The walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter in the Cotswolds sometimes referred to as ‘the slaughters’ makes for a moderately easy full day when combined with a walk from Lower or Upper Slaughter to the bucolic village of Bourton-on-the-Water. This walk is part of the 14 mile Warden’s Way between Winchcombe and Bourton-on-the-Water.
You can start the walk in Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter or Bourton-on-the-Water. I opted to start in Lower Slaughter, walk to Upper Slaughter and back, then proceeded on to Bourton-on-the-Water.
I actually started the day in my home base for walking the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden. I used bus transportation and asked the driver to drop me on the side of the road, A429, outside of Lower Slaughter (see bus information at end of article). From there it is about ½ mile walk to the village of Lower Slaughter.
As you enter the village, St. Mary’s Church and cemetery are on your right. I took a few minutes to explore the church and grounds. Continue into Lower Slaughter following the river until you arrive at the Old Mill at the western end of the village. The mill was built in the 19th century. It is now home to a small gift shop and café.
From here you begin the walk to Upper Slaughter. (Lower Slaughter to Upper Slaughter, 1+ mile, 20 – 30 minutes)
Take the footpath that runs along the side of the mill, signposted ‘Wardens Way’. Walk along the riverbank of River Eye and cross three fields. I was there in April during lambing season. The description of lambs frolicking in the fields may be cliché. However, it describes perfectly lambs leaping and playing in the spring mist.
Once you have exited the last field, cross a stone footbridge over the river Eye. Walk to the road then turn right. Re-cross the river and take the first left. Continue forward until you come to another stone footbridge. Cross the footbridge and walk up the hill to the village square of Upper Slaughter. From here you can explore the small town and restored church.
Eyford House in Upper Slaughter was named the nation’s favorite house by a national magazine Country Life in 2011. John Milton stayed here and some say it was his inspiration for Paradise Lost.
I walked back to Lower Slaughter although it is possible to continue on to Bourton-on-the-Water from here. The café at the Old Mill in Lower Slaughter serves a small menu that includes soup which was perfect on this slightly chilly day. There are tables inside plus seating on a patio overlooking the river.
To continue your walk to Bourton-on-the-Water retrace your steps back to St. Mary’s church. On the opposite side of the road, next to the river, you will find signage for the public bridle path heading to Bourton-on-the-Water.
The path will follow on the left side of the river for a few hundred yards. It then continues through flat fields until you reach A429. Cross the highway and walk along the city road into Bourton-on-the-Water.
There is little in the way of signage at this point and you are walking through first residential and then commercial areas. The walk seemed endless to me after walking through the picturesque fields of the Slaughters. However, there is a reward in store once you reach the old village center of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Yes, there are a lot of shops catering to tourists, but look beyond that to the houses and businesses lining both sides of the river, stone foot bridges crossing from one side to the other and local families going about their business. Spring meant ducklings paddling in the river striving to keep up with mama with crowds eating ice cream cones gathering riverside for a glimpse.
Getting there by bus:
Johnson Excelbus travels between Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water. Click on 801 Moreton to Cheltenham or 803 Bourton to Moreton for limited Tuesday and Friday service. Traveling from Moreton to Bourton I asked the driver to drop me on A429 at the road to Lower Slaughter.
Returning I caught the bus in Bourton-on-the-Water. The bus came just in time as the grey, drippy day turned into a downpour only moments before the bus arrived.
Starting from Chipping Campden you can get either the 21 or 22 bus and connect in Moreton-in-Marsh.