The Macmillan Way is a 290-mile long-distance footpath that runs coast-to-coast from Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. It is called the Macmillan Way because all fund raised are donated to Macmillan Cancer Support. The fully waymarked Macmillan Way follows existing footpaths, bridleways, byways, and, when these are unavoidable, small stretches of minor roads. We offer the southern half of the Macmillan Way as part of our self-guided walking holidays itinerary, starting from Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds and running down through Wiltshire and Somerset to reach the south coast at Abbotsbury in Dorset. In addition to the full Macmillan Way, there is now also the Macmillan Way West - a 102 mile long fully waymarked path that leaves the main route at Castle Cary in Somerset and heads across the Somerset Levels, the Quantocks and Exmoor to Barnstaple on the North Devon coast.
Our journey begins at the attractive Cotswold market town of Stow-on-the-Wold before initially travelling south along the Fosse Way, a Roman Road that links Lincoln with Exeter. After leaving the Fosse Way the route crosses the River Dickler near Hyde Mill and crosses farmland to reach the village of Lower Slaughter. After passing through the village, the path continues across farmland to join up with the Windrush Way where it crosses the River Windrush. A worthwhile diversion (and a possible lunch stop) is a visit to Bourton-on-the-Water, commonly known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds", which is approximately 1 mile off route. From the River Windrush, the route traverses some classic "Cotswold Country" with wide open views to reach the village of Cold Aston in 2 miles.
Cold Aston has had several names over the years and in the Domesday Book, it appears as Estone (East farm). The route leaves the village and follows Bangup Lane to reach the hamlet of Turkdean. The church is worth a visit with its Norman chancel arch and medieval stone pulpit. Travelling south from Turkdean, the route crosses the A40 to the village of Hampnett, following the Diamond Way. Hampnett is the source of the River Leach, which flows east from here to join the Thames near Lechlade. The Macmillan Way continues south, but another interesting diversion is south east along the River Leach to Northleach (approx 1 mile), which has a fine church and mechanical music meseum. The main route leaves Hampnett and crosses fields to the attractive hamlet of Yanworth, which forms part of the Stowell Park Estate.
From Yanworth, the route soon enters Chedworth Woods to arrive at Chedworth Roman Villa, which dates from between AD 180 and AD 350. The villa is owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors and also has a tea room if you are in need of refreshment! The route now travels south and skirts the village of Chedworth, before reaching Rendcomb, where you pass by Rendcomb College and cross the River Churn before. At Rendcomb there is the option to leave the main route on a diversion to visit Cirencester (approximately 5 miles off the main route), which stands on the site of Corinium Dobunnorum and was, for a time, Roman Britain's second largest city. The Cirencester diversion is not wellmarked, but is described in detail in the guide and, in our opinion, the detour is well worthwhile. After your visit, you may re-trace your steps or alternatively rejoin the main route at the Tunnel House Inn. The main route continues through Woodmancote (not to be confused with a village of the same name on the Cotswold Way) en-route to Duntisbourne Rouse.
The small village church is well worth a visit as part of it dates from Saxon times. The route crosses farmland to reach Pinbury Park and on to the village of Sapperton. From Sapperton it follows the route of the disused Sapperton Canal Tunnel below. Leaving the tunnel route at the Tunnel House Inn, the route passes the site of a roman settlement and skirts the village of Tarlton to reach the remains of Abbey Barn near Rodmarton. It is now on to first Cherington, passing Cherington Pond and the hamlet of Nag's Head and then the larger settlement of Avening.
Avening with a population of 1,000 is the largest village in the South Cotswolds and is a good place to stock up for the next stage of the route which passes Chavenage House and Cromwell's Bath as it passes to the west of Tetbury. Although approximately 1.5 miles off the main route, Tetbury is worth a detour to visit its iconic market house. The main route continues south close to Beverston Castle (unfortunately not open to the pubic), before continuing on to join up with the Monarch's Way just before Westonbirt Arboretum. The arboretum is internationally renowned for its collection of 16,000 trees with 2,500 different species. The route then passes through Silk Wood and continues along Wood Lane to Sherston.
Sherston is an historic Wilshire village, which was first mentioned when Ethelred, Earldorman held a "Gumot" at Gloucester in 896 AD. It was a borough by the 15th century and the variety of beautiful stone houses demonstrate its past wealth. After leaving Sherston the route continues on to Luckington, passing Luckington Court, which most famously featured as Longborn, home of the Bennett sisters in the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. After leaving Luckington, the route crosses the main Swindon to Bristol railway line, before passing through Littleton Drew and then crossing over the M4 motorway. The route passes close to Lugbury Long Barrow on the left and then on to Castle Combe.
In addition to its motor racing circuit, Castle Combe has a number of attractions and has been described as "the prettiest village in England". The village has played host to many filming activities, the most famous of these being 'Doctor Doolittle' filmed in and around the village in 1966. More recently the village has had a major role in 'War Horse', 'Stardust' and 'The Wolf Man'. The route now follows By Brook on to the villages of Ford and Slaughterford to eventually emerge in Box.
The earliest settlement dates from well before the arrival of the Romans during the 1st Century AD. They stayed until the 5th to 7th centuries. Whilst here, they built a magnificent villa complex around the abundant fresh water springs. Today, much of Box Village and the surrounding area is a Conservation Area and falls within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From Box, the route travels south through the hamlet of Henley and soon crosses the route of a Roman Road before first reaching South Wraxall Manor and then the village of the same name. This is quickly followed by Lower Wraxall before skirting Cumberwell Park Golf Club on the journey to Bradford-on-Avon.
Bradford-on-Avon has many fine examples of architecture from the Saxon, Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Industrial Revolution periods. It is well worth time to explore this historic town with the steep streets above the river displaying splendid examples of 17th and 18th century architecture. The route leaves the town along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Avoncliff and then passing through Westwood to Iford Manor and bridge. The route now follows the River Frome to Farleigh Hungerford, Tellisford and Rode.
Rode was the scene of one of the most infamous murders of the 19th century when Constance Kent was arrested by order of the town magistrates for the murder of her 3-year-old half-brother at Road Hill House (now Langham House) in 1860. Although released at her committal hearing, Kent was later to confess, was charged and received the mandatory death sentence. This was commuted to life imprisonment, of which she served twenty years. After leaving Rode, the route passes through Beckington and Lullington to Buckland Dinham and Great Elm. Here the route crosses Mells Stream and follows Fordbury Bottom to the hamlet of Whatley, close to the site of a roman villa. The route now follows Nunney Combe to Nunney.
Nunney is the site of the striking and picturesque moated castle, built in the 1370s by Sir John de la Mere, a local knight who was beginning to enjoy royal favour. Extensively modernised in the late 16th century, the castle was held for the King during the Civil War, but quickly fell to Parliamentarian cannon in 1645. Not until Christmas Day 1910, however, did the gun-damaged portion of the wall finally collapse. South of Nunney, the route crosses the A361 and continues to the quaintly named village of Trudoxhill. The route now travels almost due south for approximately 3 miles to enter the woods of Witham Park. This woodland stretch lasts for a total of 5 miles, including Trout Pond Wood, West End Wood, Kings Wood, Beaumonts Wood and Blackslough Wood. This woodland borders Stourhead, a majestic Palladian mansion home owned by the National Trust, approximately 2 miles off route. The route does however pass close to Alfred's Tower, which is on the Stourhead Estate before entering Beaumont's Wood. On leaving the woodland, the route joins with the Leland Trail and travels due West to Redlynch and its much larger neighbour Bruton.
Bruton is a small ancient town that on first impression time has forgotten. Bruton has Saxon origins and Celtic, Roman and Dark Ages sites in the surrounding heights of land. The first church was built in about 690 and the town has housed an abbey and a royal mint. The Domesday Book notes a variety of farming and, today, tractors and hay wagons regularly travel the High Street. It is home to over 3,000 residents and still offers comfort and refreshment to the weary traveller. On leaving Bruton, the route continues along the Leland Trail to first Higher Ansford and then Castle Cary. The old part of Castle Cary, which is still the town centre and contains buildings like the Market House, the Round House and the old George Inn, runs along the foot of steep, grassy Lodge Hill, below where the castle used to stand. The route climbs Lodge Hill still following the Leland Trail (and now also the Monarch's Way) to North Cadbury. South of the village, the route passes North Cadbury Court, before crossing the busy A303 to South Cadbury. A short detour here for motoring fans is the Haynes International Motor Museum at Sparkford (approximately 1.5 miles off route).
At South Cadbury is Cadbury Castle a hill fort where evidence from excavations is of a Neolithic occupation before 3000 BC. This was followed by bronze age and unfortified iron age occupations. The route now leaves the Leland Trail and continues south over Parrock Hill and then along Corton Ridge, before descending to Stafford's Green and Sandford Orcas. The Manor at Sandford Orcas is a lovely example of the small manor houses that once studded England in Tudor times. It was built on the foundations of a mediaeval house in the 1550s and has changed little with the centuries, having been owned by only three families since the 1380s. Continuing ever southwards, the route climbs Bowden Hill and follows first Sandford Orcas Road and then Quarr Lane to reach the town of Sherborne.
Sherborne is described as one of the most beautiful towns in England with its abundance of medieval buildings, superb Abbey, world famous Schools, picturesque Almshouse and two Castles. The route has now crossed into Dorset, the final county before the south coast, and continues south crossing the River Yeo and up Sherborne Hill to Lillington, Knighton and Yetminster. From Yetminster the route follows country lanes and tracks before crossing the A37, which follows the route of a roman road, at Drive End and on into Melbury Osmond. South of Melbury Osmond, the route passes Melbury House at Melbury Sampford before reaching Evershot.
Evershot is the second highest village in Dorset, lying 175m above sea-level. It is the source of the River Frome, which rises from a spring at St John's Well near the church and meanders for 35 miles across Dorset to the sea at Poole. Heading south, after 1.75 miles is Chantmarle, a large and beautiful stone Grade I listed manor house dating from the early 17th century. At the entrance are two huge 20th century imitation cottages which serve as lodges. After crossing the railway line, the route arrives at Sandhills and Cattistock, before re-crossing the railway at Chilfrome and joins with the Wessex Ridgeway to reach Maiden Newton.
Maiden Newton was listed in the Doomsday Book (1086) as Neweton and has had various names at various times through history, as is the case with many villages. The parish church dates from Saxon times and displays architectural styles from the Saxon (600-1070), Norman (1070-1200), Early English-Gothic (1200-1300), Decorated (1300-1360) and Perpendicular (1360-1550) periods. The route now travels south once more to Cruxton Manor, a grade II listed manor house and continues over the downland to Compton Valence and Kingston Russell. After crossing the main A35 road, the route skirts to the east of Long Barrow Hill and climbs Whatcombe Down to Kingston Russell House. Along the next stretch of the route there are several features of ancient field systems before it reaches Kingston Russell Stone Circle, a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age circle of 18 fallen stones, on the hilltop overlooking Abbotsbury and the sea. The route now descends through Bramble Coppice and passes signs of more ancient field systems as it reaches Abbotsbury.
Abbotsbury is famous for its swannery that was established by Benedictine Monks who built a monastery at Abbotsbury during the 1040's. The monks farmed the swans to produce food for their lavish Dorset banquets. The monastery was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution. Some of the ruins are still visible around St Nicholas' Church in the village. Abbotsbury is not quite the end of the Macmillan Way as there is still the climb up to St Catherine's Chapel on the hilltop overlooking the village before descending to join the South West Coast Path to reach the official end of the route by crossing the wooden footway over Chesil Beach to arrive at the sea shore!!
The nearest railway stations to the route are listed below.
Moreton-in-the-Marsh: Stow-on-the-Wold (4.5 miles)
Kemble: Cirencester(4 miles)
Chippenham: Castle Combe (5.5 miles)
Bradford-on-Avon: On route
Avoncliff: On route
Bruton: On route
Castle Cary: On route
Sherborne: On route
Yetminster: On route
Chetnole: On route
Maiden Newton: On route
Weymouth: Abbotsbury (10 miles)
Dorchester: Abbotsbury (10 miles)
The National Rail Map provides a map of the rail network for you to plan your journey.
The nearest National Express long distance coach stops are listed below.
Banbury: Stow-on-the-Wold (22 miles)
Cirencester: On route
Chippenham: Castle Combe (5.5 miles)
Box: On route
Trowbridge: Bradford-on-Avon ((3.5 miles)
Frome: Trudoxhill (4 miles)
Shepton Mallet: Bruton (7.5 miles)
Sherborne: On route
Weymouth: Abbotsbury (10 miles)
Dorchester: Abbotsbury (10 miles)
National Express has a route network with over 1,000 UK destinations. The best value tickets will be secured with advance booking.
The local bus services vary depending on the sections of the Macmillan Way you wish to walk and also the time of year. Please contact us and we will be pleased to provide additional information.
Stow-on-the-Wold is easily accessible by car, being on the A429 and less than 50km from both the M5 and M40 motorways.
We may be able to arrange car parking at your first nights accommodation for the duration of your walking holiday. This will be subject to availability and may incur a small extra charge.
The use of public transport to return to your car at the start of your walk may be possible, depending on your itinerary. We will be happy to advise on the public transport options and also to get quotes and book a return journey by taxi for you if you prefer.
The Macmillan Way offers a wide range of options, but here are a couple of our favourites.
Please contact us for a tailored itinerary, if you don't see what you are looking for.
£595.00 per person based on two people sharing a double/twin room.
£670.00 per person based on two people sharing a double/twin room.
Basic navigational and map reading skills are recommended.
The route is waymarked, however it is not as busy as some of our other routes and the route may become overgrown at some points on ocassion. We recommend that walkers carry walking poles to assist with clearing overgrown vegetation if necessary.
March to October.
We specialise in providing walking holidays in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Pembrokeshire and Somerset. We are enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits and have experienced climbing, canoeing, skiing, caving and potholing and windsurfing as well as walking throughout the UK, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
We use our experience to provide self-guided, pack-free walking holidays, tailored to the requirements and abilities of our clients.