Cotswold Way: Leckhampton Hill to Birdlip Hill




5.6 miles (9kms)

425ft (130m)

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.

Crickley Hill is one of the best places in the Cotswolds to see the strata of oolitic limestone for which the area is so renowned – and from which many of the buildings in the area are built. The hill cliffs of Crickley Hill have the thickest section in Britain of pea grit, a particular kind of poor-quality limestone that is made up of pea-like nodules full of fossils. Also here is a This famous hill fort site, which was founded in the Neolithic period, 4000-3000BC. It became an Iron Age camp around 600BC, suffering destruction at the hands of enemy tribes several times.

Walk directions

From the small car park for Leckhampton Hill, the route heads first northeast along a lane for 328yds (300m) then south, following a bridleway downhill past Salterley Grange. It arrives at a bend in a minor road to turn right towards National Star College, which is a training centre for young people with disabilities.

The route crosses the B4070, following a lane past Ullenwood Court Business Centre. At the top of Shurdington Hill the route turns left on to a footpath, following the ridge with fine views over unspoilt ground to the west, looking as far as the mountains of South Wales and passing Shurdington Long Barrow to the left.

The path soon enters Short Wood, with mature beech trees on either side, keeping to the side of the ridge before emerging on open ground at Crickley Hill. From the summit of Crickley Hill the route heads downhill, entering more beech woods and emerging at the road by the Air Balloon roundabout.

This is the busy intersection of the A436 and A417, and can be something of a nightmare for the walker, crossing the road with extreme care between the near-incessant traffic. The route continues on pavement up by the side of the A417, past the Air Balloon public house. Thankfully it soon bears off right, just past a bus stop and telephone box, on a hillside path below Barrow Wake, with the fine views over to Crickley Hill marred by the din of traffic roaring up the hill.

The route follows the contours just below the hilltop, entering more beech woods. From here the route leads downhill through beech woods to Birdlip Hill, arriving at the Birdlip to Brockworth road. Here, you can turn left for the short distance to the village of Birdlip to get refreshments at The Royal George public house or public transport to Cheltenham.

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

Car Park at Leckhampton Hill or roadside in Birdlip

Crickley Hill Country Park

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