Hiking in Gloucestershire

Photo: Brian

Walks in Gloucestershire transport the intrepid hiker into an idyllic region of “forest and vale and high blue hill,” in the words of native poet Will Harvey. This is quintessential English countryside of the finest vintage. Variety of landscape is abundant, and whilst the 100 mile (160km) Gloucestershire Way conquers some of what this beautiful county has to offer, there really is a lifetime of adventure to be had here.

The county is home to the celebrated Cotswolds, where picturesque villages of honey-hued brick nestle beneath verdant wooded hills. Some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of trails and bridleways explore the vibrant meadows and historic treasures of this sumptuous region.

Further south, the dramatic Wye Valley and ancient Forest of Dean offer some of the finest hikes in Gloucestershire. Breathe in the fresh air as your ramble beneath huge oaks and the domed crowns of monumental beech trees. Follow the meandering River Wye and delve into the celebrated Wye Gorge, where towering limestone cliffs hint at a violent geological past. In the south west, the River Severn meets the sea, its estuary offering gorgeous coastal rambles with spectacular views.

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Discover the stunning Cotswolds

When considering walks in Gloucestershire, it is impossible not to mention the glorious Cotswolds. Castles, grand manor houses and charming abbeys abound in its archetypal towns and villages, whilst the surrounding countryside is a walker’s paradise of rolling green hills and steep-sided valleys.

Stunning views await from its many high points, with the Severn Vale stretching away to the glistening Bristol Channel, the nearby Malvern Hills and the distant mountains of Wales. Amongst the hills is plenty of historical interest, such as ancient Iron Age forts and Neolithic burial grounds. Whilst the wooded slopes offer pleasant rambles on tree-lined trails.

Explore ancient woodland

Some of the best hiking trails in Gloucestershire can be found in the Forest of Dean. This ancient sprawl of mixed woodland covers 42 square miles (68 km) and through it flows the River Wye. Picture magical autumnal hues as you crunch through fallen acorns with a personal soundtrack of birdsong and flowing water. Here you can explore the rocky outcrops that provide opportunities to spot the peregrine falcons that thrive in the skies above.

Dramatic limestone cliffs rise from the woodland, the jewels in the crown of the Wye Valley. Whilst you take in the spectacle, keep an eye out for the foxgloves and other radiant wildflowers that bloom by the riverbank, whilst native deer forage nearby. There is even a chance of spotting a wild boar, which were accidentally introduced here and have since flourished.

A land of rivers and hills

The Severn Estuary offers some delightful walking. The mudflats and saltmarsh found here are an important habitat for a variety of bird species. In spring and summer, listen out for the melodic song of the long-billed curlew. Views across the estuary and of the two Severn bridges accompany are constant companions.

With three of the UK’s longest rivers flowing through it, it is no wonder that hikes in Gloucestershire contain some of England’s finest scenery. Lush grasslands and meadows and vibrant wetlands offer opportunities to get closer to nature. Meanwhile, the picturesque towns and villages that are so synonymous with the region are well worth exploring. Trademark golden brickwork and quaint pubs, cafes and tearooms offer ample refreshment after a long day of hiking.

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