The Kemble Round 100-mile route
Here’s the entire route. The map is zoomable to Ordnance Survey 1:50K and 1:25K detail, and beyond.
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The start, parking etc
The route starts and finishes in Kemble near Cirencester – at the bottom right on the route overlay. There are large (and reasonably priced) car parks either side of Kemble railway station, and you might also find some on-street parking, especially in the older part of the village on the south side of the A429.
To locate the start of the route go into the old part of the village on the south side of the A429. The church spire is a useful landmark to aim for. Officially the Round starts at the junction of West Lane and Limes Road, but anywhere on the unclassified road that leads south past the church (and out towards Oaksey) is fine.
Route notes in 10 sections
These descriptions break down the route into 10 roughly equal sections. They are not intended to be detailed enough to navigate from but hopefully give an overview of the changing character of the route and a few ‘heads-ups’ about hazards, highlights and other notable features. The mileage shown is the total accumulated distance at the end of each section.
1: Kemble to Avening (11.7 miles)
This initial out-leg of the Kemble Round starts just to the south of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The riding here is characterised by broad open slopes, where you’ll often be surrounded by lark song and there’s not much cover from the wind.
Leaving Kemble, heading south, at Kemble Wick turn right up a no-through road and access a short off-road loosener at the end, past a stable yard on the right. On the road again, cross the A429, and soon access the un-signposted Stonehill Lane to climb west of Cotswold Airport across fields. In the middle (highest) section it’s best to balance carefully along the centre of the track to avoid green-laners’ ruts. Later, in the Devil’s Churchyard north of Cherington watch for a rough rocky section that you may hit at high speed. Steps Lane across Gatcombe Park is an early highlight of the route – worth taking your time to appreciate the views.
NB. Steps Lane is closed during the Festival of British Eventing held in the first half of August each year, and possibly during a few other events too (Google ‘Gatcombe Park events’). When inaccessible descend on the road directly south into Avening – pretty good in itself.
2 Avening to Kingscote (17.5 miles)
After the pretty West End road out of Avening, when reaching gravel climbing past Brandhouse Farm, bear gently right on a stony track (no signpost) to Shipton’s Grave Lane. The following doubletrack lane is dry in the summer, but prone to large puddles at other times. After a steep drop to the A46 at Barton End cross over to Bartonend Lane – direct to the opposite pavement may be less hassle than contending with the A46 filter lane and fast traffic.
The climb up into Horsley (Wormwood Hill) is spirit-crushingly steep – early granny advised. Turning left off the B4058 immediately look for a doubletrack drive contouring right into the peaceful Horsley Wood valley. Where you exit the wood to open slopes, in an idyllic coombe, climb slightly left past a tree on the skyline. Further on, after a section of tarmac drive, be ready for a left-right dogleg (signposted) that diverts around Hill Barn farmyard along a field edge.
3 Kingscote to Stinchcombe (29.3 miles)
A superb section that explores the far south-west Cotswold edge, and has some memorable riding and views.
From the Hunters Hall pub, quiet roads and a steep valley crossing lead to the windswept, disused relay station of Goose Green. Soon after watch for a doubletrack bridleway on the left, running parallel with the road to begin with. A signpost is there but it’s easy to miss, and if you find yourself descending steeply down Blackquarries Hill you’ve gone too far. At a kink in the track go through a farm gate on the right to descend Tor Hill. The view is sensational here, but be mindful of deep, hidden ruts (and visible cows) on the steep grass slopes at the top, before the meadows and a sunken lane lower down.
The High Street in Wotton-under-Edge is a good place to stop for supplies, if you need any. Just out of the town there’s a 20% road climb (Old London Road) with nice views through the trees to the right. At the top the Cotswold Way bridleway through Westridge Woods is excellent but often busy with walkers at weekends. Climb on to Nibley Knoll, with the Tyndale Monument ahead, and enjoy breathtaking views to Wales and the Severn Bridges. Cut back east to pick up an obvious doubletrack that descends the steep-sided Wood Lane track (rough, and also possibly busy, so don’t go mad) to North Nibley.
TAKE CARE on the bridleway descent from the west side of the North Nibley – a little loose in places but more importantly the junction with the fast B4060 at the bottom is on a blind bend, so use your ears. At Stancombe Farm an eroded public path rises east, easy enough to begin, before pitching up fiercely for 300m – a push for most riders. At the top, at the edge of woods, cut back hard right (signposted) to access a short section of driveway bridleway towards Stinchcombe Hill golf course clubhouse. After a short road section across the open common (more superb views at the car park) bear slightly left on a grass path across a fairway (bridleway signposted) ignoring the gravel track continuation to the right. TAKE CARE with line choice on the quite exciting descent that follows – it’s steep, rough, and there are loose stones and drainage ruts snaking all the way down.
4 Stinchcombe to Ryeford (38.3 miles)
Some road miles now into the remarkable landscape of Cam Peak, Long Down and Downham Hill. At the top of the picturesque Knapp Lane go straight on into Coaley Woods and climb continuously up to the left – avoid any temptation to contour or switch back right. Bridleway signposts are there but there is room for confusion. The final dirt climb to the B4066 west of Nympsfield is very steep and is probably another push, if only to protect the legs.
After a short section of main road to the north, a brief detour (included in the GPS route) to the Coaley Peak picnic site is recommended for amazing views, possible hang-glider launch spectating and, more importantly, an ice-cream van. Back on the B4066, take a bridleway entrance to Stanley Wood on the left, which comes up quickly after the road bends to the right (north-east). There are scrappy paths in several places – you’re looking for one with a standard green bridleway signpost.
This is a section where it’s easy to go off-course – there are dozens of paths through the woods, and signposting is sporadic. It also doesn’t help that the OS map is initially wrong, with the first bridleway section shown as a footpath. However, the GPS track is accurate. And the general directions are:
1. Through the first gate, next to the road, take the right fork.
2. Go ~500m parallel to the road you’ve just left, undulating but neither climbing nor descending overall.
3. Follow the bridleway as it turns left, downhill (ignore small singletrack trail staying parallel with the road, next to a gate on the right).
4. At a clearing and meeting of paths, go right, downhill, on the edge of the escarpment slope (and TAKE CARE with some rock steps lying under the leaves – rollable but rough).
5. At any forks aim to keep going in roughly the same direction, at about the same gradient, on what appears the most well used track.
6. Reaching a 100m section that is wet and muddy (at most times of the year) is a good sign – just past that you’re on to tarmac and the descent to King’s Stanley.
Continue all the way down to traffic lights on the A419. Get on the pavement on the left there and use the dedicated cyclists’ crossing to go to the far side of the dual carriageway, where there’s a brick ramp, railings and graffiti.
5 Ryeford to Cranham Corner (47.4 miles)
A hard but satisfying section of the route which begins the long haul up into the high Cotswolds.
The unpromising pavement ramp from the A419 junction accesses a quiet road beyond. Descend right on to the Stroudwater Canal towpath and ride past Ryeford Locks – a memorably calm and pretty stretch. At a small bridge over the canal, next to an obvious metal obelisk, take a short gravel path out to the right, then cut sharp left/north across the bridge, and on to a road section through Ebley and Cashes Green.
The climbing relentlessly steepens until tarmac runs out WNW of Westrip, and after a brief gravel drop turn hard right up the hillside at a pair of wide metal gates. There’s a signpost but it’s illegible. When you reach a car park continue on a fine, well-surfaced track for a bit less than a mile through Standish Woods. There are parallel paths to begin – take the rightmost one over sleepers inset into the ground, well signposted.
On tarmac again, after the fast descent to Edge TAKE CARE merging on to the busy A4173 and almost immediately turn right from it on to an unclassified road north to Huddinknoll Hill. Within about 80m there’s a narrow, possibly overgrown entrance to a bridleway on the left, that soon broadens to a leafy track. The bridleway continuation after a short descent is through gates to the left (though there is a more adventurous MTB-friendly singletrack line directly to the road on the right).
A few miles of steady road climbing leads to the access road on to Painswick Beacon. At the crest turn sharp left onto a signposted bridleway (this can feel 180º wrong) and follow the obvious lower gravel track that climbs steadily initially. Continue straight to Pope’s Wood where there is a short tarmac section under a car park height barrier. The track starting at a ‘Welcome to Buckholt Wood’ sign is marked as a footpath but has permissive bike access courtesy of Natural England. At the end of this go straight over for 50m of scrubby singletrack as per the GPS track, or go right down the road to join the A46 at Cranham Corner.
6 Cranham Corner to St Paul’s Epistle (58 miles)
Buckholt Road is said by some to be the best cycling road in Gloucestershire. It’s wide, quiet and picturesque, though on this route it’s tackled in ascent, rising 80m in total.
There’s an optional feature in this section, a 2Km long section of singletrack (courtesy of more Natural England permissive access) just to the south of the road, starting after the first 1Km or so of steady road climbing and running between two points both marked ‘Quarry (dis)’ on the 1:25K OS map. An obvious access is opposite a driveway to ‘High Brotheridge’ (which has neat dry stone walls and trees, at an obvious crest). Then the trails are easy to follow: bike symbols have been painted on trees together with direction arrows. The trails can be good fun, but be aware that they’re much closer to MTB trail-centre riding (with some sections at least blue-graded) than to typical gravel terrain. Also, all right-leading forks in the trail take steep rooty descents that are very slippery in the wet. Unless you have previous knowledge of this section (and grippy tyres) it’s recommended to either stay on the road (as per the GPS tracks on this site) or join the singletrack but take only leftward forks. A very steep descent and climb spanning the prominent corner near ‘The Buckholt’ can be avoided by looking for small tracks that lead out to and immediately in from the road, either side of the bend.
At the end of Buckholt road TAKE CARE merging on to the fast B4070, then TAKE EVEN MORE CARE turning right into woodland (signposted) after about 200m. The Starveall Lane bridleway you join is hoof-chopped in places but provides a useful quiet access into Birdlip village and on to the outstanding Birdlip viewpoint, which is just over half way through the route.
From the viewpoint pass through a short tunnel under the A417 on the no-through access road past Birdlip Radio Station. After the superb Cuckoopen Barn Farm section, a very short section of road (south of Coberley) leads to a track dead ahead (signposted ‘Gloucestershire Way’) and an immediate fork. Go right there (indicated with a white marker arrow) to descend an old track via a few gates, and exit in unlikely fashion through the pristine grounds of Coberley Mill and up a rough driveway.
TAKE CARE doglegging across the A435 to a bridleway field crossing. When crops are growing here there will often be tractor tracks to follow across – you are aiming for the far hedge about half way along its length. In the woods beyond climb steeply into Upper Coberley, then go north on a field edge for an excellent section ENE through remote countryside towards Pinchley Wood. A quiet road climb crests next to an unusual mound called St Paul’s Epistle – great views north from here – and drops steeply to a junction with the A436.
7 St Paul’s Epistle to Wontley Farm (69.5 miles)
Turn right WITH CARE on to the A436 – it’s a busy trunk road – before a fast kink left signposted to Andoversford, next to a pub at Kilkenny where several roads meet.
In Andoversford turn left on the quiet road through the residential part of the village (not out to the major junction with the A40). Sniff out a track between houses on the right, cross straight over the A40 (GREAT CARE – potentially 70mph traffic and poor visibility), and winch up the slow, sometimes wet field edge bridleway beyond.
Turn left on the road at the top and continue to the pretty village of Whittington, which is split into two bits. In the second part, at a sharp left hand corner turn right (actually straight ahead) on to a quiet side road that becomes a bridleway. This climbs through woodland, descends open slopes, becomes rougher (and possibly muddy for a short section) then goes left up a loose and stony gulley. Exit to a tiny road that ascends steadily to a junction.
Go right, due north, and climb further to reach a car park at the transmitter station, and the highest point in the Cotswolds, at 330m. From the transmitters go NNW for 250m over featureless grass to drop slightly and intersect with the excellent doubletrack (marked ‘Winchcombe Way’ on OS 1:25K) that leads all the way over the common. You might not want to rush this superb section anyway, but be ready to slow down for possibly numerous walkers, dogs and horses on sunny weekends. Descend to the golf clubhouse.
Next to the clubhouse many routes converge: go right/east, passing a car park in an old quarry immediately on your right.
After some gates, at another junction of paths take the lower of the right hand tracks, and fork left again after 50m towards a low gate next to a wall under trees. The bridleway follows the wall round through stables, yards and fields (via a few too many gates) to a tarmac drive. Go right up this to a farmyard – the bridleway ploughs right through the middle via a couple of heavy metal gates, but if it’s full of animals there’s a field cut-around (strictly a footpath) well marked to the right. At the other side go left into a field and descend to a stream crossing. Follow the track up (very steep), through a paddock, and on to a forest-edge road – Winchcombe and beautiful landscapes to the north are visible out to the left here. In less than a mile turn sharp right uphill to pass Hill Barn Farm and reach the ruins of Wontley Farm via excellent tracks.
On a fine day the navigation on the top of Cleeve Hill is easy and obvious, but if the cloud is down it’s potentially disorientating. On the Kemble Round route this is only an issue for the very short section between transmitters and track, but even so pay careful attention to GPS/map to make sure you don’t go off course). Cleeve Common, by the way, has a really enlightened and helpful approach to cycle access – check out their website. Emergency phone number for the Ranger is 07756 828 458.
8 Wontley Farm to Shipton Golf Course (78 miles)
Next to the ruins of Wontley Farm, at a bridleway crossroads, go left to descend a field edge and eventually join a driveway in a remote valley. Straight over the next crossroads, signposted Charlton Abbotts and Guiting Power. This leads to a stiff road climb rising 80m to Roel Gate, then turn right/south to access the byway running south-west down to Syreford, arguably one of the best sections of the entire Kemble Round. It first ascends slightly to a hilltop wood, with phenomenal views, then plummets (with some rough rocky sections) for a mile through wild countryside that occasionally feels a bit more like the Scottish Borders than Gloucestershire.
At the end go left/south-east to Shipton and then right/west to a traffic light junction with the A40. Straight over here and after 150m near a bus stop cut left down a crumbling section of old road to pass around the back of the Frogmill pub and hotel, on old tracks. As these converge with the main road turn south on the bridleway next to a golf course.
9 Shipton Golf Course to Rendcomb (87.2 miles)
Leaving behind the golf course, via a short section of scrappy byway, climb straight over the A436 up the tarmac drive of the Kim Bailey Racing stables. Signposted bridleways lead left of the farm and house, but be certain to stay on the one that climbs over an open field rather than another dropping away (all too tempting) further to the left. Cross one of the racing stable’s gallops to enter old woodland and climb next to a dry-stone wall until a wider track leads on dead ahead. Dogleg left-right across a field towards Lyon Lodge. The bridleway technically (and bizarrely) crashes through their front garden, but there is a better and easier farm gate to the right.
Straight ahead lies the fine Withington Woods section, crossing steep coombes and finally climbing out around a house on the edge of the woods to yet another transmitter station. Next to the abandoned Chedworth airfield take the no-through road west via Pinswell. From the end of the tarmac go into a field and turn 90º left (south) aiming for a convergence of walls at the far side – there’s often no obvious path, but it’s pretty straightforward and easy going. Then join a back-of-beyond bridleway that starts on grass, goes to gravel, and eventually to broken tarmac as you work right and left past Shawswell and the playing-fields of Rendcomb College. Descend west to the A435.
10 Rendcomb to Kemble (100 miles*)
A right-left across the main road leads to a 60m climb up into Woodmancote – quite tough this late in the day. Go south to access the road over Merchants’ Downs and through Bagendon, on narrow, grassy tarmac – a lovely picturesque section. Re-cross the A435 to Perrott’s Brook and turn up on to the bridleway leading generally south on the Monarch’s Way, down the Churn Valley. In Baunton climb a little to access the continuation of this old track, which eventually leads into Cirencester.
Easy roads through the town (and one potentially busy shopping street) lead towards Chesterton, and there a tarmac bridleway turns SSW down the backs of houses before passing Chesterton Farm. A right turn at a lonely junction of tracks accesses a dirt section prone to flooding, but which is normally fine in summer, and is always passable (with some handling skill) on verges, first on the right, then the left. A final good gravel blast takes you into Ewen, and the road leaving the village to the south crosses the river Thames, less than 2 miles old here – blink and you might miss it. Cut back west to Kemble on the tiny ‘quiet lane’ and pray the pub is still open…
* Whether you’ll notch up exactly 100 miles on this route is subject to a few variables. Riding from Kemble railway station, and exploring all route possibilities (including the singletrack in Buckholt) would tip it over 100 miles. The GPS route reports 99.1 miles as it stands. Also, values for total ascent vary with different mapping services: Ride with GPS reports 7,700ft (2,300m), BikeHike.co.uk says 8,700ft (2,650m) but all the riders’ GPS units on the first completion reported over over 9,500ft (2,900m).
Thanks to the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and the Conservators of Cleeve Common for their assistance in establishing the route and project as a whole. Parts of the route near Cranham are enabled through permissive access by Natural England. Digital map integration on this page thanks to Ordnance Survey and the OS DataHub Maps plugin by Skirrid Systems.