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My favourite bike ride – the Cotswolds
The author of new cycle guide, Escape Routes, picks his favourite ride, from Tetbury to Sherston in the Cotswolds
Author Matt Carroll
The Guardian, Thursday 28 April 2011
'You'll be cruising along quiet country lanes within five minutes' ... Tetbury in the Cotswolds.
Take any road out of Tetbury and you'll be cruising along quiet country lanes within five minutes. But if it's pretty pubs and ale you're after, head past the church and freewheel your way over centuries-old Bath Bridge.
Coasting along with the smell of fresh-cut grass wafting over from the nearby paddock, you duck off left a mile or so later towards Shipton Moyne. Along the way you cross an old humpbacked bridge, the babbling brook below it a tributary of the River Avon.
Shortly after, you're arriving in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it village of Shipton Moyne, where traffic amounts to nothing more than the occasional tractor. It's also home to the strangely named Cat and Custard Pot pub, which is ideally placed for your first refreshment stop. The ale of choice in these parts is Wadworth 6X – brewed just down the road in Trowbridge – and on a sunny day you can sit on the wall outside and watch horses from the nearby stables clip-clop past.
Suitably refreshed, you pootle down the street past Cotswold-stone cottages covered with climbing roses, and on into a narrow lane. Its bordering hedgerows are so high you could be travelling through a leafy tunnel; birds flit about noisily within, occasionally bursting from the bushes with a frantic flutter of wings.
Easton Grey awaits you, a few miles further – one of the many villages around here that time forgot. A downhill stretch now leads you to a cluster of old cottages huddled around a humpbacked bridge. Leaving the village and heading along a lane towards Sherston, you'll see the scenery open out to reveal gorgeous green fields on either side as you pedal towards lunch – just one short ascent between you and a plate of Malmesbury Gold pork sausages and spring-onion mash at the 16th-century Rattlebone Inn. The wonky walls, nooks, and crannies give this place a cosy feel.
Head back out of Sherston into quiet country lanes that thread their way between meadows to the National Arboretum at Westonbirt. In spring it's awash with pink, white, and purple blossoms.
The Hare and Hounds Hotel isn't far now, and it serves the best lemon drizzle cake in the world (fact). Take a seat in the garden and order a large slice to energise yourself for the three miles (including some fun downhills) back to Tetbury, where yet more delicious local food and drink await at the Priory Inn.