The Test Way is a long-distance footpath that begins high upon chalk downs and follows the course of the River Test through rolling Hampshire countryside to its tidal confluence.
From a breathtaking start on Inkpen Beacon, the trail heads south along the Test Valley through Linkenholt, Ibthorpe, Hurstbourne Tarrant, St Mary Bourne, Longparish, Wherwell, Stockbridge, and Mottisfont to Eling Creek.
The official route is 44 miles (71 km) long. However, with detours to some worthy sites and accommodation this Collection is 48 miles (77 km) in total. The route is typically walked from north to south, as it follows an easier downwards trajectory, but can be completed in either direction.
Much of the route takes you alongside the crystal-clear waters of the River Test, Hampshire's longest and finest chalk stream. The trail winds through many diverse landscapes, including ancient woodlands, patchwork farmland, water meadows, tidal marshes, and rolling hills, where you can expect stunning wildlife displays. It explores many picturesque towns and villages, too, where you find historic buildings, cosy pubs, eclectic restaurants, and quirky shops.
Some highlights along the way include Walbury Hill, the highest chalk hill in England; Combe Gibbet, a macabre monument with stunning views; Chilbolton Cow Common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest that supports many interesting bird and plant species; West Down Nature Reserve, a former rubbish dump that has been reclaimed by wildlife; Mottisfont, a stunning 18th-century country house and gardens with a medieval priory at its heart; Testwood Lakes, a nature reserve that affords incredible birdlife displays; Lower Test Nature Reserve; and Eling Tide Mill. You see countless Grade I-listed churches, too.
In this Collection, I split the trail into three stages; 17.6 miles (28.3 km), 15.2 miles (24.5 km), and 15.1 miles (24.3 km), respectively. As stage 1 is considerably longer than the others, I have made a suggestion on how you can split the hike. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage.
The first third of the trail is quite hilly, however there is nothing too long or too steep to contend with. The final section is flat. As the trail follows waymarked paths and never strays too far from civilisation, it is suitable for all abilities. Most of the Way is well-served by accommodation, although it can be limited in places so forward-planning is advisable.
To get to the start of the trail, you can catch a train to Hungerford and then the number 3 bus service (bustimes.org/services/3-newbury-kintbury-hungerford) to Inkpen village. From there, you either need to walk an additional 2 miles (3.2 km) to Inkpen Beacon or arrange a taxi. There is a train station at the end of the trail in Eling.
The start of the trail joins the Wayfarer's Walk long-distance footpath. To see my Collection on this route, click the following link: komoot.com/collection/1013106/hike-an-old-shepherd-road-from-hills-to-coast-wayfarer-s-walk.
The Test Way begins high on the breathtaking escarpment of Inkpen Beacon and winds through a landscape dotted with historical sites.
Living up to the trail’s name, Stage 1 is …
Wildlife-rich nature reserves, picturesque towns and villages, and stately scenery combine on this spellbinding hike, which takes you along the banks of the River Test.
With 15.2 miles (24.5 km) …
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Expect breathtaking birdlife displays, rare wild flowers, and abundant history on the final stage.
Dialling down the intensity a notch once again, Stage 3 is 15.1 miles (24.3 km) long …