Ridgeway National Trail
Overton Down (near Avebury) to Ivinghoe Beacon
9 nights; 8 days walking
The Ridgeway National Trail is an 87 mile (140km) route which follows the line of an ancient trackway from Overton Hill near Avebury stone circle to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chiltern Hills. On its way it passes through two AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Ridgeway National Trail is part of the oldest and longest road in Britain, which once stretched from the English Channel Coast in Dorset to the east coast and The Wash. Established to take advantage of the high downland with its good visibility and dry underfoot conditions the route was originally used during prehistoric times by Neolithic traders of flints and axe heads, and later by herdsmen and armies.
The western half of the route starts from The Sanctuary on Overton Hill, within the Stonehenge and Avebury UNESCO World Heritage Site, and traverses a landscape steeped in ancient history and littered with a dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age burial sites, standing stones, flint workings and chalk hill figures. It passes through the North Wessex Downs AONB, with wonderful views down into the valley from the crest of the downs, then beyond the Goring Gap, where the route drops down to cross the River Thames, it passes into the Chiltern Hills AONB and a softer landscape of chalk grassland interspersed with ribbons of deciduous woodland. The route finishes at the high point of Ivinghoe Beacon.
Ivinghoe Beacon is an isolated high point with grand views, but no accommodation close by, so the latter part of the final stage will include a descent across the chalk downland and through the beautiful beech hangers of the National Trust's Ashridge Estate to the picture postcard village of Aldbury - the Chiltern Hills at its best.
Highlights of the route include the far-reaching views from the high points of Barbury Castle, Liddington Hill, Uffington Castle and Ivinghoe Beacon; the ancient burial chambers at West Kennett and Wayland Smithy; the Uffington White Horse; the crossing of the River Thames at Goring, the far-reaching views across the patchwork landscape of the Vale of Aylesbury, and the Bridgewater Monument on the Ashridge Estate.
Of course, the Ridgeway has plenty to offer aside from history. The calcareous grassland throughout the route supports an abundance of wild flowers, butterflies, insects and birds, and the woodland of the Chiltern Hills is renown for carpets of bluebells in spring and wonderful autumnal colours in later in the year.
For much of the western section the route sticks to high ground, so the need to drop down into the valley at the end of several walking stages (see below) means that you will walk a total of 97 miles (156kms).
Approximate daily distances:
- Overton Down** to Ogbourne St George - 10 miles (16 kms)
- Ogbourne St George to Ashbury - 12 miles (19 kms)
- Ashbury Folly (above Ashbury)* to Wantage - 13 miles (21 kms)
- Middlehill Down (above Wantage)* to South Stoke - 14 miles (23 kms)
- South Stoke to Watlington - 13 miles (21 kms)
- Watlington to Princes Risborough - 12 miles (19 kms)
- Princes Risborough to Wiggington - 13 miles (21 kms)
- Wiggington to Ivinghoe Beacon/Aldbury - 10 miles (16 kms)
* For much of the route the Ridgeway National Trail traverses the top of the downland ridge, whilst the villages which provide accommodation opportunities are located in the valley below; often some distance from the designated route. At the end of stages two and three the mileage details above includes the diversion off route to reach accommodation, but the following morning you will not need to retrace your steps as the transport arranged to transfer your luggage will also drop you back at the point where you left the route the previous day.
- All of the above prices are per person, and based upon two guests sharing a double or twin-bedded room.
- Single traveller supplement; £50 per night (More about single supplement).
- Discounts available for parties of three or more guests.
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Onward travel: Public bus or taxi
Travel information - finish
Onward travel: Taxi