Car-freeAdventures in the Cotswoldswith Great Western Railway

The railway rolls from the dreaming spires of Oxford through the green wolds and treacle-coloured villages of England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sheep watch from the grassy hills, roses cascade over cottage doorways and time stands still on the ancient village greens. Winding paths and warm pubs beckon walkers while picturesque towns and cities offer unbeatable rainy-day attractions: independent shops and cafes, imaginative museums, and centuries-old cathedrals. Great Western Railway runs from London, through Oxford and the Cotswolds to Worcester and beyond. Here are just a few of the things you can see along the way.

  • County: with Great Western Railway
  • Great for: architecture | bird watching | countryside | flowers and gardens | historic buildings | museums | scenic bus and train |
  • Refreshments: lots of fabulous restaurants, pubs and cafes
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 4. And on to Worcester

    On the far side of the Cotswolds, the train races on towards Worcester with views of the Malvern Hills ahead. Worcester is not in the Cotswolds, but it makes a good base for exploring the area. There is plenty of budget accommodation and Moreton-in-Marsh, Cheltenham and Gloucester are all easy to get to by train. To get around the city easily, ask for a PlusBus ticket when you buy your train ticket and you can have unlimited bus travel all day across Worcester.

    • Before you reach Worcester, you can see animals, birds, reptiles and even dinosaurs near Honeybourne station. The family attraction All Things Wild is just a few minutes’ walk down the road. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • The River Avon winds around Evesham, through plum and cherry trees and the railway crosses it twice. There are alders and willows along the banks and swans gliding on the water, backed by wooded slopes and orchards.
    • Look out at Worcester Shrub Hill for the Victorian waiting rooms, restored in 2015 so that staff and passengers can admire the red pillars, cast in Worcester’s Vulcan iron works, and the colourful ceramic tiles.
    • Ten minutes’ stroll through the city from Worcester Foregate Street station and left beside the wide River Severn brings you to Worcester Cathedral, where both twelfth-century King John and Tudor Prince Arthur are buried. The cathedral, with its Norman crypt and medieval cloisters, is like a textbook of English architectural styles. Don’t miss the intricate stained glass or the carved wooden misericords under the seats in the quire.
  1. 5. Car-free walking in the Cotswolds

    This is ideal countryside for walking through a charming mix of fields and forests, farms and villages. There’s a good network of footpaths and also a series of long-distance paths. Walking these can mean anything from an afternoon’s amble to a multi-day adventure. Either way, the train can help you plan a linear walk from A to B without needing to circle back to a parked car. Here is an energetic route with pubs and stations at the start and end.

    • Charlbury to Hanborough (8¼ miles) Woodland paths and flowery tracks link the towns and villages and the walk follows the pretty Evenlode valley, looping through the green fringes of the Blenheim estate with bluebells and wild garlic in spring. It starts off along the signed Oxfordshire Way and then diverges to pass the remains of a Roman villa at North Leigh. You can see a map here and will need OS Explorer Map 180 to help find your way. Check out the pubs in Charlbury at the start, including the Rose and Crown, the Hand and Shears in Long Hanborough at the end and the café in the Bus Museum near Hanborough station.
    • Other trails: as well as the Oxfordshire Way, you will also find the epic Monarch’s Way and the Heart of England Way. The other great long-distance route in the area is the 100-mile Cotswold Way, one of Britain’s best walking routes. Read on to see how you can sample this unbeatable walk without a car.
  1. 6. Car-free Cotswold Way

    The Cotswold Way is an undulating, hundred-mile National Trail. It begins in gold-stoned Chipping Campden, ends in Bath, and reaches its literal highpoint, 1000 feet above sea level, just outside Cheltenham. You can sample all these sections from Great Western Railway stations to get close up to some classic Cotswold landscapes – and some fabulous local food! The first part is close to the Cotswold Line (see 2 and 3 above). The others are on different direct railways from London Paddington.

    • Chipping Campden to Broadway (6 miles) buses 1 / 1A / 2 / 2A take scenic routes from Moreton in Marsh station to Chipping Campden and Broadway. The opening miles of the Cotswold Way pass Broadway Tower, a castle-folly built on an ancient beacon site. On a clear day you can see as many as sixteen counties from here and glimpse Welsh mountains, fading into the blue distance beyond the Malvern Hills. End at the Broadway Deli and you could tuck into dishes like truffled polenta with hazelnut and tarragon pesto or lemon curd cake.
    • Cleeve Hill to Winchcombe (6 miles) Over sheep-dotted wolds to time-warped Winchcombe via the Neolithic long barrow at Belas Knap, this classic stretch of the trail can be accessed using hourly bus W from Cheltenham. Refuel at North’s Bakery in Winchcombe with a fruit dripper, a traditional Cheltenham bread-cake with sticky sugar and raisins.
    • Lansdown to Bath (7 miles) The final miles of the Cotswold Way are rewarding, spectacular and can even end with a trip to the thermal baths. Get a GWR train to Bath, catch bus 620 from the nearby bus station to the bus stop called Battlefield and follow the well-signed Cotswold Way. You’ll soon be passing great views across Bristol to the distant Severn bridges, and later across the Georgian terraces of Bath. You’ll definitely have earned a Bath bun by the end of it.
    • The Cotswold Way officially finishes (or starts – you can walk it in either direction) outside Bath Abbey, with its fan-vaulted ceilings. On the pavement outside, a circle of blue limestone is carved with place names from along the Cotswold Way (including Broadway Tower, Belas Knap, and Lansdown Battlefield) and the Old Testament lines: “Stand ye in the ways and see, ask for the old paths where is the good way and walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls.”