Cycling in the Cotswolds
21 half and full-day cycle routes, and a 4-day 200km Tour of the Cotswolds
By Chiz Dakin
Guidebook of 21 half and full-day cycle routes, and one 4-day 200km tour of the Cotswolds. All the routes described are suitable for hybrid or mountain bikes, and most routes have an on-road alternative. The Cotswolds boasts cycle-friendly lanes, rolling countryside, canal paths and bridleways perfect for exploration by bike.
Seasonsroutes are best ridden in dry conditions (usually mid-spring to mid-autumn); winter/prolonged wet conditions can get make them very boggy/flooded
CentresStratford-upon-Avon, Shipston-on-Stour, Burford-on-the-Water, Winchcombe, Cirencester, Fairford, Stow-on-the-Wold, Shipton-under-Wychwood, Cheltenham, Stroud, Malmesbury, Bradford-onAvon/Bath
Difficultyroutes are graded moderate to challenging, although very short off-road sections may be challenging at all grades for those new to off-road riding; mountain bikes are recommended, but alternatives are given for road bikes wherever possible; basic level of fitness required for all routes, more for longer/multiday routes
Must Seeold-world charm, local honey-coloured limestone, thatched roofs and half-timbered buildings in impossibly pretty villages; wide variety of history from neolithic through Roman times to Middle Ages, long barrows, wool towns and ancient markets; Two Tunnels cycle route and a 4-day tour of whole area
The Cotswolds is home to pretty honey-hued stone villages set in a landscape of rolling countryside. The dramatic 100-mile limestone escarpment offers breathtaking views, while the network of quiet lanes, cycle-friendly canal paths, tracks and bridleways is perfect for exploration on a bicycle.
All the routes described here are suitable for hybrid or mountain bikes and graded from easy through to challenging, with information on surface, distance and ascent as well as those all-important en route cafés and pubs. Where the main cycle route described goes off-road, and on-road alternative is described for almost every ride. Some exciting off-road sections are included for those with mountain biking skills.
Comprehensive lists of recommended gear and local cycle shops are included, as well as advice on repair, first aid and pre-ride checks.
This is your ideal guide to exploring the lanes and tracks of the Cotswolds AONB, whatever your level or skill or style of bike.
- 21 varied half and full-day routes across the AONB
- exciting off-road sections for those with mountain biking skills
- on-road alternatives for almost every route
- 4-day (200km) tour taking in the highlights of the area
free GPX tracks downloadable for all routes when you buy the book
Wildlife, plants and flowers
Art, culture and local festivities
Food and drink
When to go
What to wear
What to take
Waymarking and access
How hard are the routes?
Using this guide
Route 1 Shipston-on-Stour Loop via Brailes Hill
Route 2 Shipston-on-Stour Loop via Halford
Route 3 Shipton-under-Wychwood Loop via Wychwood
Route 4 Bourton-on-the-Water Loop via the Slaughters
Route 5 Alderton via Broadway
Route 6 Bradford-on-Avon via Bath Two Tunnels
Route 7 Bourton-on-the-Water Loop via Great Barrington
Route 8 Kemble via Cotswold Water Park
Route 9 Kingham Loop via Bruern Abbey
Route 10 Batheaston Sting
Route 11 Stratford Greenway Loop via Mickleton
Route 12 Cirencester Loop via Ampney Crucis
Route 13 Filkins Loop via Bibury
Route 14 Fairford Loop via Bibury
Route 15 Frampton Cotterell Loop via Wickwar
Route 16 Stonehouse Loop via Slimbridge
Route 17 Stow Loop via Blockley
Route 18 Burford Loop via Northleach
Route 19 Stroud Loop via Chavenage House
Route 20 Cheltenham Loop via Cleeve Hill
Route 21 Malmesbury Loop via Tetbury
Route 22 Around the Cotswolds
Day 1 Stroud to Winchcombe
Day 2 Winchcombe to Stow-on-the-Wold
Day 3 Stow-on-the-Wold to Cirencester
Day 4 Cirencester to Stroud
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Cycle hire and cycle shops
Appendix C Cycles and trains
Appendix D First aid for bike and rider
Appendix E Other useful information
The size of this book constrains the scale of mapping that can be used within it; as such, it is advisable to take with you some form of larger-scale mapping, such as Ordnance Survey (OS) 1:50K Landranger or 1:25K Explorer sheets. (Downloaded electronic versions are good, but beware of relying on online-only versions such as Open Street Map or Google Maps, as these require a strong mobile signal, lots of battery power, a clear view of the sky and phone-based satellite GPS.)
- Explorer: sheet 45 covers much of the northern Cotswolds; elsewhere you will need sheets 155, 156, 167, 168, 179, 180, 191 or 205
- Landranger: sheets 151, 163, 164, 172 or 173
Relevant local sheets seem to be becoming less commonly available in local village stores and petrol stations, and are perhaps best bought in advance of a visit.
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The day routes are intended to cover a half-day of cycling, so there is plenty of time to relax, explore and enjoy the scenery. Truth is, as the author points out, there are so many variables in the routes and beyond these no account can be taken of the attitude of the cyclist, be they ambler or speedster or somewhere between the two.
This is definitely one for the cyclist who likes to take some time to seek out the quiet ways. In the usual Cicerone style it will fit in the jersey pocket and take you through one of England’s most beautiful landscapes.
Read the full review here: Cycling in the Cotswolds
Seven Day Cyclist, November 2014
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Chiz Dakin's cycle touring adventures almost happened by accident, when after a local photography trip by bike she realised that she'd done 50 miles in a single day with a reasonably heavy load. This led to the disconnected logic that if she could do that once, she was now ready to tackle multi-day cycle touring, and two weeks later set out on the Land's End to John o' Groats route.
Since then she's done several other multi-day trips including a pioneering Welsh coast cycle route (600 miles and 16km of ascent) but still maintains that you don't need to be seriously fit or fast to enjoy long multi-day routes. (She certainly makes no claim to being either!) She has also recently won an award for her photography.