Hailes Abbey (And Other Side Trips On The Cotswold Way)
Hiking is usually about the landscape and immersing myself in Nature but hiking the Cotswold Way threw up a couple of surprises. There are 2 ‘side trips’ right on the trail that I never expected to take: Hailes Abbey and Dyrham Park. I visited Hailes Abbey in the middle of the day during a 30-degree heatwave and Dyrham Park before heading into Bath the next day. They both seemed like perfect timing – a chance to take it slow during the heat and to while away a few hours towards the end of the trail. I enjoyed visiting them both and if you’ve got some time, I highly recommend the ‘detour’.
Hailes Abbey was the perfect place for a picnic in the sun. Somehow it doesn’t feel like you’ve left the trail at all. It’s all meadows and paths cut through the long grass. Even the abbey ruins have grass growing on them! (Apparently, this is a way of conserving the stone and protecting it from weather erosion. ‘Soft wall capping’ I think it was called.)
Dyrham Park, owned by the National Trust, is the complete opposite. It’s a big estate full of manicured lawns and flowerbeds, parkland, and of course the 17th-century mansion. A bit of a contrast to life in a one-person tent!
Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe, owned by English Heritage, is literally a step off the Cotswold Way – you get a glimpse of it as you approach. SP 05078 30088
It cost £8.50 on the door, or £6.90 if you book online. For that, you get access to the Abbey ruins and grounds and a wonderful small museum.
Hikers approach Dyrham Park (near Bath) from a short bridleway right on the Cotswold Way. ST 73992 75642
Admission is £13.00 and gives access to the house, garden, parkland, and of course the National Trust cafe and shop.
Other Side Trips – Without Taking A Step Off The Trail
There’s so much to see on the Cotswold Way that doesn’t cost a penny. For example, Belas Knap Long Barrow or the sombre battlefields of Lansdown (1643), which really enrich the experience of a trail like this. It’s not just the landscape, geology, or quintessential villages (not forgetting the incredible architecture of Bath) that keep you engaged: the trail oozes with history. But there are a couple of other places you might like to buy a ticket for that I noticed along the way:
There are spectacular views from the top of the tower – apparently. I don’t doubt it. And if I hadn’t been there at some ungodly hour of the morning I might be able to corroborate it!
Broadway Tower is privately owned, and there’s a cafe, shop and accommodation in the grounds – as well as a nuclear bunker!
Stanway House And Fountain
At 300 feet high you can see Stanway Fountain from miles around. It’s turned on twice a day and it might well be worth visiting the Jacobean Manor and water gardens too. The manor is privately owned, “lived in by the same family since the 16th century”, and has limited opening hours during June, July and August. Check their website for details (link above).
Have you visited any of these historic properties? I’d love to hear what you think if you have. Would you recommend them too?
More From The Cotswold Way
Plan your hike with all my guides to this stunning national trail:
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