In July, my husband and I went on a 7 night, 6-day inn-to-inn self-guided walking tour through the northern Cotswolds. Our experience was wonderful and totally exceeded our expectations! We used Cotswold Walks to help plan our trip, and they were great. Our walks really gave us the benefits of "slow" travel. We saw so many beautiful views and elements that we just wouldn't have been able to experience otherwise. I should say starting out that this was our first experience with long distance walking. We picked the Cotswolds as a walk for several reasons. First, I had heard the landscape and villages were stunning. Second, the walking paths are less strenuous than some of the other England walks, such as the famous Coast to Coast Walk. Third, there are options, such as taking a cab or public transport if the weather is bad and you don't want to walk. Cotswold Walks booked the en suite accommodations for us in each village and transported our luggage (1 bag limit per person) each day. They also provided us maps and detailed walking directions (such as "look for the field gate near the black barn"), which were really helpful for newbies like us! Here is our trip report (hope this isn't too long):
We traveled from Cincinnati through Dublin to Birmingham, England (the closest airport to the Cotswolds). My daughter and I were touring part of Ireland after our England trip, and she and I would be departing through Dublin. In addition, for some reason, flights through Dublin were half the price of flying into London from our area. Because we knew there can be flight delays, we gave ourselves an extra day to get to Cheltenham (where our walk started from). We decided to stay a night in Birmingham, England's second most populous city, and I'm glad we did. My husband is a frequent traveler and used points to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Birmingham. We left at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and arrived at our hotel in Birmingham (via a short train ride to the Birmingham New Street Station from the airport) at about 1 p.m. on the Monday. So we were a little tired! We took a quick nap and then set out to explore. Our hotel was within walking distance of many sights, such as the Gas Street Basin area, the library and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The Birmingham area has a system of old canals and we took a 1.5 hour canal tour by boat (Away2canal.co.uk). We visited the Birmingham library (England's largest library in an interesting new building built in 2013) and went up to the Shakespeare Room, which had been built in 1882 and housed a rare copy of the first Shakespeare folio from 1623.
In the morning, we went to the Birmingham Museum, prior to catching our train to Cheltenham. The museum was very large and I asked the attendant which exhibits he would most recommend. He told us to make sure to see the Staffordshire Hoard. I am really glad he did, because I might have overlooked it! The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metal work ever found, with over 5 Kg of gold and many elaborate metal pieces from the 7th or 8th century A.D. It was found in 2009 in a field in Staffordshire, and was fascinating. After visiting the museum, we grabbed our luggage and walked back to the train station to catch our train to Cheltenham. (On a humorous side note, there was a teacher's union demonstration in the Victoria Square, and we walked past a large demonstration parade. Their acronym they used for the union was "NUTS", and there were lots of NUTS signs and chants.) We arrived at Cheltenham, dropped our things at the Clematis House, our B&B, and went to explore. One of the places we wanted to visit was the 2015 CAMRA National Pub of the Year in Britain. the Sandford Park Alehouse. We sat in their beer garden and had a cask ale and then sat outside at Talbots for dinner. Ok, sorry this is so long! I will cover our Cotswold walk below, in a reply to this thread.