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Southern England in the footsteps of a king — hiking the Orange Way

stevekeiretsu (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Southern England in the footsteps of a king — hiking the Orange Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P

23-51

days

3-6 h

/ day

362 mi

18,300 ft

18,325 ft

The Orange Way is a fantastic 350-mile (563 km) trail that winds through some of Southern England’s loveliest landscapes. The route travels from Brixham Harbour in Devon to St James’ Palace in London, taking in everything from Roman Exeter and Medieval Dorset to Neolithic Stonehenge and 18th-century canals.

This long-distance hike is based on the route William of Orange took in 1688 with his army on their way to usurp King James II. It shows how good walking is for you as William successfully ousted James and reigned from 1689 to his death in 1702. I don’t recommend you try to usurp the British monarchy at the culmination of this grand adventure, but you’ll pass through so much stunning countryside that having to rule the nation will seem terribly dull.

Passing through five counties; Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and London, this expedition encounters plenty of hills but nothing requiring any special skills nor equipment. Instead, it takes you through landscapes dominated by field systems, major rivers, ancient market towns and remnants from the Iron Age.

In this Collection, I’ve divided the route into 25 stages. Each stage is between 9 and 19 miles long (14.5 - 30.6 km), depending on access to settlements and transport at the start and end of each stage. Several sections hug riverbanks or canals and are gloriously flat as a result; others are undulating with short, steep climbs and breathtaking views. I’ve planned this route to follow the direction William travelled in, but it can be hiked just as easily from London to Devon.

You can choose to walk the Orange Way in one go, spending a few weeks gallivanting across the south’s historic countryside. If you do, the summer is likely the best season to complete it in for its long evenings, warmth and the chance of stable weather. You could also walk it in multi-day sections or simply walk stages as day hikes. All sections can be walked in any season but winter can bring mud and floods, requiring more comprehensive clothing options.

Bus services can usually be found close to the start and end points of each stage. There are also numerous train stations and some larger towns and cities either on the route or close by. Whilst you’ll be hiking in largely rural areas, the trail never strays very far from civilisation.

To get to the beginning at Brixham, where William made landfall over 300 years ago, catch the train to Paignton and take the number 12 bus to Brixham. The end point is central London which is served by outstanding national and international transport options.

On The Map

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The Orange Way

351 mi

17,850 ft

17,825 ft

Last updated: November 16, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    04:21
    10.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    750 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The route begins at Brixham’s harbour-front statue of William of Orange and the podium marks his landing on the 5th November 1688 to begin his journey to usurp King James II. This little fishing town is remarkably picturesque and the route heads briefly along a coastal road to provide lovely views over

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:16
    16.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,275 ft
    1,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Starting in Berry Pomeroy, this hike takes you through pretty countryside along peaceful lanes and old woodlands. Shortly after leaving the village, you’ll come across Berry Pomeroy Castle. Said to be one of the most haunted places in Devon, there’s certainly something eerie about the grand ruins.

    

    The

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:39
    15.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 3 leaves Chudleigh along a quiet lane into the glory of Haldon Forest Park. Managed by the Forestry Commission, you’re likely to see plenty of mountain bikes nipping across roads into the darkness of the conifer plantations. Deer are common here too and the birdlife usually fills the air with song

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    03:45
    8.98 mi
    2.4 mph
    300 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first two-thirds of this hike follows the River Exe as it flows through the heart of the city and out through Riverside Valley Park. The trail hugs the eastern bank and you’ll walk along a mixture of roads and footpaths, heading through tall reeds for a spell before reaching Topsham. This gorgeous

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    08:28
    19.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This hike is almost entirely rural, crossing a large section of East Devon. This part of England’s third-largest county is all rolling hills, beautiful valleys and old villages. The trail leaves Woodbury and heads up to Pebblebed Heaths conservation area, where you can see extraordinary displays of wildlife

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:10
    11.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is a lovely hike through East Devon’s rolling landscape with a few steep hills to climb and excellent views. You’ll hike across farmland and along empty lanes, passing through the odd little village where life doesn’t seem to have changed much in decades.

    

    Starting in Honiton, the trail trundles

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:22
    16.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,725 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage leaves Devon behind and takes you through Dorset’s gorgeous, historic landscape. The first section whisks you across fields past grazing animals and through patches of pretty woodlands. You’ll see old farm buildings around every corner and enjoy far-reaching views from hilltops.

    

    When the trail

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:01
    15.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,325 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Leaving Beaminster, this route winds north through landscapes littered with Saxon history to cross the River Axe and head into Crewkerne. This countryside here is blissfully rural with off-road footpaths and hedgerows brimming with birdsong. Crewkerne is the halfway point and, as a historic market town

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:46
    13.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    700 ft
    700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage spends half its time wandering through rolling countryside and the other half exploring old villages and historic settlements. The old farmhouses and ancient churches you encounter give the distinct impression that life has hardly changed in centuries.

    

    There’s nothing particularly steep on

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:42
    15.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    975 ft
    875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Taking a rather roundabout route to reach Wincanton, this stage leaves Dorset and enters Somerset pastoral landscape. Much of this route involves hiking over fields and taking in marvellous views with church spires erupting from treelines. The trail passes the intriguing Gartell Light Railway in Yenston

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:26
    17.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,150 ft
    1,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    While the hills never get particularly high, this is a very undulating section of the Orange Way with a couple of steepish sections. The hilltops provide ample opportunity for excellent views and the descents often lead into sweet villages and past picturesque farmsteads.

    

    Starting in Wincanton, the trail

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    07:45
    18.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    950 ft
    1,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike is one of the longer stages of the Orange Way but its hills are relatively gentle and the landscapes are exceptionally easy-going on the eyes. Starting in Hindon, the trail traverses Wiltshire’s pretty countryside eastwards, to the majestic Cathedral city of Salisbury.

    

    As you reach Dinton

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:45
    11.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    700 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This beautiful hike heads north from Salisbury and stays in close proximity to the River Avon. First, the route passes around Old Sarum, an ancient place of great historic importance; it dates back to 3000 BC. You’ll follow tracks that could’ve wandered out of a period drama, between fields north-west

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:28
    15.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    825 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    One of the most historically impressive sections of the Orange Way, this hike takes you past the world-famous Stonehenge. Starting in Amesbury, there are two options for the route. I’ve chosen to include Stonehenge and its counterpart, Woodhenge, on this Tour because it would be a great shame to pass

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:22
    10.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This route leads you across rural farmland with little elevation gain at all. It does meander through military territory though, so don’t be too alarmed if you see signs for tank crossings (or tanks themselves, trundling across your path). Lovely open byways are a mainstay of this section, with fields

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:50
    16.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    650 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On your way out of Burbage, you’ll come across a rather unlikely literary connection foreshadowed by the name of the road the trail heads out on: Wolfhall Road. Although private, Wolfhall manor house sits on this road, the inspiration for Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:29
    15.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 17 takes you across the county border from Wiltshire to Berkshire. The first half is of exceptional charm and beauty, using the towpath for the Kennet & Avon Canal. You’ll pass many lock gates, all with brightly-coloured narrowboats gleaming in the sunshine. Kingfishers and moorhens are commonly

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    08:17
    19.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On this section, the route winds through the beautiful Berkshire Downs into Oxfordshire. Leaving Chieveley, the trail takes you across undulating fields, often with wonderful views. Patches of woodland and thriving hedgerows make this stage truly wonderful, particularly in summer.

    

    The trail rises to

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:59
    14.7 mi
    2.5 mph
    125 ft
    150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The River Thames is the guiding force for this stage and the trail catches it immediately, as it flows through Abingdon. George Orwell’s grave is one of the major points of historic interest on this Tour and you’ll find it in the graveyard at Sutton Courtenay.

    

    Rejoin the main route alongside the Thames

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:45
    11.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 20 continues along the River Thames and this hike is largely flat as a result. Exceptionally beautiful with boathouses, kayakers and vibrant riverbanks, it’s hard to believe that William of Orange didn’t just settle down in a nice cottage around here; who needs a palace?

    

    Goring makes for a lovely

    by Kit P

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    25
  • Distance
    362 mi
  • Duration
    154:02 h
  • Elevation
    18,300 ft18,325 ft

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Southern England in the footsteps of a king — hiking the Orange Way

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