Taking in the magnificent Forest of Dean, the pastoral Severn Plain and the gorgeous Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Gloucestershire Way is a long-distance footpath that dabbles in the sublime. A 100-mile (161 km) linear route, the Way makes for a wonderful holiday expedition or a collection of separate day hikes.
The route is really a walk of three sections, divided by landscapes. You spend all of ten minutes in Wales at the very start and proceed into the rolling hills of the Forest of Dean. Commons, woodlands and plantations are the name of the game here, punctuated with little villages and some fantastic viewpoints.
Leaving May Hill in stage 3, the Way leads you down to the Severn Plain, a large area of lowland, through the heart of which snakes Great Britain’s longest river. The stretch takes you across the plain to Gloucester, a fascinating, historic cathedral city with much to occupy you. Flat landscapes pass underfoot until you reach the stunning Cotswolds to the east.
This area is well known for its gentle hills, golden stone buildings and villages that look like they should exist in stories of yore. The Way winds through the hills in utter serenity, revealing old mills, lush riverbanks and atmospheric woodlands on its journey to the pretty town of Stow-on-the-Wold.
The trail does an about-turn at Stow and you hike north west to the ancient town of Winchcombe, a meeting place for numerous long-distance trails. Be sure to check out the gargoyles of St Peter’s church before hiking down to the Severn Plain again, to the end at Tewkesbury.
I’ve split this expedition into eight stages, all of which fall between 10 and 15 miles long (16 to 24 km). Most start and end in places where accommodation and food can be found but where these amenities are more sparse, I’ve noted options in the Tour descriptions. The hike passes through regions rich in outdoor pursuits and you are usually well-provisioned for with gear shops, cafes, B&Bs and everything else you might need.
Chepstow is easy to reach from almost any direction and has a mainline train station with connections to Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff. It also lies just off the M48 motorway which forms the ‘old bridge’ crossing the Severn between England and Wales. Tewkesbury, at the other end, is on the same train line as Chepstow, allowing you to easily return to where you started or catch a train further afield. Tewkesbury also lies just off the M5 and M50.
You can hike this trail at any time of year but the Severn can flood some sections during particularly wet winters. It’s best to walk the Way from mid-spring to mid-autumn, to take advantage of the vibrant nature of the area and to see Gloucestershire in full swing. Regardless of the season, sturdy hiking boots and waterproofs are necessary equipment, as is sun cream. A camera is also fairly important because there are plenty of spots on this hike that are so pretty, you’ll want to capture them for posterity.
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Last updated: November 16, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
This first stage begins in Wales, for all of ten minutes. After crossing the River Wye in Chepstow, you hike out along the edge of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and into the Forest of Dean. Indulging in farmland, woodlands, commons and villages, this is a delightful hike across stunning…
by Kit P
The first half of this 14.5-mile (23.3 km) hike sends you rambling through the glorious Forest of Dean. Surrounded by nature in full force, watch for wildlife, hike to stunning sculptures and breathe in the peace of this ancient landscape. The last section of this stage takes you across farmland until…
by Kit P
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This stage leaves the verdant hills of the Forest of Dean and heads down across the Severn Vale to the historic city of Gloucester. Cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings paired with a wide array of sights, bars, pubs and hotels make Gloucester a fantastic resting stop. This hike is almost entirely…
by Kit P
This hike is almost entirely flat, with a slight incline towards the end, although you hardly notice it. Traversing the Severn Plain, you hike around Gloucester, enjoy the rural countryside between the city and its neighbour, Cheltenham, before ending in the village of Shurdington.
Begin at Gloucester…
by Kit P
This delightful hilly stage sweeps you up off the floor of the Severn Plain and sends you roaming about the verdant hills of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This gorgeous landscape is peppered with woodlands and honey-coloured villages, built from local stone over the centuries.
by Kit P
This undulating stage is true Cotswold glory: rolling hills, old woodland and villages that ooze charm out of their stonework. At 10 miles long (16 km), you also have time to take a detour into Bourton-on-the-Water if you fancy. I haven’t included it in the itinerary because it’s off the official route…
by Kit P
A typically undulating stage in the Cotswolds, this is another gorgeous hike through rural landscapes. A mixture of lanes, farm tracks and field footpaths guide you north west to the town of Winchcombe on the edge of the AONB.
Leave lovely Stow-on-the-Wold via the B4077 and hike to the village of Upper…
by Kit P
The final stage of the Way leads you down from the Cotswolds and back onto the Severn Plain and the Vale of Gloucester. As a result, the first half is hilly with one fairly steep ascent and the second half is almost entirely flat; an excellent topographic finish to a long-distance path.
by Kit P
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