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Walking in the footsteps of King John — Three Castles Path

timo_w2s (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Walking in the footsteps of King John — Three Castles Path

Hiking Collection by Kit P

4-8

days

3-6 h

/ day

63.4 mi

2,725 ft

2,650 ft

England is a country steeped in regal history with kings gallivanting all over the place. From visiting hunting lodges to bolstering support in faraway regions, the fortresses and castles dotted all over the landscape are often testament to the myriad journeys the rulers used to make. On the Three Castles Path, it’s King John whose footsteps you follow.

King of England between 1199 and 1216, John travelled around the country extensively and is reputed to have frequently made the journey from Windsor Castle to Winchester Castle. He had Odiham Castle built at the midway point and it’s these three castles that form this delightful hiking trail. He is perhaps most famous for signing the Magna Carta, an agreement that limited royal powers and endowed more to the barons.

At 63 miles (101 km) long, this walking trail takes you from the extraordinary Windsor Castle on the banks of the Thames through outstanding English countryside all the way to the ancient city of Winchester. Along the way, you explore the vast landscapes and vistas of Windsor Great Park, meander through thriving woodlands, cross ancient farmland, enjoy the tranquillity of canal towpaths and, of course, explore castles dating back nearly 1,000 years.

Running in a south westerly direction, the trail is fairly low-lying, with various hilly regions such as the North Wessex and South Downs rising on either side. Each stage is undulating but you rarely find anything steep and some sections are entirely flat. The trail also passes through famous places like Ascot Racecourse and near Sandhurst military academy.

While you stick to more rural areas on this trail, each stage finishes close to a settlement where you can find food and accommodation. Where this requires catching public transport or where options are severely limited, I’ve outlined specific choices in the stage descriptions. Likewise, some stages have good pub lunch stops and others will require a packed lunch.

I’ve planned the trail from Windsor to Winchester but you can just as easily tackle it the other way around. Both points are served by train stations, which are the best way to access the trail regardless of where you begin. There are rail links at or close to some middle sections of the path as well, such as at Winchfield and Sandhurst, should you want to break up the adventure. Alternatively, the towns and villages along the route usually have bus services which can take you to more train stations locally.

Hike the Three Castles Path at any time of year but if you want to get the most out of the English countryside, I recommend heading off between mid-spring and mid-autumn. This is when the hedgerows, woodlands and flowers are at their most exquisite and when birds, butterflies and dragonflies take over the landscape. Comfortable hiking boots, waterproofs and sunscreen are all essential and I highly recommend taking a camera to capture the fantastic sights.

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Three Castles Path

61.3 mi

2,650 ft

2,550 ft

Last updated: November 4, 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

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Windsor to Birch Hill — Three Castles Path

    Difficult
    05:07
    12.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    There are surely few better ways to begin an expedition than in as grand a place as Windsor. This stage starts at the world-famous castle and spends the first half exploring the vast estate that unfolds to the south. The second half takes you right across Ascot’s iconic racecourse and into the glorious

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:15
    10.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The second stage continues its exploration of Bracknell Forest, a historic area once used by Romans. You explore nature reserves, skirt around Sandhurst – home to the military academy – and wend your way through Moor Green Lakes to finish in the village of Eversley Cross. A varied hike, every turn has

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    03:58
    9.41 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Woodland, farmland and a tranquil canal combine to make this a wonderfully serene hike through the north Hampshire countryside. The trail passes through small villages but sticks mainly to rural scenes and the finishing stretch to Odiham along the canal is absolutely stunning.

    

    Begin just south of the

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:19
    10.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    200 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The stage takes you to the second castle on this trail and the very end of the Basingstoke Canal in Greywell. Tracks and lanes then carry you across the undulating pastoral landscape to Ellisfield where the stage ends. More rural than other stages, this is a hike where a packed lunch is essential.

    

    Begin

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:51
    11.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    550 ft
    725 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This gently undulating stage is utterly rural and takes in vibrant woodlands and villages with thatched cottages. This is the kind of hike that lulls you into an easy rhythm with frequent pauses to admire postcard scenes, bees buzzing between flowers and rustic farmhouses. There’s a pub lunch option

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:18
    10.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage of the Three Castles Path is particularly picturesque, filled with lazy rivers and weeping willows, thatched cottages and ancient buildings and, of course, the majesty of Winchester. Almost entirely flat, this is a wonderful way to finish the expedition.

    

    Begin at Abbotstone Down and take

    by Kit P

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    63.4 mi
  • Duration
    26:47 h
  • Elevation
    2,725 ft2,650 ft

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