Length: 77 miles
GPX file: Download
Cycle as far as you like, then jump on the train home. That’s the idea behind the Cotswold Line Cycle Route, a beautiful ride following the scenic Cotswold Line railway from Oxford to Worcester.
From the playground of the Chipping Norton set, through Moreton-in-Marsh and pretty Chipping Campden, to the broad Vale of Evesham, it’s a tour of fine Cotswold scenery without the extreme hills found further south. At 77 miles, it’s well suited to a weekend break; but with a railway station every 10 miles, you can also choose to tackle the route one section at a time.
Any bike will be fine. There are two short grassy sections at Charlbury and Adlestrop, and two bumpy (car-free) lanes at Charlbury and Hidcote Boyce, where road bike riders might choose to follow the parallel (busier) road instead.
Two days is enough time, but consider taking three and enjoying more of the villages and towns en route. Experienced cyclists could do the route in a single day.
The Cotswold Line runs from Oxford to Worcester. There’s a train every hour: almost all start at London Paddington, and some continue to the Malverns and Hereford. So it’s an ideal escape from London for the weekend – or from Birmingham, which has regular trains to both Oxford and Worcester.
Most Cotswold Line trains have six bike spaces: a few are 2/3-carriage stoppers where you simply stash your bike in the vestibules. The guards are invariably friendly, but you can help them by waiting at the right place on the platform. On the eight-coach High Speed Trains, all of them are at the country (western) end, and you load your own bikes. On the five-carriage Adelante trains, there are three spaces at each end, and the guard or driver opens the door; we’d suggest standing at the front end, so the driver can see you. The platforms are often shorter than the trains; let the guard know where you’re getting off.
Avoid the rush hour on weekdays, when the trains are very busy and most bike spaces are taken up by commuters. At other times, reserving a bike space is optional but worthwhile on sunny summer weekends.
Very. The hills are challenging but humane, there are plenty of cafés and pubs for a rest, and you can always take the train if it all gets too much. A three-day break is the ideal first-time tour.
Most of the route was opened by Prime Minister David Cameron in April 2014. There are shiny new signposts all the way from Hanborough to Honeybourne, and again from Evesham to Worcester. That leaves two unsignposted sections – Oxford to Hanborough, and Honeybourne to Evesham – so you’ll need to take a map if you’re going that way.
From Oxford to Hanborough, the final route needs a new cycle path to be built near Bladon. For now, we suggest you follow the cycle path beside the A40 road to Eynsham, then head north to join the main route. Or, of course, you could just get the train to Hanborough.
(Note that, as we write in late April 2014, the last few signs between Moreton and Honeybourne haven’t gone up yet: they’ll be installed in the next few days.)
The route can be tackled in either direction. The climb onto the Cotswold escarpment (at Mickleton) is harder if you’re travelling from Worcester to Oxford, but we’ve seen 10-year olds manage it.