Palladian Way

The Palladian Way is a 125 mile (200km) architectural walk through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and my home county, Gloucestershire.

Palladian Bridge Stowe Buckingham

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) with free UK postage 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!


Buy The Palladian Way

The Palladian Way £9.99


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  1. Is your book something i should ask Country Life if i can review?
    Many thanks

    Rory Knight BRuce

  2. Thanks for your comment Rory.

    We would be delighted if Country Life want to review The Palladian Way book. It will be published in the next few months – I will keep you posted. Guy Vowles

  3. So that’s what those new stickers on our local stiles and kissing gates are all about! You have chosen a great way to bring your walk into our lovely city.

    • Thanks for your comments. I was only saying the other day when walking down in the area that, in all modesty, our route into Bath is I think rather better that The Cotswold Way. It of course happened that way because of the need to get past or into Prior Park and The Bridge.

      Waymarking has been quite difficult in that I have had to steer a course between providing clear directions when the way is not too easily defined on the ground and also not to impinge too much on the natural surroundings with unneccessary artificial aids. I wasn’t sure what your own viewpoint was on the waymarking but if you felt that some of the waymarking (particulary the larger nail on signs) was superfluous then please do let me know.

      I don’t know whether you have ordered a book but apart from the walking details there is a wealth of other interest and a photo of Widcombe House and a piece on Ralph Allan and Prior Park which you might find interesting. You can buy the book The Palladian Way here.

      Do let me know if I can be of further assistance

      Guy Vowles

  4. Hi there, just wondering how to contact you regarding receiving my copy of the Palladian Way. My payment cleared on 07/12/11 and I still haven’t received it. Just anxious that I receive it asap as it is a Christmas gift.

    Thanks, Jen

    • Hi Jen

      You can contact us via this page

      However. Please be reassured that we will get you your book on time. We have just been waiting for the echeque to clear (it has now). Guy lives locally to you, so can drop it round. Perhaps you can advise of latest possible date you need it?

  5. Hi. I write a weekly walk for the Bath Chronicle. If you send me a copy of the book then I will base a walk one week around it etc. Contact me on

    • Thanks Nigel. I’ll get in touch by email. Guy

  6. Hi, I’ve noticed your trail doesn’t appear on OS maps, paper & online.
    As a confident map reader this isn’t a problem for me and I’m annotating my own OS maps with the trail as I do each section.
    Do you think OS will update future maps?
    Thanks for creating this long distance path, I am just about to start it.

    • Thanks for your note and I am pleased to here that you are about to start on the trail. I am well aware of OS outlining many trails which for me is a bit of a two edged sword. Firstly, every county council or unitary authority has to be notified and for them to agree. On the PW I was initially in touch with nine such bodies and was enquiring about their stance on waymarking. Only three replied. Some county councils now sub out their work on roads, bridleways and footpaths to independent civil engineering companies which makes it even more difficult. More importantly to me, is that I want people to buy my books and if they can just follow a visible route on an OS map, they may not do so. I have probably written my last book since I do recognize that we are moving fast into a digital world.

      I have a project on the go at present with determining the routes that medieval Pilgrims may have used in North Gloucestershire. I am a member of The British Pilgrimage Trust who are promoting Pilgrimage walks on quite a scale but they are wholly in favour of digital downloads to smart phones. You can always spot those in favour of this since they have their head’s down looking at their screens the whole time!

      Sorry to sound a bit like a grumpy old man but that may be slightly true! Do please look at the links above for an addendum with changes to the route but otherwise I should be delighted to help out with any recommendations or problems on the route. You can find my email address on this page.


  7. Thanks Guy. This new long-distance path sounds really interesting and I can’t wait to read more about it. I’ve ordered your book but mysteriously it has yet to arrive!

    • Thanks for the comment Julia. I’m really sorry for the delay. I will send your book asap! Guy

  8. Just ordering your book Guy. We got to know about The Palladian Way when walking around Burford and noticed a plaque on the old clapped bridge showing the route. We like taking on a challenge with LDW so looking forward to starting a new one.

    • Hi Patricia. Thanks for ordering the book. Sorting the bridge out at Signet was one of the most rewarding things on the route. The author of the trail and the book may well be a bit ‘clapped’ out but the bridge is known as a ‘Clapper Bridge’ and they normally date from medieval times with just struts of wood or in this case stone across a stream or river. So now you know! Do keep in touch and let me know how you get on and any suggestions about the route are more than welcome. Best wishes, Guy

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