The Cotswolds Hills in west-central England are famous for quaint villages, thatched-roof houses, and grazing sheep—and I’ve always wanted to visit the area. The town of Winchcombe called me and Ken, and as luck would have it, we ended up visiting in August of 2012 and again in August of 2017 (as part of our ten-day Cotswold Walks village-to-village walking tour). It was a delight on both occasions!

Winchcombe: a historic town in the Cotswolds ©Laurel Kallenbach

Though I love visiting museums and enjoying the arts in big cities, I am, at heart, a village lover. So a day-visit to Winchcombe, a Gloucestershire village with Tudor-era history, was a match made in heaven.

The town has old buildings, beautiful gardens, a picturesque location, plenty of hiking and rambling trails into the gorgeous countryside, and historic Sudeley Castle. The only thing that wasn’t absolutely perfect when we visited in 2012 was the weather—but even rain didn’t dampen our spirits at this lively village, which dates back in the Neolithic period when people settled in this hilly area and built a stone-lined, burial chamber: the Belas Knap long barrow. (Though I’m keen on Neolithic sites, I still haven’t made it to Belas Knap.)

The Happenstance Border Morris Dancers led the procession through the streets of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

As luck would have it, we arrived in Winchcombe on the day of the Country Show, held annually in late August. A troupe of morris dancers wearing feathered bowler hats, tattercoats, and bells on their shins paraded through the streets, followed by septuagenarians driving vintage tractors. We felt like we were part of the party, which includes a flower show, a test of the skill and speed of herding dogs, sheep shearing, and much more.

Morris dancers entertained in the streets of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

We ate lunch at The White Hart Inn, a 16th-century pub with rooms right on Winchcombe’s main thoroughfare. With lots of country pub atmosphere, The White Hart restaurant is called Wine & Sausage, but it offers much more: In fact, it specializes in local produce cooked into simple but flavorful British food. We tried the regional cider and beer, of course!

I ordered the delicious local lamb served with rosemary/garlic sauce and colcannon, while Ken sampled the traditional fish pie with purple sprouting broccoli. We both were now fortified and ready to ramble.

Winchcombe Welcomes Walkers

The Cotswolds has been crowned the Walking Capital of England, and the 102-mile Cotswold Way footpath takes through-hikers from Chipping Campden to the city of Bath.

Ken on the world-famous Cotswold Way footpath. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Winchcombe is one of the jewels of the Cotswold Way, although it has many other trails as well, including the long-distance Winchcombe Way, the Wardens Way, and and the Windrush Way. The circular Gloucestershire Way also passes through Wicnhcombe and finishes at Tewkesbury.

Our plan was to hike for a couple of hours on one of the many trails that intersect in the village of Winchcombe. So after lunch, we set out on the Cotswold Way footpath, despite dark skies and threatening clouds. We had barely left town when it started to drizzle, but doggedly we on we pressed up the hill. When the rain got heavier and was propelled by high winds, we finally gave up and  turned back toward town.

A Visit to Stately Sudeley Castle

The consolation prize for having our hike rained out was ancient Sudeley Castle, the home of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife—and the only spouse who officially became that monarch’s widow. (The queen was born 500 years ago in 1512.)

Sudeley Castle’s tower and garden ©Laurel Kallenbach

Between rains, we wandered through the sculpted yew trees and the herb and rose gardens; we rested beside an elegant fountain; we explored the hollyhock-enhanced ruins of an old tithe barn, used in medieval times to store the produce that farmers brought as their tithe to the church. Cromwell partially destroyed the barn during the English Civil War.

For more than 20 years, Sudeley’s groundskeepers have been gardening organically and creating niche gardens and ponds that support native wildlife, including toads, bee orchids, disease-resistant elms, bumblebees, dragonflies, kingfishers and nuthatches.

Hydrangeas at St. Mary’s Church on the grounds of Sudeley Castle. Queen Katherine Parr is buried in the chapel. ©Laurel Kallenbach

We also visited the 15th-century St Mary’s Church where Queen Katherine lies buried.

Inside the castle, we learned about the inhabitants of this castle, from Katherine Parr to its current occupants, Lord and Lady Ashcombe. We especially appreciated an exhibit about the family’s campaign to protect badgers in the region. (They adopted an orphaned badger in the 1960s and ’70s, and have been advocates of the animals ever since.)

Ken and I absolutely loved Winchcombe, and in the summer of 2017 our dream of hiking the Cotswold Hills came true. Fare thee well, little Cotswolds village—we hope to be back again for a third visit!!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Originally posted: June 2013

Updated August 2021

For more information about walking in and around Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, visit Winchcombe Welcomes Walkers.You can also search for or share walks throughout England, Scotland, and Wales on Visorando. Key information such as distance and elevation are provided, and you can print out the walk or download a GPX file for use with GPS devices. Here’s the link for Cotswold treks

If you’d like a guided walking vacation—or one where you guide yourself but a local company creates the route and arranges reservations at B&Bs in the Cotswolds—I highly recommend Cotswold Walks, which we used for hiking village to village in 2017.

  • Cotswold Walks: Andrew Guppy offers guided and self-guided walks with great itineraries through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside and towns. They pick up your luggage after breakfast and deliver it to your destination, where it will be waiting when you arrive after the day’s hike.

In honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee, flags were flying in the pretty village of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Read more about England’s pretty Cotswold region:

Sudeley Castle is located on the outskirts of Winchcombe. It offers gorgeous gardens and stunning views of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Showing 12 comments
  • Patty Enrado

    Beautiful pictures!

    • Laurel

      Thanks! That means a lot because I know you take fabulous photos yourself!

  • Chelsea St. Pierre

    Did you watch that HBO series The Tudors? If you’re into that part of history, you’d love it!

    • Laurel

      Haven’t seen it, but I did recently read Wolf Hall, also about Henry VII’s court. I’ll add The Tudors to my Netflix queue!

  • Bradley

    What a coincidence–I lived at the Sudeley Castle cottages for two idyllic summers and experienced many of the things you described.

    • Laurel

      Excellent! It would be a dream to live at the castle and just to wake up every day to the lovely Cotswolds—rain or shine! Were you working in England?

  • Andrew Guppy

    Hi Laurel,

    No sign of rain clouds at the moment as the heatwave continues!! The Cotswolds has so much to see throughout the year and do whatever the weather. We rely on word of mouth referrals, mainly from American clients because we specialize in the Cotswolds and service is everything. We are a husband and wife team and having a dog means we have plenty of excuses to get out of the office to do essential research along the trails and sample the food at the pubs along the way!! A good piece of advice for anyone walking in the Cotswolds is a pair of well worn-in boots that have ankle support and good grip as the ground is uneven as we have the wonderful legacy of a footpath system allowing hikers to cross farmers fields and open meadows.

    • Laurel

      Sorry about the heat wave, but I’m glad that England is a bit less soggy this year than last. And you point out that you and your wife hike the paths in the Cotswolds year-round: nothing beats that kind of service and knowledge of the area. That’s why it’s so important to hire tour operators/outfitters with their boots on the ground. Cheers to you for doing that!

  • Jamie Knop

    I love the Cotswolds!

    I’d also like to suggest another resource for your page I think people would find useful for walking in the Cotswolds, Visorando where people can follow walks in and around the Cotswolds. Key information such as distance and elevation are provided as well as instructions people can print out of the walk or download a GPX file for use with GPS devices if wanted (so there is no excuse for getting lost!) You can see the resource here

    Jamie Knop

    • Laurel

      Thanks for the hiking tip! No excuse for getting lost, I suppose.

  • Bea Adventurous

    This is amazing Laurel, I’m from the cotswolds and I really love exploring all of the amazing villages and seeing other peoples travels too!
    It’s a shame you didn’t get the best weather here, but im glad it didn’t ruin your spirits!
    You’ll just have to keep coming back!


    • Laurel Kallenbach

      No worries, Bea! We went village-to-village walking with Cotswolds Walks in 2017, and the weather was gorgeous, especially in Winchcombe. It was lovely to see it in bright sunshine.

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