This majestic hiking trail links Hampshire’s Roman strongholds and whisks you through glorious, vibrant landscapes. Castles, fortresses, rivers and woodlands combine to create a fascinating adventure with a perfect blend of culture and nature. At 45 miles (70 km) long, the King’s Way trail (also known as the Allan King's Way) is perfect for a long weekend expedition.
The route begins at Portchester Castle, a mighty fortress standing guard in Portsmouth Harbour. A fort was first constructed here in the 3rd century by the Romans under the name Portus Adurni. After the fall of the empire, the fort underwent numerous occupations and the castle was built sometime around the 11th century. Enormous and occupying a staggering position, it’s a magnificent location from which to begin your hike.
The Way leads you north up the grand escarpment that overlooks Portsmouth, to Fort Nelson and onwards into the green countryside to the north. Leaving the coastline behind, patchwork fields and historic villages with old churches dominate your explorations. From Norman churches and Tudor houses to ruined palaces and crumbling castles, you wind through Hampshire’s leafy landscape, stopping off at sites of great historical significance. The ruined palace at Bishop’s Waltham is a particular highlight for the historian inside you.
The second stage takes you through the Meon Valley, crossing the pretty Meon River just north of Soberton Heath. This is also the south west extent of the South Downs National Park and allows you to really get a feel for the area with its chalk downland, clear streams and buzzing hedgerows. The third stage takes you north directly across the western end of the South Downs and offers up some fantastic, far-reaching views. It’s the longest stage but the wonderful scenery rewards your efforts.
The final stage sends you west along the River Itchen as it meanders past gorgeous villages to the cathedral city of Winchester. Formerly the Roman town of Venta Belgarum, Winchester is soaked in history and has enough to see to last you a year or more. You finish at the bottom of the Broadway, where a statue of King Alfred the Great surveys his once-capital city.
While I’ve created this adventure to lead you from south to north, it’s just as wonderful in reverse and ending at the sea is a fantastic experience as well. You can hike the Way or its stages individually throughout the year. To make the most of the longer days, wildlife and vibrant greenery though, I recommend walking it between late spring and early autumn. Despite its hills, there are few places where you’re particularly exposed but taking waterproofs and wearing sturdy hiking boots is sensible regardless of season.
To reach the beginning, you can catch a train to Portchester, which sits on the line from Southampton Central to Brighton. Southampton Central has direct connections to London Waterloo, Winchester, Salisbury and Bournemouth. You can just as easily leave Winchester by train and if you chose to drive to Portchester, you can return there by direct train in around half an hour via Eastleigh.
Whichever way you decide to hike this majestic trail, don’t forget your camera. The myriad castles, forts and palaces on the route are often rather photogenic.
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Last updated: November 8, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
This first stage offers quite a transformation over its course. You begin in the mighty Portchester Castle in the heart of Portsmouth Harbour and follow the shoreline for a stretch before hiking up Portsdown Hill to enjoy outstanding views. The route then leads north into the picturesque countryside…
by Kit P
This second stage is entirely rural and dominated by farmland, pockets of vibrant woodland and quaint villages. You enter the heart of the Meon Valley and cross its eponymous river just after the village of Soberton which, ironically, has a pub. The stage finishes in the historic town of Bishop’s Waltham…
by Kit P
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This hilly stage gives you plenty of photo opportunities, from sweeping downland panoramas to thatched cottages and willows weeping into waterways. It’s also the most challenging stage of the King’s Way at 14.7 miles (23.6 km) due to this part of the South Downs being particularly sparsely populated…
by Kit P
The final stage of the King’s Way is considerably flatter than the previous and more or less entirely flat for the last half. It takes you to the River Itchen, which you follow for much of the way, and leads you past stunning villages filled with thatched cottages and willows weeping into waterways…
by Kit P
Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson
Hiking Collection by Kit P
Bike Touring Collection by tristanbogaard
Hiking Collection by Fred Urrutia