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Walking the Cotswolds

Old May 13th, 2012, 04:54 PM
  #1  
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Walking the Cotswolds

My husband and I are in the early stages of planning a visit to England and I would love to do our own walking tour of 'the best of the cotswolds' and there are so many different villages.I know we probably can't see them all, but would hate to go all that way and miss the most picturesque ones, so any input would be greatly appreciated.
We plan on staying approximately 5 days in the area and will not be using a vehicle.
Would it be better to base ourselves in one area or just move around on a day to day basis?
Thanks!
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Old May 13th, 2012, 10:11 PM
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There's no "most picturesque" town or village (how on earth could anywhere be "most" anything so completely subjective?), and there's no point in wasting time or energy seeing too many more or less interchangeably pretty places.

If your main objective really is to see "the best of the Cotswolds" (why?) doing without a car is perverse and creates a lot of logistical problems. Even if you solve those problems, carlessness cuts you off, in practice, from a lot of the nicest walks. Which just means you'll have to settle for the merely lovely.

If you want to do five days' walking somewhere reasonably pretty, and prefer to do so without a car, then it's perfectly possible (there've probably been the odd five days every year or so when I've done just that) but you need to be clear that's what you want to do and not worry too much if someone who once spent an afternoon here tells you you haven't lived if you've not seen Little Chadbury on the Wold or some other twee micro theme park.

There's probably around 10,000 miles of footpath in the Cotswolds AONB, virtually all within a couple of miles of a pub and a B&B, and all accessible on foot from 50-100 yds from those places. Public transport, though unbelievably prolific by the standards of the barbarian world, is designed for us to go to work or get the elderly to clinics when they can't drive any more: it's not hugely convenient for the odd eccentric who wants to be a tourist here without a car.

Ignoring the options of a packaged walking tour, or of intensive use of taxis, the most sensible option is to stay in one place, preferably with reasonable public transport, and either walk or take buses and trains to a range of other places for circular walks. Several places (like Burford or Winchcombe) that are often recommended here as nice places to stay have (by our standards) poor public transport.

Moving between overnight places strikes me as dotty: you've come here to relax, not hoik your bags on a bus to somewhere else

In my view, the three best centres for your needs are Chipping Campden (no direct train from London, but buses meet most trains at Moreton in Marsh and the town has a good bus network elsewhere), Moreton in Marsh (good buses and trains, but a busyish road runs through its middle, so it lacks that sensed of rustic isolation many visitors want) and Charlbury (excellent trains, limited restaurants, but moderate bus network. Perfect - and pretty - to live in or take six months to finish the novel: not every tourist's idea of a heaving holiday hotspot). Moreton and Chipping Campden both have a reasonable range of pubs and restaurants (Charlbury's got a surprising number of real ale pubs). In your shoes, I'd base myself at Chipping Campden

Transport timetables are available from www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/?page=transport. The train times changed (slightly) yesterday, with some buses changing accordingly, and the AONB website usually reacts to any changes in anything with rather less urgency than the rest of us, so check the precise details closer to the date

Choosing where to walk is helped by resources like the book list at www.cotswolder.com/walking/ (I like the Jarrold guides). Actually, on a pleasant day, just getting out the local Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map and following the path system of your choice is a lot more fun than following someone else's recommendation, and acquiring them at home is a great way of preplanning. But acquiring fluency in OS-ese is similar to fluency in any other language, and it helps to have a day or so handholding from a book to get your eye in.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 08:53 AM
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Thank you for your 'frank' observations and I will look into the sites you suggested.As for not using a car, I thought it would better to forgo it, instead of adding another 'dotty' tourist trying to drive on the opposite side of the road.
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Old May 14th, 2012, 09:09 AM
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"another 'dotty' tourist trying to drive on the opposite side of the road."

1. Get into car
2. Turn key
3. Drive

Driving on the opposite side of the road is something 99% of the Cotswold population does for about 3 weeks of the year, every year from their early 20s till their mid 70s. Except for the years they live abroad, when these days they mostly drive on the opposite side all the time. We really can't get our heads around why the idea seems to send some of our visitors into such an old maidy tizzy. Never worries the Dutch or Germans: just the North Americans.

And if every single Polish and Romanian truck driver here can manage it...
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Old May 14th, 2012, 01:47 PM
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I am not an expert on the Cotswolds by any means as I have only been there once, but I can tell you what we enjoyed. We stayed at a lovely B&B (Cranbourne House) in Burton on the Water and found it to be very picturesque. From BOTW we were able to walk (approx 2 miles) to Upper & Lower Slaughter. These little towns were very charming.

We did rent a car so I don't know about using public transportation. You might lose some vacation time due to train and bus schedules. My husband did all the driving so I can't comment on driving on the other side of the road. We did have a manual transmission which he found difficult at first since shifting was done with the left hand.

Hope this helps you some. Happy travels!
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