After spending Saturday night filling up on excellent wine and generous portions of steak and triple-cooked chips and dark chocolate and salted caramel cake at The Bell Inn in nearby Willersey, we awoke slightly groggy, in need of a good breakfast and long walk to revive us. In what I liked to think was a stroke of good planning but more likely luck, the Cotswold Way ran right past our hotel, and was our route of choice for the day. This national trail, running for approximately 100 miles between Bath and Chipping Campden, takes in the Cotswolds’ most postcard-perfect villages and landscape, and so we eagerly wolfed down bacon sandwiches and started on the trail.
In another stroke of good fortune, the weather was cool and misty, a small respite against hiking up hills with hangover sweats. After slipping and sliding our way up Fish Hill, we sped past Tillbury Hollow, normally an excellent picnic site in good weather, and continued onwards.
The terrain was invariably flat farmland on this portion of the Cotswold Way, but with those dry stone walls iconic to the Cotswold region lining the walk and a random abandoned Cotswold cottage thrown in for good measure, the walk had a romantic, ‘old English’ feel you would expect.
Eventually we reached Dover’s Hill, home of the original English Olympic Games and the rather painful sport of ‘shin-kicking’ (I don’t understand it either). The National Trust spot is a natural amphitheatre with a Roman vineyard nestled away in its landscape, making it an ideal spot to rest.
But not for too long, as Chipping Campden is only a mile or so away, and arguably the quaintest of all the Cotswold villages we had seen so far.
Having reached Chipping Campden in breakneck speed, we decided that four miles wasn’t enough hiking, and with the day still early trotted off to the tourist information board for recommendations of nearby hikes.
It was quite good we did really, as otherwise we would not have discovered what was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken in southern England: The Heart of England Way.
Measuring 100 miles in distance, the Heart of England Way links the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Staffordshire, with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Gloucestershire, and a healthy amount of mileage in rural Warwickshire thrown in for good measure. Encompassing remote English villages off the track of the main Cotswold Way, to dramatic hillscapes and historic monuments, the Heart of England Way is an excellent choice for hikers wanting a varied scenery, or lots of stopping points for food and drink.
We embarked on the eight-mile stretch of the trail between Chipping Campden and Moreton-in-Marsh, stopping in Blockley to refuel. Almost immediately on the trail, we were led through achingly beautiful English hamlets and gently rolling hillsides. The small village of Broad Campden in particular was so serene and picturesque I had to stop for a few minutes and appreciate the view. With its thatched-roof cottages, regal manor house and fields dotted with flocks of grazing sheep, it so perfectly encompassed the Cotswold stereotype I had expected on our trip.
The scenery only improved the further we journeyed on the trail. Woodland and farm fields gradually changed into small villages, and in the hilly village of Blockley the lovely folk at the adorable Blockley Village Shop and Cafe gladly refilled our water bottles for us.
Our journey continued on through more forests and villages, until we reached our final destination, Moreton-in-Marsh, managing to catch the train with two minutes to spare!
Breakdown of our weekend in the Cotswolds:
Return train tickets from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh for two: £52.00
Bus fare to Broadway for two: £6.20
Two nights, including breakfast, at the Farncombe Conference Centre in a double superior room: £115.00
If you are interested in trying the walks out for yourself, we used the Pathfinder Guides’ The Cotswolds Walks for our first hike to Broadway Tower, and the National Trails‘ website for information on The Cotswold Way. For the Heart of England Way, it is listed on the Ordnance Survey EXPLORER maps, but is also clearly signposted on the route. Otherwise, The Heart of England Way guidebook is available on its website. PLEASE NOTE, the Heart of England Way does NOT pass through Moreton-in-Marsh, it ends in Bourton-on-the-Hill. To follow our route, follow the signposts for the Heart of England until just after Blockley, then follow signage for The Monarch’s Way.
Have you done any of these trails? Tell me about your experiences below!