The Cotswolds are hilly rather than mountainous - the highest point being little more than 1,000 feet above sea level. Officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswold landscape is an entrancing mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls of jurassic limestone, and patches of unspoiled woodland. Stone-built also are almost all of the cottages, farmhouses, villages, and small towns that the route passes. The Cotswold Way is also a walk through English history, passing prehistoric hill forts, ancient burial barrows, Saxon and Civil War battle sites, as well as fine stately homes.
The Cotswolds became wealthy during the 17th century, due to the wool trade, and the fine stone houses and churches are a symbol of that era. The industrial revolution seemed to bypass the region, and the Cotswolds today are still a very affluent part of Britain.
Start the day stretching your legs on the long ascent out Bath. The first half of the walk takes you up onto Lansdown, site of a Civil War battle and one of the country's highest racecourses, offering wide views back over Bath. Crossing the A46 several times and the M5 you take off on pleasant field walks along the hillsides below Dyrham Park.
This second section of the walk brings you into more typical Cotswold scenery with some pretty stiff uphill sections. You will be walking through fields into Old Sodbury then following the ridge past Old Sodbury woods to Little Sodbury fort and the village. Today you will see two prominent landmarks, the Somerset Monument and the Tyndale Monument.
A short day and a chance for a bit of a breather, although you still have a few hills to negotiate. You can use the extra time to explore the ramparts of Uley Bury and the old cloth-weaving town of Dursley, or pause for thought at the Tyndale Monument.
More wide views and longer hills again today as the Way crosses the valley of the River Frome. This, unusually for the Cotswolds, breaks through the escarpment to flow west into the Severn, creating impressive slopes of hanging beech woods. The hills above are rich with hill forts and burial mounds but refreshment stops are rather scarce, with just one inn on the route at Edge and others just off it in Westrip, Kings Stanley and Nympsfield. There are shops for packed lunch supplies in Painswick or, with a short diversion, in Ebley near Rye Ford and Kings Stanley.
This section follows the top of the escarpment, with regular shorter hills replacing the long climbs of the earlier stages. It takes you across open grass and farmland and through glorious beech woods, passing an amazing collection of archaeological sites along the way. You will find picnic tables at Crickley Hill and other pleasant spots on Leckhampton Hill, Barrow Wake and in Cranham Woods.
A day of contrasts that takes you across the wildest part of the Way on Cleeve Common, around the largest town along the route, Cheltenham. The Way stays mostly at high level. Winchcombe has plenty of shops to pick up picnis for tomrrow and there are numerous pleasant places to stop in fine weather.
Your last day takes you into the pretty village of Chipping Campden. You will have impressive views form teh top of the escarpment and the walk is interspersed with delightful villages at its foot. There is a wealth of history and interest throughout. On arrival make your way to the Old Market Hall where you will see the offical Cotswold Way marker.
Bath is well serviced by train from mainline stations throughout the UK. At the end of your walk, you can catch a bus or taxi from Chipping Campden to Morton-in-Marsh from where you can catch mainline trains. Refer to www.nationalrail.co.uk
National Express offer coach services from central London, and Heathrow and Gatwick airports, to Bath and from Chipping Campden. Refer to www.nationalexpress.com
London Heathrow is the most convenient airport for the Cotswolds, but you can also fly into London Gatwick or Birmingham International.