Part two of the Monarch’s Way takes you on a spellbinding adventure from Shakespeare’s birthplace, through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and finishes on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
From Stratford-upon-Avon, the Way takes you 214 miles (344 km) through the Cotswolds AONB, into the vibrant city of Bristol, through the Mendip Hills AONB, into the Dorset AONB and onto finish at Charmouth, in the heart of the Jurassic Coast.
Expect awe-inspiring countryside, abundant wildlife havens, countless historic sites, charming villages, gentle riverside trails, pubs with proper West County cider, and an epic finish on a beach that is hailed as one of the best places in the UK to find dinosaur fossils.
The Monarch’s Way traces the escape route taken by King Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the final battle of the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. At 615 miles (990 km) in total, it is the longest inland trail in England.
After Charles’ attempt to cross the River Severn and escape into Wales failed, his next plan was to flee to Charmouth, where Royalist allies had arranged a boat for him to sail to France. Unfortunately for Charles, though, Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary army was hot on his heels — and his captain was locked at home by his wife. Thus, his escape continued.
The trail is waymarked throughout and follows well-maintained paths. The hiking is generally quite leisurely but there are some challenging sections, making it a good choice for all abilities.
In this Collection, we split the route into 15 stages, each averaging 14.3 miles (23 km). Of course, you can divide each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or couple of stages, in isolation. As stages 6, 11, and 14 are all around 17 miles (27.4 km), however, there is a suggestion on how to split the routes in the stage description.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
To get to the start of the trail, Stratford-upon-Avon has excellent public transport links. To get home, you would need to catch either the X51 or X53 bus service from Charmouth to Axminster, which has a train station with direct links to London and connecting services around the country.
For more information about the Monarch’s Way, visit: monarchsway.50megs.com.
For the X51 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/x51-dorchester-bridport-axminster.
For the X53 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/x53-weymouth-bridport-axminster.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
Click the links below for more Collections on the Monarch’s Way.
Part 1: komoot.com/collection/911739/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-1.
Part 3: komoot.com/collection/918048/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-3,
The first stage takes you from Stratford-upon-Avon, a place with links to playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), to the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. Before leaving Stratford it is worth taking …
Sublime Cotswold countryside, historic settlements, and wonderful views combine on this stunning stage.With 1,300 feet (396 m) of ascent and 13.8 miles (22.2 km) of distance to contend with, this is a fairly challenging hike.The toughest climb of the day comes after Blockley and takes you to Batsford Arboretum, an oasis of green on the Cotswold scarp. You get some lovely views from this summit, too.
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This hike takes you from the medieval town of Stow-on-the-Wold into a landscape that has been farmed continuously for more than 6,000 years.At 11.7 miles (18.8 km) long and …
You step back in time on this stage, visiting a 2nd-century villa and finishing in Roman Britain’s second largest town, Cirencester.With 15.6 miles (25.1 km) of distance and 750 feet (229 m) of climbing, this is a challenging hike that rewards richly.Before you leave Northleach it is worth visiting the town’s impressive Gothic church, which was built in the 14th century on the back of wealth created by the Cotswold wool trade.
This stage explores one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain and takes you to the source of England’s most important river, the Thames.With level walking for the most …
This hike might be one of the most challenging in this Collection, but the rewards come thick and fast.With 17.2 miles (27.7 km) of distance and 1,125 feet (343 …
You step from Gloucestershire into Somerset on this stage, which explores a landscape filled with wildlife and history.At 16.2 miles (26.1 km) this is another long stage. However, with 650 feet (183 m) of ascent and 900 feet (274 m) of descent, the distance may seem easier than expected.After passing through Dyrham, it is worth taking some time to explore Dyrham Park, home to an ancient deer park, 17th-century house, and formal garden.
The Monarch's Way diverts from the route taken by Charles II during his escape from Cromwell’s army to explore the vibrant city of Bristol.At 11.6 miles (18.7 km) long and with only a few hills to contend with, this hike is leisurely. However, the urban walking around Bristol might be hard on your feet.Much of this route follows the River Avon as it meanders gently through pretty woodlands, gentle countryside, and eventually through the bustling city landscape.
From Bristol’s most iconic landmark to the pretty patchwork of North Somerset, this stunning stage affords a fine introduction to cider country.Whilst the distance is a manageable 11.1 miles (17.9 km), the amount of climbing increases considerably on this hike in comparison to previous stages.You leave Bristol via the Clifton Suspension bridge, which affords dramatic views over the Avon Gorge, and continue into Leigh Woods Nature Reserve, where more spellbinding vistas await.
This stage takes you through the heart of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and visits caves that have been used by humans for 45,000 years.At 15.1 miles (24.3 km) long and with a few more sharp climbs than on recent stages, this hike should be a good challenge. The first half of this hike follows the gently-undulating trail through peaceful farmland, separated by hedgerows and small woodlands.
The small yet stunning cathedral city of Wells is the star attraction on this stage.With 16.8 miles (27 km) of distance and 1,250 feet (381 m) of climbing, this is a challenging hike. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, see below).After rising in woodlands above Split Rock Quarry, the trail descends into Wells, an enchanting place to visit with a sublime 12th-century Gothic cathedral, as well as the Bishop’s Palace.
Historic buildings, gentle countryside, and panoramic views combine on this stage, which takes you from Somerset into Dorset.At 15.3 miles (24.6 km) long and with 1,125 feet (342.9 m) of climbing, this is a fairly challenging route. However, the views are ample reward.The hike begins as a leisurely saunter through patchwork farmland. When you reach North Cadbury, it is worth visiting the Church of St Michael, a pretty Grade I-listed church.
After some challenging recent stages, this hike should be a welcome rest. Make sure you save energy for stage 14, though.This route traces a 11.5 mile (18.5 km) semi-circle …
The penultimate stage is the toughest in this Collection but rewards richly with breathtaking views over the rolling countryside.With 17.1 miles (27.5 km) of distance and 1,250 feet (381 m) of climbing, this is a very challenging hike. (See below for a suggestion on how to split the stage).From Montacute, it is a short but sharp ascent of St Michael’s Hill, where you experience sublime views over the pretty patchwork landscape.
The final stage takes you to a stunning stretch of coastline that is hailed as one of the best places in the UK to hunt for fossils.When Charles II made it to Charmouth he had hoped to escape to France by boat. But when Charles’ captain was locked at home by his wife, who feared for the seaman’s safety, and Cromwell’s troops descended on the coast, it was clear the plan had failed.