Discover some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds on this 5.4-mile/8.6km Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters walk, a circular route which takes you along the banks of the Rivers Windrush and Eye, past historic churches, stone cottages, mills and manor houses.
The route starts in the town of Bourton-on-the-Water, nicknamed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ for its pretty setting on the River Windrush. It’s one of the Cotswolds’ most popular spots, and home to attractions like the Model Village, Cotswold Motoring Museum and Birdland.
Leaving the busy streets of Bourton behind, this Cotswold walk heads west along the River Windrush before cutting across peaceful countryside to Upper Slaughter. From there you follow the River Eye to Lower Slaughter and on across fields back towards Bourton.
The Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters walk takes around two–three hours. It includes sections of the Wardens Way and Windrush Way long-distance walks, following pathways and quiet county roads, with a couple of good places to eat and drink along the way.
Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters walk details and map
- Distance: 5.4 miles/8.6km.
- Time: 2–3 hours.
- Elevation: 384 feet elevation gain.
- Difficulty: Easy.
- Paths: Mainly dirt and grass paths, some quiet country roads and a short section along a busier road where you need to walk along the verge.
- Accessibility: One stile and a short uphill climb.
- Toilets: Public toilets at the Church Rooms in Bourton-on-the-Water near the start of the walk (on the corner of the High Street and Rectory Lane, GL54 2AX) which charge 30p. There are no public toilets along the route.
- Facilities: There are a few places to stop for a drink or lunch along the way – the Lords of the Manor Hotel in Upper Slaughter and the Slaughters Country Inn and Old Mill café in Lower Slaughter – plus plenty of shops, cafés and pubs in Bourton.
Click on the map above to be taken to Wikiloc, a free app where you can download a map and GPS directions for the Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters walk.
The starting point is Bourton-on-the-Water’s war memorial, on the corner of the High Street and Sherbourne Street near the motor museum. If you’re travelling by car, there’s paid parking at Bourton Vale Car Park (GL54 2LU), a couple of minutes away – £5 for three hours. Beware Bourton gets hugely busy in summer though so it’s a good idea to get there early.
If you’re travelling by public transport, you can reach Bourton on the 801 bus from Cheltenham and Northleach in one direction and Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh in the other, or the 802 bus from Kingham. The nearest train station is in Moreton-in-Marsh, 20 minutes away.
Bourton-on-the-Water to the Slaughters walk route
Stage 1: Bourton-on-the-Water to Upper Slaughter
Start your walk at the Bourton-on-the-Water war memorial and follow Sherbourne Street to the south, crossing over the river and passing the Bakery on the Water (a good spot to stop and pick up supplies if you’re planning a picnic) and the Duke of Wellington pub.
Just after you pass Hill View Cottage, follow the signs to the Windrush Way on your right which leads down a narrow passageway before running along the banks of the River Windrush. You then cross over the river on a little stone bridge in front of a beautiful old mill house.
When the path meets Lansdown Road, follow the Windrush Way sign to your left. At the end of the road, cross over the A429 – it’s a really busy road so be careful. This was originally part of the Fosse Way, the Roman Road which connected Exeter to Lincoln.
Once you’ve crossed the road, follow the path straight ahead (signposted Windrush Way) with the river on one side and fields on the other. After around 900 metres, the path splits in two – take the right path marked Gloucestershire Way (you’ll see a shed painted with safari animals to your left).
Follow the path as it runs through the trees then across fields – ignore the footpath which goes off to the right and carry on along the main path until it meets the road. Turn left and follow the road for 300 metres (there’s no pavement so you’ll need to walk on the verge but it’s not too busy).
Just before you get to a stone farmhouse, turn to the right onto the small road signposted Upper Slaughter/Lower Slaughter. Follow this road for 400 metres – you’ll see Upper Slaughter in front of you but take the unpaved track off to the left.
After going through the wooden gate at the end of the path, go through the metal gate immediately to the right which takes you downhill towards Upper Slaughter (which gets its name from an Old English word for muddy place rather than anything sinister!). When you reach the road, follow it to the right to the village square, signposted Upper Slaughter/Lower Swell.
Look out for the Cotswold stone buildings in the square, which were reconstructed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1906 – which was the last time anything new was built in Upper Slaughter. Follow the path on the left into St Peter’s churchyard and take a look inside this 12th-century church with its medieval stonework, brass plaques and stained-glass windows.
Then carry on along the side of the church and you’ll come out on a hillside above the ford, where cars can drive through the River Eye. There’s a bench overlooking the river which is a good spot for a picnic. And if it’s a hot day you can dip your feet in the river to cool off.
Retrace your steps back to the square, where you’ll also find the Lords of the Manor Hotel. This 17th-century building is now a luxurious hotel and restaurant, with a fine-dining restaurant and less formal dining room. You can also get drinks and bar snacks on the garden terrace.
Stage 2: Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter
Carry on along the road past the Lords of the Manor and you’ll see a footpath to your right signposted the Wardens Way. Follow this path which runs along the edge of the hotel grounds, across a bridge and over fields towards Lower Slaughter – this mile-long walk is really popular so you’ll see a lot more people here than you do along the rest of the route.
If you look to your right you get a good view of Upper Slaughter’s Elizabethan Manor House (which is a private residence) and the gardens of the Lords of the Manor Hotel.
After around 600 metres the path goes through a gate and then runs along the edge of the River Eye. At the end of the path you’ll arrive in Lower Slaughter. Turn right, following the signpost for the Wardens Way, and you’ll see the Old Mill. This 18th-century watermill was used to grind flour until 1958 and is now a museum with a gift shop and café (don’t miss their ice cream).
Follow the river through the village, past stone cottages and along Copsehill Road, which was once voted the most romantic street in Britain. You can also visit St Mary’s Church or stop off at the Slaughters Country Inn, a cosy traditional pub with a big riverside beer garden.
Stage 3: Lower Slaughter to Bourton-on-the-Water
Follow the river out of Lower Slaughter, taking the path which curves to the right and is signposted Bourton-on-the-Water. Continue along the same path after the river turns off to the left until you reach a gate. Then take the right-hand path which is signposted the Monarch’s Way (rather than the one which goes straight on and is signposted to Bourton).
The path runs along the edge of a field and up a hill where it meets a small road. Turn to the left and walk along the road for around 200 metres, then follow the sign for the Monarch’s Way, which takes you through one field and over a stile and a little bridge into the next field.
When you reach the A429, cross over it again then stay on the Monarch’s Way, which carries on straight ahead of you. The Monarch’s Way runs across edge of the Cotswold School playing fields and then crosses over an embankment and carries on past secondary and primary schools.
Once you reach Old Library Mews, turn right following a public footpath sign which leads along the side of St Lawrence’s Church to the High Street. Then turn left and walk along the High Street back to the war memorial – or if you fancy a drink, the Old Manse pub is just opposite.