The Cotswolds are famous for picture-perfect villages, an Instagrammers dream, and rightly so. With its trademark golden stone, well-kept village greens, picturesque hilly streets and foliage to match your hat, every cute corner of the Cotswolds has been photographed ad infinitum. But there is a lot more to the Cotswolds than taking pictures of a pretty doorway (um, yes, guilty). It’s easier than you’d think to veer off the beaten path and go on a beautiful Cotswolds walking route to experience a different view of the Cotswolds.
A break from the kids
In September, Mr P and I had a night away without the kids. We were only an hour away from home but it felt like a different world. This was our first night away from them since…well definitely since before Christmas last year. And this year a break from parenting was needed more than ever. The intensity of lockdown and home school which blended directly into the six week summer holidays had left us feeling like less than optimal parents. Time out to refresh and spend time as a couple would be welcomed.
September 19th is our wedding anniversary and, as is tradition, we engaged the grandparents in babysitting duty for the night. Luckily this was allowed under the coronavirus restrictions at the time – mixing of households OK as long as we stick within the Rule of 6. With the grandparents happily settled into our home we hopped in the car and drove away.
Nether Westcote circular walk
We parked up at The Feathered Nest, Nether Westcote, where we’d booked to spend the night. From here Mr P had designed a 20km circular Cotswolds walking route, including a pub stop for lunch, using his trusty OS Map app.
If you’re not regular users of the OS Map app, but enjoy getting out in the countryside, do consider taking a look at it. For a small subscription fee you can see all the features you would normally expect to see on a hard copy OS Map as well as suggested routes taken by other walkers and cyclists. You can download sections so it’s possible to follow a route without internet access.
The Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is lined with footpaths making it easy to create a great walking route from almost any of its beautiful villages. On our weekends away we often like to create a balance of getting away from it all with pottering around pretty towns and villages, enjoying good food and drink with the occasional browse in an arty shop. During the pandemic we’ve not enjoyed being among crowds. We live in a village and, while Covid is rife, we’ve not spent much time in towns or cities. On our first day in the Cotswolds we stuck to the hills rather than making a beeline for the most popular Cotswold villages.
Our walk took us across freshly harvested fields, through woodland and a nature reserve, over styles and through hedges as well as a handful of villages.
From Nether Westcote we struck out east through Idbury before tromping across fields to Foxhole’s Nature Reserve. We followed the footpath across some more fields before arriving at our lunch stop, The Kings Head Inn which overlooks Bledlington’s large village green. We enjoyed a delicious light lunch here before continuing our walk.
We headed west out of Bledlington, through Icomb before climbing the hill up to The Granary. The phone mast here is a useful navigation point in the area, visible for miles around. Crossing the A424 on the other side of the hill we then joined The Diamond Way (named for the Queen’s 60th Jubilee in 1995) which took us on a loop up to Wyck Beacon.
Back across the A424 we briefly joined the Oxfordshire Way before turning right through Church Westcote and back to our pub in Nether Westcote where we enjoyed a couple of very large G&T’s!
The Cotswolds are hilly – it’s part of their charm – and this walk took us up some very steep paths. It was easy terrain however, nothing too uneven or rocky. In mid-September most of the paths were dry. We were fine walking in our trail running shoes. We saw evidence that after rain some of the route could get pretty boggy. Wellies or good walking boots probably required from mid-autumn through to springtime. We walked through some fields with livestock where dogs would be required to remain on leads, but otherwise it was all dog-friendly (just don’t forget to bring water for your dog as well as yourself if you’re going on a long walk).
All of the individual sections would be child-friendly but not necessarily buggy-friendly. If you’re in the area with kids I’d suggest heading to Foxhole’s Nature Reserve, east of Bledlington. There were boardwalks and den-building opportunities which would have kept our boys busy for hours.
So next time you’re in the Cotswolds do visit Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Castle Combe and all those other wonderful villages, but perhaps consider going for a good walk in the countryside too.