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Self-Guided Walks in Britain

Make Your Own Arrangements on the Internet

Our hike ended each afternoon at a bed and breakfast in a small, picturesque Cotswold town. We arrived carrying no more than a daypack, changed into something comfortable from the bags that were delivered earlier, then took off for a sightseeing stroll, followed, in due course, by dinner. For our 5-day circuit we started in Moreton-in-Marsh, spent the next night in Bourton-on-the-Water; from there it was on to Winchcombe, Broadway, and finally back to where we had started. Along the way we lunched in such villages as Stow-on-the-Wold and Guiting Power and stopped to see Sudeley Castle, the perfectly-preserved village of Stanton, and the 18th-century “folly,” Broadway Tower, among other gems.

The Cotswold area in Western England is full of memorable villages that draw tourists from Britain as well as the rest of the world. There's no better place for a walking tour, without groups, than here. The long-established foot paths were once the way most people got from town to town. Present-day Brits have preserved walking rights-of-way, which are well marked, well maintained, and well used.

Best of all, you can arrange everything on the Web. It’s just a matter of deciding on the area you want to visit and the length of your stay. We found “self-guided” trips as short as three days and as long as seven, with variations beyond those.

Once we had made our selections, all that remained was fixing a starting date. We were coming from London. Trains depart from Paddington station regularly throughout the day and take less than two hours to Moreton-in-the-Marsh. For departure, we chose to go to Heathrow Airport directly following our last night’s stay in the area. Trains to Reading connect buses to the terminal; one ticket covers the entire journey. Again, enough trains run each day to make it convenient. Leaving Moreton at 9:20 a.m., we were at the airport several hours early for a 2:30 p.m. flight home.

Each day of our Cotswold trip started off with an English breakfast. Having loaded a daypack and checked our maps, we would place our bags under the stairs or some other appointed pick-up spot and be out the door by nine. We walked, stopped at lookouts, mills, whatever caught our eye, pausing for a “Plowman’s” lunch, washing it down with the local ale or cider, in whatever village we had reached. For our evening meal we always took the advice of our hosts and were never disappointed.

The bed and breakfasts varied almost as much as the terrain. In Moreton-in-Marsh, we stayed in a large, modern house with room for at least six couples. In Broadway, we slept in a 16th-century, half-timbered cottage with accommodations for two couples, although we were the only ones there. Had it been earlier in the year, we might have met more people on our walks. All those we did talk to were British and on shorter jaunts than ours. But the towns themselves were bustling and the people friendly and helpful.

For More Info

Contact: Christopher and Ann Knowles, Cotswold Walking Holidays Ltd, Tel. 011-44-1242-254353; walking@star.co.uk, www.cotswoldwalks.com.

Two other companies we considered: Contours Walking Holidays; 011-44-17684 80452; walking@contours.co.uk, www.contours.co.uk.

Country Lanes, owned by Susan Achmatowicz, www.countrylanes.co.uk.

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