Shakespeare's Way follows a route that the poet may have taken on his journeys between Stratford-upon-Avon and London. Initially the route heads southwards along the valley of the river Stour, a tributary of the River Avon. Not far from the source of the Stour to the east of Cherington the route climbs up onto the Oxfordshire Cotswolds near Long Compton. The rolling landscape is now typical high Cotswold with wide vistas and at Little Rollright there is a worthwhile diversion to see the ancient Rollright Stones nearby.
The route then descends to the attractive and bustling market town of Chipping Norton. From here further hill walking is now often punctuated by quiet wooded valleys and there a two real treats in store walking through the parkland of Ditchley and Capability Brown's magnificently landscaped Blenheim Park. This leads to the pleasant town of Woodstock and to Bladon churchyard, where lies the great British statesman Sir Winston Churchill. From here follow walking through woodland and across fields to Yarnton and then briefly along the Oxfordshire Canal to Wolvercote where the Way joins the River Thames.
The route then follows the Thames Path through Oxford, where there are many fascinating places to visit and it is worth allowing time to explore a little of this historic university city. At Sandford-on-Thames the Way leaves the Thames and heads across peaceful countryside and through several unspoilt villages and then climbs the Chilterns escarpment to pass through beech woods. Several south running valleys are then traversed during a switchback section of the journey which leads to Marlow, where the Thames is rejoined. The Thames Path is followed through Bourne End and then Cookham after which the river is again left behind as the Way heads across sandy Buckinghamshire heathland. An existing footpath, the Beeches Way, is then followed leading through Burnham Beeches and country parks to Iver, on London's western fringe. From here the Grand Union Canal is followed to Brentford, where the Thames is again re-joined and followed into the heart of London.
Although this route passes through some beautiful countryside there are numerous towns and villages along the way which allows considerable flexibility in choosing overnight stops. With a 10 day itinerary we would suggest the following stops. Shipston-on-Stour; Chipping Norton; Woodstock; Oxford; Chalgrove; Hambleden; Burnham Beeches; Iver; Kew or Chiswick; Central London. Easy access also means that this route can be completed in stages at different times.
One of the purposes in devising the Shakespeare Way was to raise funds for the Shakespeare Hospice, a vitally important facility which is funded almost entirely by voluntary donations. All the publisher's profits on the sale of the guidebook are passed to the Hospice (registered charity 1064091). If you plan to walk this route we would also encourage you to consider obtaining sponsorship from friends and family to raise funds for this worthy cause.
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