden’s Court Barn Museum to admire the best of the Arts and Crafts Movement: collected here are examples of Ashbee’s own work, alongside the skills of other artisans, from bookbinders to cabinet-makers. To have a go yourself, drive out to Honeybourne Pottery, which offers taster sessions on a potter’s wheel.

Overnight in Chipping Campden. There are several options – see Accommodation, left.

Day 2 Make a break for Broadway

The old coaching village of Broadway, named for its central thoroughfare, lined with trees and medieval houses – is one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Pop into the museum, to learn of Broadway’s industrious and artistic roots. Then delve down the back-alleys, wending towards the Gordon Russell Design Museum, dedicated to the Arts and Crafts polymath.

Back on the High Street, saunter past the cafes and boutiques to reach the Lygon Arms; over the years, this historic inn has provided lodgings for everyone from Oliver Cromwell (on the eve of the 1651 Battle of Worcester) to Prince Philip. Stop for coffee – or an excellent lunch – in its wood-pannelled bar.

Thus fortified, set out for an afternoon adventure. Follow the Cotswold Way up to turreted Broadway Tower, an 18th-century folly with links to artists, Arts and Crafts and the Cold War – a nuclear bunker (which you can visit) lies below the deer-grazed parkland. Climb to the tower’s top for views that take in 16 counties. 

Or head along the foot of the scarp from Broadway to unspoiled Stanton, a huddle of Cotswold stone tucked below Shenbarrow Hill – the region at its rural best. Nearby is equally idyllic Snowshill, with a village square straight off a Christmas card, a proper country pub and a National Trust manor once owned by an eccentric collector who packed it full of his extraordinary finds. 

Return to Chipping Campden or overnight in Broadway – perhaps bedding down with Cromwell’s ghost at the Lygon Arms. For more options see Accommodation, left.

Day 3 Winchcombe

Today, explore the Anglo Saxon town of Winchcombe, once capital of the Kingdom of Mercia, where history overflows from every street corner (look out for the markers, telling the town’s tales). 

Winchcombe is also a historic hub of hiking. Pilgrims flocked here long before the Cotswold Way arrived. Start by tracing ancient footsteps: from Winchcombe, the Cotswold Way follows the old pilgrimage route to the ruins of Hailes Abbey, sacked during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. Various circular routes will get you back to Winchcombe in time for lunch – allowing time to browse world-renowned Winchcombe Pottery en route. Or jump aboard the vintage carriages of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway: ride from Winchcombe to Broadway, alighting at Hailes Halt on the return, to walk back to Winchcombe along the Cotswold Way. 

Grab a hunk of cheese and a pie from the Food Fanatics Deli before delving deeper into the past. It’s a steep but rewarding loop along the Cotswold Way to Belas Knap, one of the country’s largest and best-preserved Neolithic long barrows, dating from around 2500 BC. Alternatively, set your sights on 15th-century Sudeley Castle, visited by many royals over the centuries, including Henry Vlll. Peek into the state rooms, roam around the bloom-filled gardens and visit the chapel, final resting place of Queen Katherine Parr.

If you prefer Georgians to Tudors, catch the bus to nearby Cheltenham instead. The architecture of this Gloucestershire spa town is the height of Regency swagger; promenade its grand avenues, independent shops and cafes. Allow time to visit The Wilson museum, with its culturally important and fascinating Arts and Crafts Movement collection. Finish with a gin (or two) on a tour of the Sibling Distillery.

Overnight in Chipping Campden, Broadway or Winchcombe. There are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Accommodation

The northern Cotswolds has plenty of luxury hotels, some with spas, as well as atmospheric B&Bs. On this itinerary, you could base yourself in one spot (all three towns are close – Chipping Campden to Winchcombe is only 20km) or move each night. 

Chipping Campden
Broadway
  • Lygon Arms  – Historic old coaching inn on the High Street.
  • Broadway Hotel  – Cosy, half-timbered Cotswold stone hotel, on the village green.
  • Dormy House & Spa, near Broadway  – Luxe country house and spa retreat.
  • The Fish Hotel, near Broadway  – A collection of huts and hotel houses scattered across a private estate.
Winchcombe
  • Ellenborough Park, near Cheltenham – A 15th-century country estate with a high-class spa.

Food & Drink

Explorers won’t go hungry. Chipping Campden, Broadway and Winchcombe have an array of cafes, pubs and fine restaurants. Many villages and attractions have tempting tea rooms too.

Chipping Campden
  • Eight Bells Inn – Traditional country pub offering homecooked food and en-suite rooms.
  • Bantam Tea Rooms  – Amazing scones and cakes; B&B rooms too.
  • Badgers Hall  – B&B in a 15th-century Cotswold stone cottage.
  • Michael’s  – A taste of the Med, in a building dating back to around 1720. 
  • Little Oak Vineyard  – Producers of locally grown Cotswold wine. 
  • The Bakers Arms – Real ales and pub grub in Broad Campden boozer.
Broadway
  • Broadway Deli – Independent deli, known for its cappuccinos and quality local food. 
  • No 32 Broadway – Italian pizzas and great coffee.
  • Morris and Brown cafes – Two cafes at Broadway Tower, serving scones and cakes to passing walkers. 
  • Russell’s – Award-winning restaurant and hotel, located in the former showroom of Sir Gordon Russell’s furniture.  
  • Buckland Manor, Buckland – Luxury hotel in a charming country house, famed for its cream teas. 
  • Snowshill Arms, Snowshill – Typical Cotswolds country pub oozing atmosphere. 
Winchcombe
  • Wesley House – Highly rated food served in a 15th-century merchant’s house.
  • White Hart – Walker-friendly inn with rooms and good food.
  • Food Fanatics Deli– Delicatessen and coffee shop serving quality pies, cheese, sandwiches, cakes and snacks.
  • No 5 – Seasonal produce cooked with imagination.

Activities

As well as the Cotswold Way, there are many walking routes around the towns of the northern Cotswolds, perfect for independent exploration. 

Walks
  • Chipping Campden to Hidcote, 10km – Easy stroll north to the National Trust gardens.  
  • Chipping Campden to Blockley, 10.5km – Walk via Broad Campden through idyllic countryside; moderate. 
  • Cotswold Way Circular, Broadway to Broadway Tower, 6.5km  – Fine views; moderate with steep sections.
  • Broadway to Stanton (low route), 10km – Rural, unspoiled Cotswolds; easy.
  • Cotswold Way, Winchcombe to Hailes Abbey, around 8-10km – Various circuits possible; as an alternative, ride the steam-hauled Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway  to Broadway and back, alighting at Hailes Halt to walk to Winchcombe along the Cotswold Way.
  • Cotswold Way Circular, Winchcombe to Belas Knap, 8km – Route leads to large Neolithic long barrow; moderate, with seep sections.

Experiences

This history-rich north Costwolds aren’t only for walkers – country houses, castles, Neolithic barrows and craft workshops abound.

Chipping Campden & around
  • Court Barn Museum – Excellent showcase for the Arts and Crafts Movement and its legacy.
  • Robert Welch – Shop selling modern Arts and Crafts-inspired silverware.
  • The Guild – 17th-century silk mill turned artisanal hub, displaying works by a range of craftspeople.
  • Honeybourne Pottery – Runs hands-on potter’s wheel workshops.
  • Hidcote – National Trust Arts and Crafts garden. 
  • Kiftsgate Court Garden – Next to Hidcote, created by three generations of women gardeners.
Broadway & around
Winchcombe & around

Travel

Great Western Railway runs a regular service from Paddington station to Moreton-on-Marsh, the closest main-line station to Chipping Campden. Taxis bookable at Moreton.

Advice

Most walks are easy to moderate. The Broadway Tower and Belas Knap walks are both short and steep. Paths may become muddy and walking boots are suggested but not necessary, especially during the summer months.

We advise that you check opening times and booking restrictions before travelling.

Please check out these links for latest advice when in the countryside

Countryside Code

COVID-19 Guidance

Interactive Map

Click here to access the interactive map

Maps, Guidebooks & Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.