Cotswold Way: Birdlip Hill to Painswick


Birdlip Hill


7.2 miles (11.5kms)

590ft (180m)
4hrs 30min

About the walk

The prime season for tourism in the Cotswolds is of course the summer, though the walker following the limestone ridges can rise above the parking problems and crawling traffic which besets the area. With so much on offer, the best time to walk the Cotswold Way may be in spring or autumn, when tourism is less intrusive, many of the attractions are still open to the public, and the beech woodlands that form an important part of the route are at their best. There is plenty of accommodation in the towns and villages along the way, but campsites are few and far between.

With so many distractions, it is impossible to specify how long the route will take to walk, and careful planning is necessary to fit in with opening times of places to visit. Generally, the going is moderate, though there may be quite a bit of mud in wet weather and a certain amount of hill-climbing in the area around Cheltenham. Walkers are frequently surprised that the height gain over the whole route is equal to three times the height of Snowdon.

Cooper's Hill is one of the most jaw-dropping points of the entire Cotswold ridge. The With the scarp already at a steep gradient, Cooper's Hill appears to sit on top, with a 1 in 2 incline, like a death-defying ski slope clearing amongst the trees. Every Whitsun bank holiday, hundreds of people, who must be bordering on insanity, hurl themselves down this slope to chase after a giant wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. The winner, in theory, is the first person to catch the cheese, though in reality, anyone that is able to walk away with a few scratches is a winner!

Walk directions

Crossing the Birdlip to Brockworth road – or beginning from the village of Birdlip, descending Birdlip Hill to turn left in 0.25 miles (400m) – you enter Witcombe Wood, from where there is a long stretch of woodland walking. The woods here are very fine in spring and autumn, but the wide track can be muddy. The mass of tracks can potentially be confusing, but there are regular Cotswold Way waymarks. With pheasants much in evidence, the route passes a sadly overgrown entrance gate to Witcombe Park, and further on a track to the right leads downhill to the Great Witcombe Roman Villa.

The route leaves the Witcombe estate by a small cottage in a fine hillside position. A lane continues through the hamlet Cooper's Hill and past the bottom of the immensely steep scarp that gives the settlement its name, where the famous annual cheese-rolling event takes place. Cooper's Hill is suffering from erosion and is fenced off; the footpath bears left just beyond the hill, up through woods to reach its top.

The main route enters Brockworth Wood, where there are information boards and nature trails, going on to Buckholt Wood. Arriving at a road junction signposted for Cranham Scout HQ, turn right towards the A46. Cross the A46 diagonally left to enter woodland alongside Prinknash Park and Abbey. The park is open to the public. In 109yds (100m), running beside a long stone wall, strike half-left beside an immaculately straight beech tree. Cross a lane just yards from the A46 to enter another section of Buckholt and Rough Park Woods.

Arriving at a lane, continue straight ahead, past Castle Lodge, a modern Cotswold mansion, to join a bridleway track across an extensive golf course all the way to the outskirts of Painswick. The walker should divert to the highest point of Painswick Beacon, off to the right. From the trig point there are magnificent views over the surrounding countryside, and the extensive ramparts and ditches of the ancient hill fort, which has now been commandeered by golfers, can also be seen. Coming to a lane, the route follows a footpath along the hillside, passing Catsbrain Quarry and rejoining a track across behind the clubhouse. It continues by a stone wall, reaching the far end of the golf course, where the route follows the road into Painswick.

Additional information

Bridleways, field paths and minor roads

Meadows, woodlands and escarpment edges with significant views

Lots of off-lead opportunities. On-lead around livestock

Roadside in Birdlip or Stamages Lane Car Park, Painswick

Stamages Lane Car Park, Painswick

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