One of the wonderful things about walking in Britain is that you are never very far from some intriguing history and, often, there’s a hike attached to it. The Liberty Trail is no different and not only replicates a 17th century journey but does so through the beautiful southern English countryside. At 28 miles (45 km), this hike is a mix of low hills, rolling fields, pretty rivers and historic places.
The Liberty Trail begins at the summit of Ham Hill in Somerset, one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Europe with a correspondingly lovely view. The trail marks the journey of ordinary people who marched south to Lyme Regis to the Duke of Monmouth in his Monmouth Rebellion. His goal? To usurp James II and take the throne. The rebellion didn’t succeed but the trail remains a fantastic way of seeing Somerset and Dorset’s pastoral countryside.
I’ve split this hike up into three stages, each around 10 or 11 miles (16 - 18 km) and all starting and finishing in places where you can find food and accommodation. If you’re a particularly experienced long-distance hiker, you could do the entire walk in a day but a slower pace allows you to explore a little more and visit some of the wonderful places en route.
The route is almost entirely rural, with Crewkerne being the only real settlement of any size aside from Lyme Regis at the end. The entire trail winds through fields and along lanes without many uphill sections or descents of note. This makes it ideal for most walkers who can happily manage stiles and uneven footpaths. Due to the rural nature, finding cafes and pubs can be challenging, so it’s important to plan food stops carefully and carry with you much of the food you’ll need each day.
You can reach the beginning of the trail from Yeovil, which has a mainline train station. Take the number 81 bus from Yeovil to Stoke-sub-Hamdon which lies at the foot of the hill. Alternatively, it’s just over a two-hour walk or you could get a taxi.
Lyme Regis is a thriving seaside town and is reasonably well-connected. The frequent X51 bus service leaves from the centre and takes you to Axminster’s mainline train station. The 9A also leaves from the centre and takes you to Exeter. Of course, while I’ve planned this hike north to south, the way the rebels marched, you could just as easily walk south to north.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Liberty Trail shares sections with several other long-distance paths, including the River Parrett Trail, Monarch’s Way (komoot.com/collection/911739/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-1) and the Wessex Ridgeway (komoot.com/collection/935252/an-ancient-and-beautiful-ridge-hike-wessex-ridgeway), all of which may be waymarked, so don’t be unduly concerned that you’ve wandered down the wrong path.
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The final stage of the Liberty Trail is around 11 miles long (18 km) and the hilliest section with several hillforts en route. Still, the total elevation is 1,100 feet …