There have certainly been some long days during the miles from Chepstow but it should be remembered that this is a walking holiday after all and all holidays should include the opportunity to do some sight-seeing.
Leaving Cold Aston, take the left-hand fork in the road by the pub and continue along it until it starts to bend by a gap into a field. Passing through that gap, the path continues straight along the field boundary whilst the road slowly falls away to the right leaving you increasingly in the open countryside.
Navigation is pretty easy all day today and the terrain is gently rolling so whilst the accent is uphill, it is nothing to trouble you. Chances are you will be on your own for the first half of today, continuing that lovely ‘middle-of-nowhere’ feel which characterised yesterday so enjoy the quiet before you hit busier areas nearer to Stow.
I walked this section on a late-autumn morning and it was one of those days when the light was already being nibbled away before midday with a combination of low cloud, mist and a steady mizzle occasionally turning to light rain.
Today’s path has the potential to be muddy although the summer had been so dry that even in early November the ground held up pretty well for me and there was minimal slipping and sliding.
A light mist added to the autumn feel as I took to the fields outside Cold Aston
Beautiful colours at the bridge near Aston Farm
Navigation was not too difficult on these well-used sections of path
That is a characteristic of the day to be honest, because this cluster of Cotswolds towns and villages are so iconic and such a draw for visitors, pretty much all of the long-distance paths converge in this area making it really easy to find a waymarked route to wherever you fancy going.
An early opportunity for that will be the junction with the Windrush Way after crossing a little stone bridge near Aston Farm. A right turn along the Windrush Way will take you nicely into Bourton-on-the-Water, one of the most-photographed towns in the area and a real magnet for visitors.
Beautiful stone buildings line a long main street, with a stream running alongside criss-crossed by a number a pretty little bridges. There are shops and cafes here too if you fancy tea and cake or some souvenir shopping to break your walking up a little. Either way, you have the time and it is certainly worth the diversion.
You can pick up the Monarch’s Way out of Bourton but instead of following it all the way into Lower Slaughter, it is worth carrying on the road a little to rejoin the Gloucestershire Way/Macmillan Way and walking into Lower Slaughter that way, because the entry into the village is that much nicer.
If Bourton is bustle and liveliness then Lower Slaughter has a much quieter feel to it but its architecture – complete with the obligatory stream with bridges – is every bit as nice. There is the Old Mill to visit and the church is also very lovely.
It was with a real wrench that I left the village, passing the church and then picking my way along the side of the cricket pitch before heading out into countryside again.
Lower Slaughter really is made for taking pictures
Follow the street up to the Old Mill and enjoy your time in Lower Slaughter
The impressive Lower Slaughter Church might be worth a stop
The walking is once again flat and easy and it is after Lower Slaughter that you will start to see a few people taking advantage of local paths. I passed dog walkers and even a group of around 20 day-ramblers coming down from Stow and it was nice to feel that energy again and listen to the happy chatter, there is a buzz about today which is infectious.
From here, the walk into Stow is simple, the Monarch’s Way being the most signposted route, which shares the Gloucestershire Way at this point. Just before Stow you cross an open field and climb some steps up an earth bund which surrounds a racehorse stables, walking along the top before beginning an ascent through a series of gates.
This is the only real climb of the day and whilst it is not too bad, it is a bit of a puff but my efforts were rewarded by a nice welcome by three friendly horses as I crossed a field and then the sight of some Highland Cattle, who looked a long way from home.
A final push through some woodland will bring you to the A429, the main road into the Stow and quite a busy one so watch yourself as you cross it and walk up past the churchyard towards the town.
You can simply walk up to the traffic lights and then turn right into town but a nice diversion is to take the right just before that and then walk along the back of the houses for a short distance. There are a number of narrow alleys, such as Fleece Alley, which intersect with the main street and they give you a feel for the town’s agricultural past, when flocks of sheep would be driven to market along these alleys, their single-file narrowness aiding the counting process!
Stow-on-the-Wold, like Bourton, is a very pretty town and there are all the amenities you could ask for in terms of recharging your batteries before a normal day’s walking tomorrow.
The Porch House claims to be the oldest inn in England and might be worth a pint though I heroically resisted and instead took the opportunity to simply wander around a bit.
But however you spend the day, enjoy it – as I said at the start, it is a long way from Chepstow and you have earned it!
Lots of paths converge on this area, making it easy to divert and visit whatever takes your fancy
You cross the bridge at Hyde Mill before starting your approach to Stow
A distinctive figure spotted near Stow
Narrow Fleece Alley is characteristic of Stow's byways
Stone buildings and a hubbub mark your arrival in Stow-on-the-Wold
The Porch House claims to be England's oldest inn