Best Cotswold rides by Rapha

Lifestyle & Fitness

Best riding destinations

Words by Rapha Ambassador Daniel Morris

To celebrate the recent opening of the Rapha boutique at Bicester Village, we're gearing up to explore the best routes around the picturesque Cotswolds...


Warwick Cotswolds Loop

Length: 100km

One of the best ‘go to’ rides I do on a regular basis is a loop from Warwick out to Chipping Campden and back. It’s a ride that eases you into some of the Cotswolds’ finest, toughest climbs and some pretty historic ‘national hill climb’ territory.
You cross the Gloucestershire border via Ilmington after navigating through the small Warwickshire villages around Stratford Upon Avon, a route that provides the perfect warm-up for Larkstoke Hill in Ilmington. Larkstoke is the kind of hill climb where glancing up the steep road can put off some first timers, but it looks worse than it is. At approx. 2km in length with an average gradient of 7.5% it levels out halfway up, providing respite before ramping up again to the 12.5% maximum gradient that makes this a real test of physical and mental strength. If you haven’t taken in the view on the way up, your senses will thank you for looking around at the top. Welcome to the Cotswolds.

Approximately 8km from the summit of Larkstoke and heading towards Weston Subedge, try either Dover’s Hill or Saintbury Hill. Both of these climbs have featured in the National Hill Climb championships and offer you the perfect opportunity to really earn your coffee and cake in Chipping Campden. Dover’s Hill is shorter at 1.7km, with a slightly steeper gradient. Saintbury is longer at 2km and the perfect climb with a great road surface and scenery. From this point, whichever ascent you took, the road flattens out before descending into Chipping Campden for a well earned brew.




The Lanes Loop

Length: 100km

If you are looking for an easier time in the saddle and a route with more 'rolling hills' than steep gradients, consider starting out from either Stow-on-the-Wold or Bourton-on-the-Water (for parking) and ride south, in an anti-clockwise loop through the Slaughters, the Barringtons, Wychwood, Blenheim, and then up to the Rollrights, which are all linked by long picturesque, unmarked lanes. These lanes can be beautiful breath-taking heat traps in the summer, yet romantic and quintessentially 'Cotswoldsish' in the harsh winter. This loop of lanes provides a great route for a small peloton looking for a fun few social hours in the saddle, or for a solo venture to tick off that magic 100km.  Expect to ride under huge tree canopies and along narrow roads that show off the typical Cotswold stone walls which occasionally give way to those beautiful limestone built houses. Amazing pubs and historic landmarks dot this route, so prepare to stop frequently if you have a social media enthusiast in your group.

There are quite a few village convenience stores where you can fill your jersey pockets, but if you can hold out and make time to stop off at Daylesford Farm Shop, you’ll have a tough decision to make on whether you stick to coffee and cake, or give way to the sumptuous lunch menu. If you go big here and you’ve ridden this right, it’s only 10km back to Stow, which may be all you can handle after your food stop.

The Poor Student route (Oxford – Malmesbury – Chipping Campden – Oxford)

Length: 200km

OK, so not entirely in the Cotwolds, but three quarters of this 200km (125 miles) ride is, so if you are looking for a big day of riding, you'll love this adventure. Alternatively, you could break this into a two day ride, book somewhere to stay north of Cirencester and enjoy an evening in the company of Cotswolds brewers and distillers!  There are so many excellent places to eat in this area, you'll be spoilt for choice.

The route is taken from the ‘Poor Student’ audax, starting and finishing in Oxford. It’s ridden every year in the first weekend of January but if you can ride it in summer, you are in for a real treat. You leave Oxford and head southwest to Malmesbury where you'll instantly notice the Cotswold gradients, blanketed in greenery.  From Malmesbury, you then head north and ride right through the centre of the Cotswolds. The rolling hills get a little steeper as you leave Cirencester, but the scenery helps ease the pain in your muscles. Depending on the time of year, be sure to look out for one of the most amazing sights in the Cotswolds:  Snowshill and its Cotswold Lavender farm. This vast landscape of violet is so uplifting that you'll probably not feel the 160km in your legs, but if the Lavender is not in season, push on into Chipping Campden and refuel at the Campden Coffee Company. 

The 60km back to Oxford is a great ride in itself with some very short peaks to contend with as you meander through Moreton-In-Marsh, Kingham, Shipton-under-Wychwood and Long Hanborough before dropping back into Oxford.

For more detailed information and detailed routes visit the Rapha boutique at Bicester Village.



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