The Cotswolds is one of the major Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Western England. It stretches at a width of approximately 30 miles from Stratford up Avon down to Bath. With such a large area it can be overwhelming knowing where to start with the endless hidden picturesque villages and inspiring views over some of England’s finest country side round every corner. So to help you on your way I’ve put together a guided loop around some of the must see sights and landmarks via some great driving/riding roads. The route is about 150miles in length so if you wanted to do the whole thing I would suggest a long weekend or splitting it up into several visits. Also this by no means includes all the sights available in The Cotswolds just some of my favourites and can be used as a starting point for your own itinerary.
The loop starts in my home village of Bourton on the Water which is one of the best examples of a chocolate box English village and often called the “Little Venice of the Cotswolds” due to the River Windrush running along the main street. Feel free to paddle in the river whilst sampling some of the local ice cream before starting your journey.
Start at the Motor Museum in the middle of town and turn left onto the main road running through the village towards the A429. Turn right onto the A429 towards Stow on the Wold making sure you pay Lower Slaughter a quick visiting just half a mile up the road on the left which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. Retrace your steps back to the A429 and continue on towards Stow until you go up the hill and hit the main traffic lights. Stow on the Wold offers a range of excellent restaurant (The Old Stock Inn, The Bell and The Talbot are among our favourites) and shops selling plenty of tweed.
At the main traffic lights take a right onto the A436 towards Chipping Norton. After a few miles make sure you stop off at Daylesford Farm Shop for a snack or to stock up on some supplies for your weekend. Carry on down the A436 until you come to the crossroads with the A44; take a right and then an immediate left towards The Rollright. After 2 miles there is a lay-by on the right hand side for the Rollright Stones which is a tucked away ancient monument and offers great view over the rolling hills. The stones are looked after by a local group and there is an honesty box for donations if there is not an attendee on the gate asking for a small entrance fee.
After stretching your legs continue on down the road and take a left on to the A3400 towards Shipton on Stour. After 4 miles you’ll see brown signs for the Cotswolds Distillery which offers tasting tours at one of the country’s most up and coming distilleries. Tasting tours are very popular so booking would be advised.
Once your passengers have sampled some local gin and whiskey find your way back onto the A3400 and continue up the Shipton on Stour, once in the town centre take the sharp left onto the B4035. Follow this road over the A429 and continue all the way until you hit the small market town of Chipping Campden, which offers some of the best examples of limestone workmanship in the area.
Go down the main street on the B4081 following signs to Moreton in Marsh out of the village whilst taking in all thatch cottages that line the street. Follow this road up the hill until you get the cross roads of the A44 where you need to take a right heading towards Broadway. After a mile there will be signs for Broadway Tower on the left which is a great place to get some of the best views in the area, also you can go down into the old nuclear bunker underneath the tower to add some variety into your journey.
Get back onto the A44 and continue down the twisting Fish Hill (so steady as the corners are sharper than you think) and turn left at the roundabout towards Broadway. Take a right at the next mini roundabout onto Broadway high street. Broadway offers a range of cafes, deli’s, and cloth shops but if you’re after some lunch check out Russell’s Fish and Chips shop just off the high street.
After filling your bellies continue through the village taking a left onto the Cheltenham Road sign posted towards Winchcombe on the B4632. Stay on this winding B-road all the way into Cheltenham but make sure you check out some of the sights on the way including Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle. Before you hit Cheltenham make sure you stop off for a short walk up to Cleeve Hill which is the highest point in the Cotswolds. Free parking is limited on the side of the road so you might have to do a couple of u-turns to find a space.
After taking in the view continue on the B4632 towards Cheltenham, following signs for the town centre. Cheltenham has some charming areas including Montpellier which is well worth stopping off for some retail therapy or if you have £75 spare you can have the 1kg T-bone steak at the No. 131 restaurant.
Take a left at the cross roads of the A46 on The Bath Road heading towards Stroud and continue out of town until you hit the roundabout with The Norwood Arms and take a left towards Leckhampton. Continue on this road where you can stop off at the Devil’s Chimney which is a rocky outcrop a short walk from the road but offers more great views over Cheltenham. You will eventually reach the T-junction of the A436, take a right (take cover as this is a major junction and then left at Birdlip roundabout on to A417 up the hill. After less than a mile take the right turn onto the scenic route towards Birdlip. Follow the B4070 through Birdlip, making sure not to miss the left hand turn towards Stroud.
Enjoy the twists and turns of the B4070 but maybe stop off at The Woolpack Inn in Slad which was the favourite pub of the famous poet and author Laurie Lee whose work included the autobiographical” Cider with Rosie” with recalls his childhood in the valley.
Head down into Stroud picking up the A46 towards Bath at the first mini roundabout. Stay on the A46 through Stroud going over the double mini roundabout and out of the town. After 4 miles you’ll come to Nailsworth; another charming village which is renowned for its dense collection of award winning restaurant and the Hobbs House Bakery owned by the Fabulous Baker Brothers. Follow the A46 up the hill out the village whilst enjoying the view over the valley until you get to the crossing with the A4135 and take a left towards Tetbury. Once you reach Tetbury turn right onto the A433 into town and right at the mini roundabout. Continue on the A433 stopping off at Westonbirt Arboretum to stretch your legs amongst one of the country’s finest woodland collections.
Continuing on the A433 taking the left onto the A46 towards Bath and after half a mile take the left towards Badminton, the home of the world famous horse trials. Once through the village turn left at the T-junction of the Fox and Hounds onto the B4039. After a few miles you’ll pass The Manor House Golf course on your right just before the right turn down to Castle Coombe. There is a large free car park at the top of the hill which leaves you a short walk down into the village.
Once you have had a stroll and a coffee in the village back track to The Fox and Hounds junction turning right back to Badminton but after a few hundred metres take the right towards Malmesbury on the B4040 enjoying the rolling lavender fields. Make sure to take a stroll around Malmesbury Abbey to try and find Hannah Tynnoy’s grave which documents the first account of death by tiger in the England. Go through the village and find your way onto the A429 and head north towards Cirencester passed the Cotswold Airport.
Take the right at the end of the road onto the A433 towards Cirencester passed the Royal Agricultural University. You can either drive through the town or following ring road on the A429 towards Stow. After you go over the dual carriageway you’ll get to a set of traffic lights, go straight over heading towards Bibury on the B4425. You’ll come into Bibury after about 6 miles where there is some free on the road parking which will allow you to visit the Trout Farm and the famous Arlington Row.
Continue through Bibury on the B4425 for 8 miles until you pass the Upton Smokery on your left which is a local smoke house with a create selection of treats, after the smokery turn right onto the A40 towards Burford. Take a left at the next roundabout down the tree lined hill into the beautiful village of Burford and then left onto the A424 towards Stow after the bridge. After about 5 miles keep an eye out for signs to The Feathered Nest Inn in Nether Westcote, this is one of my favourite pub restaurants in the area and is a well deserved finishing point for your trip.
To complete the loop continue down the A424 towards Stow for another mile and take the left towards Upper Rissington. After less than a mile turn right down into Little Rissington all the way through back down to Bourton on the Water.