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.



routes are best ridden in dry conditions (usually mid-spring to mid-autumn); winter/prolonged wet conditions can get make them very boggy/flooded


Stratford-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


routes 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 See

Must See

old-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
31 Mar 2014
21 Nov 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
  • Overview

    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
  • Contents

    Wildlife, plants and flowers
    Art, culture and local festivities
    Food and drink
    Getting around
    When to go
    What to wear
    What to take
    Waymarking and access
    Cycling efficiently
    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

  • Maps

    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.

  • Updates
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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    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

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.

View Articles and Books by Chiz Dakin