Touring the Cotswolds by Bicycle

by Sue Talbot

Cycling through Stanton in the Cotswolds

Too often people forget to visit the amazing places we have on our doorstep. With so much natural beauty in the UK, exploring a little closer to home can introduce us to exciting new adventures and spectacular scenery.

Exploring the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of the most picturesque areas in England and spans an incredible five counties, including Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Its undulating wolds are punctuated by meandering rivers, ancient woodlands, wildflower meadows and towns and villages that epitomise quintessential England.

An old metal signpost in the Cotswolds.

With mile after mile of cycling routes that cut through its rural heart, one of the best ways to scratch the surface of the Cotswolds is by bike.

Holidaying By Bicycle

Moreton in Marsh, a pretty market town lined with centuries-old Cotswold stone buildings, was to be the starting point for my cycling trip.

I was eager to start exploring and delve deeper into what the Cotswolds had to offer, but I should make it clear at this point that I’m not a seasoned cyclist, so I was a little wary about tackling some of the more challenging routes.

A house in the Cotswolds, built with quintessential Cotswold stone.

However, once I headed off to Winchcombe, I soon got into the swing of things, and before long I was peddling like a semi-pro (give or take a few steep gradients).

A hybrid bike seemed the best option for the varied terrains I’d be facing. Within no time, I was off the high street and onto tree-lined country lanes that weaved among rolling hills, wooded valleys and gold and green fields criss-crossed by ancient stone walls.

The tranquillity and scenery penetrated my soul, and I felt a real intimacy with the Cotswolds as I discovered its secret idylls along the way.

Delving Into Local Villages

Passing through the village of Ebrington with its characterful thatched cottages, I soon arrived in Chipping Campden.

This beautiful market town is flanked by flower-strewn, limestone houses, and the ancient St James’s Church stands at the gateway to the buzzing High Street. I spent an hour or so browsing the shops before stopping for lunch at the Bantam Tea Rooms, which is housed inside a characterful 17th century building.

Chipping Campden's market hall, as visited by bike.

You can feel the history coursing through the streets of Chipping Campden, and its famous Market Hall is a must-see National Trust building. Built almost 400 years ago, the pillared Market Hall was designed to shelter local traders, and you can almost hear the hustle and bustle on the cobblestone floor echoing in the rafters. 

Stunning Views Along the Way

Back on the road, I said a fond farewell and made my way to Broadway Tower Country Park. The views from 18th century Broadway Tower are phenomenal, stretching across the landscapes of 16 counties. This is the second highest point in the Cotswolds and the tower, designed by James Wyatt, is an iconic symbol of English heritage. 

Broadway Tower stands over the surrounding green countryside.

The scenery became even more attractive as I cycled through Snowshill and Stanton Village on the final leg of today’s route to Winchcombe, an Anglo-Saxon town filled with half-timbered buildings, stone cottages, historical inns and independent shops. 

After a good night’s rest, I tackled the dizzying ascent up Sudeley Hill. Although it was the most challenging part of my Cotswolds cycling tour so far, the scenic rewards and sense of achievement at the end of it made it all worthwhile. Riding along country lanes, I arrived at Sudeley Castle. Once home to Catherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII, this magnificent castle is steeped in history and is set among 15 acres of manicured gardens.

Sudeley Castle, a straight-walled castle built from yellow stone.

The Ride Nears Its End

Continuing through the gorgeous villages of Hawling and Guiting Power and the Windrush Valley, I finally reached Lower Slaughter. This is the most beautiful village, which verges on the banks of the River Eye by the Old Mill and limestone cottages. The Slaughters Country Inn seemed like the perfect place to recharge with lunch and drinks in the riverside garden. 

Feeling reinvigorated, I got back on the saddle and soon reached Bourton-on-the-Water. Dubbed the “Venice of the Cotswolds”, this is one of the most handsome villages I’ve visited in the UK. Photo opportunities were rife, with stone bridges arching across the River Windrush and leafy canopies reflecting on the water. From the meandering streets fringed with gift shops and cool waterside cafes, to the Model Village and the Cotswold Motoring Museum, there’s plenty to explore here.

A low bridge crosses a pretty river in Bourton-on-the-Water

My final day in the Cotswolds began with a short ride to the Barringtons and Great Rissington before I headed back to Bourton-on-the-Water to make the most of the restaurants and bars — after all, I deserved a little indulgence!

Sue Talbot is an adventure travel blogger and iPhone photographer who’s often found hiking up the Lakeland fells or swimming in fairy pools. Her outdoor adventures and photographs can be found on her blog, Lifehop, and also her Lake District Lovers Facebook page.

If you’d like to explore this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for yourself, take a look at our Cotswolds cycling holiday.

Originally published 13/04/22

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