Cycling the Cotswold Line is a great way for gentle cyclists to explore the distinctive stone walls, historic villages, and rolling landscapes of the Cotswold Hills, Britain’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Dreams and Plans
The first time we tackled loaded panniers, cycle camping, and careful route planning, we decided to ride through the bits of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire we figured would satisfy Susan’s long-held dream to ramble through the Cotswold Hills. It would be Susan's first ever visit to England and the first time I cycled in the country.We'd been imaging ourselves riding through this outstanding English landscape for a long time. We knew that we would need to select our route carefully. We wanted to balance challenges that we'd never faced before, like riding on the left and cycle camping logistics, with our desire to see and experience "the real Cotswolds" - which is to say our romanticized version of the Cotswold villages of the 18th century. And being gentle cyclists, we focused on finding the quiet country lanes we prefer to ride.
The days we spent in the Cotswold Hills were our first self-supported cycle tour.
We chose the Cotswold Line, National Cycle Route Route 442 for the backbone of our route and sketched out side trips to a couple famous tourist hot spots -- Blenheim Palace and Stow-on-the-Wold.
While Stow-on-the-Wold was easilt accessed via county roads and bridal paths. We found ourselves riding on much busier highways to get the Blenheim Palace. After about a half-mile of A Road and five miles of B Road riding, we regretted our decision to visit the Duke of Marlborough's ridiculously overwrought estate. And we needed to understand how the English classify their roads.
A Note on English Road Classification
Each road is given a single letter, which represents the road's category.
- “A” Roads are the recommended routes for long distance traffic. In our limited experience, these roads are filled with large trucks, buses and plenty of cars. Unless there is a separate bike lane we’d do just about anything, including walk our bikes, not to cycle on an “A” road. Unfortunately, getting into some of the villages, for example, Moreton-in-Marsh, we were obliged to ride short distances on an A category road.
- “B” Roads are numbered local routes, which have lower traffic densities than the A roads. This classification has nothing to do with the width or quality of the physical road. B roads can range from divided highways to single track roads.
The Quiet Rides We'd Hoped For
Fortunately for my marriage, the rest of our time in the Cotswolds turned out to be just the experience we'd dreamed of. We stumbled into the quiet village of Adlestrop through the backdoor. Delighted in exploring Upper and Lower Oddington (the Oddingtons?). Learned NCN42 slips into Stow-on-the-Wold along a delightfully tranquil bridle path. And even discovered a Michelin star gastropub across the lane from our accommodation in Lower Oddington. oth NCN 442 and NCN 42 are well marked along the sections we rode.
If you decide to go off the Sustran routes, I suggest you get an Ordinance Survey map of the area.
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Jamie Wyant is a retired American living in Spain. After a multifaceted career ranging from ecosystem science to digital marketing, he moved to Valencia in 2017 with his wife, Susan, and their senior pets. He writes about the joys and tribulations of living overseas. Jamie also manages the technical aspects of GentleCycle.net