The Palladian Way is a 125 mile (200km) architectural walk through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and my home county, Gloucestershire.
The Palladian Way book is now available to buy online for £9.99. Read to the bottom of this page and click buy now.
The creation of The Palladian Way
The Palladian Way is my latest venture and was born out of a colourful book I was recommended called The Wayfarers Journal which described the routes taken in the 1960s-80s by a quirky group of walkers who called themselves “The Viators”- Roman travelers. They showed a map of a route between Oxford and Bath which interested me and I started walking it only to find the route rather convoluted and decided I could do better!
The original route was just over 100 miles but Oxford is a big problem. ( I am not sure how the ”viators” actually got in and out!) I was still thinking along their Roman ideals and fancied walking along Akeman Street and through the Blenheim Palace estate. I liked the idea of finishing at Bath but where to start from? Woodstock was a possibility but the route would have then been under the “magic” hundred miles and then I thought of my old school up at Stowe outside Buckingham. I had always been aware of the beautiful Palladian Bridge in the grounds but was amazed to learn from a friend that there was another one at Prior Park just outside Bath. (There are just four in the world and the other one in England is at Wilton outside Salisbury). However it was whilst I was investigating alternatives for crossing the M40 that I came across Tusmore which is not far from Bicester. I saw on the map that it was an estate, which has always been of interest to me, and in fact I once organized a walk for my local club entitled “Estately Oxfordshire” but the first sight of this imposing house captivated me and sent me off onto an architectural “trawl” through my Pevsnor-Oxfordshire-(Buildings of England).
At that stage I have to say that I didn’t know much at all about Palladian architecture, or indeed the differences of design, on classical buildings. When I first looked at Tusmore I imagined that the original stone façade had probably been sand blasted and cleaned up! My 1974 Pevsnor then told me that the original 18th century house had been demolished in 1960 and a more moderate neo Georgian house erected in the late 1960s. All very straight forward and I wrote it up in my original script only to be corrected a few months later by a fellow walker who said “Sorry Guy, I think you will find, that that one has been pulled down as well, and what you are now looking at was only built a few years ago and is probably the most prestigious private house to be built in this new century”.
After this I couldn’t resist putting in a little alternative loop for walkers to visit Kirtlington House which, to my mind, is the best example of Palladian architecture on the whole walk. Blenheim is fantastic and so is the whole story of Sir John Vanburgh, the self made architect, and it is rather good that you can walk through part of the estate on an official footpath, even if it’s existence is kept rather a secret to walkers! Both Burford and Cirencester have many lovely buildings but since both were developed during the wealth of the wool trade in the middle ages there are few classical buildings. After Bibury the route passes alongside Barnsley House which looks Palladian but is Baroque, and although nowhere as flamboyant as Blenheim, it is a very fine building.
After Cirencester I decided to split the route with an option to either finish at Tetbury or Malmesbury. The contrast between the two towns is really interesting and in the book I have made a number of comparisons of towns and villages on the route. On almost any long distance walk there is a day, that to be charitable, is less attractive than other days. OK, a bit boring. The route from Malmesbury to Castle Combe is such a day. However it is an easy 20 km and certainly it is worth getting to Castle Combe which is an enchanting little village and has many old Cotswold stone cottages similar to Tetbury and other villages.
The last two, short, days to Bath almost exceed in character the rest of the walk, with many wooded valleys and interesting features. The final descent into Bath, after viewing Prior Park and the Palladian bridge, must have one of the most spectacular vistas of any long distance walk and then architecturally, Bath cannot be surpassed with so many classical buildings. As I have said in the book it is really worthwhile for walkers to spend their last night in the city (however much they want to get home!) so they have time to see more of all the lovely buildings, parades and terraces.
Walk and Buy The Palladian Way
You can now buy The Palladian Way book and walk The Palladian Way. The book is only £9.99 on this website (£10.99 elsewhere) and I will also personally sign any books ordered here. Just click Buy Now below.
The walk has now been way marked and is open for business! There are 12 tourist information offices on or close to the route, which are listed in the book. Also listed are public transport links, hotels and of course recommended pubs on route!
Update 2016. Please see this page for observations and amendments to the route.