Explore the countryside and pretty villages surrounding Stow-on-the-Wold on this 8.6 km walk from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell in the Cotswolds. The walk begins in the historic wool town of Stow-on-the-Wold, famous for its picturesque Market Square and St Edward’s Church.
The route leads west to the tiny Upper Rampart, where you can digress for a bit to visit St. Mary’s Church. It then heads south, following the Dikler River to Lower Swell, where there is a lovely country pub you can stop at before continuing through the Abbotswood estate.
After joining the Fosse Way, once one of Britain’s main Roman roads, the route turns around and passes through the village of Maugersbury before returning to the center of Stowe.
The walk from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell takes about 2–2.5 hours and is rated as moderately difficult, with a gradual climb up the hills. It follows sections of several long-distance hiking trails including Gloucestershire Way, Macmillan Way, Monarchs Way, Heart of England and Donnington Way (a 62-mile route that connects Donnington’s 15 breweries).
Walk details from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell and map
- Distance: 5.3 miles / 8.6 km.
- Time: 2-2.5 hours.
- Height: Altitude increase 440 feet.
- Complexity: Moderate.
- Ways: Grass and dirt paths, a few quiet country roads and private driveways, sidewalks through villages and a short stretch along the busy A429 motorway.
- Availability: Lots of kissing and a few gradual ups and downs.
- map: OL45 Cotswolds*
- toilets: Public toilets at Stow-on-the-Wold near Market Square (GL54 1AB) and at Maugersbury Road car park (GL54 1HH), both of which cost 40p. The Golden Ball pub in Lower Swell also has customer toilets, but there are no public toilets along the route.
- Facilities: Golden Ball in Lower Swell is located next to the walking trail and serves food and drinks. Stow-on-the-Wold is full of shops, cafes and pubs.
Click on the map above to go to Wikiloc, the free app where you can download the map and GPS directions for walking from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell.
The starting point for the walk from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell is Stowe Market Square, located on the corner of Church Street near Scotts of Stow Across the Square.
If you are traveling by car, there is parking available at the Market Square, although it is very busy and limited to two hours. There are more spaces at the free Fossway car park (GL54 1BX) next to Tesco north of town, and at the pay and show car park on Maugersbury Road (GL54 1HH). Both are very close to the walking route – Fossway at the start and Maugersbury Road at the end.
If you’re traveling by public transport, the closest Stow-on-the-Wold train stations are at Kingham and Moreton-in-Marsh. Both are connected to Stowe by bus which takes about 15 minutes using Pulhams 802 from Kingham and Pulhams 801 from Moreton-in-Marsh.
Walking route from Stow-on-the-Wold to Lower Swell
Stage 1: Stow-on-the-Wold to the bottom shaft through the top shaft
Start your walk at Stow-on-the-Wold Market Square and walk north on the High Street, past the post office on the left and the wooden village stocks on the right. The city has had stocks since the 15th century, and they were used to publicly punish delinquent locals whose ankles and wrists were tied in stocks while people threw rotten food at them.
At the end of the High Street you will see a red telephone box and the Stow-on-the-Wold fountain. Follow the road in front of you, marked “Cotswold Farm Park”. You need to cross the busy A429 motorway, but there is an intersection a few meters to your right, which is the safest way to cross.
The road forks immediately – turn left (Tewkesbury Road) at the signs for Upper Swell, Ford, Tewkesbury and Cotswold Farm Park. It’s also part of the Gloucestershire Way, with a walkway along a wide shoulder of grass so you don’t have to walk on the road.
Immediately after you pass the driveway on your left and the gatehouse to Abbotswood Manor, go through the metal gate on your left which is marked with a green Public Footpath/Gloucestershire Way sign. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path that goes straight ahead.
At the end of the field, go through another kissing gate and cross the stone bridge over the Dikler River. Go straight ahead as the path goes uphill along the edge of the field. At the top of the hill you will see a metal kissing gate on your right marked Public Footpath/Heart of England Way.
At this point, you can make a small diversion to the village Upper wave. Go through the gate on the right and follow the path through the field. When the path reaches the road, turn left and go to the village. It’s very small, so there’s not much there, but you can visit the tiny church of St. Mary. Then return to the kissing gate.
Instead of going through the kissing gate, follow the path that takes a sharp left. Stay on this path as it passes through the woods and then opens up passing through several kissing gates which are marked with Heart of England Way and Donnington Way signs.
After going through the field, you will reach the metal kissing gate, go through it to the driveway, just in front of the gate to the Abbotswood estate. The estate spans over 774 acres, with a 10 bedroom estate and gardens designed by Edwin Lutyens, and is worth £32 million!
Turn right and follow the driveway that leads down the slope. Before reaching the main road, go through the wooden kissing gate on the right and follow the path across the field to the church. The path turns left, following a stone wall, then turns onto a walkway.
Go straight, and when the track meets the main road, lower swell You can take a slight detour to the right to visit the (other) St. Mary’s Church. Otherwise turn left and follow the road down to the village. Turn left at the crossroads if you want to stop at Golden Balla traditional stone-built Cotswold inn serving sandwiches, pub food and Donnington ale.
Leg 2: Lower wave to Stow-on-the-Wold via Maugersbury.
Back at the junction, follow the road marked with The Slaughters, Naunton and Cheltenham signs and pass the bus stop. After 250 meters turn left onto Melnichny Lane, marked with the “School” sign. Then, just after you pass a house called Much Hills, follow the rocky path that turns left and is marked with Public Bridleway/Heart of England Way signs.
Proceed straight through the intersection with outbuildings on your left and continue through a pair of gates. At the end of the next field, you will see two metal gates next to each other – go through the right ones (the others are marked private) and cross the small bridge.
Go straight across the field to a group of stone buildings. When you get to them, you’ll see a sign pointing to the left that says “Monarch’s Way”. Follow this path in front of houses and garages, then cross the bridge over the Dikler River.
There are two paths just behind the bridge – one on the left through the white gate and one ahead through the wooden gate. Follow the path straight ahead marked with a sign that says Public Footpath/Stow-on-the-Wold. The path goes past the stables and around the edge of the paddock.
At the end of the paddock, go through the wooden gate and turn left into the driveway. Follow the road as it climbs uphill until it eventually reaches the A429. Turn left and follow the A429 – there is an island to help you cross and then a trail along the right side of the road.
The A429, also known as the Fosse Way, follows the route of an old Roman road built in the first and second centuries AD to connect Exeter and Lincoln.
After 300 meters at the end of the stone wall you will see a path on your right. Pass through the metal gate and follow this small road leading to the village maugersbury along the section of Macmillan road – with a beautiful view of the valley on your right.
When the road comes to a junction, continue straight on the road to Maugersbury. Then, when you get to the next intersection, turn left on the road marked Stow-on-the-Wold 1/2 mile. Follow this road as it goes uphill. Closer to the top of the hill, you will pass The Bell at Stow on your right, and there are public toilets opposite in the Maugersbury Road car park.
At the top of the hill, the road opens onto Stows Park Street. Turn left then cross the road following Digbeth Road as it turns right just past the Porch House Pub until you return to the Market Square. Then, if you want to stop for a drink or ice cream, King’s Arms Pub, Coach House Coffee, and Gelateria Alfonso are located around the square.
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