Besides cute towns and villages, we had one other thing we wanted to see while we were in the Cotswolds, and that was the English countryside. Before we moved to London, I’d had dreams of us spending our weekends out in the countryside in remote, cozy cottages à la Pretty Much Every Hollywood Movie Based In England Ever, but the reality is we never actually did that. Besides a quick glimpse while we were in Bath and one holiday in Cornwall (which is really more coastal than countryside), we didn’t even see the English countryside until we were in the Cotswolds. Why it took us so long to see something that was so high on our to-see list, I don’t know. Too many places, too little time, I guess. All I know is, I’m really glad we managed at least one countryside visit before our time in the UK was up.
In the Cotswolds, one of the best ways for visitors to see the countryside is to get out and hike along the Cotswold Way trail. This is a lengthy trail, winding though 102 miles of the English countryside from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. We walked the beginning of the Cotswold Way on our first day in Chipping Campden, but the portion of the trail we enjoyed the most was the 1.5-mile walk from Broadway Tower to the town of Broadway.
BROADWAY TOWER WALK
If we had had more time, I would have loved to have walked all the way from Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower and then on to Broadway, which is something like 6 miles in length, but since we didn’t have anyone to pick us up at the end (and I really didn’t feel like walking 12 miles round-trip), we drove to Broadway Tower and began our walk from there. (There are parking lots at Broadway Tower, but there is a fee to use them. I suggest seeing if there are any free spaces on the road that runs alongside the tower first!)
Broadway Tower sits at the top of Broadway Hill, the second highest point in the Cotswolds. If you want a little stair work-out before hiking to Broadway, you can go up inside Broadway Tower and check out the view from the top. On a clear day, you can supposedly see all the way to South Wales from up here, but even if you don’t climb the tower, the views from the top of Broadway Hill are pretty outstanding, too. We skipped climbing Broadway Tower in favor of getting an earlier start on our walk. After experiencing quite a bit of rain so far on our trip, we finally had some sunny skies, but we didn’t know how long they would last and didn’t want to risk trekking back up the hill to our car in pouring rain!
The walk from Broadway Tower to Broadway is incredibly easy. The entire trail is downhill and the public footpath is well-marked, so getting lost is impossible. There is so much amazing scenery to look at and photograph on this portion of the trail – farms, rolling hills, barns, and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. Although, getting them to cooperate for a photo is probably asking too much. We came upon a group grazing pretty close to the path, so I got my camera out and managed to get only one shot before they all began to scatter. These sheep were like every dog I’ve ever owned. They were perfectly content to stare right back at us while we were standing there looking at them, but the second we got our cameras out, they were all ‘Look away! Look away!’ So you’re looking at my best ‘sheep in the countryside’ shots right here.
Because the path was downhill, we made it to Broadway in what felt like no time, even with stopping to take pictures pretty often. The way back up was a totally different story. I hadn’t realized just how steep the hill we were climbing down was until we were walking back up it. I consider myself to be a reasonably fit person, and I still had to stop a few times to catch my breath on our way back up. It didn’t help that we’d spent a little more time in Broadway than we’d expected to and so were rushing to get back to the car and on to our next destination, but still, I think even if we hadn’t been in a hurry, walking 1.5 miles uphill would never be easy! (This is when you pretend all the stops you keep needing to make are to take pictures, not because you are finding out the hard way that you are indeed not in as good a shape as you thought you were.)
THE TOWN OF BROADWAY
Known as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’, the town of Broadway is almost too perfect, like a real-life Mayberry or Pleasantville. The gardens and trees are perfectly clipped and manicured, the streets are immaculately clean, and every single shop and building on the High Street looks like it was made to match the one next to it. Don’t get me wrong, Broadway is beautiful and elegant, but I like a little crumbling stone or a mismatched cottage here and there and those just do not exist on Broadway’s High Street. Luckily for me, I found a little more character by walking just a little ways away from the historic town center.
After we stopped in a couple of the shops on the High Street to buy postcards and brandy snaps, which were like an English version of the sort of treats you’d find at a Cracker Barrel in the States, we walked to St Michael & All Angels Church and then made our way to the Shakespeare Cottages. Pictured last above, these were my favorite cottages in Broadway, although the alarm system boxes on the outside of the windows sort of ruin the whole old-world charm thing a little. :)
Broadway is a popular place for visitors to stay when they’re coming to the Cotswolds. There are good choices for hotels and restaurants and pubs, and a couple museums offer something to do besides just eating and shopping. Plus, it’s really well-situated for exploring the rest of the northern and central Cotswolds. But whether you make Broadway your Cotswolds homebase or not, I still highly recommend at least stopping by, if only to make the trek up to Broadway Tower and see the gorgeous English countryside from the top of the hill. I would love to come back sometime and walk the entire Cotswold Way over the course of a week, but if I never get to do that, I’m glad I at least got to walk this one small, but unforgettable piece of it!
For more great places to see in the Cotswolds, check out 7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds.
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