When visiting the Cotswolds, one of the difficult decisions is selecting what villages to visit and what to leave out. A self-guided cycling tour from Bourton-on-the Water is a must to take in not one but three of some of the most picturesque villages of the region.
Bourton-on-the-Water, also known as the Venice of the Cotswolds is absolutely lovely, with its bridges over the River Windrush that flows through the village. It’s easy to see why throngs of tourists descend upon it daily.
We hired bicycles from Hartwells (the village ironmonger since 1805) easily located on the High Street. Eleven pounds for 3 hours and 16 for a full day. Helmets were included as well as a map for a self-guided tour.
Before we headed out, we found time for morning tea at the family-run Bakery on the Water. The bakery was crowded, business brisk. However, we found the selection of breads and pastries ordered average. Nevertheless, our stomachs full, it was time to set off.
The wonderful thing about the bike tour is that it would bring us to 2 other famous photogenic villages with old stone cottages and low-slung bridges –Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter set along the tiny River Eye. With the exception of the initial leg along a main road, the ride takes one along country back lanes and minor roads. Being September, the roads were quieter than they would be in the peak season. The bike ride is categorized moderate in difficulty. There were some uphill stretches that required extra pedal/muscle-power. Slightly challenging but manageable for those who are moderately fit. For those not-so-fit, don’t let this deter you – disembark the bike and walk through the steeper stretches, catching a breather. Enjoyment of the scenic late summer countryside is no less.
Along the way we would stop at 17th century Lords of the Manor —a converted hotel— for a rest and drink before returning back to Bourton-on-the-Water. At a few junctures along the route it was a bit fiddly and not entirely clear which way to go from the provided map, so we had to supplement navigation with GPS. Hills and navigation glitches aside, the ride between the charming three villages was a memorable highlight of the Cotswolds.