Cymraeg

The Cotswolds Way: Romans, Regency, Rural Splendour

For the loveliest of long weekends, begin in golden-hued Bath, where the Cotswold Way slides spectacularly to its southern end. This is the city where rolling hills meet ancient Romans, gorgeous Georgians, leafy waterways, thermal springs, Michelin stars and craft ales. It’s the perfect place to combine culture, sophistication, indulgence and the great outdoors, both in the city and beyond.

In Bath itself, you can time travel through the centuries along the city’s handsome streets: the remains of 2,000-year-old temples lie alongside a Gothic Abbey (where the first King of all England was crowned), medieval relics and elegant 18th-century crescents straight from Jane Austen’s pages. The refined air is enhanced by classy hotels, an eclectic range of restaurants and a host of independent shops and cafes. But this is a city where Mother Nature makes her presence felt too: from the centre, you’ll see slopes you can climb, waterways you can paddle, lanes and towpaths that can you can pedal along, outskirts you can float above… Then, after a day or two centred in Bath, you can trace the escarpment north to picture-book Painswick – ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’ – to experience the region at its bucolic best. Hop between honey-stone villages, refuel in country pubs and explore mile upon mile of wonderful walking trails

Tour Overview

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

Days

3

Distance

Walks from 6km to 16km

Difficulty

Easy / Moderate

Landscape

Rolling Countryside / Connecting Villages & Towns / City Exploring

Theme

History / Food & Drink

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Cycling / Water Fun / Heritage / Wellness

The Cotswold Way: Romans, Regency, Rural Splendour

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own walking and exploring break in the southern 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

This three-day dip into the Cotswolds is full of possibilities. Spend time in beautiful Bath, mixing UNESCO-listed sites, superb walking and a range of adventures on the doorstep. Then swap city life for picturesque Painswick, for a true taste of Cotswold countryside living.

Day 1 Welcome to Bath

World Heritage-listed, tucked within a bowl of seven hills, at the end of the Cotswold Way – in the words of one-time resident Jane Austen, ’Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?’.

The compact centre is best explored on foot – either with your own map or with an expert Bath Walking Tours guide. Begin at the beginning, at the Roman Baths – marvel at the remnants of this Roman complex, constructed around natural hot springs in the first century AD, and now a fascinating museum. You can’t actually swim here though; for that, head to the Thermae Bath Spa, where the heated rooftop pool has one of best views in the city.

Next-door to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, founded in the seventh century; stand before its west facade to look up at the soaring stone ladders with their ascending angels and down at the plaque marking the terminus of the Cotswold Way.

From here, weave between the Circus and the Royal Crescent (and seek out the city’s lesser-known crescents too). Visit the Jane Austen Centre, to learn about Regency life in the company of bonnet-and-britches-wearing guides. And admire the collections at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Victoria Art Gallery and the Holburne Museum, home to works by Gainsborough as well as a sun-trap cafe.

Having refuelled here, or at one of Bath’s many pubs or cafes, consider an active afternoon. Perhaps a scenic round of golf in Victoria Park, just above the Royal Crescent. Or hire a rowing boat, canoe or stand-up paddleboard to explore from river level.

Walkers are spoilt – there’s good ambling in all directions. The Kennet & Avon Canal towpath provides flat, easy strolling (look out for herons and kingfishers) while the more testing Bath Skyline rewards with big, breathtaking views. Or get a taster of the Cotswolds Way via the Cotswolds Circular Walk No. 12: start near the racecourse (easily reached by bus or on foot) and saunter back into the centre along the National Trail, via panoramic Prospect Stile – from here you can see all the way to Wales. The only

better vantage is from the basket of a hot-air balloon at sunset, which gives a bird’s eye view of the glowing golden stone.

Overnight in Bath. The five-star Royal Crescent Hotel boasts arguably the best address, in the centre of its namesake curve, but there are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Day 2 Bath & Beyond

The Cotswolds countryside that embraces Bath makes for the prettiest of outdoor playgrounds. Spend your second day exploring. Head north to Dyrham Park, a Baroque 17th-century pile nestled in ancient parkland (and right on the Cotswold Way); walk amid its mighty trees, look out for its wild deer and treat yourself to scones in the teashop. Alternatively, veer east to historic Corsham, home to free-roaming peacocks, Poldark film crews, a handsome old high street and a network of Heritage Trails, ranging from 6km to 16km.

For more urban-minded adventures, Bristol is on the doorstep – less than 15 minutes by train, or 21km via the traffic-free Bristol-Bath Cycle Path. Bristol was the UK’s first cycle city; it’s also an independent-spirited, eco-focused hub where the old and the innovative merge in creative fashion. Browse its endless indie shops and cafes, and hop aboard the SS Great Britain – Brunel’s ground-breaking transatlantic liner is now a fully immersive museum.

There are plenty of options to tempt cyclists too. Further north into the Cotswolds, take a personal off-road tour of the heart-pumping hills, woodlands and high escarpments of the Woodchester and Stroud valleys with Cotswolds Mountain Biking; routes are tailored to you, with electric mountain bikes available if you’d prefer to ease the strain. Or hook up with Wild Carrot for thrilling Cotswold road rides; trips start from Chavenage’s Elizabethan manor and end at Wild Carrot’s cycle hub, with cake and coffee (or even champagne).

Overnight in Bath or, if you’ve been cycling around Stroud and Chavenage, in Painswick – see Accommodation, left.

Day 3 Painswick, Queen of the Cotswolds

Postcard-pretty Painswick sits at the mid-point of the Cotswold Way, at the very heart of the Cotswolds. Which makes it the perfect base for sinking right into this celebrated countryside. Browse Painswick’s cluster of little shops (and rare 17th-century stocks), soothe yourself in the Richmond Painswick spa and marvel at the UK’s only surviving Rococo Garden – horticulture at its most fantastical.

Local walks are plentiful and picturesque, perhaps none more so than those around the Slad Valley – sylvan Cider with Rosie country. Try the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way (10km), pausing at Lee’s old local, The Woolpack, for a pint en route. Or make a loop along a classic section of the Cotswold Way via Circular route No 7, which wends through beech woods to vertiginous Coopers Hill, world epicentre of cheese-rolling. Or how about joining Cotswold Alpaca Walking to stroll in the hills with a woolly companion?

Finish by toasting your mini-adventure in winsome Woodchester. Amble around Woodchester Mansion, an unfinished Gothic Revival masterpiece, maintained in its magnificent incomplete state (there are tours in summer; woodchestermansion.org.uk). Then end at award-winning Woodchester Valley Vineyard – take a tour amid the vines before raising a glass of home-grown fizz to the sweeping Cotswold views.

Overnight in Painswick – see Accommodation, left.

Accommodation

Bath has a variety of options, from hotels and hostels to family-run B&Bs.

  • Royal Crescent Hotel – Bath’s most prestigious address, occupying the centre of its namesake curve.
  • Bath Priory – Luxurious retreat with gorgeous gardens and an acclaimed restaurant.
  • Gainsborough Bath Spa – Stylish hotel with pools fed by the city’s natural hot springs.
  • The Oakhouse – A cosy, tree-tucked cabin, right on the Cotswold Way.
  • Courtyard Apartment – Characterful flat, in a fine old house where Jane Austen once lived.

Painswick has some lovely accommodation choices, plus B&Bs, glampsites and hotels nearby.

  • Falcon Inn – A traditional 16th-century inn with rooms.
  • The Painswick – Boutique-chic Cotswold bolthole.
  • Court House Manor – Luxury Painswick B&B set within a 15th-century house once patronised by King Charles I.
  • Hatton Court Hotel – Stylish hotel near Gloucester.
  • Hawkwood College B&B – Peaceful B&B, a short drive from Stroud, set with sustainably managed grounds.
  • Hammonds Farm – B&B nestled in 100 grassy acres near Stroud, where guests can wander with the resident

Food & Drink

Welcome to the delicious West Country. Bath has many excellent independent cafes and restaurants, excelling in everything from cream teas and fine dining to inventive veggie and pop-up Vietnamese. Nearby Bristol offers the world on a plate, not least several unmissable Italian ice cream shops. Painswick has pubs, restaurants and a teashop, with plenty of country pubs tucked nearby.

Bath
  • Pump Room – Afternoon teas are served in the grand Regency salon; Bath’s famed mineral waters can be tasted too.
  • Café Lucca – Light-filled cafe serving fresh food in The Loft concept shop.
  • Wild Café – Quality indie hang-out serving brilliant breakfasts, brunches and lunches.
  • Society Cafe – Coffee for connoisseurs.
  • Olive Tree – Fine modern-British dining at the classy Queensbury Hotel.
  • Sotto Sotto – Simple-done-well cellar-tucked Italian.
  • Savouring Bath – Guided foodie tours, introducing the best local food and drink producers.
Beyond
  • Dyrham Park – The onsite teashops serves coffee and cakes by the 17th-century country house and deer park.
  • Falcon Inn – A 16th-century hostelry serving homecooked food and real ales.
  • The Oak – Pub in the heart of Painswick, with real ales and open fires.
  • The Woolpack – Laurie Lee’s favoured boozer, in Slad.
  • Edgemoor Inn – Local pub and restaurant in the village of Edge, overlooking the Painswick Valley.
  • Rococo Garden Cafe – Coach House turned cafe at the entrance to the gardens, open to all.

Activities

There’s so much adventure potential in the southern Cotswolds. Walking possibilities are almost endless, while more offbeat fun is available too.

Walks
Other

Experiences

The hills of the southern Cotswolds are soaked in history. Visit ancient sites, handsome country houses, art galleries and more.

Bath
  • Roman Baths – Excellent museum exploring the 2,000-year old baths and temples.
  • Thermae Bath Spa – Britain’s only natural thermal spa, with state-of-the-art spa facilities.
  • Bath Walking Tours – Guided strolls around the city.
  • Jane Austen Centre – All things Austen; includes interactive exhibits and a Regency Tea Room.
  • Herschel Museum of Astronomy – Museum set in the house of William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781.
  • Victoria Art Gallery – Free public gallery housing a collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts.
  • The Holburne – Free museum in a Grade I listed mansion, with a lovely cafe.
Beyond

Cycling

Though the southern Cotswolds are somewhat undulating – providing white-knuckle fun for keen riders – there are flatter options for novices too.

Travel

Great Western Railways runs regular services from Paddington and Bristol to Bath. Taxis are bookable at Bath.

Driving is the easiest way to reach Painswick. A car is necessary for all local trips. There are no direct buses.

Advice

Most walks around Bath and Painswick are moderate to strenuous as the territory is hilly. The canal walks are flat and easy. Paths may become muddy. 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.