Today at 8AM sharp we set off on our nine-day walk along the Cotswold Way, 102-miles of British National Trail from the market town of Chipping Campden to the Georgian city of Bath along a Jurassic-era escarpment. I have wanted to walk it ever since I learned of its existence, both because I am incessant box-ticker—the sort who risks perverting experiences into acts of consumption—and because I know a long walk is one of the few things that can release my mind from my incessant box-ticking.
While it promises breathtaking landscapes and acres of mud, the Cotswold Way is not exactly the deep wilderness one associates with famed American trails like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest. I’m assured there haven’t been any bears in England since medieval times, which means the most aggressive animal we’re likely to encounter is a frolicking lamb or grazing cow. At any given time we won’t be much farther than an hour from a pub, so dehydration is unlikely, too. Indeed, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is kicking off the boots at the end of a long day of tramping through fields and downing a guilt-free pint or three.
Mercifully, camping along the trail is discouraged and we’ll be spending almost every night safely ensconced in a B&B. When on our last day we reach the end of the trail at Bath Abbey, we’ll check into a proper hotel, complete with thermal hot springs from the city’s famed waters in which to soothe our by-then aching muscles. All of this to say it’s the perfect walking holiday for gluttons of both scenery and gastronomy—just enough miles, hills, and pounds hefted in our packs to feel righteous as we rock up to the pub for supper each night. At least that’s the plan. Not in the plan but undoubtedly on the horizon: blisters, lumpy beds, and umpteen fights over directions. And if I’m lucky, somewhere around day five the box-ticking will stop and box and its ticker will briefly become one. Let the rambling begin.