Poetry in motion

Jonathan Manning rides through gorgeous Cotswold countryside to the house of William Morris

The Victorian designer William Morris would approve of this ride. “There is no excuse for doing anything that is not strikingly beautiful,” said the father of the Arts & Crafts movement, and the Cotswold countryside and villages through which this route passes are truly beautiful. Morris’ home, Kelmscott Manor, sits at the halfway mark, a handsome house boasting a dreamy collection of Morris’ art and designs. 

Even in abysmal winter conditions, with a series of storms stripping leaves from trees and submerging fields, the farmland and the area’s famous honey-coloured stone are arrestingly gorgeous. This is a landscape of grazing pasture, small rivers, tree-lined lanes and red phone boxes converted into village libraries. Thatched houses sit next to ancient churches, terraces of achingly pretty cottages lead to grander homes, yet the connecting roads are astonishingly quiet. It may all appear like a heavenly creation from the 19th century, but a quick surf of Rightmove reveals house prices that prove the area has been well and truly discovered. 

The ride itself is easy, with just one short climb worthy of a mention in despatches. Everywhere else the challenge is to avoid picking up gravel with your tongue, given the jaw-dropping beauty of the surroundings. 

A couple of local pubs are worth checking out, including The Swan in Southrop and The Plough Inn in Kelmscott, or stop at the tearoom in a stable barn at Kelmscott Manor. It’s a chance to reflect on Morris’ most famous statement, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. 


1. From Burford Club site turn right along Hardwick Lane. In 1km go straight ahead at a crossroads, to Eastleach and Fairford. Stay on this road to Eastleach, pass a church on the left and continue into the village. 

2. 6.2km – In Eastleach turn left, signposted to Southrop and Fairford. Continue for 2km to a T-junction in Southrop, with The Swan on the left. 

3. 8km – Turn left at the T-junction, signposted to Filkins. Continue for 3km to a crossroads with the A361. 

4. 11.3km – Go straight over the crossroads, signposted to Langford. Continue to a T-junction opposite a school. 

5. 13km – Turn right at the T-junction, to Little Faringdon, continue to a T-junction in 2km. 

6. 15.2km – Turn left to Kelmscott, and in 1km turn left at another T-junction, signposted to Kelmscott, Clanfield and Witney. Continue for 500m then turn right to Kelmscott. At the end of the village, turn right to Kelmscott Manor and the Plough Inn. Follow this road as it loops past the access road to the manor [if you visit the manor, return to this point], and stay on the road to a T-junction. Turn right and continue to a crossroads. 

7. 20.1km – Go straight over the crossroads, signposted to Kencot. In 2km, at a T-junction, turn left to Langford. Continue into Langford and look for a road on the right. 

8. 23.5km – Turn right in Langford, signposted to Broadwell and Kencot. Continue to a crossroads with the B4477 and go straight ahead, signposted to Burford. Continue to another crossroads and go straight ahead to Holwell, eventually reaching a T-junction. 

9. 19.3km – Go straight across the A148 and follow Sandy Lane all the way back into West Runton, where the Club site is on the right-hand side. 

You can download this route from our dedicated Strava page here.

About the route

  • Start/finish: Burford Club Campsite, Bradwell Grove, Burford, Oxfordshire OX18 4JJ. 
  • Distance: 19.4 miles/31km.
  • Time: 2 1⁄2 hours. 
  • Level: Suitable for all cyclists and e-bikers – one small hill and quiet lanes. 
  • Terrain: Asphalt all the way (but not all in good condition). 
  • Landscape: Rural farmland and pretty villages. 
  • Refreshments: The Swan, Southrop; The Plough Inn, Kelmscott; The Bell Inn, Langford.

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Burford Club Campsite

From £31.30 per night

An attractive campsite conveniently located opposite the beautiful Cotswold Wildlife Park.

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