Cotswolds: Gloucester to Oxford
A lovely cycling weekend: the Cotswolds offers gorgeous views, quiet country lanes, gently undulating hills and pretty towns and villages. With train stations in Gloucester and Oxford, this route travels from west to east, offering an easily accessible two-day ride on NCN routes, with an overnight stay in Cirencester — capital of the Cotswolds.
The highlight of this ride is the stretch between Northleach and Witney along the picture perfect Windrush Valley, but there are treats from start to finish, from historic Gloucester Docks to the dreaming spires of Oxford.
The Severn & Thames Cycle Map from Sustrans covers day one and part of day two. The Thames Valley Cycle Map, also from Sustrans, covers Burford to Oxford. I also took the OS Cotswolds & Gloucestershire Tour map.
Gloucester to Frampton on Severn
13 miles / 21 km
The ride starts at Gloucester Docks, leaving the city on NCN route 41 alongside the impressive Gloucester and Sharpness Canal – once the broadest and deepest canal in the world. Route 41 veers away from the canal after a few miles and skirts the river Severn before winding down the Severn valley on quiet country lanes.
Frampton on Severn to Minchinhampton
12 miles / 19 km
After Frampton on Severn, you’ll follow NCN route 45 heading east towards the Cotswolds. This stretch includes a seven-mile bike path along the old Midland railway line to Nailsworth. There’s a fairly relentless hill from there up to Minchinhampton. We recovered over tea and cakes at The Kitchen cafe.
Minchinhampton to Cirencester
15 miles / 24 km
Still on NCN route 45, you’re now well into the Cotswolds – it’s all gently undulating hills, quiet country lanes and pretty villages. Look out for the aircraft scrapyard between Rodmarton and Kemble. Cirencester, capital of the Cotswolds, is a lovely market town. We stayed at The Old Brewhouse and ate at The Bear (both recommended).
Cirencester to Northleach
16 miles / 26 km
Leave Cirencester in a northerly direction on NCN Route 48 and you’ll soon be back on quiet country lanes and enjoying the Cotswold views. There’s a very good café and wine bar in Northleach, The Ox House, offering good coffee and pastries or fine wines and top-notch food – depending what you are in the mood for.
Northleach to Burford
9 miles / 15 km
If you only have time for a short ride in the Cotswolds then this is the bit to do. Peaceful and incredibly picturesque, this is Windrush Valley on NCN route 57. We stopped by the river for a picnic and visited St Mary Magdalene church in the Sherborne estate. Burford is full of Cotswold charm as well as plenty of pubs and cafes.
Burford to Oxford
22 miles / 36 km
NCN route 57 continues alongside the River Windrush through Asthall and Minster Lovell. But all good things come to an end. At Witney head for the centre and follow the B4022 to join the cycle path alongside the A40. I’m not going to lie, it’s not the prettiest route but it gets you to the edge of Oxford on a bike path where you then pick up NCN route 5 to get to those dreaming spires.