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Chalk riversides and historic towns — hiking the Itchen Way

Neil Howard

Chalk riversides and historic towns — hiking the Itchen Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P



4-5 h

/ day

36.6 mi

1,550 ft

1,300 ft

The Itchen Way is a 31.8-mile (51.2 km) hiking route which follows the glorious River Itchen from its mouth in Southampton Water to its source in the pretty Hampshire countryside. This river is an exceptional feature despite its modest length; it’s one of the finest chalk streams in the country and is a thriving habitat for fish, birds and river mammals.

I’ve planned this Collection going from south to north because that’s the way I first walked it when I was about 12 years old. Leaving the hectic waterways of Southampton behind and discovering the magic of the Itchen’s stunning willows, subdued meanders, and aquatic grasses, gently wafting in the flow, was an exceptional experience. You can absolutely hike from the source to the mouth though which is not a lesser choice.

The Way begins at Sholing Station which doubles as a good way of getting to the beginning; this branch line connects to Southampton Central Station, which is on the mainline to London. The route heads over to Southampton Water at Weston Point and starts working its way north, through this historic maritime city.

As you walk, you’ll see innumerable sailing yachts and small fishing boats in the lower reaches, with the water getting quieter the further you walk. While Southampton is a major shipping port, it’s the neighbouring River Test that takes the traffic; the Itchen is blissfully relaxed.

Leaving Southampton and its suburbs behind, the trail gets greener and more beautiful with every mile. It won’t be long before you can truly appreciate the wonderful clarity of the water, spying fish darting about and aquatic plants shimmering beneath the surface. The trail wanders into the South Downs National Park, a region of astounding beauty. Towns give way to tiny, historic villages and eventually you reach Cheriton. This sweet little village is a stones’ throw from the source, which is really just a damp field.

Hiking the Way is a perfect opportunity to explore some of Hampshire’s loveliest scenery and is achievable in two or three days, depending on how experienced a walker you are. I’ve split the route into three days to make the most of the route and the sights along the way. Largely flat and rarely leaving the Itchen’s curves, there’s nothing technical on this walk and it can be done throughout the year. After extremely wet weather, there is a risk of flooding along the Itchen, so keep an eye on the forecast if you’re walking in winter.

The first two-thirds of the trail, from Southampton to Winchester, are well served by nearby accommodation and food outlets. Careful planning is recommended for the last third but finding amenities is by no means challenging.

You can reach the start by catching a train to Southampton Central and changing for Sholing. There are ample buses in the area too. At the end, you can catch the number 67 bus from Cheriton to Winchester to pick up the Southampton to London mainline railway. Alternatively, you can catch the same bus in the opposite direction, to nearby New Alresford, and catch a train on a different line, which also goes to London.

On The Map


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Itchen Way

28.2 mi

975 ft

775 ft

Last updated: November 3, 2021

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  1. Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Sholing Station to Allbrook — Itchen Way

    12.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The first stage of the Way works its way through the heart of the historic maritime city of Southampton. This hike first wanders through a wonderful wooded park before catching the sea breeze at the edge of Southampton Water. The route follows the Itchen closely, through nature reserves and open parkland


  2. 04:47
    11.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    600 ft
    525 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This wonderful hike is considerably more rural than stage 1 and winds through vibrant woodlands with lush fields on either side. Little villages, old lock gates and chalk grassland are gorgeous additions to this serene trail.


    Starting on the edge of Allbrook, admire the old lock before heading off north


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  4. 05:36
    13.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    675 ft
    475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    If you thought the River Itchen couldn’t get any prettier, this final stage of the Way will charm the hiking socks off you. This route runs alongside the river through ancient countryside with Saxon villages and sheep bleating in the distance. Waterfowl and animals such as otters and water voles call



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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    36.6 mi
  • Duration
    15:24 h
  • Elevation
    1,550 ft1,300 ft

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