There’s something spectacularly simple about a stomp in the countryside knowing that you’ll loop back around and finish up where you started. The Cotswolds – with its outstanding patchwork quilt views, river valley footpaths, and iconic historical landmarks – is the perfect location for a circular walk.
And one of the best-kept secrets about the Cotswolds is that it’s well-connected with a good railway network, and close proximity to large English cities such as Bath, Oxford and Birmingham. The result: you can find yourself in and around the Cotswolds in an easy and environmentally-friendly way.
So, while there are hundreds of circular walks to be found in the Cotswolds, we’ve whittled down a list of ten to get you started.
1. The Bath Skyline
673 ft climb
Great for: stunning vistas
For some of the best views in the area, the Bath Skyline walk is an absolute must.
Starting in Bath city centre, walk north towards Bathampton along the historic Kennet and Avon Canal (don’t forget to stop for lunch at The George Inn). From here, Loop down southwest towards Clevedon Hill and Widcombe from where you can loop back towards Bath.
2. Blenheim Palace
435 ft climb
Great for: a taste of English history
Starting at Hanborough Station (about 1.5-hour train journey from London), walk towards Bladon where you’ll find the church of Saint Martin’s where Sir Winston Churchill is buried.
Opposite the church at the end of Park Lane is the back gate to Blenheim Palace grounds. From there you can enjoy a circular walk around the beautiful palace grounds designed by “Capability” Brown, over the Grand Bridge and past the Column of Victory which commemorates the military victories of the First Duke of Marlborough.
Finally, loop round through the ancient woodland, where you’ll find thousand-year-old trees, and back to the Pleasure Gardens for a cup of tea.
600 ft climb
Great for: pub-lovers
Kingham, another well-connected Cotswolds town, is found 1 hour 20 minutes outside of London Paddington via railway.
From the station, walk into Kingham itself (recently named by Country Life as England’s favourite village) where you’ll find The Kingham Plough – a great spot for a bite to eat. From there, a 30-minute walk takes you towards Churchill, which has another top pub, The Chequers, renowned for its quintessentially cosy English pub vibe.
The walk takes you from The Chequers towards Daylesford and its world-famous and award-winning farm, via Cornwell. From Daylesford, loop back round to Bledington, where you may stumble across The King’s Head Inn, another gorgeous Cotswolds pub, 2020 Good Pub Guide’s “Inn of the Year”.
568 ft climb
Great for: a scenic river stroll
From scenic Bourton-on-the-Water, take your walk towards Naunton (not forgetting to stop at The Black Horse for a swift refreshment) and along the Diamond Way towards The Warden’s Way following the River Eye to Upper and Lower Slaughter, two of the most picturesque villages in the area.
The route takes you full circle, finishing up back at Bourton-on-the-Water where you have a pick of great eateries to complete your walk.
5. Chipping Campden
425 ft climb
Great for: stunning views
The vibrant, historic village of Chipping Campden marks the start of The Cotswolds Way and some of the best views in the area. Starting here, walk towards Hidcote, where you can make a stop at the famous American-inspired Hidcote Gardens, and its “Garden Rooms” designed by Lawrence Johnston.
From Hidcote, your route takes you to the “top” of the Cotswolds, where you’ll have views all the way over to Birmingham. From here, walk towards Ebrington for lunch (and a pint of Yubby) at The Ebrington Arms.
846 ft climb
Great for: the castle connoisseur
Winchcombe is known for its nearby Sudeley Castle, where Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, lived and ended her days. It also has stunningly beautiful gardens and is well worth checking out.
But Winchcombe is also a great starting point for a scenic circular walk along the Cotswolds Way, around Cleve Hill with its views of Cheltenham (and beyond, on a clear day). You might also catch a glimpse of Belas Knap, a Neolithic long barrow, excavated in 1836 to uncover the remains of 31 people within.
From Belas Knap, loop back around to Winchcombe for a well-earned evening meal at the superb Lion Inn.
403 ft climb
Great for: the keen angler
The small town of Bibury begins your circular walk, taking you along the River Coln towards Coln St Aldwyns, where you’ll find a nice place to stop at The New Inn. From Coln, you circle the boundary of the Hatherop Estate towards Quenington.
Finish your walk by looping back up the River Coln towards Bibury where you might like to catch your own trout to cook for dinner at the trout farm.
484 ft climb
Great for: the gentle ambler
Minchinhampton, situated on the high ground between the “Golden Valley” and Nailsworth Valley, and its Common is the location of Princess Anne’s house.
This walk takes you around Minchinhampton Common and towards the village of Box, with its wild roaming cattle and great views out west. Onwards towards the alternative town of Nailsworth where you’ll find some of the trendiest shops, bakeries and eateries in the area.
Finally, loop back around to Minchinhampton to finish your curricular walk.
9. Chedworth Roman Villa
703 ft climb
Great for: archaeology-lovers
Chedworth not only offers the UK’s most elaborate Roman Villa, but it also marks the starting point of a beautiful walk through Chedworth village towards the breathtakingly beautiful village of Withington (in our opinion, the loveliest of all the Cotswolds villages).
From Withington, walk through Withington Woods along the River Coln and Macmillan Way where you’ll reach the back gate of Chedworth Roman Villa.
685 ft climb
Great for: military history buffs
The historic town of Stow-on-the-Wold is a bustling centre and the start of a lovely walk along Monarch’s Way towards Lower and Upper Slaughter. From here, head towards Donnington where you’ll see where the famous Battle Of Donnington Bridge took place in 1646.
From Donnington, loop through to Broadwell where The Fox Inn will welcome you for refreshments and back towards Stow-on-the-Wold to complete your walk.
These are ten top picks of many glorious circular walks in the Cotswolds. But if you’d like to know more about our guided walking tours in the Cotswolds, we have a variety of options for you: